Yes, depending on your age. Operators of motorized vessels in California need a California Boater Card, if they are 35 years of age or younger. 

The Boater Card (also called a boat license) requirements are being phased in over a period of 8 years. By January 1st, 2025, all boat operators in California will be required to get certified, no matter their age. 

The Boater Card is required to legally operate any motorized boat, including Personal Watercraft such as a jet-ski or sea-doo. Once obtained, the card is good for life, and does not need to be renewed. 

How do I get the card? 

You can get your California Boater Card online at The course takes about 3 hours to complete, and is animated, narrated, and illustrated, making it perfect for boaters of all ages. 

Once you’ve completed the State-approved online course, and passed the final exam, you’ll be issued a certificate of completion. The certificate can be submitted to the California Division of Boating and Waterways, who will issue your temporary and permanent cards. For more information on how to apply for your permanent card with the California Division of Boating and Waterways, visit the California Boater Card website

How old do I need to be to get the California Boater Card?

There is no minimum age to take the BOATsmart! California course and obtain your Boater Card. However, there are restrictions that apply to boat operators who are less than 16 years of age. 

Are there age restrictions or supervision requirements?

Yes. There are various restrictions that apply to boat operators who are less than 16 years of age. 

12-15 years of age: 

Boat operators who are 12-15 years of age must be under the supervision of an adult who is 18 years of age or older, in order to operate a motorized boat that is powered by a motor of more than 15 hp, including personal watercraft. 

16 years of age or older:

Operators who are 16 years of age or older may operate a motorized boat without supervision, as long as they have obtained their California Boater Card, or are exempt.

Do I need a license to rent a boat in California? 

No – operators who are renting a boating in California are not required to obtain a Boater Card, however it is highly recommended. Most boating accidents occur because operators didn’t have the proper knowledge and training to operate safely. It’s unlikely that a rental company is going to teach you the ins and outs of various rescue procedures, or how to respond in a boating emergency. So get certified, and stay safe on the water.