Tow boats have been soaring in popularity over the past few years, often posting double-digit sales gains when other segments have been less consistent.
The marine industry has been trying to educate boaters on being responsible on the boats that throw wakes large enough for people to surf and often come with loud sound systems, but the vessels continue to stir controversy among some lakeshore residents, enthusiasts, environmentalists and boat dealers.
"Wake surfing is a very popular sport that people love – of course our industry encourages boaters to enjoy any sport responsibly," Bill Yeargin, CEO of Nautique parent company Correct Craft, told Trade Only Today. "Being a responsible boater does not reduce the fun from watersports and makes the lake more enjoyable for everyone."
On Lake Minnetonka, some residents are asking for some regulations on wake boats, while advocates say wake surfing and wakeboarding are great ways to get outside and recreate while the pandemic limits other activities, according to the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.
“Everybody in the family can wake-boat surf, from kids to parents to grandparents,” Andy Weigman, who organizes wake surfing programs on Lake Minnetonka, told the Star Tribune. “Instead of buying a cabin, [families are] putting $200,000 into a boat.”
However, the sport still has critics.
Resident Michelle Morey said she and her husband get “tossed around like rag dolls” when they’re fishing from their boat and a tow boat goes by.
A proposal introduced in the legislature this year didn’t get a vote that would have required wake boats to stay 200 feet from shore, a distance supported by boating industry advocates, according to the Star Tribune, but some want setbacks up to 600 feet.
The Water Sports Industry Association, a group that helped personal watercraft shed a bad-boy reputation in the 1990s, has created a Wake Responsibly campaign to try to educate surfers and boarders how to be considerate of others on the water.
The Minnesota Department of Resources — where Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas occupies a seat on the Outdoor Recreation Task Force — also has a campaign, Own Your Wake.
A University of Minnesota engineer is raising money to study the environmental impacts of wake surfing and boarding on Minnesota lakes.
“We’re studying the wake and how that wake moves toward the shoreline and starts to interact with the bottom of the lake and crashes into shoreline,” Jeff Marr, leader of the project, told the newspaper.
Towboat registrations surpassed sterndrive runabouts last year for the first time in recent history, with towboats finishing out the year at 10,947 units.
Wake sport boats were up 6 percent for the year, according to the NMMA, with 11,000 units sold.