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Best practice for Wakeboarding on the Murray River
Wakeboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. It has evolved from a combination of snowboarding, skating and water skiing, and is undoubtedly an exciting, adrenaline fuelled and technically progressive sport.
To be a responsible wakeboarder means being aware of how your actions may affect other river users and the environment and then taking steps to prevent potential impacts.
These guidelines are designed to encourage socially and environmentally responsible wakeboarding practices.
Significance of the Murray River
The Murray River is one of Australia’s most important natural features. The river channel is the ‘main artery’ of the Murray River system and forms the link between forest, floodplain, wetland and estuarine environments. It provides instream life support for many aquatic plants and animals, including the iconic Murray Cod and River Red Gums. It has rich Aboriginal and European cultural heritage and continues to support a diverse array of human activities.
Wakeboarding and the river environment
Recreational activities such as wakeboarding have the potential to cause damage to the river environment.
Wakeboarding is not the primary cause of the Murray River’s problems, however, in combination with other pressures, it contributes to the degradation of the river’s natural features that are the primary attraction for visitors to the Murray River.
One of the most common complaints received by the Minister for the Murray River about wakeboarding is the effect created by the wash of the boat on bank erosion.
Wash striking the banks can cause rapid and severe erosion leading to a range of environmental problems. Such problems may include the loss of riverfront property, loss or destabilisation of native trees and the destruction of habitat and aquatic plants and animals.
Complaints about the noise associated with wakeboarding activities are also high. Excessive noise from the boat and boat stereos can disturb other river users and the wildlife that inhabits the river system.
Please respect the environment of the special places you visit.
How to reduce your impact on the river environment
Do not wakeboard close to the shoreline
Maintain a distance as far as practicable from the bank (right of centre) whilst still complying with relevant transport safety regulations, to minimise the risk of bank erosion and any other damage that your boat’s wash may cause.
Avoid the sensitive wetlands of the Murray River
Any boating activity in these areas has the potential to cause disturbance and harm to fragile habitats and ecosystems.
Keep your speed to an absolute minimum when travelling to and from the riverbank.When you are well clear of the riverbank, move promptly from the displacement mode to planing speed - Don’t linger in the transitional phase when the wash is largest.
Reduce Power Turns
When a rider falls the driver should reduce their speed in the turn to an idle. Maintaining normal driving speed when turning throws an even bigger wake out to the bank and down the river thereby causing errosion and impacting other users. More information here
Do not overload your boat
Care should be taken when using specially designed wake boats, which have large ballast or have a hull shape or fittings that are designed to create a large wave behind the boat. Consider the additional load of passengers and the potential risks associated with overloading a vessel, which can carry safety and environmental risks and can even damage your boat, making it unsafe or even illegal to operate.
When planning a location for a wakeboarding course, use your experience to recognise vulnerable sites and consider the following:
- Is the stretch of river wide enough to enable my boat’s wash to fade away before reaching the banks?
- Are the banks along this stretch of river naturally or artificially reinforced to prevent erosion? (i.e. dense willow or reed growth or artificially retained banks)
- Is any wildlife likely to be affected by wakeboarding in this location?
- Am I going to be causing excessive noise that may disturb residents and other river users at this location?
Be aware of your boat’s wash and its impact
Remember, the boat operator is legally liable for their wash – and any resulting damage that it causes!
While there is nothing inherently dangerous or damaging about wakeboard boats, if operated incorrectly, they can damage sensitive shoreline areas, tip other boats and anger nearby water users.
By being aware of the potential impacts of wakeboarding and making a conscious effort to avoid the kind of behaviour that has adverse impacts, you will not only be a good ambassador for this activity, but you will effectively reduce complaints regarding the impacts of wakeboarding. This is likely to eliminate the need for any government regulations or bans being placed on wakeboarding activities.
Safety and the Law
Legal requirements apply to the operation of recreational vessels on the Murray River. Before you hit the water, make sure you are familiar with all the relevant safety requirements and your legal obligations.
- The boat operator must hold a current boat operator’s licence.
- The boat must be registered and registration details should be displayed in accordance with the relevant provisions under the Harbors and Navigation Act 1993.
- A person must not be towed by a vessel unless another person (the observer) is on the vessel. The observer is required to face the wakeboarder at all times and give any necessary directions to the boat operator so as to prevent injury or risk of injury to the person being towed or to any other persons
- A person who is being towed by a vessel must wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) that complies with AS1499 or 2260.
- It is recommended that the operator and passenger(s) wear PFD when boating.
- It is against the law for a person to be towed by a vessel before sunrise or after sunset.
- It is an offence for vessel operators, crew (including wakeboard observers) and for the person(s) being towed to have a concentration of alcohol in the blood of 0.05 or more.
- Observe speed limits, voluntary and compulsory.
- Be aware of the controls that apply for certain vessels and activities in the Restricted Areas along the Murray River system as specified in Schedules 4, 5 and 10 of the Harbors and Navigation Regulations 1994.
- Keep your distance! - You must give other water users a wide berth when out wakeboarding.
- Serious injuries can result from hitting objects such as other boats, docks, pilings snags, sandbars or stumps. While many areas with obstacles are marked by warning buoys or signs, it is up to the boat operator, observer and wakeboarder to be alert to any potential hazards in the area.
- Wakeboard only in areas that you are familiar with. Consult charts of the area, ask other wakeboarders or other boaties who possess "local knowledge," and personally drive through the proposed course before you actually attempt wakeboarding in that location.
For further information relating to legal and safety considerations when wakeboarding, contact the Transport Safety Compliance Section, Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure 13 10 84.
For further information regarding these guidelines, contact the Development Planning Group, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation on (08) 8463 6930.
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