According to State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), complaints about the effects of wake surfing top the list of issues the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's marine patrol deals with daily.
However, there is nothing on the books to regulate wake surfing, which can create additional wake that threatens public safety and private property.
Senate Bill 281 (SB281), now being considered by the Alabama Legislature, would create guidelines for wake surfers to alleviate some of these issues.
The legislation is sponsored by Gudger and State Sen. "Jabo" Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), and it would prohibit wake surfing in a public body of water that is less than 50 acres in size and in water less than 400 feet wide.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show" on Wednesday, Gudger laid out the purpose of the bill and some of its aspects. He said there was misinformation circulating about the legislation and stressed that those claiming it was a ban were incorrect.
"To begin with, this is a bill having to do with wake surfing," Gudger said. "Now a lot of people compare the two, wakeboarding and wake surfing together. This is more of a new sport that has come in recently. This is something that has not had laws or anything about our water patrol for ALEA, the law enforcement agency of Alabama. So, they came to me and 'Jabo' Waggoner since we deal with a lot that's on Smith Lake and said, 'We need something that we can use as a tool to be able to minimize citations and at the same time, educate people and talk to people about safety when they are wake surfing."
Grudger said about 80% of complaints ALEA's Marine Patrol Division receives daily during active lake months involve wake surfing and the wakes caused from it.
"So, we did sit down to try to create a new statute dealing with a new sport, and what we ended up doing is we talked to marina owners, property owners, ALEA, the water patrol, [and] individual people who do wake surfing," said Grudger. "I talked with the world champion Kane Ward and his father Justin -- that's what they do, and we're obviously very proud of them being able to be in my district, Smith Lake in Cullman, Alabama."
Gudger explained how the bill limited wake surfing under specific circumstances.
"What this bill does is it does not ban wake surfing at all," Grudger said. "I need to get that put out there immediately. This does allow safety for people that are on the shore. Whether you're swimming, paddle boarding, you're going to be tubing on the site -- this bill makes you pull away from the shore about 200 feet, from the shore or a structure that sticks out into the water, so for example, a dock or something that sticks out that is a structure in the water. This allows enough room for you to have safety for people 200 feet to the shore and allows for that wake to disperse by the time it hits the shore, which eliminates the erosion of the shore."
The Cullman County Republican lawmaker said the bill dealt only with wake surfing and offered a specific definition.
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