…from Vermonters who have experienced wake surfing on their lakes. Do you have a story to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respect your privacy.
[We] have owned our camp on Joe’s Pond about 13, maybe 14 years. We have often been present during very severe weather occurrences, including the big microburst that hit Joe’s Pond in about 2012, or whenever it was. That afternoon we lost 14 trees on our property alone; around the pond huge trees were falling and phone poles snapped. Watching the storm from our camp we saw thousands of whitecaps coming across the pond but never any actual waves. Joe’s Pond is too small a body of water, with insufficient “fetch,“ to allow actual waves to form. So, our dock, boat, and shoreline were buffeted by thousands of whitecaps but no significant waves.
Now, on any given summer day, our shoreline is hit with countless, large, artificial waves created by so-called wake boats, waves that are significantly larger and more powerful than any waves mother nature can create on our small pond. Some of these intentionally created artificial waves crash up and OVER our docks, something we’ve never seen before. We are no longer able to moor our antique wooden runabout out on the water, or tied alongside our dock, as its buffeted and banged by large artificial waves arriving randomly from all directions, often simultaneously. We now keep our boat pretty much out of the water.
What used to be a relatively quiet sandy area in front of our camp, suitable for small children and toddlers, wading and swimming, is now dangerous. When the big artificial waves arrive small children are easily swamped or knocked over. If they’re going to be in the water they require especially strict supervision, with an adult in the water to right them, when they get knocked over. We can no longer simply watch them from the shore.
The plying back and forth of wake boats, designed to create large artificial waves, so that (typically) teenage boys can pretend that they’re surfing, is irrevocably changing the essence of Joe’s Pond. What use to be a relatively quiet body of water with the occasional boat wake has become a veritable washing machine, with large, artificial waves never seen before on Joe’s Pond, now arriving from all directions. Large, powerful wake boats have fundamentally changed the nature of boating, sailing, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, shoreline enjoyment and maintenance, etc., on our small pond.
It’s amazing and disappointing that the Joe’s Pond Association board unilaterally decided to adopt a “neutral stance” on this issue without, at minimum, having polled the (hundreds of) JPA members, to learn how they feel on this issue. Having done so sends the message to the State that Joe’s Pond doesn’t really care one way or another. Having done so also plays beautifully into the pro-wake boat faction. Further, if wake boats are restricted on other lakes and ponds but not at Joe’s Pond, then Joe’s Pond may become the easily accessible go-to pond, especially with our new and improved boat launch, right there on Rte. 2. And please, don’t tell me that “regulations” and “enforcement” will prevent abuse. Over our 13, 14 years on Joe’s Pond the only enforcement ever seen is ticketing for lack on PFDs. Don’t expect any new enforcement efforts if wake boating’s are permitted.
For 64 years we have been towing water skiers, tubers, knee boarders, ski bobbers, and vintage plywood “surfboarders.” The perils that we have been vigilant for include other boaters, fisherman, swimmers and in more recent times kayakers, paddleboarders, as well as loons and perilous wave trains.
Woodbury Lake has 4 sections separated by channels, where the largest part is approximately 150 acres for towing activities. While only counterclockwise towing is used in order to reduce conflicts, the addition of wake surfing, with 3 to 5 times the wave heights, from a vessel with no forward visibility, is a definite public safety issue that should be avoided.
The new technologies produce waves that are 3 to 5 times the amplitude and 5 to 10 times the energy of normal ski boats will increase the peril to swimmers and watercraft such as pontoon boats, kayaks, paddleboards, fishing boats, canoes, waterskiing, tubing, and sailing.
There are over 40 pontoon boats on Woodbury Lake and most are used by old people who would be injured by broadside waves that have so much more energy than we have ever seen here. The rocking impact would throw these seniors in quite a violent way.
We saw the first wakeboat launched at the fishing access at Woodbury Lakearound 1:00 pm on July 17. During that afternoon there were many kayaks, paddleboarders, pontoon boats, swimmers, fishing boats, and boats towing tubes, as well as toddlers in the water along the shores.
This wakeboat generated a large wave train, the highest that we’ve ever seen in our 60 years being on this lake. When they arrived our raft was lifted off it’s anchor and slammed into the docked pontoon boat we were sitting on with company. This wave train came from the far side of the lake that is a distance of 1000 feet.
Our family has been avid boaters for more than three decades. We have owned boats ranging from an ocean-sailing yawl to an antique cabin cruiser to an electric pontoon boat to a fleet of canoes, motorboats, kayaks, and paddleboards. I have been licensed by the US Coast Guard, and served as a charter captain and boating instructor.
Our four granddaughters swim, kayak, paddle, sail, and motor on Lake Elmore every summer. It’s a small, safe, shallow lake surrounded by family camps at 50’ intervals. A single ballasted wake surf boat operating on our small lake would drive our girls out of the water: the large, deep, unusual wakes would capsize their kayaks and endanger their swimming.
Our camp gets its water from the lake. The prop wash from a single ballasted wake surf boat would raise sediment from Lake Elmore’s shallow bottom that would overwhelm our water filtration system and render our camp unlivable.
Over many decades, all of us who enjoy Vermont’s lakes have learned to share these unique natural resources that we hold in common. Through neighborliness, regulation, and everyday courtesy we have made our lakes work well for a wide variety of natural and recreational activities.
I ask the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to expand the distance that these deep wakes must keep from swimmers and other boaters, and from the shoreline, from the existing 200 feet to 1000 feet. I also ask to add a depth component, restricting the large wakes to areas more than 20 feet deep.
In 2021, a resident on Lake Fairlee was treating an elderly couple to a pontoon boat ride recently when they noticed a motorboat with a surfboarder riding in its wake. It passed down the east side of the lake and turned at the north end near the shallows that support the only loons’ nest, to make a pass along the west side. It was then that a strong wave crashed into the pontoon boat. It broke over the front of the boat that sits about 2 ft above the water, and washed along the entire length of the deck. The 93-year old man and his 90-year old wife had their lower extremities drenched. As the motor boat came around again it hit its own wake, which was still powerful and with poetic justice, knocked the wakesurfer off his board.
Northern Forest Canoe Trail
the Northern Forest Canoe Trail supports the petition to regulate artificially enhanced wakes on smaller waterways in Vermont.
We considered this carefully as we do not often become involved in this type of thing. However, paddler safety and experience are compromised directly from large wakes particularly on smaller waterways where they are likely to be close to the watercraft making the wake. The environmental damage on the shores of smaller water bodies indirectly impacts paddlers by degrading the landscape, water quality and view. Beyond paddlers, our mission includes support for the recreation-based economy in the communities around our trail.
We feel that this proposed regulation is both backed by good research and does not overstep the limits of the environmental impacts. It does not seek to eliminate wake boats entirely, only to insist that they are only used in places where they are best taken advantage of – in deeper water and sufficiently far from shore that they will not cause shoreline damage. These circumstances also allow human powered crafts to find safety near the shore in shallower water,
Our Trail brings people to the State of Vermont from all over the world.Our 14,000+ constituents are not all Vermont residents but are all likely to paddle here at some time. We have members from across the US, Canada and Europe.
Karrie Thomas, Executive Director, Northern Forest Canoe Trail www.northernforestcanoetrail.org
I am a long time pond resident and open water swimmer for many years. It is my habit to swim with a high visibility, tow-behind buoy for safety. In mid-August of 2021, I had a surprising experience with wake-enhanced waves from a wake boat. I was in the third pond’s west side shore, close to the north end of the slalom course. I noticed the wake boat in the middle of the pond, approximately parallel to the slalom course. I chose to rest in the middle of my swim. I was floating on my back expecting the gentle action of the boat’s waves to undulate beneath me as I took a break. All of a sudden, I was suddenly flipped over and with a mouthful of water I felt a very disturbing undercurrent pulling at me. This was a new, unprecedented experience that I was not expecting. The impacts of wake boats need to be researched for the safety of swimmers.
In 2020 my four-year-old grandson was playing in the water next to our dock on Lake Iroquois. A large wave from a wake boat washed him under the dock. As he was wearing a life jacket he was caught between the water and the underside of the dock. One of his cousins pulled him out before other waves arrived so he was not hurt, but easily could have been. This event reinforced my concern over the generation of such large wakes on small lakes.
I was slipping into the lake from my 20 foot dock for a late day swim. A ‘wake boat’—a term unfamiliar to me —passed by at least 200 feet off-shore. The swells of this boat’s wake were the largest I had seen in my 24 years on the lake. As the waves crashed against my steep shore line I speculated that the new hazard these waves created was undoubtedly disruptive to waterfowl habitat as well. Walking back from my dock I noted new, raw dirt exposed at the base of a century-old, badly-undercut white pine … For about two decades, heavily-laden party boats have accelerated erosion. Now we have wake boats.
My 22’ pontoon is constantly banging against my dock. It has snapped a few ropes too. I have had to rebuild my retaining wall twice and this past year I have had to fill In behind the wall where the wakes go over and wash it out. You are correct in that they have changed the “essence of Joe’s Pond”.
My husband and I have owned a home on Lake Fairlee since 2014. One Sunday morning in July, my husband and young daughter were out paddleboarding and swimming. As I attempted to launch my kayak from the same spot on our shoreline that I have launched it from for the past eight years, I slipped slightly as the waves from the wake boat hit the shore. The waves blocked the view of my feet and caused me to further lose my balance. I fell, and I injured my foot. Badly. (I will spare you the photos of my toes, which resembled small eggplants.) Adding to my frustration was the fact that the boat was well on its way to the south end of the lake as the waves were still, minutes later, hitting the shoreline, bouncing around the swim docks and my husband on his paddle board, disrupting our day.
My daughter who was practicing her swimming strokes had to stop and bob around every few minutes as these boats passed, and as her mother I was nervous watching the boats barrel down towards her. It takes several minutes for the waves to stop after the boats are long gone, particularly at the narrow north end of the lake where we live. Instead of being outside enjoying the Sunday afternoon with my husband and daughter, I came inside and started writing this while icing my foot. Three days later, I’m still hobbling, uncomfortable, with eggplants for toes. Please note I write this as the current owner of a Bayliner whose family loves tubing and waterskiing. I am not anti-motorboat. Lake Fairlee, however, is not Lake Champlain. We need to use our boats—any type of boat—in a context fitting this lake, our lake. Perhaps the operators of speeding boats or wake boats don’t realize the negative impact they are having on their lake neighbors? I’m sure if they really understood they would rethink their use.
It has come to our attention that wake boats are becoming more prevalent on Joe’s Pond, and this is an increasing problem. Our pond is relatively small and much of the shoreline is natural and therefore fragile. Also, there are numerous docks with boats tied alongside that can be damaged by the wake of these specialized boats or any boat “plowing” through the water close to shore creating a wake. This pond is really too small for that type of boat to operate without doing damage on shore.
After the Sunfish race, Jamie and Marie went to pick up the buoys marking the sailing course. Normally, that isn’t a difficult task, but yesterday there were at least three wake boats all out on the water at the same time and the “sea was running rough” with unnaturally large waves. One wake boat came very close to the pontoon boat and the huge wake caused the rope attached to one of the big marker bouys to break as Jamie was trying to recover it. Jamie nearly got dunked before he managed to get the buoys on board and the anchor lines secured without further damage. I’m reminding drivers of these big, powerful boats to please pay attention and don’t go close to other water craft – or to the shore. We appreciate that you stay off the water during the sailboat races, but young drivers especially, sometimes need to be reminded of the rules and common courtesy. The waves from those boats are really big; I was out with Jamie on the pontoon boat Saturday and we got jostled a few times and watched waves crash on- shore and into boats tied at docks.
While kayaking at Waterbury Reservoir on Sunday July 4th, I experienced the unfortunate impact of wake surf boating on paddlers. As was the case on this occasion, such boats may appear to be motoring at a sufficient distance and a slow enough rate not to pose any particular risk. However, these boats are designed to generate large waves, and unsuspecting kayakers or canoeists may be in for a rude surprise when the wake from the seemingly innocuous watercraft reaches them. Although my kayak is a wide-based, very stable, recreational one, I did not have adequate time to respond, and my boat was easily capsized by the wake when it reached me, resulting in significant abrasions to my knee and shin as they scraped rocks just below the water’s surface. Needless to say, this put a damper on the day’s outing to a beautiful water body and shook my confidence with regard to venturing any significant distance from the shore as wake boats are commonly encountered at Waterbury Reservoir. I believe Vermont needs to restrict wakeboard boats from at least some of our smaller water bodies, both for environmental reasons and to ensure that paddlers have some options that they can enjoy without needing to be ever vigilant to the risk of getting capsized.
I have two properties on Joe’s Pond and am one of the few residents that has two beaches. I also have a dock system that is in an “H” formation with two boats attached. ( I used to have a sailboat but found the wakes from the boats kept it always crashing into the docks so I sold it.)
The wake boats create an enormous wake that comes crashing onto my beach and pulls my sand and a little of my banking each time. It leaves grasses on the beach and dead fish. There is such a pull in the waves that I am finding that I am changing my water filter more than I ever used to. (I draw water from the lake as my water supply.) I have also put logs on the beach to try and keep what banking I have.
Another problem with the waves is the crashing and banging of the boats. I have had to replace lines to my boats as the waves have tugged so hard that the lines have broken. My little boat just bumps on the side of the dock. It is frightening to watch. It is like a micro burst force.
I have no ill-will against anyone that has a wake boat but I strongly feel we need to address this problem. When I have been paddle boarding, the waves have tossed me in the water. I try not to go out on the water to swim or do other activities. It is just too rough.
We wish to express our high level of concern about the potential for wake boating activities to adversely impact Lake Parker’s natural environment, its water quality, and the enjoyment that we and a majority of the other property owners enjoy during our time on Lake Parker in West Glover, VT. Our lake is a relatively shallow (average depth: 25 ft), narrow lake covering approximately 240 acres. In particular, we are concerned that wakes from these powerful boats with ballasts will disturb our nesting loons. This year, and some years in the past, the loons nested in a marshy area; the loon’s nest was only 4 to 6 inches above lake water level. Waves from wake boats can be as high as 4 to 5 feet, and even if these boats were to stay far away from the shoreline, the resulting waves would have surely washed over the loon’s nest, dislodging the two eggs, and destroying the possibility of the loon chick’s hatching and survival. To date, we have not had wake boats or wake boating activities on this lake; we are concerned that wakes from these boats will cause damage and/or harm to shorelines, docks, boats, swimmers, paddled vessels and wildlife.
My story about Wake Boats happened on Lake Raponda this summer. We have a floating dock, positioned by metal pilings embedded in the lake bottom. The system has served me well for 5 years. But this summer a Wake Boat appeared on the lake and was active 450 to 600 feet off of my dock. The waves produced by the boat were ferocious and rocked and bounced my boat (small Boston Whaler) and my dock. The wave action was so strong it pulled one of my pilings out and threatened the dock with my boat. I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t been there to replace the piling. Needless to say, I feel wake boats are inappropriate for small lakes and should be banned or reduced in speed to no-wake.
- A neighbor told me about getting tossed off her paddle board by a wake boat.
- Another neighbor said she and a friend were paddling in canoes and her friend’s canoe was overturned by one.
- A couple at the public beach on Lake Raponda shared that they were afraid toallow their grandchildren to swim more than a short distance from shore, due tothe wakes caused by these boats.
- Another mentioned the water where they live is clear, except when wake boats are using the lake, and then they can’t even see through it.
- An acquaintance, who participates in motorized boating and owns a ski-doo which he trailers to a large lake, said, when told of wake boats on Lake Raponda, “There’s no good reason for a boat like that to be on such a small lake. It’s not worth the environmental damage.”
- A long-distance swimmer stated they no longer feel safe swimming in Lake Raponda, even when wearing a safety bubble for visibility.
- I speak on behalf of the loons, who apparently get disturbed by these wakes, and are less likely to nest. I no longer kayak with my dog due to a fear of being tipped over by a wake boat. The pleasure of a few are limiting the pleasure of many.
- Decades ago, when I was a teen and Lake Raponda far less populated than currently, my now ninety-two year old father said to me, as we were looking at the water, “They’re not making any more lakes. We’ve got to take care of the ones we have.” I have never forgotten my dad’s words.
Here on our small lake, we have seen first-hand the incredible problem these wake boats pose to our lake, waterfront, and property. At times I had to literally hold on to my boat while it sat at our dock and got rocked and slammed into the sides. I’ve watched wakes hit our shore and wash earth and rock back into the lake water. I want to make it clear that I do not see this as a water quality issue or a motorized boat issue on our lake; just an issue with the operation of “Wake Boats” specifically.
Having spent some of most summers at Lake Raponda for more than 70 years, and now living here year round along Raponda’s east shoreline at the widest point for the past five years, I have an appreciation for the many changes that the lake and its watershed have experienced over many years. I can say with certainty that one major change in Raponda in the couple years has been the emergence of a new type of powerful—and destructive— large motorboat that “plows” through the water at slow speeds relative to water ski boats: the wake boat. Wake boats can generate wakes several times higher than the size of the waves I have observed during any natural windstorm on our small 120-acre, shallow lake (maximum depth is 12 ft). In addition, these powerful, stern heavy boats also disturb the lake bottom with the wakes they create as they “plow” through the water with their propellers angles towards the lake bottom. How do I know this? My next door neighbors who have performed Raponda VT DEC lay monitoring for many years tell me that within the week immediately following the onset of wake boat activity, secchi disc readings taken regularly decrease—an indication of a disturbed lake bottom. Additionally, in my mind it is no coincidence that the last two summers at times when active wake boat usage has been peaking in midsummer that our lake experienced its first two cyanobacteria blooms ever. I’ve also been impressed with the large, powerful wakes that Raponda wake boats generate. These have the capacity to undermine the shoreline through their erosive effects. Two years ago we had one wake boat on our lake and now we have three; I shudder to think what the adverse impacts of these boats will be as greater numbers of more and more powerful wake boats operate on our small, shallow lake. If this trend continues, I have no doubt but that the present adverse impacts will be compounded as these boats scour Raponda’s bottom, erode its shoreline, interfere with enjoyment of others (swimmers, paddlers, water skiers, party boats, etc.), and place small paddle-propelled boats in danger of being swamped. I also have no doubt but that their continued use on our small shallow lake will eventually result in an even more noticeable decline in Raponda’s water quality and the quality of life enjoyed by the vast majority of those living and recreating in our now still, beautiful, healthy lake. As my neighbor Laura Winter relates in the story of what her father said to her as a young child: “We need to take good care of Lake Raponda; they are not making any more of them.”
Shadow Lake (Glover)
I live on Shadow Lake near the Boat Launch and Greeter Station so I have a pretty clear sight line to the boats entering the lake. One afternoon in July, an extremely large boat put in which in itself is concerning because Shadow is a small, 217 acre lake. I had heard about but had never seen a wake boat in person before and I did not know what I was looking at. I was so concerned that this enormous boat was indeed a wake boat, that I walked over to the Greeter on duty at the boat launch to inquire. He agreed that it indeed was a very large vessel (“way too big for this lake”) but couldn’t shed any light on my concern. As the boat was operating, I could clearly see that it was a wake boat because the rider was surfing the wake right behind the stern of the boat.
The next day, as the boat was exiting the lake, it cruised by our residence at a slow speed at approximately 75-100 feet from shore creating a very large wake. I was on the dock at the time where our boat was tied up. I tried to wave them off- to no avail. As the waves came in, I knew that our boat was going to get slammed repeatedly against our dock so I sat down on the dock to try and stabilize the boat. That was a good choice because when the waves hit, they lifted the dock off the bottom and me with it. Our boat rocked violently and was forced under the dock which it crashed up into causing damage to the gunwale. This action was repeated several times as the waves kept rolling in. This situation could have ended up much worse. I am thankful that I was not thrown off the dock or, worse yet, had my grandchildren on the dock with me. I was lucky not to have had my arm or leg pinned between the boat and the dock as I tried to stabilize the boat. WAKE BOATS SHOULD NOT BE A PRESENCE ON SMALL LAKES AND PONDS for many reasons- public safety being only one.
My family and I have enjoyed the lake for over 30-years. I currently serve as a lake association director with added responsibility for our boat access greeter and milfoil management programs, so spend a fair amount of time on and around the lake. We preface these comments by saying that the two or three wake boats currently operating on Lake Salem appear to be respectful of other lake users. This is not intended to discredit their chosen use of the lake, only to note how that activity affects other users and some observed environmental impacts on this generally boat-friendly lake.
- Safety. Someway boat-generated wave activity seems to linger well after the boat (and its sounds) have left for another area of the 788-acre lake. These waves seem to be of a different structure than other large wakes observed by us over the years. They are large enough to create whitecaps well after the boat has moved on and come at you in a silent, tsunami-like pattern. These waves have been observed on at least two occasions on this lake which is long enough to sustain wake boat activity up to 1.5 miles. Our fear is getting broad-sided by one of these waves in any type of water craft but especially in our canoe, kayaks or paddle boat. Out of caution we now do not, as a rule, paddle when a wake boat is present. For similar reasons extra caution is necessary when our grandchildren are swimming as they have almost been knocked over by these waves.
- Environmental impact. We’ve observed an increase in scouring of the lake bottom near the shore of our camp in the shallows exposing the roots of aquatic plants known to be favored by ducks and geese as food. We’ve observed a clouding of the water in the aftermath of repeated wave activity on calm weather days when the water is normally clear, especially in the shallows. Possibly related are outbreaks of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in recent years. 2021’s October outbreak resulted in the cancellation of our Eurasian Water Milfoil removal efforts for the remainder of the season.
- Change in ambiance. On calm weather days the extended crashing of waves
from wake boat activity, especially in the shallows, creates a strange dichotomy: that one is at the ocean, not sitting by a medium size lake in Vermont. We often observe wake boats operating for 3-4 hours at a time — significant on these cherished and limited prime weather days.
- Concern for moored boats and contents. Sudden large waves cause unusually violent snapping of mooring lines and bow water-crashing of our small sailboat and fishing boat, especially when wake boats are operating closer to shore. No observable damage has been found to date but more frequent checks to ensure mooring and fuel line connection integrity as well as other boat contents is now required.
There is also a social impact here, as well. As those who have the money to purchase these wake boats do, the little guy who just wants to go enjoy the water in a $200 kayak that they bought at Big Lots can’t because now it’s too dangerous. It pits many of us against those few who have the means to bully.
I have been on lake Groton for 58 years. I currently live on the lake. I have never seen erosion like I have since wake boats have been around. I love water sports and have water skied for many years but I do not want the shores devastated from a sport that does not belong on small lakes. We have a plant called bladder wart that floats on the surface after coming up from the bottom. I have noticed that after wake boats have been around that this plant has become a nuisance. I have no scientific proof but I think the boats blast the plants from the bottom to the surface. I don’t like to stop someone from having fun but these boats are hurting our shorelines. – Thomas Page
From Lakes Raybun and Burton in the State of Georgia
“We were visiting friends on the lake, in our boat, approximately 10 feet away from their dock and seawall, chatting with them on their dock. A wakeboat came by and the wake was so large that it crashed our boat into the seawall, even as we were making every effort to move away from it. Ultimately this led to our boat sinking and being declared a total loss. I just don’t believe Lake Rabun is large enough to accommodate this size boat.”
“Difficult to enjoy the lake safely with small children. Can no longer do normal water skiing. Difficult to swim near our dock. Difficult and unpleasant to drive a pontoon boat.”
“Two times wake boat waves have come over the bow of my 22′ open bow boat. I felt there was a danger of sinking. Generally it is not pleasant to navigate rough water and big waves. This is ruining our boating experience.”
“We have small children who are often knocked over by such huge waves.”
“With the wake boats so numerous and dominant out on the water now, I can’t remember the last time being on the lake where I didn’t fear for my family’s safety at least once. This is true of time we spend on our boat, as well as time we spend swimming near our dock.”
“Dropping the boat in the water and taking the boat out of the water, getting in and out of the boat during that time is really dangerous when giant waves come in.”
“The larger waves directly affect the ability to steer a boat. On many occasions I have been unable to steer one of my boats and worried that I would be pushed into another boat.”
“While untying boat (with 3 people in it) at dock, the wave was so strong that one of the people on boat was thrown in water!”
“Last summer, my husband and I were fishing on Lake Seymour, where we own a camp, when a wake boat turned and passed us. They got my fishing line and all we could do is hold on and hope our 14-foot fishing boat wouldn’t flip over. It was so scary, and if I had been in my kayak I would have been flipped over and drowned. These boats belong on a much bigger water than lakes in Vermont, where people use small boats.” – Katherine Fifield