Each year, water sports compete at the Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament at Callaway Gardens. CONTRIBUTED BY: Nautique

Bill requiring life jackets for some water sports passes Georgia House

Anyone who glides through water at super speeds is probably a thrill-seeker, but under legislation passed by the House on Wednesday they would still be required to wear a life jacket.

House Bill 275, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, adds wake surfing and body surfing to the list of water sports required to wear a ski belt, ski jacket or personal flotation device. Further, it adds that those two sports require boats to contain a wide-angle mirror and are included in prohibited activity between sunset and sunrise.

Current law already requires anyone being pulled by a rope to wear a life jacket.

“We are clarifying that since it’s a newer water sport that wake surfing and body surfing requires a life jacket,” Dubnik said in an interview.

The bill also clarifies provisions for body surfing, in which an individual lays down behind a boat and holds on.

“So we said you can’t body surf behind a boat with an outboard motor,” Dubnik said. “It has to be what’s called an inboard motor, and that is where it is up underneath the middle of the boat.”

The regulation to recreational activity passed by a vote of 146-23, receiving support even from Republicans who generally leave such measures up to personal responsibility. Last year, state Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville, filed a bill that would exempt anyone over the age of 18 from the state’s helmet laws for motorcyclists.

The bill was inspired by the Department of Natural Resources. House members’ questions for the freshman lawmaker were lighthearted, a ritual of sorts for anyone presenting his or her first bill.

HB 275 now moves to the state Senate. If signed into law, it would go into effect July 1.

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