Wake banners for SML Water Safety Council

Banners urging boaters to wake responsibly will be displayed at several area marinas this summer.

In an effort to combat the growing issue of boat wakes, the Smith Mountain Lake Water Safety Council will place banners at several marinas to encourage wake boaters to be responsible for their wakes.

The banners are part of an ongoing effort by lake organizations to address concerns from residents about the growing popularity of wakesurfing and other tow activities that can cause large boat wakes. The Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission and Smith Mountain Lake Association, of which the water safety council is a part, are both working to find solutions to the issue.

Pat Massa, chairman of the SML Water Safety Council, said the banners are an effort to educate wakesurfers and those that participate in tow activities on how to be responsible on the water. “Education is going to do more for this than anything else we can do,” he said.

Legislation to curb growing boat wakes on the lake could take a long time — if it ever happens, Massa said. Virginia laws requires boats to be at idle speed within 50 feet of swimmers, docks or boats. Recent efforts to extend that distance have been unsuccessful in the Virginia legislature.

“Fifty feet is not much of a distance if you are throwing a 3 or 4 foot wave,” Massa said.

TLAC is collecting information from the public on boat wakes to see how prevalent the issue is. The organization has collected reports of incidents caused by boat wakes since 2017. An incident form can be completed via the TLAC website at sml.us.com or by calling the TLAC office at 721-4400.

The 4-foot by 8-foot banners will provide tips on how boaters can be more courteous on the water while participating in wakeboarding and other tow sports. It asks boaters to stay 200 feet away from the shoreline or docks, keep music at reasonable levels and minimize repetitive passes in an area.

Massa said he has met with several marina owners around the lake and nearly all have agreed to hang the banners. He is asking that they be placed near gas pumps or where boats are being rented.

Both Bedford and Franklin County sheriff’s offices have agreed to pay one-third of the estimated $1,000 cost for the banners. If successful, Massa said more banners could be purchased and placed along Virginia 122 during high traffic weekends such as the July 4th holiday.

The banners are expected to be in place next month, Massa said.