Concern over 'wakeboarding' trial

STEPHEN PULLINGER A one-year trial of the controversial sport of “wakeboarding” on the Broads was approved without sufficient safety measures in place, it is being claimed.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A one-year trial of the controversial sport of “wakeboarding” on the Broads was approved without sufficient safety measures in place, it is being claimed.

Motor cruiser owner Marc Ollosson has raised concerns that a risk assessment carried out on the activity - which involves a person being towed standing sideways as on a snowboard - flagged up safety issues that have not been addressed.

The father of one, who lives and moors his 21ft boat in Norwich, said the need for a qualified first aider to be on hand had been demonstrated in the risk assessment carried out by British Water Ski, but this was clearly not being met in many of the Broads areas where wakeboarding was allowed.

The highlighted need for effective means of communication to raise emergency services in the case of an accident had also not been addressed, with water-skiers reliant on mobile phones with notoriously poor reception on many stretches of the Broads.

Mr Ollosson, 39, said he was not opposed to wakeboarding, which causes a larger wake than conventional water-skiing, but he believed all safety issues should have been tackled before the trial was given approval.

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He said: “My concerns come from being sideswiped with the wash of water-skiers and thinking, 'What on earth would the greater effect of wakeboarding be like?'. We have only got a small engine on our boat and we have been forced off course from the effects of water-skiers.”

Mr Ollosson, who works as an administrator for a government organisation in Norwich, said inexperienced holidaymakers on the Broads might find it even more difficult to cope.

Steve Birtles, head of waterways strategy and safety at the Broads Authority, said under the Port Marine Safety Code the authority was required to maintain a hazard log, and the risks of waterskiing were covered by this.

He said: “This was reviewed as required by suitably qualified people, including representatives of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association and members of the navigation committee and they concluded that control measures in place were sufficient. Their one suggestion was that there could be a yearly test on the steering mechanism of water-ski tow boats.”

Mr Birtles said the subsequent risk assessment carried out by British Water Ski had been commissioned to help the Broads Authority determine whether wakeboarding should be allowed to carry on, and in what way, following the end of the trial next June.

He said any findings of the risk assessment could be taken on board at that time, but specifically responding to Mr Ollosson, he said mobile phone reception was always an issue in the Broads, but it was invariably restored within a minute or two. Concerning first aid, he said boats were required to carry first aid kits. “

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