California Requires Operator Licensing

California boaters can satisfy license requirement by taking BoatU.S. course.

California Boater Course
California Requires Operator

A new law says California boaters will need to go to school, and the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety has the right course to fit their schedule and budget. Starting January 1, 2018, Golden State boaters age 20 or younger who operate a motorized vessel on state waterways will need to have a boater safety card showing successful completion of an education course. Each year thereafter on January 1, more age groups will be added to the requirement so that by 2025 all California boaters will need to carry a boater card issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW).

The easiest and most affordable way to meet the requirement is to take the BoatU.S. Foundation’s free online Boating Safety Course — now approved by the DBW — that lets boaters take the course in the comfort of their own home. Once successfully completed, the course does not expire.

“We’ve loaded the course with interactive animations, videos and photos to give boaters an education that goes well beyond the basics of boating,” said BoatU.S. Foundation President Chris Edmonston. “The best part of all is that our course is free and can be taken at home. It’s designed so that you can stop and then continue at any time,” Edmonston added.

Upon finishing the course, boaters can print their own certificate of completion, and beginning in 2018, the state will begin to issue official California Boater Education Cards to students who have completed the course between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2017.

The course and exam are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard as exceeding the minimum requirements for the National Recreational Boating Safety Program.

To take the course, go to For more information about California boater education, go to