Columnists

Wakesurfing Bill Will Keep Indiana’s Waters Safe for Future Generations

Boating and towed water sports are a beloved multi-generational pastime — a way for many to spend time outdoors, engaging in healthy physical activity and having a lot of fun with the whole family. As a lifelong Hoosier, boating industry member, avid boater and wake surfing Dad, it is important to me and my family that Indiana has clear laws to protect our recreational activities while also addressing important safety issues on our lakes.

This legislative session, Senator Sue Glick introduced Senate Bill 187 (SB 187), which just passed the Senate by a vote of 40-6 and now moves on to the House for a vote, where it is sponsored by Representative David Abbott. The bill establishes and enforces smart and responsible safeguards for wake surfing and wakeboarding in Indiana waters.

This bill proposes needed safeguards to protect our communities and our recreational activities, and I’m happy to see our state Senator swiftly passed this measure. SB 187 would prohibit wake surfing and wakeboarding at night, addressing the valid public concern for accidents on the water after sundown. The bill would also sensibly prohibit wake surfing behind any boat whose propellers extend beyond the transom or swim platform, into the area where a person would surf behind a boat. The proposed bill also align restrictions on wake surfing and wakeboarding on small, public freshwater lakes (70 to 300 acres), to be consistent with these lakes’ speed limit exemption. Wake surfers and wakeboarders would need to follow the same rules currently in place for water skiers. To ensure each of these proposed regulations are followed, the bills propose penalties and a procedure for property owners to petition the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to adopt other rules concerning wake boarding and/or surfing as they deem necessary. The passage of SB 187 will help to promote the significant economic benefits of the boating industry to the Indiana economy, supporting over 14,000 jobs in approximately 400 Indiana businesses. Over 200,000 boats are registered to Hoosiers, and an estimated $313 million a year goes into the state’s economy when considering revenue generated from boats, engines, marine accessories and more. The recreational boating industry, of which I am a proud member, has a long tradition of supporting education and promoting responsibility among boaters. We feel that many of the wake sport-related issues that arise on the water and in lake communities can be managed with a renewed commitment to responsible practices. This bill, accompanied by educational programs, will help to accomplish this.

I applaud Senator Glick and Representative Abbott for introducing and supporting SB 187 and I encourage the Indiana legislature to pass this important legislation for Governor Holcomb to sign into Indiana law. – Ora Freeman is a resident of Fort Wayne, IN and Dewart Lake in Syracuse In and works in the boating industry as Director of OEM Sales, North America for JL Audio, Inc. a U.S. manufacturer of marine audio products.