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Minocqua Lakefront Owner Makes Waves Over Wakesurfers’ Impact

Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection #67869
"View of Minocqua" Postcard, circa 1930 - 1945

It may be the dead of winter, but larger boats plying the waters of Lake Minocqua has one lakeshore owner upset.

Wakesurfer enthusiasts promised to better police themselves after Jerry Mader urged the town board Tuesday to restrict boats under power to 200 feet from the shoreline -- double the current state law.

Mader said wakeboard boats in particular are creating havoc when their large waves smash against the shoreline, causing erosion and endangering even the ducks feeding along the banks. Nor is it just wakeboard boats that are the culprit, he said.

“Boats are getting bigger,” he said “Anything on the lake is getting bigger. Plus, there is getting more of them. So, waves are becoming more and more of a problem. And they are destroying the lakefront, the shoreline. The waves go right over your seawalls and everything.”

Mader said the high waves also hamper paddleboard users who have to grab their boards in order not to be swept off them.

In a letter to Rep. Rob Swearingen last September, Mader said such wakeboard boats make “ocean waves on inland lakes. I have seen it wash my neighbor’s pump house into the lake. I saw it wash away a three-foot chunk of shoreline into the water. I was on my dock one day and mom duck was close to shore, where they stay when their babies are young. A whitecap wake rolled into shore and killed all the babies by smashing them against the rocks on shore.”

Designed to make bigger waves

Wakeboard boats have special features, including ballast and devices such as wedges, to lower the stern of the boat. The result gives the rider a surf-able wake. Most operate at speeds of just 11-12 miles an hour when wakesurfing.

With the exception of personal watercrafts, the state does not allow a municipality to restrict a particular type of watercraft. All powerboats are restricted to slow, no wake within 100 feet of the shoreline (personal watercraft have to stay 200 feet away). But one unidentified wakeboard supporter said a 200-foot shoreline restriction would prohibit power boaters from using some bays.

Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim suggested restricting larger boats to operating later in the morning, similar to restrictions on waterskiing hours; but that was also met with resistance.

Education is the key

Mark Mapes, sales manager for Stengl Marine, which sells wakeboard boats in Minocqua, said education is the key to alleviating concerns. (Stengl Marine owner and town board member Bill Stengl recused himself from the discussion and sat in the audience.)

“We’re trying to move forward and educate people,” said Mapes. “We have a group surf SCONSIN that teaches surfing. One of their main goals is to teach people proper operation. How to use the boats properly. Stay out away from the shorelines. Stay out in the middle of the lake.”

He said they pass out flyers on responsible wake surfing, including staying 150 feet away from the shoreline, docks and other structures. The flyer advises turning down the boat radio and minimizing repetitive passes.

A couple of audience members said boat operators should be encouraged to point their waves (generally, wakeboard boats lean to one side to create a larger wake) toward the middle of the lake.

Mapes said the area’s high water levels are also contributing to the issue.

Along with about 15 other wakeboard enthusiasts and marine dealer employees at the meeting, Mapes promised to spread the word.

Krystal Westfahl, executive director of Minocqua Chamber of Commerce, and town board member Sue Heil, president of the Minocqua Resort Association, offered to assist in the education effort. Westfahl acknowledged, “We promote the Minocqua chain as a power sports” destination.

The town board did not take any direct action.

“I’m not here to crucify anyone,” Mader said at one point. “All I’m here is to protect my shoreline. If they do it by education, I’m for it.” Afterwards, he said, “I’m pleased with the results.”

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