LISTEN: A bill headed to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk would create the state's first regulations on wakeboarding and wakesurfing. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

A visitor to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia catches some air while wakeboarding.

A visitor to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia catches some air while wakeboarding.

Credit: U.S. Department of Transportation

Wakeboarding and wakesurfing would be prohibited in Georgia within 200 feet of a shoreline or a moored boat, if a bill passed this week by both chambers of the Legislature is signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The sports are currently unregulated by the state, aside from a longstanding law that requires all boats to operate at idle speed within 100 feet of a shoreline.

The new bill — which passed 164-6 in the House and 51-2 in the Senate — would also outlaw wakeboarding and wakesurfing between sunset and sunrise, and would require the use of personal flotation devices.

“It's a lot of fun,” said bill supporter Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Macon, about the sports. “But the problem is the large wakes that are being created are causing property damages, it's causing damages to boats, it's causing damages and safety issues and it's causing some advanced erosion issues in the lakes around our state.”

There are some exceptions to the bill: it doesn't apply to privately owned lakes, nor to a narrow band of inland water channels west of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Intracoastal Waterway.

Also exempt are special “marine events,” such as regattas and tournaments, for which the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has issued a permit.

Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, said that he wished the restrictions went as far as 300 feet, but welcomed the legislation as “a good first step” amid the sports' increasing popularity.

“Give the [DNR] rangers a little bit more latitude so they can enforce something that common sense should've told these people, ‘Don't destroy somebody else's property with your fun and entertainment,’” Powell said.

If signed by Kemp, the bill would bring Georgia in line with neighboring South Carolina and Tennessee, which already have similar laws on the books.

Tags: Georgia  Savannah  Atlanta  Macon