Wakeboarding - the new craze

While a 10-year debate over whether waterskiing should be allowed on the Rivers Yare and Waveney was brought to a conclusion yesterday, a new row was brewing over letting people wakeboard.

While a 10-year debate over whether waterskiing should be allowed on the Rivers Yare and Waveney was brought to a conclusion yesterday, a new row was brewing over letting people wakeboard.

As the Broads Authority agreed that waterskiing could continue, serious concerns were raised over the new sport, which has dramatically increased in popularity in recent years.

Wakeboarding, which is like waterskiing but with the person being towed standing sideways as on a snowboard, unleashes a larger wake then its original, more sedate predecessor, creating more wash, which could be eroding river banks and harming wildlife.

While nature lovers visiting the RSPB reserve at Strumpshaw objected to the noise of all speed boats, and the unknown effect on wildlife, a three-year review of waterskiing found it was acceptable.

But many boats used for wakeboarding have the back ballasted to make them sit lower in the water to produce a bigger wake for the boarders to jump over.

A one-year trial period to invest-igate the effects of wakeboarding was given the go-ahead yesterday by the authority at its bi-monthly members' meeting, as there were worries that the increased wash was removing sediment which would result in the need for costly dredging.

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Meanwhile, as visitors to Strumpshaw increased by 50pc last year, complaints that waterskiing was an “intrusion to public enjoy-ment” of the site also went up by half.

In an attempt to curtail the intrusion of speedboats on birdwatchers' peace, waterskiing could be limited to the afternoon.

But the change will have to wait until the Broads Bill, which is going through parliament, is passed. The bill will give Broads officers power to enforce any new rules decided by the authority.

Chairman of the independent panel set up to carry out the review, Ian White, warned that it was not just speed boats, but day cruisers that were causing erosion and questioned people's motives for complaining.

And while the Broads Society felt that allowing wakeboarding was “a step too far”, chairman of the Broads Forum Jonathan Bowman admitted there was no evidence to suggest wakeboarding was having a more severe impact, just a general feeling.

Waterskiing was initially considered too risky and intrusive for the Broads and was banned on the recommendation of an independent review in 1997.

It was allowed again after the authority concluded that there were no viable alternative sites, but in 2000 it was again forbidden when new risk assessments gave waterskiing a safety status of “intolerable”.

New measures in 2003, including increasing the number of warning signs and restricting the number of ski permits, saw the sport's risk reclassed “as low as reasonably practical”.

The current three-year trial period, the third independent review of the sport, was then set up.

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