By Kelly Caldwell /
The areas on Lake Wedowee where a boater can legally wake-surf or wake board have been drastically reduced as of September 1 according to a new law that was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in June.
Legislative Act 2023-459, formerly known as HB422, aims to regulate and/or prohibit wakeboarding and wake surfing under certain conditions on Smith Lake, Lake Wedowee and a section of Shoals Creek in Lauderdale County.
According to the legislation, the definition of wake boarding and wake surfing includes both the operator and the rider regardless of whether the person on the board is being towed across the wake or surfing the wake, and regardless of whether the board and rider is being pulled by a tow line.
A person may not engage in wakeboarding or wakesurfing under any of the following conditions:
Other states across the Southeast have passed similar laws regarding the wakeboarding and wake surfing. Georgia’s law, which applies to all state waters, went into effect July 1 while South Carolina and Tennessee both passed laws in 2022. All four have been based on a model act drafted by the Watersports Industry Association (WISA).
According to its website, “WISA is the towed water sports industry’s leading advocate, known for preserving the vitality of our activities long into the future. As a group, we develop best practices, maintain waterway access rights, educate participants, promote safety and facilitate sustainable industry growth.”
The group launched the Wake Responsibly campaign in 2022 as an effort to educate people on the best practices of wakeboarding and wake surfing. They include:
There is a grace period of sorts for first offenses for one year from the effective date, however, second or subsequent offenses within the first year will be treated like a first offense with regard to penalties.
Penalties for a first offense are a fine of no less than one-hundred dollars ($100).
“We plan to educate the public using news media, social media outlets and all avenues of public boater safety education that we have available to us, including our Boat Alabama boating safety courses taught by Troopers,” Deputy Chief Matt Brooks, ALEA Marine Patrol Division, said. “As with most laws, there will be a transition and adaptation period for both the public and law enforcement. We will exercise patience and ask for patience in return. This will be just one of many boating safety laws and regulations that our Troopers will enforce.”
Brooks went on to say when ALEA stops a vessel for a violation of this law, they will use a combination of enforcement and education with operators we stop to bring awareness to the law and issues.
“We will respond to and handle complaints as we receive them,” Brooks said. “The public can reach the nearest Trooper dispatch center by calling *HP or *47 on their cell phones. Of course, 911 can be called in any emergency situation.”
To learn more about Wake Responsibly, visit https://www.wakeresponsibly.com/