Wakeboarding activities can cause damage to shore, docks and other vessels, leaving operators responsible

Wakeboarding activities can cause damage to shore, docks and other vessels, leaving operators responsible


Wakeboarding continues to be a popular activity on Brazos River Authority reservoirs, but there are boat operators possibly unknowingly causing locals costly damage.

The BRA has “No Wake” buoys strategically located across Possum Kingdom Lake and lakes Granbury and Limestone, and while observing the orange and white structures is the law, a little awareness goes a long way too.

No Wake zones are areas 50 feet from structures or the shoreline per state law, said Robert Box, Lake Ranger Sergeant at Possum Kingdom Lake. The zones help prevent erosion and protect congested areas where there are a lot of marinas, commercial areas, or private property, he said. A wake is just a wave created by the passage of the vessel.

If there’s a buoy, it’s there to protect property or shoreline, he said.

The can-style buoy has a No Wake emblem on it along with a circle around the word “No.”

All boats create waves, but wake surfing crafts are specifically designed to generate large waves. These boats have a built-in system – also known as a bladder – to maximize the wake created by the boat by building extra weight, Box said.

“Even if they stay out 50- feet, if they are wakeboarding, the wave is such a size that it causes destruction,” Box said.

Even if a boat operator is past the 50-foot marker, if the wake or wash created by the boat damages property, the boat operator can be held responsible, Box said. Even if the boat is simply traveling across the reservoir, it can cause a bigger wake.

“We are already starting to get complaints about wakeboard boats,” Box said.

Many of the “No Wake” zones at Lake Granbury are around the bridges and in various canals, where it’s a tight fit and a large wake could damage homeowners’ docks and retaining walls, said Paul Nieto, Lake Granbury Lake Ranger.

Most people don’t realize the size of the wake the boats distribute, Nieto said.

When we’re out in the middle of the lake doing safety inspections, wakeboats can make waves that cause our boat to slam into another boat if we’re not careful.”

Box said the lake rangers patrol for violators. The Class C ticket would cost a boater up to $500. However, if a property owner can verify their boat wasn’t damaged prior to a wakeboarding boat passing, the person can take the boat operator to civil court to file charges, Box said.

“Boat owners don’t realize they are responsible for that wake and wash until it flattens out,” he said.

Per state law, it is unlawful for anyone to:

  • Operate a personal watercraft and jump the wake of another vessel recklessly or unnecessarily close.
  • Operate so as to cause a hazardous wake or wash.
  • Operate within designated "no wake" areas except at headway speed without creating a swell or wake.

If you see someone abusing the wake zones there are some actions you can take.

Randy Johnston, Lake Granbury Lake Ranger sergeant, said a person can record the location, time, and try to get the boat license. If the incident is during normal office hours, call the lake office and a Lake Ranger if available can go to the location in an attempt to see the violation for themselves. Otherwise, a lake ranger can follow up at the boat owner’s home to help provide education as to why these particular laws are in place, Johnston said. If the situation warrants an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Box said wakeboarding is the most popular sport at the reservoir right now.

“Skiing is a thing of the past,” he said. “It’s starting to die off. You see more wake boarders and wake surfers now.”

Box also cautioned that anyone wakeboarding should be cautious of the exhaust coming from the boat.

“The closer you are to boat the more carbon monoxide you’re going to inhale,” he said.


The Boat Owners Association of the United States, or Boat U.S., offers wakeboat etiquette tips:

  • Stay at least 150 feet away from structures or shore; ride the core, avoid the shore.
  • Minimize repetitive passes.
  • Drive a predicted path. Avoid close passes to other boats, and don't follow another boat too closely.
  • Don't impede traffic. Wakesurfers usually travel at 10 to 12 mph. Avoid wakesurfing in fairways and busy areas.
  • Look before you turn.
  • Refrain from tricks when near other boats.
  • Early morning times usually have less traffic.
  • Keep in mind that local boating laws and navigation rules still apply. Follow them and everyone will enjoy their time on the water we share.
  • Keep music at a responsible level; sound travels much farther than you think on the water, and loud music can ruin other boaters' peace and quiet.