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Controlling Your Wake

Wake is the wave a boat generates as it moves through the water. The wake disperses an amount of energy based on the boat’s speed and the amount of water the boat displaces. Producing a large wake near other boats, boating facilities, and personal property is an error in judgment made by many boat operators.

The wake created by a boat may endanger inexperienced boaters, persons swimming, or wading anglers. For example, a boat's wake may rock, swamp, or capsize other boats. Passengers also may be thrown off balance or overboard, leading to serious injury.

When a boat’s wake causes damage, you could face very serious consequences. Excessive boat wake may be enforced as Negligent Operation, an infraction considered serious enough to warrant a fine of $343. The boat operator also may be held responsible for the damage caused by a boat’s wake and face a civil lawsuit.

  • As you travel, look behind your vessel to check your wake. If it is rocking boats or crashing against the shoreline, you are creating too much wake.
  • Watch out for and be considerate of small vessels such as canoes and kayaks.
  • Slow down before:
    • Meeting and overtaking other boats
    • Entering posted speed zones and narrow channels
  • Leave as much space as possible between your vessel and others that you meet or overtake.

Unreasonable wakes also cause erosion of the shoreline, damaging important habitat.