The Oregon State Marine Board is taking comments on draft rules banning wakesurfing and wakeboarding within 200 feet of a dock, floating home, boathouse, moorage or a person in the water.
The proposals also seek to keep these riders and their boats throwing big wakes at least 100 feet away from any nonmotorized boat.
The proposals come after years of clashes on the lower Willamette River, where these niche sports are seen as nonconforming nuisances to stand-up paddleboarders, kayakers and floating docks.
“It’s been an ongoing issue for a decade or more there,” Marine Board spokeswoman Ashley Massey says. “That’s where we’re seeing the most petitions and most complaints. The main complaint is the wakes are just too big.”
The Marine Board will hold a hearing on the issue at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at the Jackson County Parks Auditorium, 7520 Table Rock Road, Central Point.
The board will hold its quarterly meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, in the same location.
Other public meetings are planned for July 18 in Oregon City and Aug. 15 in Salem. Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Aug. 31 and can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wakesurfing is free-riding a surfboard or similar device that is propelled forward in a powerboat’s wake. It differs from wakeboarding, in which people ride boards attached to their feet like a snowboard and are towed by the boat.
Wakeskating is getting towed by a powerboat while wearing something smaller, similar to a skateboard.
While wakesurfing makes waves among boaters on the relatively narrow and shallow lower Willamette, marine law-enforcement officials in Southern Oregon say they don’t see many conflicts locally.
The majority of local wakesurfing occurs at Lost Creek Lake, which is much wider and deeper than the Willamette. That allows wakes thrown by boats to dissipate or lose most of their energy before they reach shore, says Sgt. Shawn Richards of the Jackson County sheriff’s marine program, which is funded through the Marine Board.
Wakesurfers here also tend to stay away from other boaters and there are no private lakeside floating homes and docks with which to contend like the lower Willamette, Richards says.
“It’s a big lake, so we don’t have the issues like they do on the Willamette,” Richards says.
Also, stand-up paddleboarders and kayakers have lakes such as Applegate, Fish, Hyatt, Howard Prairie and Willow with 10 mph limits, effectively giving each discipline its own watery sandboxes in which to play.
Along with Lost Creek Lake, powerboaters also have Emigrant Lake for surf riding, but Lost Creek Lake gets the lion’s share of that discipline, Richards says.
However, the Marine Board in the future might add new bans on some 10 mph lakes to ensure clashes don’t arise.
The agency plans a separate look at whether wakesurfing should be banned on specific lakes with 10 mph restrictions to ensure the “spirit” of those restrictions — no or little wakes so nonmotorized paddlers and anglers can enjoy their experiences there — remain intact.
The reason is because wakesurfing can be done at 10 mph, Massey says.
The Marine Board has identified the four 10 mph lakes in Jackson County as ones that could qualify, along with Diamond Lake in Douglas County, Lake Selmac in Josephine County and Klamath and Fourmile lakes in Klamath County.
Separate rulemaking and public comments will be taken on those in the future should the Marine Board move forward, Massey says. They are not part of the current statewide proposal, she says.
Richards says he would support the wakesurfing ban on Jackson County’s 10 mph lakes to protect the current uses — namely, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
“These big wakes really can be an issue,” particularly at the very narrow Applegate Lake, Richards says.