A Close up of a cone paddle from Madison Boats
Madison Boats

Water Safety and Risk Management

At Madison Boats, ensuring water safety is a top priority for our team. Engaging in watersports inherently involves risks, and while we strive to minimize these risks, it's important that you operate within your skill level and do all you can to further educate yourself on specific watercraft, necessary skills, and potential risks involved. Below, you'll find helpful links and information to assist you in staying informed and prepared.

Life jackets/Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):

Failure to adhere to the rules will lead to the immediate termination of the rental without a refund. Additionally, minors will not be permitted to be unsupervised for the remainder of the season.

  • Unsupervised Minors MUST ALWAYS WEAR THEIR PFD.
  • Minors with their parents/guardian over 13 may remove their life jacket though Madison Boats STRONGLY advises against doing so.
  • Adults do not have to wear their life jacket but must have one with them in the boat at all times.
  • All persons regardless of age must wear their PFD when on the water mat.

Waivers & Rules

There is an inherent risk in all watersports and related activities. Madison Boats retains the right to deny access or use of our equipment or facilities for actions that cause or contribute to injuries to self or others or disrupts other boater’s enjoyment of the water. We may also deny access due to inclement weather, assessment of participants’ boating capabilities, or the ability to provide necessary assistance services in the event of an accident.​

Before you go out on the water, you should be aware that Madison Boats staff are not first responders, lifeguards, or certified professionals. If there is an emergency please call 911.

​By agreeing to rent a boat with Madison Boats you agree to the Madison Boats Rules that are designed to reduce risk.

You will also be required to sign a waiver of liability before participating in the activity.

A couple of highlights of the Rules include:

  • No Alcohol and or Drugs: No participant may bring or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on our boats.
  • PFDs: All persons must have a PFD and Madison Boats strongly encourages wearing it. Minors must wear their PFD at all times when not in a boat with their parent or guardian. Minors under 13 MUST wear their PFD at all times.
  • You will comply with all Federal, State and local laws, if you are unclear on laws please visit www.boat-ed.com.
  • Boating is weather dependent. You will heed all warnings and return to the boathouse at the first sign of storms, high winds, lightning, thunder, or severe weather.
  • You are responsible for any damage or loss to the boats.
A Pontoon Boat at Madison Capital

Power Boats & Boater Safety

We love that our pontoon boats can help people get out on Lake Mendota. There are a couple of things you should know before renting from us.

  • Alcohol and drugs are strictly prohibited. We do not allow you to bring or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on our boats. I know, I know it’s WI and it’s a pontoon boat – what’s the harm in some wine for the non-driver? Alcohol greatly increases the risk of water accidents, potentially escalating minor incidents to serious or fatal outcomes.

  • The designated captain (driver) must be at least 25 years old and possess a valid boater safety certificate if born after January 1, 1989.

  • While it’s recommended for all captains to possess the full Boater Safety Certificate that is valid for life, there is a shorter course valid until the end of the calendar year.  

  • Before you go out, our staff will review weather conditions, how to operate the boat, and the rules. Please review our complete list of Pontoon Boat Rules before you show up.

Permission & Waivers for Minors

Three young kids paddling on a stand up paddle board

Our goal is to help people of all ages get out and enjoy the wonder of our waters. We encourage you to bring children of any age to our boat houses and ask that you follow our rules for minors.

For minors aged 14 and above considering independent water activities, please carefully consider:

  • Does my child have the appropriate experience with water and boats to be on the lake without an adult?
  • Does my child have the strength and boating experience to handle the current weather conditions?
  • Does my child have the appropriate maturity to make good decisions when on the water?

Please note that there is inherent risk in all water sports and there is a real risk of injury and death. We not provide lifeguards and staff are not trained in water rescues, nor do they have the ability to monitor the water at all times. Of course, we do our best to provide support and notify officials at the first sign of a problem.

Minors ages 14 to 17 can rent a boat and be on the water without adult supervision by doing the following:

Minors aged 14 to 17 can rent a boat without adult supervision by:

  1.   Having a parent/guardian sign the ONLINE MINOR WAIVER. This is valid only for the day that it is signed, and you must sign it every time your child wants to go out on the water.
  2.   Ensuring the minor wears a PFD at all times.
  3.   Following crew instructions regarding weather and operating the watercraft.

Reservations With an Adult Other Than Parent/Guardian:

Please do the following for any minor who will be going out with an adult who is not their parent or guardian (e.g., babysitter or birthday party):

  1.   The parent/guardian must sign the ONLINE MINOR WAIVER.
  2.   The minor must wear a PFD at all times.
  3.   The minor must follow crew directions regarding weather and operating the watercraft.

Note: All minors must wear a PFD, and for groups of 4+, the supervising adult must be on the water. For groups of fewer than four, the adult can remain on shore if actively monitoring the minors at all times.

Full Season Permission for 10-17 years old

To give your child the ability to go out without supervision all season long they must complete the Unsupervised Minor Waiver by doing the following:

  1. Receive their Paddle Sports Certificate or complete their Boater Safety Certificate, both available through Boat-ed and valid for life. We suggest the Paddle Sports Certificate as it focuses on paddle sports. 
  2. Watch the Madison Boats risk review video. We recommend that both the minor and guardian view the video.
  3. As the parent or guardian, you will need to sign the Unsupervised Rules and Waiver. It is best if you and the minor do this together. We recognize that not all guardians are OK with all locations and so we have three separate Waivers – one for each location. If you want your child to have access to all locations, we ask that you sign each one.

After completing these steps, your minor/dependent will have the autonomy to rent a boat and venture out on the lake without your presence on-site. They can book online or walk-up but must bring a copy of their boater safety certificate.

We understand that this process may seem involved, but it’s rooted in our commitment to ensuring safety and enjoyment for all.

Three kids sliming and having fun on a kayak


If you are bringing a group of minors (birthday party, school group, youth group) to go boating, we will need a signed waiver for every child. For smaller groups, you can have their guardian fill out the Minor Waiver Form listed above. For larger groups, please email us to have an event waiver created for your specific outing. We require adult supervision of groups of minors. We require one adult supervisor for every 10 kids, however we strongly suggest a ratio of four kids per adult.