Intense wave action, generated by “wakesurfing” boats are one of current hot issues statewide in Minnesota, and also in the Otter Tail County lakes area.

Turbulence from powerful wake boats raise concerns for lake bottoms, shoreline

“Wakesurfing” is yet another environmental issue stirring in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” 

And the impact of the powerful wake-producing boats on lake beds and shoreline has generated discussion at local levels, including the Aug 21 Prairie Lake Association meeting in Pelican Rapids. 

The discussion was general and at the Prairie Lake meeting, with no specific call for action. But the issue has generated debate statewide—all the way to the legislature. Resort owners, environmentalists, boat dealers and lake-front residents are divided over how to regulate the growing sport and the turbulent waves that the rigs create. 

Meanwhile, the Pelican Group of Lakes Improvement District allocated $2,000 toward research on the impact of heavy wakes on lakeshore and lake bottoms. 

Boats used for wakesurfing move relatively slowly, typically between 10 and 12 miles per hour. The boats are designed to make large enough wakes that a person doesn’t need a tow rope to ride them, unlike water skiing or wakeboarding.

Wake-creation systems from the powerful boats can scour the bottom of lakes, disturb fish habitat, uproot plants and disturb sediment that can release phosphorous and nutrients that cause algal blooms, many contend. 

Water tanks on the boats may also spread invasive species, if they are not fully emptied before being trailered to another lake, believe some lake advocates.

 Anti-surfing activists further contend that the wake boats have chased kayakers and canoers out of the water, sent waves over pontoons and damaged docks—as well as attributing to shoreline damage,  disrupting non-invasive vegetation and accelerating erosion.