Kiteboarders push for designated zone at Spanish Banks

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      Simon Kent wants his fellow kiteboarders to feel welcome when they visit the beach in Vancouver.

      The president of the Squamish Windsports Society is pushing for the creation of a designated area for the sport at Spanish Banks. Kiteboarding—in which a kite and a small board are used to sail across the water—is banned at city beaches by the park board.

      “We just felt it was a real tragedy that on a day in July, where you’ve got a nice wind that just happens to be the right direction…that we weren’t allowed to go down and to do this sport,” Kent told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      The society has submitted a formal proposal to the park board outlining its vision for the kiteboarding zone. The idea is to mark off a stretch of shoreline approximately 60 metres long year-round where kiteboarders can launch and land without coming into conflict with other beach users. The area would be bounded by caution signs; it would not be open to beginner kiteboarders, and safety rules would be in place. Kiteboarding activity at the site would be infrequent, the society argues, because Vancouver sees relatively few days during the summer with good wind conditions.

      “It’s not one of these things where we’d be out there every day, fighting for space with the sunbathers,” said Kent, a Vancouver resident.

      The park board has shown interest in the society’s proposal.

      In late May, board commissioners directed staff to look into the feasibility of creating an approved public area for kiteboarding at Spanish Banks.

      “Instead of sending a person home saying, ‘Hey, no kiteboarding,’ how do you make it so that it works for everybody and is done in the safest way possible?” board chair Sarah Blyth told the Straight by phone.

      “Hopefully, it’ll happen as soon as possible, which may be this summer,” Blyth said.

      Although kiteboarders already use Vancouver beaches in spite of the ban, a park board official reported few problems.

      “What we know is that the kiteboarders have been very respectful of the existing bylaws, generally speaking,” Sean Healy, supervisor of aquatic services, told the Straight by phone.

      Kent said kiteboarding is a safe sport that’s likely enjoyed by hundreds of people in Metro Vancouver. He welcomed the park board’s interest in the society’s proposal.

      “It gives us optimism that we’re going to be able to be kiting [legally] in Vancouver, and it shows us maybe more of a mainstream acceptance of the sport.”