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Surf's up! Wake surfing arrives in the Lakes Region

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Claudia Cantin rides the wave off the back of the boat during an evening of wake surfing on Lake Winnisquam with her family.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


LAKES REGION — For decades, waterskiing was the sport favored by boaters and their families on New Hampshire's lakes. Then knee boarding came into vogue, which led to wake boarding. Those have all been upset, though, by the new sport of wake surfing, popular in other parts of the country for a few years and now taking over New Hampshire's Lakes Region.

"It's a new craze," said Bill Irwin, at Irwin Marine.

 Like the sports that preceded it, wake surfing involves a person standing atop a platform, riding the water behind a boat. Unlike prior sports, wake surfers only hold a tow line for a short time, after which they toss the line back into the boat and ride an endless, ocean-like wave, created by the boat.

"It's fun to do, and easier on the body," Irwin explained. Wake surfing is more accessible than waterskiing or wake boarding, and because wake surfers travel at slower speeds, and don't hang on to a tow line, the risk for injury is much lower.

Wake surfing has been around for a long time. The first patent related to the sport was filed in 1997. Dealers around Lake Winnipesaukee say that it's the development of boats that has led to the sport's sudden surge in popularity.

It's not possible to surf behind any boat. Wake surfers need a boat that can create, and shape, a wave in its wake. To accomplish this, the boats have the ability to take on water, as ballast, so that the boats sit lower in the water and thus create a larger wake. Additionally, the boats also feature design elements, such as articulating flaps on the boat's stern, or a sculpted platform that dips into the water, to shape the wake into wave for the surfer to ride.

"There's a strong curl to it," said Sean Mulligan, sales manager for Fay's Boat Yard in Gilford. "You are actually surfing behind the boat without having to be towed by a line."

Fay's sells Chaparral boats among its brands, and that marque added a "Vortex" line of jet boats that can create a wave for surfing. Fay's started selling the wake surf boats last year and has watched demand for the boats grow.

"It's not as popular in New Hampshire as it is in other parts of the country... but it's really starting to catch on," said Mulligan.

It was about five years ago that Tom Cantin first saw someone riding a surfboard behind a boat, without using a tow line.

"You see somebody else doing it, you say, 'Holy cow! How are they doing that?'," he said. Later, and his family he had a chance to try it out for themselves, with a relative's boat on Pleasant Lake, and last year they bought a Super Air Nautique 230, which has the ability to create a wave four-and-a-half feet tall behind the boat, curling to either the left or the right, and with a differing shape depending on which buttons the pilot presses on the touch-screen controls.

"Once you get up and start getting good at it, you can let go of the line. When you let go of the line, you aren't restricted by the line," Cantin said. "You're really close to the boat. Because of that, you can sit on the swim platform and have a conversation with the person surfing, it's really cool."

Older water sports are not for the faint of heart. Fall while waterskiing, and you'll hit the water hard at 30 mph. Wake surfing only requires a speed of nine to 11 mph.

"We're going super slow. It's low impact. If you crash, you're just falling into the water," Cantin said.

"It's definitely taking the industry by storm," said Kevin McCarthy, manager of Irwin Marine's Alton Bay location. "Of course, in New Hampshire, we're a little slow in developing it," but the wake surfing trend has arrived, he can say, and as evidence he points to his sales of wake surf boats that are double what they were at this time last year. The growth, he said, is due to manufacturers' innovations.

"These boats are evolving, I'm watching it before my eyes." McCarty said that manufacturers are now designing boats with surfing specifically in mind. Meanwhile, they're also designing the boats with open cockpits, allowing for greater passenger space. And the larger, deeper hulls needed to create the wake when the ballast tanks are full make the boat sturdier and more stable when Lake Winnipesaukee's surface gets choppy. The result is a boat that is as capable as a vehicle for water sports as it is a pleasure boat for an evening cruise.

"We're talking about a game-changer," McCarthy said. "It's got more universal appeal."

That's something the Cantin family has found with their new boat. In the space of a 90-minute outing, Cantin said he and his family will rotate between water skiing, wake boarding and wake surfing.

"I like being out there with my kids," Cantin said. "We're certainly enjoying it."

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Julia Cantin rides the wave off her family’s boat during an evening of wake surfing on Lake Winnisquam.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Second man indicted in Harvard home invasion


LACONIA — A second man has been indicted for his alleged role in a 2014 Harvard Street home invasion where one of the occupants of the home was shot.

Joshua Pike, 29, formerly of 1156 N. Main St. is accused of being an accomplice to burglary and conspiracy to committee burglary for Tyler Twombly, formerly Concord, by allowing him and/or a second man into the house where an armed robbery was committed.

Pike also faces one special felony count of being a "career criminal" with possession of or control over a handgun.

The indictment reads that Pike has been convicted of burglary in 2006, accomplice to robbery of 2007 and possession of a controlled drug in 2014.

At the time, police said two men entered the house around 3 a.m. and pointed a gun at one of four people who were in the house, including Pike. The gun discharged and one of the people in the house suffered a minor head injury after either being grazed by a bullet or being hit by something. Some drugs were stolen, said police.

Twombly was indicted in September 2015 for robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and two counts of burglary. Recently, the Belknap County Attorney's Office dropped those charges after a series of immunity hearings failed to produce anyone who could testify that he was in the house on June 25, 2014.

Before the case was dropped, Twombly's attorney argued that if Pike was given immunity, he would testify that Twombly was not one of the two people who entered the home that night. The state refused to give him immunity.

Although the case against Twombly was dropped, no jury was sworn in, so he could be indicted again.

Homeless man charged with stealing motorcycle


LACONIA — A local man charged with multiple offenses, including bail jumping and felony receiving stolen property for being in possession of a stolen motorcycle, was released on $5,000 personal recognizance bail Friday provided he get a spot in a local homeless shelter.

David Godbout, 48, whose last known address is in Belmont, was on Shaker Road just after midnight when a patrol sergeant saw him driving a motorcycle that had been reported stolen from a Laconia residence about four hours earlier.

Godbout was charged with receiving stolen property, aggravated driving while intoxicated, and driving after a license suspension. Belmont Police said he had warrants for his arrest for shoplifting from both Laconia and Tilton.

A bail commissioner released Godbout on $1,000 personal recognizance bail and he was given a court date of June 23 in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

When he failed to appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest and Belmont Police added a charge of bail jumping.

Laconia Police arrested him Friday after finding him sleeping in a car on River Street. He was charged with one count of criminal mischief and affidavits said he told police he had slept in another car earlier because he had no place to go.

Belmont Police requested he be held on $500 cash while Laconia Police said personal recognizance bail would be acceptable for their criminal mischief charge.

His public defender told the court that Godbout was unable to raise $500. When he went to argue that Godbout is from the area, Judge Jim Carroll said he knew him well and was aware of his ties to the community.

"(These charges) are a creature of homelessness, not a creature of malice," he said, adding that, if he is released, Godbout wants to seek a spot in an alcohol-free environment like the Carey House but would be first going to the hospital.

The Belmont prosecutor said Godbout has multiple prior offenses, including a total of three simple assaults that date back to 1991 and 2010. The balance of his offenses, as read in court, were operating a motor vehicle after being deemed an habitual offender, shoplifting and willful concealment.

When asked by the judge, he said Godbout's blood alcohol content was allegedly 1.8 when he was arrested on Shaker Road. Laconia Police said there was a strong odor of alcohol when they found him sleeping in a stranger's car on River Street Thursday.

Carroll told Godbout, who appeared by video, that if the current charges he faces were alleged crimes against people and not property crimes, he would not consider personal recognizance bail.

Carroll said he must live in the Carey House, report every Tuesday to Compliance Court, remain drug-free and alcohol-free, and sign a waiver of extradition.