Parker Live needs to address the controversy over wake / surf boats on the river. Many private docks have been damaged by the huge wakes this summer alone. The river isn’t big enough for what they want to do. Everybody likes to have fun but people are really mad at this point. Can you please talk about this? There should be more of a public debate about it.”
– A part-time resident
Here at Parker Live, we love all our river goers, and the many sports enjoyed on our stretch of paradise. On top of that, my own opinion is that wakesurfing is one of the most fun watersports ever invented. But okay, there’s a controversy! So let’s talk about it.
On the Parker Strip, recreation comes in many forms. Over the course of any given weekend, you’ll see people tubing behind boats, swimming, sunbathing on inflatables, jetskiing, grilling at the shoreline, snorkeling, bass fishing, cruising on boats, paddle boarding, socializing at bars, kayaking and much more.
And the history of towing people behind powered boats goes back a long way. Waterskiing goes back to 1922. With a little less speed and a shorter rope, you get wakeboarding. And nowadays, it’s easy to see the popularity of wakesurfing, which is even slower and with a much shorter rope.
The reason this growing sport produces larger wakes (waves) than other forms of boating is obvious: the deeper the wake, the better the session. Boats used for wakesurfing are deliberately designed to produce a large, surfable wake behind them, so surfable that the surfer can throw the rope away once they’re in position. They are no longer being towed like a skier or wakeboarder, they’re free riding.
The boats people use for this can intentionally take on water for ballast, digging into the water further. The best of them allow for controlling the shape and scale of the wave using touchscreens… or even using a controller in the hand of the surfer.
As I said before, it’s undeniably fun and cool. BUT…
…that wake doesn’t just disappear once the rider has surfed it. It pushes out from the boat with a deep ripple effect behind it, affecting the water for other people along the way, and lands on the shoreline up to several minutes later in bursts of crashing waves. Once you get a lot of them out on the river at once, you may as well be boating in a blender.
Several angry rants on boating forums have taken up the issue for years, with some posts this summer including photographs showing damage to private docks, which they blame on wakeboarding and wakesurfing.
In Minnesota earlier this year, legislators introduced a bill that would require wakesurfers to stay 200 feet away from other water users, a proposal that may have come from within the boating industry itself. But, on the Parker Strip, that would be an impossible solution. The river isn’t wide enough in many areas for it to be practical, and the confined space means that the shorelines wouldn’t be any less-impacted anyway.
And I guess that may be the exact argument here. On a wider body of water, like parts of Lake Havasu, there is room for wakes to dissipate. The argument goes that this is precisely why the Parker Strip – the Colorado River between Headgate Dam and Parker Dam, on which there’s lots of private property – is an unsuitable place for the sport.
Personally, it would make me sad to see it banished from the Strip completely. Twenty years ago, people complained that ‘cigarette boats’ didn’t belong on the strip, and then that wakeboards didn’t belong on the strip, and then that jetskis didn’t belong on the strip. Everybody seems to have their own pet peeves about something. And is it even a settled matter that surfing causes more disruption or damage than any other watersports?
The ultimate question is the same as every controversy: how do we all get along?
In conversations with some local complainants, I asked whether they could think of any other solutions. One that was offered: allow wakesurfing only on certain stretches of the river or at certain times. For example, between BlueWater Resort & Casino and the Badenoch’s area, which has fewer homes along its shoreline. Or, between certain hours, with quieter times for waterskiers and anglers (who generally like a smooth river), and other times for more…. rowdy… activities.
What do you think of wakesurfing as a sport, and do you think there’s room for it in Parker? Do wakesurfing boats belong on the river?
More than 100 more comments about this on our Facebook page HERE.