The panel of legislators backed the bill, which still has numerous hurdles to overcome if it were to become law.
Wakesurfing has exploded at the lake since about 2017. It’s wildly popular at the 20,000-acre lake, but detractors say the boats erode shorelines and disturb those who live at the lake.
Wakesurfing boats have a specially designed hull to create a perfectly curled, large wake. The boats used for this sport move fairly slowly, generally between 10 and 12 mph. The boats try to get closer to the shore because more shallow water will allow them to create a better curl.
Dawn Saunders has owned a home at the lake for 25 years, and she said it’s situated in a cove shaped like an hourglass.
“The wakers love it,” Saunders told the Senate panel.
Saunders said the wakesurfing boats will repeatedly cycle through the cove and past her dock. She said the erosion to the shoreline has caused a portion of her dock to sink. She said over the last seven years, damage from wakesurfing has cost her more than $48,000.
Randy Stow, a member of the Smith Mountain Lake Water Safety Council, said there has been increasing complaints about wakesurfing. He said there are reports of injuries, near-injuries and damage to docks and boats. So far, the issue has mostly been dealt with through education. Stow said the Water Sports Industry Association has encouraged wakesurfers to stay at least 200 feet away from docks.