Congratulations to us! We have been noticed by the Wall Street Journal and even captured a front page spot today. Unfortunately, the article talks about turf wars with windsurfers and some kite incidents as much as anything else. Newpapers do like a controversial "hook" in their articles AND turf wars and accidents served in this case. I hope that future articles have to scratch harder for the negative accounts and have to be satisfied with telling the great aspects of our sport.
Kiteboarders Grab Wind, Waves
>From Angry Windsurfers in Baja
By JOE BARRETT
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
LA VENTANA, Mexico -- Just feet off the shore of this dusty Baja
fishing village 1,000 miles south of the border, windsurfer Travis
Brownwood recently collided with the future.
Actually, it landed on top of him.
"I didn't see the guy," says the 25-year-old native of Bend, Ore., who
has camped here for the past eight winters. "It came right down on me.
It hit me and my gear right into the water."
Mr. Brownwood had been struck by a half-moon-shaped kite attached by
100-foot lines to a young man who was about to step onto something
that looks like a snowboard. It's called a kiteboard, and it's the
latest thing in wind-powered water sports.
Though he was unhurt and the student kiter was apologetic, Mr.
Brownwood says he ranted at the student's instructor. "It's a big lake
out there," he says. "It's a big ocean. That there are problems like
this, it's just disrespectful."
Kiteboarders are landing on the world's best windsurfing beaches,
setting up a big water fight. About two years ago, two kiters briefly
closed down a busy windsurfing spot in Hood River, Ore., by stretching
out their lines end to end as they prepared to launch themselves.
After that, local authorities limited where the kiters can launch.
Similar tussles in Maui resulted in Hawaiian kiteboarders relocating
to a beach by an airport. On the Caribbean island of Aruba, the heads
of the four local windsurfing centers got together last year to lay
down the law: Kiteboarders are allowed on the water only before 10
a.m. and after 5 in the afternoon, except at one beach. "You can't mix
them, and that's all," says Roger Jurrien, owner of Roger's Windsurf
Place on Aruba.
It isn't just that the kiteboarders' long lines take up more space at
launch sites and on the water. Or that the kiteboarders can be
dangerous to themselves and others.
What really galls windsurfers is how easy everything seems to come for
kiters. It takes years to become proficient at windsurfing. That
sport, which involves sailing on a modified surfboard, requires
strength and great skill because the boards are unstable at low speeds
and the sails are heavy. In less than a season, kiters can be flying
five to 10 feet above the water, twisting, turning and flipping -- and
sometimes even landing back on the boards strapped to their feet.
Experts can soar 50 feet into the air, glide gently back down to the
water and head out for more.
Windsurfers have spent years finding beaches, negotiating for launch
sites and cleaning up trash to create campgrounds. Now the kiters are
moving in, with their odd contraptions and gut-wrenching moves.
"Kiteboarding is mainly just to get some air, just to do some jumps,"
says Mr. Jurrien. The sport lacks the technical expertise, the years
of knowledge, required of windsurfing, he says. "You're hanging onto a
kite. That's the bottom line. Guys that do it a long time, they'll get
bored with it."
The kiters see things differently. "It's the pinnacle of board
sports," combining elements of skateboarding, snowboarding,
windsurfing and surfing, says David Tyburski, director of New Wind
Kiteboarding Schools here and in Hood River. "It's the culmination of
everything good from every sport, blended with a whole new dimension."
Invented in France about 10 years ago, kiteboarding made it to North
American shores about five years later. Like snowboarding for the ski
industry more than a decade ago, it is being hailed as the key to
reinvigorating an industry that had aging demographics.
But here in Southern Baja -- a string of small windsurfing and
sport-fishing resorts and campgrounds running down the coast of the
Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas -- some windsurfers feel
that they are being sacrificed for the industry's resurrection.
While kiteboarders generally launch themselves above and below the
long-established windsurfing campground where Mr. Brownwood stays, the
two sports share the same water. "It's too anarchic for me," says
Christine Knowles, 56, of Hood River, who has spent the last four
winters here and has been windsurfing for 20 years. "You look at those
lines and you know you could lose a nose or an ear."
The most serious accidents -- or "kitemares" -- have involved kiters
hurting themselves. Last month, a kiter just above La Ventana was
lifted into the air and slammed onto a rocky beach, seriously injuring
his back. Last winter, another kiter was dragged across the beach in
front of the campground, striking a boulder and shattering his nose.
Both accidents involved inexperienced kiters in situations they
couldn't handle, says Mr. Tyburski.
Windsurfers are keeping a wary eye on the newcomers. Art and Judy
Phemister sat one recent afternoon sipping Dos Equis beer on their
beachfront campsite. They drove 2,000 miles from their home in
Underwood, Wash., to winter here. With potluck dinners, volleyball and
windsurfing, "it's like summer camp for adults," says Mr. Phemister,
60, who works part time at Northwave Sails in Hood River.
Initially, the kiters didn't pose a problem, says Mrs. Phemister, 58.
They sailed only in light winds and tended to launch downwind of the
campground -- and they stayed downwind. Now, as kiters get better at
working against the wind -- and sailing in higher winds -- they are
making their way up to the campground and heading out on days when
windsurfers once had the water to themselves. "As they get better,
they'll want more and more challenges," she says.
While a few kiters have stayed in camp, and even some of the old
windsurfing hands have tried kiting, an undercurrent of tension
prevails. "There's a kind of proselytizing attitude," says Mr.
Phemister. "Kiters want everyone to be kiters."
He'll get no argument from Keith Adams and Rondi Ballard, staying down
the beach at Baja Joe's, a small hotel that has become a haven for
kiteboarders. One recent afternoon, they sat, toes in the sand, by an
open-air bar that has a "Got Tequila?" sign, while they waited for a
Mr. Adams, 42, is taking a year off from serving as chief financial
officer of a string of high-tech companies in San Francisco. He had
been a windsurfer for eight years when he tried kiting last May during
a trip to Sonora Bay, Mexico.
"I got hooked the second day," he says. "I was out in the water with
no board. And pretty soon, I'm 15 feet in the air. How many sports can
a 42-year-old say on the second day, 'I felt like a teenager'?"
He has made his windsurfing friends an offer: He will arrange a
weekend of kiteboard training. By Monday, he figures, they will be
ready to sell their windsurfing equipment -- most have several boards,
booms, masts and a complement of sails for various winds. On Tuesday,
they can sell their SUVs, because they won't need a big rig to haul
their kiteboards around. They are still considering the proposal.
"I drive a BMW 323," says Ms. Ballard, a 32-year-old digital artist
from Los Angeles. "It's this little sports car, and I can get all my
gear in the trunk."
Two seasons ago, windsurfer Michelle Koff, 50, of Sebastopol, Calif.,
came close to losing an ear when she helped a kiter relaunch near her
winter beach house just south of here. As she struggled to untangle
the lines, the kite suddenly surged to life, ripping off an earring
and leaving her bleeding. The retired telecommunications and
computer-science specialist, who windsurfs about 10 months a year at
various spots between Hood River and Baja, was put off by the sport
after that. "That was the first time I felt the power of the kite,"
She has steered clear of kites on the water. Until, that is, a few
weeks ago, when a kiteboarder offered her a ride on his back, just to
give her a taste of the sport.
And so she found herself wading into the water and hooking her
belt-like windsurfing harness into the kiteboarder's gear, holding
onto his shoulders and wrapping her legs around his waist. Almost
instantly, the kite pulled the pair out of the water and sent them
skittering across the surface of the sea.
"It was a hoot," she says. She isn't selling her windsurfing gear, but
now she can see kiting in her future.
"I called my husband and said, 'I've gone to the dark side.' "