“I tell them if they are surfing or wakeboarding go no shallower than 10 feet (of water),” said Preston Schenkel, salesman at Main Channel Marina and knowledgeable of the new Malibu Wakesetter and other boats used for wakeboarding and surfing. “You can’t surf or wakeboard in 6-feet of water. The wake will not shape up and it’s dangerous. You run the threat of (your body) hitting the bottom of the lake.”
Schenkel, a wakeboarder himself, noted he sticks to Johnson Bay where it is usually 20-feet deep in the middle. “I’m further from shore and in deeper water.” Using such boats in depths more than 10 feet, according to Schenkel, will allow the boat to perform the way it is supposed to. “Your wake is one-half the size or smaller in less than 10-feet of water.”
“There are depth finders on these boats and anyone I take out, I give the tips on how to drive the boat and where its best to drive it,” said Schenkel.
“The way these boats set, less than 10-feet of water, the wake disappears. I tell them to stay out of the shallow water as much as they can.”
Doug Anderson, co-owner of Wawasee Boat Company Inc., noted, “I would like to see people use the deeper water before wakeboarding and surfing,” adding “we educate them (new boat owners) as best we can.”
“Kids enjoy water sports. I hope my grandchildren can spend a lot of time on the lake, exercising with friends, having good clean fun,” said Anderson. He noted the sport of wakeboarding and surfing is popular with the 15- to 30-year-old crowd and some older adults like the sport as well. “Surfing is a lot of fun. Kids love to get on those waves and surf,” he said. He added there have been numerous visitors to the lake from California and are saying Lake Wawasee is equivocal to Southern California surfing.
“We had ski boats in my era, this generation has moved on to wakeboarding and now surfing (in the past two to three years). We tell our people to move out as far as they can, 10-foot deep, before wakeboarding.”
However, Anderson noted the turbulence on the lake is nothing new. “We’re seeing it a little more because of the wakeboards, but it applies to all boats.” He added one-half of their boat sales are the boats for such sport, which are becoming popular worldwide. “Since these boats make big waves, they are more noticeable and wakeboarding accentuates it.”
Anderson explained most boats draft 28 inches to 30 inches. The turbulence from the props go down an additional one-foot. He recommends 6 feet of water to minimize the turbulence to the lake sediment or weeds is caused. “The deeper the water the less turbulence.”
Area lakes, such as Wawasee, Syracuse, Tippecanoe, James and Barbee chains are all natural lakes and regulated by state statute. That statute states there is no regulation on the size of boats or speed limit, between sunrise and sunset on lakes, 300 acres or larger. Any natural lake under 300 acres is regulated by state statute as to the speed limit and boat size.
However, this can be changed through a petition process. According to Lt. William Browne, DNR public relations officer, 51 percent of the land owners can petition the Department of Natural Resources for a public hearing. After the hearing a determination is made if the petition should proceed. Other entities associated with the natural lakes, such as fish and wildlife, division of water, will have input before a final decision comes through the Natural Resource Commission.
Several lakes in the area have gone through similar processes to establish ecozones, where idle speeds are posted.