THE teenage jet ski rider was in his element, throwing his machine over the wash of passing boats near one of the busiest stretches of Lake Macquarie.
But more than riding waves, the personal watercraft user was creating them, as his manoeuvres seemed to raise the ire of fishermen in nearby boats.
What's more, the 16-year-old was in the sights of NSW Maritime boating safety officer Chris Austen, who pulled over the young rider near the 'drop over' at the northern end of Swansea Channel.
"How close to these fishing boats are you when you're throwing it around and spraying and jumping over waves?," asked the officer.
Not too sure, was the answer.
When Chris Austen told him it was closer than the limit of 30 metres, the teenager disputed that. So Mr Austen pointed out one of the fisherman who had been waving his arms.
"The water's nearly hitting him, It's pretty close," Mr Austen said.
"If you're going to throw it around and have some fun, get out in the middle here, away from everybody."
The NSW Maritime officer let the rider off with an official caution.
"Don't go throwing it around near the anchored boats here and people fishing," he said. "Because next time you will get a ticket. It's $250 for doing that."
The young jet skier was one of 142 vessel drivers stopped by three NSW Maritime boats patrolling on Lake Macquarie over the weekend, as the agency launched its first major safety and compliance operation for 2021.
Operation Safe Skippers was highlighting the proper use of safety equipment, the dangers of speeding, and raising weather awareness.
The weather had brought out the boaters in big numbers on Sunday. After days of wind and showers, the calm conditions and sunny skies had hundreds taking to the water.
"Lake Macquarie is one of the busiest waterways, and we're finding that's increasing as well," said Sonia McKay, NSW Maritime's Principal Manager North, adding that people searching for a release from COVID-19 had boosted boating numbers.
Boat licence numbers had increased by 52 per cent for May to December 2020, compared with the same period the previous year. Boat registrations had also soared by 26 per cent.
The officers on patrol could observe those statistics being reflected on the water. At one point, after Swansea Bridge opened, more than 20 vessels cruised through, heading along the channel, past hundreds of bathers lining the Pelican shore.
"At times when you've got high-congestion areas like this, there's more potential for something to go wrong," said Sonia McKay. "So while we don't want to stop people having fun, it's really important that's balanced with doing it safely."
Boaters had come from far and wide. Chris Austen stopped two men in a speedboat for a licence and safety equipment check. They were from Cronulla.
"It gets too crowded on Port Hacking; this is bigger," said the driver.
Others were close to home. Shane Ryan, along with his chidren Ciara and Jack and family friend Mick Woods, was stopped in Wangi Bay. The Ryans were from nearby Balmoral.
"They're doing their job, and hopefully we're doing the right thing," said Mr Ryan of the NSW Maritime officers' presence. Mr Ryan passed the inspection.
The presence of the Maritime vessels was helping keep people safe and encouraging boaters to watch their behaviour, according to Sonia McKay.
"High visibility patrolling is really important on days like this," she said.
In the couple of hours the Newcastle Herald was on board the NSW Maritime vessel, Chris Austen stopped a handful of jet skiers to do checks or to warn them to slow down or keep a safe distance. But he said personal watercraft users were not targetted.
"Generally speaking, when we do campaigns like this one, we don't find that jet skiers are disproportionately represented in terms of people doing the wrong thing," he said. "The main thing for us on the lake is 'too fast, too close' when we're talking to jet skiers."
By day's end, Chris Austen had issued four penalty notices, or fines, and five official cautions to boaters.
Across the Hunter's waterways, as of 4pm on Sunday, eight penalty notices and 25 cautions had been issued after 395 safety checks.
"Overall, we're happy with what people are doing out there," said Sonia McKay, "when you see how many are using the lake."