Stab Magazine | Jet Skis: Is There A Time And Place?

Jet Skis: Is There A Time And Place?

The use of skis on the Gold Coast is getting out of hand and the authorities aren’t happy. 

style // Feb 22, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Discussion flares up after another Gold Coast swell is peppered with motor power.

Each and every time an Easterly swell lights up the charts off Queensland’s South East Coast, a flock of surfers from all over Australia and other parts of the globe begin filling their ski’s tanks, preparing for days of thigh-burning drainers and motor-assisted take offs.

Skis are a plenty, paddlers are fuming and the old discussion reignites. 

In days gone by, the only time the Gold Coast’s sand-bottomed stretch saw ski power, was during the Quiksilver Pro, photogs shooting on skis, or maybe a few Seadoo’s saving surfer’s  arms by dropping them back at the takeoff. 

Slowly but surely, the presence of skis on the Goldy has grown beyond the previously respected boundaries. They are now unavoidable each time the elements align, and sometimes, even when they don’t.

There’s surfers stepping off, towing in, and getting whipped into prime position, whilst those financially strapped paddle their arses off against the sweep, trying to scrap into something a ski hasn’t already delivered to some privileged soul. Paddle surfers would be forgiven for turning and burning someone abusing their jet power.

Superbank is one thing, but taking your Seadoo to the wedge is another.

At waves such as Jaws, there’s an unwritten rule: when people are paddling, towing is a no go. While the Superbank is a far cry from the moving mountains rolling past Peahi; it isn’t unreasonable to demand the same courtesy at the Superbank.

No one wants to see anyone get hurt, whether its a step-off surfer, someone paddling or the ski driver themselves.

We all saw how close Darren Handley came to catastrophe on Monday – from nearly every eye witness account, it’s lucky no one was injured from the incident.

But with the number of skis currently in Gold Coast lineups, it’s only a matter of time until someone is.

Just this morning, the Department of Transport and Main Roads shared a Facebook post in wake of the jet ski slalom last weekend, referencing “close calls” (undoubtedly Darren Handley) as well as reiterating the law surrounding the use of PWC’s.

If you’re within 60 metres of someone in the water, whether that’s a swimmer or surfer, you’re required to travel at less than six knots an hour. This clearly wasn’t the case this previous swell.

The video also directs people towards the “Tow in Surfing Code of Conduct”, which further details the legalities surrounding the use of skis in the surf. Or if this is too formal for you, you can always delve into Stab’s Universal Guide to Tow Etiquette” to avoid situations like the one below. 


No one is suggesting (or maybe they are) that skis be banned altogether in the Goldy waters, like they have been at places like Mavericks and Ghost Trees. However, there are surfers proposing that those using them should reconsider when it’s appropriate to do so and the manner in which they are used.

For instance, no one is going to complain about a few skis helping people back to the takeoff— permitting there’s no snakes on skis—but people will justifiably cry foul when the same ten dudes gobble up sets over and over thanks to a ski-assisted drop in.

The best person to talk to about these issues though are the locals. And we got an inside man who isn’t the ski-assist type, a furry luddite named iHusky, AKA Zach Humphrey, who spent this past swell dodging skis and step-offs, holding his own with the power of two working arms.

We’ll leave it to the pup from here: 

jet ski

Good luck competing against this with your two measly arms.



Stab: What days did you surf this swell?

iHusky: I spent all Saturday in the water, or watching it. Swam with the housing all Sunday morning too, until it looked like the bay was going to shut down on the low tide in the early afternoon. A close mate watched it all Monday morning, basically sending me a live feed.

How many skis were there?

On any given forecast of this magnitude, you expect a certain crew to have the skis out (Hueys, Parko, Hippo, a Red Bull ski or two, and some lesser known locals) but there were blokes rolling down the highway from Brisbane with early-2000 model Seadoo buckets of shit all weekend. It appeared to tick over to a new level.

The big guys on skis are out there to get footage, to make money; it’s their livelihood and because of that I find it hard to blame them. We live in an environment where people are going to eat that content up regardless of who it effects or endangers

Were the skis only picking up their mates, or everyone?

To their credit, there were some great captains out there and some who were very liberal with sharing the benefits of their machines.

On Sunday I was offered rides on a number of occasions and so were others.



A pack of paddlers not lucky enough for ski assistance.



Any animosity in the lineup between step-offs and paddlers? 

Mmmm, not externally. I’m sure there was a few internal boil-overs. From my understanding, Monday may’ve been a bit different, when the ski action became more callous.  

A few drop ins on step-offs, totally justifiable though.

Have you spoken to the Council at all?

I haven’t spoken to them but they’ve been referenced elsewhere, sherking any responsibility, as predicted.

The ski’s are definitely outside the bounds of the law, when stepping off at the groyne, but are generally ok elsewhere when the lifeguards have closed beaches. Essentially it’d be up to Maritime to enforce, but Kirra is Queensland waters and as far as I’m aware there is only NSW Maritime boats running out of the Tweed River.

Their queensland counterparts aren’t about to motor down from the Spit during a large swell in the interest of pinging a few reckless operators.

Is the situation getting worse?


The ski’s previously confined themselves to Tweed Bar, Fingal, Currumbin on big big days, and the Pin when the wind behaves. We’ve seemingly hit a tipping point where the prolonged absence of any visible regulation has opened the floodgates.

Any sniff of an east swell will bring them out, I’ve literally seen grown men towing in to 2-foot North Kirra. It’s completely comical.

Do you think a ban is feasible? Like Jaws, should there be no towing when people are paddling?

Any black and white decision would require regulation, which won’t happen. People will cry for fines to be issued based off video footage and then next swell all the rego’s will be covered.

The Gold Coast currently has a broader issue with the policing of the waterway (Google: “Tinnie Rats”), teenage boys have literally killed themselves through recklessly hammering their tinnies around. Kirra is a small issue to the authorities.

Did you see DH go engine over ass?

Nope, heard it was scary to watch live though. 

Say Handley or anyone on a ski lost control ski and it struck and injured (or killed) a surfer, the consequences may have been dire. Even an average lawyer could have proven that (for that specific time) this was their workplace and they’d be prosecutable under the WHS Act for failing their Primary Duty of Care to both each other or ‘any other person’.

It gets pretty dark from there, as a far-reaching precedent.

Do you think tow ins are ever acceptable there?

Objectively, no.

It’d be a rare swell that would stop every single paddler getting out there and a swell of that size is likely to be closing out the bay, but they have happened.

A jetski should only be utilised in the absence of ANY paddle surfers or when it is reasonably impractical to catch a wave without one—6-8ft Kirra doesn’t fit either of those parameters.


seven skis

Seven skis hovering around one wave, dare we call “overkill”.


Jesse Little

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Pro-ski, anti-ski, or are you just jealous – like me – that there are people complaining about six-foot perfection, whilst the lower East Coast is peppered with onshore burgers. 



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