The jet ski has always been one of the most exciting watersport toys for us adventurers. It has everything to offer you: the speed, the wind in your hair, and the thrill of riding and cutting the waves. Even though we see jet skis as an embodiment of recklessness, thrill, and adventure in the media, in real life, we have some rules to follow. In this article, we will sum up all the jet ski-related rules set by SAMSA in South Africa.

Owning a Jet Ski in South Africa

It is a privilege to own a jet ski, sometimes referred to as Personal Watercraft (PWC) in South Africa. There are a few options for you in South Africa if you want to get a private jet ski for yourself. These options can be a second-hand or a brand-new jet ski, depending on your budget. And of course, second-hand jet skis will be much cheaper than first-hand ones.

Depending on your needs, there are one-sitter or two-sitter jet skis available on the market. Some can even accommodate three people on a single jet-ski. Then there are two types: standing jet skis and sitting jet skis. For most sea sports enthusiasts, standing is the way to go as it gives you better control of the jet ski; that you can actually use it for performing stunts.

However, most leisurely people (including myself) would prefer the sitting one. Imagine wanting to have a relaxing seaside or lake-side day off with your family. What would you do? Take out your jet ski, blow some steam off, and have fun with your family on the waters, right? A sitting jet ski would be a much better choice.

We have summed up all the required information about getting a jet ski in this article here.

Jet Ski rules for a Skipper in South Africa

There are two ways to legally drive a Jet Ski in South Africa.

  1. Getting a minimum of Category R skipper’s license

According to SAMSA’s rules, you are to have a skipper’s license as jet skis always have an engine of 15hp or higher. There are no special skipper licenses for jet skis, so yes, your regular skipper license would work.

We already have covered obtaining a skipper’s license extensively in the past. We would highly recommend beginning from here if you are completely brand new to the boating world: Getting a Skipper License in South Africa

  1. Getting an RYA PWC License

This is more of an internationally recognised license. It is not necessary to go for a specific jet ski license like this if you are just going to chill with a jet ski in South Africa. However, if you are someone aiming for an international career, for example, working on a superyacht, or driving a jet ski in another country, then get this license, definitely!

The RYA PWC license is internationally recognised. This means you will not have to undergo extra procedures to obtain permission to drive a jet ski (or a powerboat, if you have a PB2 license minimum) in different parts of the world.

To sum up,

SAMSA skipper’s license is sufficient to operate a jet ski within South African maritime boundaries. But, get an RYA PWC license if you want to go international someday.

SAMSA Rules of owning a Jet Ski in South Africa

Apart from the license requirements, there are a few SAMSA requirements you have to follow regarding the vessel—the jet ski itself. We will classify these requirements for our better understanding.

Non-commercial jet skis

All jet skis that are used for recreational purposes usually do not deal with SAMSA directly. Instead, they are usually administrated under sporting bodies authorised by SAMSA (such as private institutes, boating clubs etc).

As jet skis always have the engine of 15hp or above, they will require a specific marking with approved numbering (like a license plate) and a certificate of fitness. Only a certified skipper or someone under the direct supervision of a certified skipper can operate jet skis.

The certificate of fitness for these jet skis shall always be annually renewed by these sporting bodies. Furthermore, all jet skis are required to display the “approved markings”, which is a single traceable number. Just consider it as a license plate for your jet ski.

Commercial jet skis

The SAMSA Survey Regime is directly responsible for overseeing the regulations related to commercial jet skis. SAMSA will annually survey these jet skis to issue the Local General Safety Certificate. They will provide the license plate, which means the marking and numbering for such jet skis. And the operating skippers should have a valid certificate to operate these jet skis.

Jet ski rules regarding persons under 16 years of age

Persons who are under 16 years of age may not operate a jet ski on their own. They shall always operate a jet ski under the guidance of a certified skipper. Such skippers hold a certificate of competence issued by an authorised agency, or he/she could be a certified competent person training for a competitive sport.

Categorisation of jet skis

Jet skis are categorised in the same manner as a vessel, such as a powerboat.

Jet skis under 3 metres in length will always be R category vessels. And the R category is the inland waters category. That does not necessarily mean you cannot take such jet skis to the sea. However, there are heavy restrictions. Therefore, you may only drive them in an area designated by regulating authorities, and it should be no more than 1000m away from the shorelines.

Jet skis of length greater than 3 metres will be categorised as E, D, or C, depending on how a skipper decides to use them. Such jet skis will also require a certificate of fitness to ensure that they are up to the standards of their respective category.

Also, jet skis must have sufficient buoyancy according to their categories. Category R vessels should have at least 30% buoyancy and category D and E should have 60% buoyancy.

Jet skis and safety equipment

Jet skis of category D, E, and R vessels are to carry the same safety equipment as other power-driven vessels. SAMSA has compiled such a list for each category in detail on this webpage. We highly advise you to read them thoroughly.

Even the R category vessels operating in restricted—designated—areas need to carry specific safety equipment.

  1. SAMSA-approved buoyancy aid.
  2. Suitable tow line.


This article is a sum-up of the following SAMSA document that sums up all necessary safety guidelines and rules for operating a jet ski in South Africa. If you are to own a jet ski in South Africa, please make sure you read them thoroughly. Or contact an authorised agency in case of doubts or questions.

If you are looking for an RYA PWC Course, we highly recommend you contact us. We have a team of veterans with 30 years+ of experience in this industry and we would gladly love to help you out. Contact us today for more information!