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Minnesota Opinion: Boating safety has to be a top priority

The popularity of wake boats has been on the rise in recent years, and so has the controversy around them.

Brainerd Dispatch editorial
Savannah Mendell demonstrates wake surfing for people during the ninth annual Bar Harbor In-Water Boat Show on Saturday, June 18, 2022, on Gull Lake. Watercraft for the boat show were brought by Nisswa Marine and Minnesota Inboard Water Sports and a Wake Responsibly event taught attendees boat safety and responsibility.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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No question, boating is popular in Minnesota.

Check out almost any body of water in the Brainerd lakes area on a nice weekend in the summer and you will probably see myriad types of boats — fishing boats, pontoons, deck boats, runabouts, cabin cruisers, ski boats, Jet Skis, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, just to name a few.

And then there are wake boats.

The popularity of wake boats has been on the rise in recent years, and so has the controversy around them. These large, high-powered boats are used to create a big wake — or wave — that allows a rider on a board to surf along behind the boat.

For many, they are a lot of fun. For many others, they are a nuisance.

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Minnesota Opinion editorial
Minnesota Opinion editorial
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Certainly, there are environmental concerns with such boats creating such big waves on area lakes. But there also is a social issue with these boats. Talk to any regular user of a lake and you’re likely to hear a story about a wake boat traveling too close to other boats or to shore, and often blaring music too loudly.

That’s why it was refreshing to see the wake boating industry at least acknowledge the problem and push for proper etiquette for wake boat drivers, as reported in a story in the Wednesday, June 22, edition of the Brainerd Dispatch.

“Water Sports Industry Association was formed with the mission of providing education,” Brad Fralick, chief government affairs officer of the Water Sports Industry Association, told the Dispatch. “Wake surfing education is just an extension of that. It does have some areas that are different from other watersports, so we are doing education efforts all across the country just to give a common sense presentation.”

In giving a presentation to area stakeholders at the 9th Annual Bar Harbor In-Water Boat Show June 18-19 on Gull Lake, Water Sports Industry Association officials stressed the number one priority is wake boats and wakesurfers should stay at least 200 feet away from shorelines, docks, boats and other structures.

Jill Sims, policy and engagement manager of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said their goal is to be the best stewards out on the water. Also noted was education on keeping music at reasonable levels and to not make repetitive passes with a wake boat.

We appreciate those sentiments, and we hope they reached the ears of all wake boaters who will grace our area lakes this summer.

We’d also like to see the Minnesota Legislature follow through at some point on proposed legislation — sponsored this past session in the Senate by Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point — requiring a certified boater safety course requirement for any boater born after Jan. 1, 1987 and being at least the age of 12. There’s never been anything wrong with a little education.

No question our lakes are becoming more crowded, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s up to all boaters to make sure they are operating in the most safe and respectful manner possible.

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This Minnesota Opinion editorial is the opinion of the Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board.

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The Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board members are Dispatch and Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs, former Dispatch Publisher Terry McCollough, Dispatch Editor Matt Erickson, Dispatch Managing Editor Renee Richardson and Echo Journal Editor Nancy Vogt.
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