Wakeboarders anger Savannah River residents

Dick Fox has nothing against waves -- except when they're rocking his dock.

"It's terrible this year," said Mr. Fox, who lives in Waters Edge subdivision along the Savannah River, where wakeboarding and similar activities have increased dramatically.

The narrow channel is accommodating more boat traffic, especially with so many new subdivisions in the area, he said.

Wakeboarders, in particular, are creating dangerous waves that have damaged docks.

"It's not a new problem," Mr. Fox said. "But it has increased."

Frank Carl, the chairman of the Augusta Port Authority, said "no wake" rules should apply in developed areas of the river, including along Waters Edge above the Fifth Street bridge.

"Wakeboarding should not even be legal up there because of so many docks and boats," Dr. Carl said. "The whole idea is to avoid damage to the boats."

On Thursday, the authority approved a new "no wake" designation for the Waters Edge area, and it is trying to find someone willing to place and maintain "no wake" buoys in the area, Dr. Carl said.

Regardless of signs or buoys, state laws require boaters and wakeboarders to stay at least 100 feet from a dock, said Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Sgt. Mark Padgett.

"The 100-foot rule also applies to swimmers or people in the water," he said. "Also, people are responsible for their wake. If it causes any kind of damage, people can recover through civil action."

The bottom line, Sgt. Padgett said, is that everyone needs to recognize that the slender river channel is being used by more people.

"The Savannah River is a very confined space, not like a huge lake," he said. "If people can be courteous and watch for everyone else on the water, we would have fewer problems."

Mike Stacy, the operator of the Augusta Riverwalk Marina, said wakeboarding is a popular and fun pastime that, if done in the wrong places, is destructive.

Wakeboarders who use the populated part of the river, he said, are probably beginners who don't know the damage they cause.

"A lot of people don't realize those boats can make four-foot waves," he said. "They do a lot of damage to our docks, especially the old ones at Riverfront Marina."

Though the river is narrow, there are plenty of opportunities to wakeboard, he said.

"What they should do is go two miles south of Augusta, where there are fewer boats and docks and houses," he said. "They have eight open miles of river down to the (New Savannah Bluff) lock and dam."

Dr. Carl said the annual Neptune Dive and Ski Open Wakeboard Tournament will take place July 25 in the Boathouse area, which will require advisories to be sent. Previous events were held at Thurmond Lake, he said.

The Boathouse area, where the Southern Nationals dragboat races are held, is several miles downstream from Waters Edge but still includes many private and public docks.

"For this upcoming contest, we've actually advised people docked at the slips in the lower marina to move their boats for the day of the contest," he said.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.