SOCIAL CIRCLE – The Georgia General Assembly recently passed House Bill 121, bringing about changes in the regulations governing wakeboarding and wakesurfing activities on state waters. The new legislation aims to enhance safety measures, promote responsible water sports, and ensure a balance between recreation and public and private property preservation.
“We thank our state legislators for their commitment to water safety,” said Col. Thomas Barnard, director of Georgia DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We certainly support any legislation that will decrease the number of water deaths and injuries on our waterways.”
Under House Bill 121, the following key provisions will go into effect on July 1, 2023:
- Distance Restrictions: The bill includes distance restrictions for wakeboarding and wakesurfing. The legislation states that “no person shall engage in wakesurfing or wakeboarding upon waters of this state within 200 feet of any moored vessel; any wharf, dock, pier, piling, or bridge structure or abutment; or any shoreline adjacent to a full-time or part-time residence, public park, public beach, public swimming area, marina, restaurant, or other public use area.” These measures are designed to ensure the safety of participants and prevent potential conflicts with other water users.
- Mandatory Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs): The bill mandates that all wakeboarders and wakesurfers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while participating in these activities.
- No wakeboarding or wakesurfing between sunset and sunrise.
The bill does not apply to a regatta, boat race, marine parade, tournament, or exhibition for which the commissioner has granted a marine event permit. It also does not apply on Intracoastal waterways, rivers, or private lakes.
There are two important points to note:
- HB 121 does not change the 100-foot law, which applies to all vessels.
- It also has no effect on No Wake Zones, which require all vessels to slow to idle speed while traversing them.
Game Wardens will begin enforcement of the law in July, with an emphasis on educating boaters in what it includes, however, repeat offenders or those engaging in blatant and reckless disregard for the law, will be dealt with accordingly.
“We want everyone to enjoy their time on the water. We just want them to do it in a safe manner that is respectful of other water users and nearby property owners,” said Col. Barnard.