Wake debate continue among lakefront property owners

Special to Oakland Lakefront Lifestyles

Lakefront residents and boating industry representatives are coming out in full force following a recent Lakefront Lifestyles column that pointed to an increase in complaints about large waves created by wakeboard boats.

Rich Beckman has owned multiple wakeboard boats over the last 20 years, first when he lived on Elizabeth Lake and more recently on Pine Lake.

“At the end of the day, I think people who worry about the shoreline due to wakeboard boats is silly stuff,” he said. “I’ve never had any erosion. I think in general some people don’t like wakeboard boats.”

Another issue

Storms, on the other hand, create bigger wakes and contribute to shoreline problems, he added.

“I think there are overzealous people who are overreacting to people who don’t like wakeboard boats and thinking for some reason it causes eco damage,” Beckman said. “By the time the wave gets to shore they are hardly a ripple. I live on a lake and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a problem. This is much ado about nothing. I’ve never heard it was environmentally unsound or that it hurts the shoreline.”

There wouldn’t be an issue at all if everyone followed “common sense courtesy rules,” said Mary Rising, Action Watersports of Fenton office manager.

She points to the Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, which is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, state of Michigan sheriff’s and Michigan Conservation law enforcement, that says boaters need to stay 100 feet from a shoreline, docks or rafts and people in the water.

She also advises watercraft buyers to follow guidelines from the Water Sports Industry Association when it comes to wake responsibly. It recommends staying 200 feet from shorelines, docks and other structures, as well as keeping music at reasonable levels and limit repetitive passes.

Be courteous

“Wakesurfing is our fastest growing segment of our watersports industry,” Rising said, adding that Action does “a lot to educate customers to be courteous and respectful of shorelines. If we’re staying out far enough the boat waves won’t have any more affect than waves created by wind. Courtesy goes a long way. Everybody who is on a lake pays a lot of money to be there. All homeowners care about their shoreline and I think everyone should be able to do what they want on the water, just be cognizant of what their activity can do and stay appropriate distances out.”

Jeremiah Preston, who lives on Greens Lake in Clarkston, agrees. He owns a surfer wakeboard boat and said he doesn’t believe the watercrafts erode the shoreline.

“I’m not seeing it,” he said. “I live on a private lake where people can get pretty vocal about things and no one has said it was an issue. Everyone wants to enjoy the water. Just be respectful of other people.”

Response to “The science of wake waves”

In an open letter to Lakefront Lifestyles in response to “The Science of Wake Waves” article published in the April 2022 edition, Brad Fralick, chief government affairs officer for the Water Sports Industries Association writes, “In the April 2022 edition of Oakland Lakefront Mr. Hunter K. Davis wrote a very interesting article entitled “The Science of Wake Waves” for the Life on The Lakes segment. In this article he opined at length about a recent study completed by the University of Minnesota St. Anthony Falls Field Laboratory regarding wakes produced by “wake boats” and “ski boats.” This study was the latest of many on the topic, and like the others, the raw data was strikingly similar. This should come as no surprise and the main finding invoked a yawn from persons familiar with our lakes: “Wake boats produce larger waves than ski boats.” As the chief government affairs officer for the Water Sports Industry Association, I can say my industry’s product engineers can sleep well tonight knowing that wake boats do exactly what they were designed to do. While the study did not look at shoreline erosion, one comparison was glommed onto as a de facto measure of this. The researchers concluded that a ski boat on plane at 200 feet from shore (though not pulling a rider) produced a wake that would equal the size of the wave of a wake boat in wakesurfing mode at 500 feet. This comparison seems to suggest that this is a “good distance.” A good distance is somewhat problematic in Minnesota as there is technically no setback in the Minnesota statutes. A ski boat and a wake boat could both go down a channel at 50 feet from shore and rock the shore with a large wave. The DNR recommends 200 feet from shore, but again there is no standard to enforce. It is no wonder that Minnesota has become ground zero for the issue of large waves.”

He continues to write, “So the Water Sports Industry Association thinks that 200 feet is far enough. However, the Minnesota study seems to mention that 500 feet would make for the same wave height as 200 feet from shore for a ski boat. What is the difference? Not quite three inches in height. The WSIA’s recommendation of 200 feet would bring the wake boat wake down to 10 inches at 200 feet. That same wave from a wake boat at 500 feet would bring that same size wave (at creation) down to seven inches. What is the rationale for seven inches? There isn’t one. That just happens to be the height of the wave where ski boats wave height at 200 feet equals the wake boats wave height at 500 feet. In essence, an intersection on a graph. What is the WSIA’s rationale for 10 inches? Simple. First, do no harm. We looked at several studies for maximum wind driven heights on very small lakes. Since our organization’s recommendation is a national one and thus one size fits all, we had to use a very small lake as the most conservative benchmark. If we kept the size of the wake boat wave below the maximum wave height for a wind driven wave on a very small lake, then as you graduated the size of the lake the relative height is even smaller than that lake sees naturally with wind driven waves. Using just under 200-acre lakes from earlier studies this maximum wave height was just under one foot in one study to just over one foot in the other. Thus WSIA’s 10-inch wave would be smaller than any lake would experience naturally. Keep in mind that all these studies were measuring with generated waves on glass calm water in order to be able to quantify exactly the height from the specific source. Any wave action found naturally on any given day would cause resistance and bring the wave height down even faster in real world lake environments. We think it is reasonable to never generate a wave that the shore has not already been subject to naturally. We also think that wind driven waves are the main source of any shoreline erosion. “Think” may be too weak of a word here, because we have actual proof from a study that says just that. This study was released three weeks before the Minnesota study that we talked about here. This study was released by the very same University of Minnesota St. Anthony Falls Field Laboratory. The raw data does not lie.”

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