Tow sports include a range of diverse activities that require different skill levels. Surprisingly, tow sports that require the least amount of skill, such as water tubing and banana boating can actually be more dangerous due to the lack of control riders have.
Water skiing, which includes wakeboarding, barefooting, trick skiing and other similar forms, requires responsible co-operation between several people: a boat driver, a spotter, and the skier or rider. Many elements are at play in safety: the skier, other nearby water users, safe handling of the tow boat and tow rope, and safety of other passengers who may be aboard the boat.
Why tow sports can be risky for children and youth?
Water skiing is an exciting pastime that families can enjoy together. Yet poor technique and lower body weight can contribute to a higher incidence of water skiing injuries to children. The most common accident scenarios include falls into water, collisions with other skiers or objects, being struck by a boat propeller, or becoming entangled in tow
lines. Common injuries include rectal, vaginal, and tympanic membrane (eardrum) injuries. Inflatables pose a particular risk precisely because no skill is required, which (a) leads caregivers to falsely think young children can ride safely despite inexperience, and (b) prevents the riders from being able to practice any self-protective
measures. Many injuries are caused by tow boat drivers misjudging distances, causing the inflatable and its riders to swing uncontrollably into boats, piers, and other objects. Multiple rider inflatables also pose a risk because the riders strike against each other when the inflatable jumps or turns, which can cause serious head injuries.
Recommendations for water ski equipment rental and operation
● All skiers and riders must be able to swim well.
● All skiers and riders must understand and be able to use the common hand signals.
● Use of a personal flotation device (PFD) should be required for children and youth at all times.
● Beginners should only ski in enclosed, calmer waters without other users nearby.
● In cool waters, a wetsuit should be worn, and even in warmer waters a half body suit is recommended to help minimise abrasion injuries.
● Girls should be advised to always wear at least a half suit to prevent injury through water enema.
● Renters should have previous adequate training which they can demonstrate by answering questions regarding techniques and rules.
● Water recreation helmets and grip gloves are recommended for children and youth by instructors when nessecary.
● Inflatable riders should never attempt to grab the tow rope.
Tow boat drivers
● Tow boat drivers must have the proper license according to the Greek legislation (Article 22 paragraph 2i of the General Regulation of the Port Authority No. 20). Specifically they should have:
Coach licence of any category on waterskiing issued by the General Secretariat of Sports and at least 2 years speedboat driver license or
Coach licence on waterskiing issued by the University of Physical Education and Sport Science and at least 1 year speedboat driver license or
a valid license of trainer in waterskiing, which had been certified based on the provisions General Regulation of Port authority. No. 37 (FEK 101 / 2004) and the owner of the license must have previously exercised, with the permission of the Port Authority, this profession (speedboat driver for tow sports). The validity of the instructor license is determined by the issuer.
● Drivers should team with a spotter, whose duty is to at all times monitor the skier, the tow rope, and the area for dangers.
● Motor propeller strikes are the leading cause of serious injury to water-skiers.
● The driver should not allow other passengers to sit on the sides of the boat.
● Water should be a minimum of 1 metre deep, and the skier should never be released in shallow waters.
● Drivers should observe more conservative speed limits when towing children, not in excess of 25 knots.
● Drivers towing inflatables should maintain conservative speeds to take slow wide turns.
●Drivers should never attempt to let an inflatable wake jump or to “whip” the riders with sharp turns.
What safety factors to look for in choosing and maintaining equipment for your operation?
Equipment (including boat, tow rope, skis, bindings and medical and communications equipment) should be checked daily. Tow lines should be washed down with clean water daily to prevent wear from sea or lake water elements. Wet suits should be cleaned and disinfected with a nonallergenic cleanser between users.
● Always have at least 2 staff member present – one to speak with clients and handle training, and the other to assist in launch and landing activity and to monitor the water at all the times.
● Be sure that your staff members are trained in CPR and first aid.
● Have a rescue boat or PWC available so that skiers and riders in danger can be reached quickly if no water rescue service is in the immeidate vicinity.
● Be sure all staff members, whether on shore or in water, can communicate with each other via VHF radios or a similiar device.
● All staff members should be able to clearly communicate the risks and safety rules to clients. A language barrier could pose a problem should an accident occur, both in terms of immediate medical care and liability for having failed to properly communicate the rules.
● Staff should very regularly check reliable sources regarding wind and surf conditions.
*Source : European Child Safety Alliance, Eurosafe; 2008.- With the support of the European Commission