All PWC operators age 14 and older and all operators (regardless of age) of motorboats with a 10 hp or greater engine need to take a boating safety course. Once you complete the course, the course completion certificate or card that is provided by the course provider is what is required to operate a vessel.
In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law to establish a boating safety education compliance requirement. This requirement will be phased in over the next several years and by 2016, all operators of PWCs (Personal Watercraft such as jet skis, Sea Doos, Wave Runners) and operators of Motorboats with a 10 hp or greater motor, will be required to have a boating safety education course completion card on board when operating a PWC or Motorboat.
PWC Age Restriction: No person under the age of 14 may operate a PWC. Those operators 14 and 15 MUST show proof of completing an approved and accepted boating safety course either in a classroom or online. The challenge exam or other provisions of the Education Compliance Requirement do not meet the requirements of the age restriction law.
A Personal Watercraft or PWC, more commonly known as a Sea-Doo® (Bombardier Recreational Products), Waverunner® (Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA), and JET SKI® (Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA), is defined as a motorboat less than 16 feet in length that are powered by jet pumps, not propellers, where the persons stand, kneel, or sit on, rather than inside the boat. Classroom and Internet courses that are NASBLA approved and accepted by Virginia DWR to meet these requirements are listed at the links below. If you are an experienced boater, you may choose to take an equivalency/challenge exam rather than take a boating safety course. Information about the equivalency/challenge exam can be found in the link below.
Do I Need to Take a Boating Course?
Yes – If you have never taken a NASBLA approved boating safety course (no grandfathering). Find a list of classroom courses »
No – If you have previously taken a NASBLA approved boating safety course and still have a card/certificate. Most state boating courses, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary courses, and United States Power Squadrons courses are NASBLA approved.
No – If you hold or have held a license to operate a vessel (Master, Captain, or Mate) issued by the United States Coast Guard. You must carry this license on board while operating a recreational vessel. If you would like to obtain a Virginia Lifetime Boaters Card, fill out this application.
No – If you are or have been a Virginia Registered Commercial Fisherman (pursuant to Virginia Code § 28.2-241). You must carry documentation on board while operating a recreational vessel. If you would like to obtain a Virginia Lifetime Boaters Card, fill out this application.
No – If you are or have been a surface warfare officer/enlisted surface warfare specialist in the United States Navy. (Note: a copy of valid DD-214 or certification from your Command will fulfill this requirement.) You must carry documentation on board while operating a recreational vessel. If you would like to obtain a Virginia Lifetime Boaters Card, fill out this application.
No – If you are serving or have qualified as an Officer of the Deck Underway, boat coxswain, boat officer, boat operator, watercraft operator, or Marine Deck Officer in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, United States Coast Guard, or Merchant Marine. If you would like to obtain a Virginia Lifetime Boaters Card, fill out this application.
No – If you are operating a boat registered in another state if you meet the applicable boating safety education requirements of your state of residency.