Making waves

Skipsey family says wake surfers causing havoc to Sproat Lake docks.

Becky Skipsey stands by the stairway on her Faber Arm dock

Becky Skipsey stands by the stairway on her Faber Arm dock

Art Skipsey has owned property out on Sproat Lake for 55 years ago without a problem until now.

“Then we get the wake surfers coming in and they don’t seem to have much concern for anything,” said Skipsey.

“They’re up and down all day and even at night.”

Last summer, Skipsey said, the wake surfers were out till 11 p.m. many nights.

“They even have a light on the back of the boat so they can see the wake following them there.”

But it’s not the noise from the boats that bothers Skipsey, whose family owns a property on Faber Road that borders the waterfront of Klee-coot Arm, on the northeast side of Sproat Lake.

“The wake is so great that it comes in and goes right over top of our float so any towel or clothes get soaked.”

Apart from the inconvenience, it’s also dangerous, he says.

“We have a stair coming out of the lake and if that wave hits you there it’ll knock you off. It’s dangerous, it’s a metal set of stairs at an angle.”

The Skipsey family has a few floats off the end of their docks that are meant to act as breakwaters for the boats they have tied up at their property. Recently, one the waves created from the wake surfers unmoored one of the breakwaters.

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“It shouldn’t, it’s secured with good rope,” said Becky Skipsey, Art’s daughter-in-law.

Waves from the wake boats come right up over both the breakwaters and the docks, sweeping anything on their dock into the water as well as damaging the Skipseys’ boats.

“The curl on these waves is just horrendous,” said Becky.

The wake boats create such a big wave because of the way they’re set in the water—they’re meant to create a wake for the wake surfers to ride on and as that wave spreads outwards, it hits the docks along the lake shoreline.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” Becky said, adding that it’s one that comes down to education.

“It’s educating people to watch where their wake goes.”

But it’s not just unsafe for property owners. When a different family living on Klee-coot Arm wants to swim across the lake, the wake surfers make it a dangerous journey.

“Every year [this family goes] across the lake and swims back.”

The family takes precautions, Art said, but the wake surfers ignore them.

“They have boats with them and flags up with balloons on them and everything else and these turkeys are going and dissecting that line back and forth all the time.”

It’s dangerous for canoers, kayakers and paddleboarders too, Becky said. The Skipseys keep a boat ready to go in the summer to rescue non-motorized boaters who fall out of their vessels due to the waves.

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Art would like to see the Sproat Lake Marine Patrol take a more active approach on the issue.

“Boats can be identified and the lake patrol could give out courtesy slips of what’s expected on the lake when they arrive there at the boat ramp.”

If the warnings aren’t heeded, Art thinks that getting the police and the coast guard involved is the next logical step, despite what he said is a lack of desire to get involved in the situation from both parties.

“Both [organizations] are passing the buck on that but [the wake boats] are breaking the law.”

Sproat Lake director Penny Cote said she has heard complaints about the wake surfers.

“I am very aware of the wake surfing and the damage that’s created by it.”

Cote said that the Sproat Lake Marine Patrol does hand out warning slips to wake surfers but that the marine patrol is a supervisory, not an enforcement, group.

“The marine patrol is a non-enforcement group so they don’t have any authority to go after anyone.”

Much of the damage and rule breaking is done by visitors to the lake, Cote said, making them hard to track down.

“Most of the people that live at the lake are quite aware of the damage that is caused by the wakes from wake surfers,”said Cote.

“A lot of it is the visitors that don’t own property that is being damaged.”

Cote said that the Sproat Lake Community Association is trying to find a solution to the problem but added that it was a federal, not local government, issue.

“It is federal jurisdiction, it’s not provincial, it’s not regional, it’s not local government. We don’t have any jurisdiction.”

While wake surfing is regulated under Transport Canada, their Local Authorities Guide does map out options that municipal governments can take when there are issues with the operation of pleasure crafts on the water.

According to the guide, Transport Canada “allow[s] any level of government (federal, provincial, municipal and territorial government authorities) to ask the federal government to restrict the use of all boats, either pleasure craft or commercial vessels on all bodies of water in Canada.”

Restriction can range from prohibiting all boats to imposing speed limits or regulating certain types of boats and activities.

Art Skipsey feels like it’s a lack of consideration for property owners and other users of Sproat Lake that’s the issue.

“I don’t think that it’s right that somebody can come in and take away the pleasure from the other people on the lake. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be reined in to the point that we can all enjoy the lake.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/AlberniNews

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