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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2003 1:37 pm 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia.
(Sorry - long post!)

Hi all,

I read a post in the Australian Yahoo Group about an incident between a beginner and an expert that led to some agro, and it lead to some thoughts about safety and regulation of the sport on local beaches in Melbourne, Australia. If anyone cares, here's some random thoughts I had:
==================================
This topic has led me to post some thoughts about what's happening with our sport, particularly in Melbourne but most probably across Australia and the World. I am no expert, but am a competant kitesurfer and spend plenty of time researching safety issues on the net.

In the past six months I have seen both sides of the coin. Firstly, I only started early in 2002 and tried to keep to quiet beaches so that I wouldn't get in the way of the experts. I guess I was a bit
intimidated by them, but after having spent some time at St Kilda beach I have met plenty of good people. I am now an intermediate and have watched many worrying episodes with beginners that makes me wonder about how long we will be allowed to enjoy our sport on local beaches. These include too many beginners who have clearly not had lessons, or who have had a one hour lesson and think that's enough. They clearly are not aware that this is a dangerous sport (for themselves and for bystanders if they are near beginners), nor are they aware of the various resources on the net for learning about safety and proper technique. The number of kites crashing down on the sand is getting scary.

The problems are only going to get worse. Up until now the majority of new kitesurfers were probably ex-windsurfers who saw someone kitesurfing and switched. Now I get questioned every time I walk
from my car to the beach and more and more people are going to try kitesurfing whether we like it or not. At one day at St Kilda I
counted 35 kites in the air - how many will that be next summer, and the one after that? 50? 75?

The temptation is to shut up and stay quiet and enjoy the sport while I can, but I can't help but think that the requirement to wear PFD's (now law in Melbourne) is only the start of regulation of our sport, and what will come next will be much worse. This could include having beaches closed to us or the sport being totally banned. For this reason I think we should be more pro-active and look at all ideas on how to self-regulate the sport so that we don't have unfair regulations placed upon us.

I have some ideas, some of which may be radical or unpopular, but which may keep us on the water for much longer. Please, if you're going to criticise these ideas, make it constructive criticism and give alternatives. Please add to the list. I think it's at least worth throwing some of these ideas around even if they lead to
nothing, as sometimes the most stupid ideas lead to good ones. The ideas include:

- mandatory kite leashes
- some form of licensing requiring testing (written and practical tests, with the practical component gained through qualified instruction, or a short test if already experienced - radical, I know!)
- if not licensing, registration or compulsary membership of some group (AKSA?) so that we have a way to reach all kiteboarders to keep them aware of safety issues, etc.
- discussions with councils/governments about erecting warning signs to keep the public away from certain beaches or at least warn them of the risk of standing directly underneath/downwind of kites. (Yes, this risks bringing this issue up with council before it may otherwise have, but if you think it won't come up later you have your head in the sand - at least if we go to them we can work together rather than them banning us before we know what happened)
- designated beginners beaches/zones
- designated beginners times at certain beaches (with coaching from the experts when they are not out on the water).

Now I do not necessarily think all of these are brilliant ideas, but in the interests of promoting some "brainstorming" on what we can do to improve our sport I have put them forward.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you don't think there is a risk of increasing regulation, enjoy it and keep
doing what you're doing (as long as you're not hurting anyone). This post is for those of us who are worried we might not be allowed to enjoy our sport in a couple of years, and want to do something about it now.

Finally, for those in Melbourne, is there any interest in setting up a Victorian arm of AKSA to look after local issues - beach access, etc.?

Marc.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2003 1:56 pm 
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I share your concerns although my local beach is not under threat and even if it was there are miles of deserted beach nearby I could use, but that would involve a bit of a long walk.

I think the best approach is through local regulation with the relevant authorities. While there are same very basic rules that could apply in general terms the more important issues will vary from spot to spot and country to country. A single set of guidelines from a single governing body would have to either be so vague or so detailed they would be of little practical use.

Using this local approach to regulation would also allow the less busy areas without problems to continue as they are until such time that the potential need for such rules arises. By which time there would be plenty of busier places with rules in place to use as a template.

By forging these local links with the authorities the liklihood of a ban can greatly be reduced and if some idiot turns up at your beach and injures someone through reckless action he will be as seen as an idiot first and not just a kitesurfer, in other words the individual takes the heat instead the whole KS community.

Other things to consider when drawing up any rules are the effect different wind directions and tidal conditions can have on launch areas.

As ever self policing will be the best solution where possible.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2003 1:08 am 
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Location: Florida
Hello Marc,

You point out a number of valid threats to kiteboarding access. In some areas voluntary compliance with good practices may help to maintain reasonable access to kiteboard. In other cases lack of responsible riding practices may condemn the activity to being banned.

It doesn't take a crowd of poor kiteboarders to cause a ban. I am aware of two cases in the SE USA in which only one offending kiteboarder successfully cost us all access to ride in these areas.

Mandatory certification may take hold someday in some areas. In still other areas it may just be banned, still other areas may never have much in the way of problems. Logically it seems that enforcement of certification in applicable areas may have to occur at the equipment retailers and kiteboarding resorts where it will be required. Training and certification programs are improving but are far from being required in most areas.

Accidents, incidents and complaints may bring about restrictions and bans in the future but in the interim there are some efforts underway. There are a number of national and local kiteboarding associations. The training agencies are improving kiteboarding instruction. Manufacturers are working on improved safety devices and considerations in gear. Will all this be enough? Who knows but I wouldn't take bets for many areas. Riders that practice and promote good kiteboarding practices may offer the best near term hope in maintaining access.


- mandatory kite leashes

Some launches in Florida currently require leashes. Hopefully the trend is expanding in other areas particularly with more user friendly leashes out there.

- some form of licensing requiring testing (written and practical tests, with the practical component gained through qualified instruction, or a short test if already experienced - radical, I know!)

This will probably come about in some areas but it would appear in no time very soon. In the interim we may lose access in some key areas.

- if not licensing, registration or compulsary membership of some group (AKSA?) so that we have a way to reach all kiteboarders to keep them aware of safety issues, etc.

This may be required at isolated launches. Again if something like this were to occur it would have to be enforced by the retailers. Most would not be excited about the loss of business this policy would encourage until most businesses required it. Dive shops weren't excited about requiring dive certifications. Eventually they had no choice IF they wanted valid insurance. So they changed.

- discussions with councils/governments about erecting warning signs to keep the public away from certain beaches or at least warn them of the risk of standing directly underneath/downwind of kites. (Yes, this risks bringing this issue up with council before it may otherwise have, but if you think it won't come up later you have your head in the sand - at least if we go to them we can work together rather than them banning us before we know what happened)

In Florida, we recommend putting up and taking down basic launch signs along with traffic buoys to mark out launch areas. Having a dialog with the beach authorities in advance of this is necessary of course. Encouraging riders to use the designated launches may contain some of the problems. Also some peer pressure may be brought to bear on problem riders. It is also encouraged to give kiteboarding and rescue orientation sessions to beach rescue personel. Retailers are encouraged to provide free/discount lessons and gear discounts to rescue personel. Getting a few of them hooked on kiteboarding should only help the cause of maintained access.

- designated beginners beaches/zones

This is a good idea. Areas with low populations of other beachgoers and hazards are ideal. Of course the number and accessibility of such areas will vary widely around the world.

- designated beginners times at certain beaches (with coaching from the experts when they are not out on the water).

Working within time periods is already done to some degree in areas where afternoon winds go off, exceeding the abilities of many new kiteboarders. Such areas aren't particularly common worldwide however. It is a good idea for more populated launch areas.

Keep the flow of ideas coming. It may take a lot of involvment to preserve much of our access to ride in the more populated areas.

Rick Iossi


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: RickI on 2003-01-21 01:14 ]</font>


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2003 1:09 am 
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Location: Los Angeles, California
I also am greatly concerned about the future of our sport. If it's banned where I ride, the next nearest beach is too far away, so I'd either have to move, or go back to windsurfing.

I agree that kite leashes are extremely important, since a runaway kite has much more potential for damage than most people (even many kiteboarders, unfortunately) realize. It certainly doesn't help when nearly every photo in every magazine shows leashless riders, although the leash on some of the best new systems is nearly invisible (visually & functionally, which is how we like it).

We've formed a local association (http://www.scka.org) with reps for each beach, to act as liason to the authorities. Our current project is lifeguard education, with respect to safely handling runaway kites & riders in distress, without causing a hazard to the lifeguards or the public.

Many of the other ideas mentioned have merit. One other thing I do myself is keep a log of all the hours I spend on the water, so in the event of an accident, I can show a record that I've ridden here safely for 885 hours (my current total). I'm likely fooling myself, but I'm hoping this could help show that it's the rider at fault, not the sport.


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