Wake surfing bill introduced by lawmakers supported by boating industry, others oppose

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The Lake Minnetonka Conservation District held a virtual meeting Wednesday. Prior to the meeting, the board discussed wake surfing concerns.

The growing popularity of wake boats, and activities like wake surfing have become a nuisance for some who live on the lake.

Legislation has been introduced to address it, and the boating industry supports it. But others do not.

Chris Bank is a seven-time world wake surf champion who loves the sport. He surfs from his home on Lake Minnetonka.

"It’s fun for everybody, and something different for everybody," he shares.

Wake surf boats are growing in popularity. But as the interest grows, so does concern.

Representative Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, is the co-author of the bill that would restrict wake boats within 200 feet of shore, prohibit wake boats on lakes 50 acres or less and on waterways that are less than 500 feet wide.

"This bill sets a floor as a minimum requirement for what we’d like to see, it also allows local governments and lake associations to petition the DNR for tighter restrictions," Koegel said.

Advocates state the bill is clear and easy to enforce and effective based on testing the industry conducted in 2015.

But others disagree, saying the powerful boats will still cause shoreline damage.

"This is a very, very unique watercraft," said Chuck Becker with Safe Wakes for Minnesota Lakes. "It’s the only watercraft I know that is uniquely designed, engineered, technically advanced with the goal of creating massives wakes to surf without a rope."

Becker says he’s been contacted by several states and counties concerned with wake boats.

"Our small lakes just can’t take these powerful boats, not just from an environmental standpoint but certainly from a safety standpoint with other folks on the lakes, personal property issues, with docks and lifts or boats getting damaged," he said.

Bank says it’s important to educate people about the issue. He encourages surfer to use deep water in the middle of lakes and to not run the same pass repetitively.

"Our lakes are one of our greatest resources," he said. "How do we do this together on lakes respectfully and safely?"