Concord—February 18, 2022—A much-anticipated study has confirmed what many boaters have long observed—waves produced by wakesurfing boats are measurably larger and more powerful than waves created by non-wakesurfing boats.
Under the direction of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, the peer-reviewed study measured maximum wave height, total energy, and maximum wave power of two wakesurfing boats and two non-wakesurfing craft operating under a variety of typical lake conditions. [An FAQ on the study can be found here].
What the researchers found was that wakesurfing boats produced wave heights two to three times higher than traditional boats, wave energies six to nine times stronger, and maximum wave power six to twelve times more powerful.
Using the study’s data, the report concluded that wakesurfing boats would need to operate between 425 and 500 feet from shore in order to have the same wave dispersal pattern as non-wakesurfing boats. State law currently allows all powerboats to operate 150 ft. from shore.
The research was conducted in part because of the boating industry’s continued objection to limits on where and how wakesurfing boats can be operated, even though its own studies show the craft are more impactful than other types of boats.
Research sponsored by the Water Sport Industry Association (WSIA) in 2015 found wave heights for wakeboarding were 43% higher than when the same boat was cruising and not towing a boarder. Waves for wakesurfing were 114% higher, using the same comparison.
Further, the WSIA study found waves from wakeboarding generated 179% more wave energy than waves from the boat when cruising, and 720% more energy for the same boat when wakesurfing.
The new University of Minnesota study is especially useful to the debate by defining what would be needed to reduce the impact of wakesurfing boats’ waves to approximately the same as that of non-wakesurfing boats, namely more than doubling the current 150 ft. set-back.
On Ossipee Lake, most complaints about large-wake craft have come from Berry Bay, whose residents have documented waves causing shoreline erosion, damaging smaller craft and creating hazards to young swimmers. But complaints have come from elsewhere as well, in places where the lake is narrow and places where boaters have only a narrow field of operation because of overcrowding.
A 15-member state commission appointed by the governor in 2019 to study large-wake watercraft agreed on common sense measures including having a “spotter” on board and requiring boarders and surfers to wear a life jacket—requirements long on the books for waterskiing.
But the commission’s members deadlocked on whether to allow the public to petition the state to limit large-wake boats in specific locations on a case-by-case basis.
An NH LAKES-supported bill (HB 1071) requiring wakesurfing boats to operate 250 ft. from shore had a hearing in the House of Representatives on February 9. Close to 700 individuals registered their support online or testified in support of the legislation, according to an NH LAKES spokesperson.
The House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee will discuss the bill in executive session on February 23.