Another Covid Casualty; Wake Surfing Being Challenged

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The Michigan Boating Industry Association opted to cancel its popular Novi Boat Show, scheduled for March 11-14, while in at least four other states the growing sport of wake surfing is facing restrictive proposals.

Following the cancellations of most of the industry’s other northern winter shows due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MBIA pulled the plug on the 29th annual show, held at Novi’s Suburban Collection Showplace.

“While our in-person Novi show cannot happen this year due to the pandemic, we will aggressively communicate and encourage the boating public considering a new-boat purchase for the coming season to shop their local dealers early,” says MBIA executive director Nicki Polan. “We’ll emphasize that dealerships are open and using appointments and all safety protocols.”

Among other initiatives, MBIA will utilize its BoatMichigan.org consumer site, updated earlier this year, as a key resource with the cancellations of in-person boat shows. The website features:

• events and promotions at dealerships around the state

• a comprehensive product and service directory, with searches by brand, boat type and location

• resources for new boaters and renters

• how-to videos

Polan points out that demand for boats remains high in Michigan, so the MBIA message will focus on the growing numbers of families turning to the fun, safe and therapeutic benefits of being on the water.

“We’ll highlight that supplies are limited this year,” she says. “So if they’re interested in purchasing a new boat, upgrading a current boat, reserving a slip at a marina, installing new docks or anything else related to boating, we’ll be suggesting they not wait and act now.”

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes Boating Festival, slated for May 21-23 at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, and MBIA’s Metro Boat Show, scheduled for Sept. 16-19 at the Lake St. Clair Metropark, are expected to go off on schedule.

Wake Surfing Drawing Fire

The National Marine Manufacturers Association’s advocacy team is engaging with policymakers across the country on a variety of issues, not the least of which is wake surfing access. To date, four state legislatures are active on this critical issue, and more are expected to follow suit in the months ahead.

There are four states where NMMA is engaged in wake surfing legislation, along with highlights of the specific proposals before each legislature.

Indiana (HB1098) Sets a legal definition of wakeboarding and wake surfing and prohibits night operation. It also includes safety requirements for the watercraft and sets up a process for lakes to petition to set more extensive restrictions.

New Hampshire (HB229 and HB115) HB 229 defines wakeboat as any boat that is equipped with ballast tanks, bags, compartments, containers, plumbing, or similar devices or systems that are designed to alter or enhance the characteristics of the boat's wake, and is also known as a “ballast boat.” HB 115 would require wake surfers to wear life jackets, bans nighttime wake surfing, and requires the tow boat to be designed by the manufacturer for wake surfing.

Oregon (HB2555, HB2725, and HB2734) HB 2555 and HB 2725 provide that maximum loading weight of boat must be less than 4,000 pounds to obtain a towed water sports powerboat certificate. HB 2734 directs the State Marine Board to study and make recommendations for legislation to impose an excise tax on wakeboat sales.

Virginia (HB 2083) This bill would prohibit any person within 200 feet of a dock, pier, boathouse, boat ramp, shoreline or other person in the water from operating a boat on any inland lake that is more than 500 feet above sea level and 20,000 acres or more in size wholly located within the Commonwealth (Smith Mountain Lake), while accompanied by a person or persons engaged in wake surfing.

Wake surfing has been drawing increasing complaints on lakes in many parts of the country, primarily from adjacent property owners. Calls for some regulations to complete outlawing have been heard. It’s an issue not likely to be settled quickly and will be high on the industry’s action list for the foreseeable future. 

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