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Preventing Loss of Access
As you know, this is an awesome sport. We all enjoy it for the same reasons: fun, freedom, the intensity of it and just getting out there and doing it! At the beach there's such a diverse cross-section of society coming together to enjoy the sport.
Kiteboarding is increasing in popularity and has and will continue to have many new people entering the sport creating safety and access issues. We need to keep our beaches safe and maintain unity for the common good.Here is where you can find important information about our beach access issues, any events or meetings regarding access and what how you can do your part to help.
Have any info you'd like added? Let us know!
"Not My Problem...Yet" - by Rick Iossi, Florida Kitesurfing Association, Inc.
You have been off the water for weeks waiting for wind and it is finally here. It is blowing nicely side shore about 15 to 20 kts. You head down to the nearest launch for 30 miles to meet a dozen guys in the regular crew and have a long overdue shredding session. As you are walking downwind of the crowded bather area to an almost empty area a few hundred feet away you see a couple of kiteboarders standing on the beach. The appear to be newbies flying a 10 m 2002 four line inflatable without harnesses or the kite depowering leash attached. They are just upwind of the crowded bathing area and keep crashing the kite to the beach. There is a new guy selling kiteboarding gear out his van and these guys, like a few others you have seen in the past, appear to be brand new customers. You stop for a second and think about talking with these guys but figure it is the first good wind day for a while and these guys aren't your problem. You head down the beach, rig up and go offshore and tear it up with your friends.
After a while you notice some squall clouds moving in and decide to head in well in advance, land and derig your kite pending possible unstable winds slamming into your area. As you are heading in you see the two newbies still onshore but now crashing their kite down in and among other beach goers. They seem to be laughing hysterically and waving the bystanders out of the way. Between pelting beach goers with the kite they have it parked straight overhead at the zenith or vertical. You come into the shallows in the nearly empty area downwind, have an assisted landing and start to secure your gear. The squall hits a bit later and the wind gusts up to 25 to 30 kts for a short period of time fortunately your gear was well anchored in advance of the squall.
About 15 minutes after the squall passes, you hear a couple of sirens heading to the crowded area upwind of you. You walk down to see what is going on. You see one of the newbies lying down unconscious and bleeding from a head wound. Also you see a nearly hysterical family surrounding a teenage girl with a neck abrasion. Both injured parties are under the care of EMTs. Apparently the newbie had the kite parked at the zenith when the squall winds hit, didn't let go initially and was lofted. He let go of the bar on impact and the runaway kite lines wrapped around the girl. She furiously clawed at the lines and managed to get them off of her before the kite fully powered back up.
The newbie recovers with from a concussion with some memory loss. The girl also recovers. It was a slow news week so the incident was picked up in both the local newspapers and TV news. The city has halted all kitesurfing at this launch indefinitely. The next nearest good launch is about an hour away by car.
What should you do?
1. How to avoid the problem in the first place.
a. We are all in this sport together, like it or not. Whether you know the guys at your launch or not their misdeeds can end your access as surely as if you caused it yourself. If you see people doing unsafe things or are too close to bystanders, please talk with them. If you have friends in the area, bring them along as a group substantially amplifies peer pressure. Kiteboarders flying upwind and close to bystanders are all too common. NO ONE should be on land for an extended period with a full sized kiteboarding kite in the air. If they need to practice they should be using a trainer kite otherwise they should be in the water body dragging or on a board. Incidents and accidents are inevitable under these conditions. It is worth your while to get involved, even if it takes away from your time on the water. Talk tactfully and effectively to try to attain positive results. If we are effective in building a sense of kiteboarding community and self policing, most access issues will fade into the past. If we don't bother the future is likely to be very rocky in many areas. The above scenario has frequently been described and is no doubt relatively common in various areas around the world.
b. This sport is potentially very dangerous to poorly informed participants and to bystanders. Retailers need to do the responsible thing and compel new gear purchasers to take adequate lessons. It doesn't take ESP to see that doing anything less than this will lead to accidents, incidents, lost access, some law suits and ultimately, lost revenues. So, for the guy selling gear out of his van to whomever has the money it would be worth your while to talk with him. If talking doesn't work, bringing pressure to bear through official channels would be appropriate (i.e. occupational licenses, zoning requirements, etc.). Talking with all riders and potential riders in your area to boycott this retailer would also be in your best interest.
c. Join and support your local kiteboarding club or association. Get into the habit of greeting new riders that show up at your launch. Get a feel for where they are in the sport and advise them if necessary to protect your access. If we act as a group and look out for our own things will go a lot smoother than they appear to be headed at present in many areas. Talking with local lifeguards about launch specific guidelines and potentially designating a kiteboarding launch/access corridor may be a good preemptive move against future restrictions.
2. How to deal with the problem if it is too late to avoid it.
If you don't act to talk with these guys and get them to move downwind into the empty beach area or preferably into getting adequate lessons, there is very little that you can do. All you can try to do is to do damage control after the accidents have occurred. Contacting your local kiteboarding association for assistance would be a good idea. If you don't have one, seriously consider forming a kiteboarding club or association. Ideas in this regard are given in the AKA Kiteboarding website at: http://aka.kite.org/ and on this site at:
The damage has already been done but following through on the actions described in "b." above would be worthwhile.
transcribed by: Rick Iossi