As you crest the hill you can see whitecaps all across the lake, it must be solid 9M weather at least. Anxious, you can feel the adrenaline start to rush as you get closer and closer to the beach. The same beach you have frequented for the past seven years. It is a rather nondescript beach, but it is perfect to kite from, easy access to the water and you can kite from South-west-north wind. The best part is that it is an hour from the city so you can make it there after work. As you get to the beach you don’t see a single kite in the park, strange you think. Yet there is a large group of kiters gathered in front of the park, the group is discussing the no kiteboarding sign
Unfortunately this is not a fictional story, this just occurred to a kitesurfing beach north of Toronto in Georgina, Ont. The beach has been closed to kiting. To learn from this and protect your beach from being closed down here is some of the history that brought us to this point.
Two years ago the local kiters started discussions with the local ward councilor for the area who was getting complaints from the residents that whenever it was windy they could not get into the park as it would be filled with kites, and that these same kiters would park everywhere in a frenzy to get to the water. The kiting community came up with some rules that we all agreed to, and ran them by the town and local ward councilor. It seemed to make sense for everyone. The rules were pretty simple. They were to keep the kites on one side of the park. Don’t rig more kites than you are using. Do not lay your lines out unless you are ready to launch. And park courteously. Over the course of time the local kiters, who became known as the grumpy guys on the beach, would try to educate other kiters on the rules. They would move kites that were up against the kids’ swing sets, and would gather up lines that were left laid out. We became known as the grumpy guys, as we attempted to police the rules and protect the park that is 10 minutes from our homes. In the end we failed.
On a windy day, kiters would show up... park wherever they could (and get ticketed as the neighbours called the town), then blast into the park. They would ignore the rule that said use one half of the park only as locals would attempt to communicate to everyone that the beach would be closed if rules were not followed. The park which is 100 feet by 150 feet would have 40 kites on it... kites and lines everywhere! A mad rush as people trying to get their kiting fix. It seemed inevitable that the town would close us down.
Behind the scenes, the local residents kept calling their councilor, who lobbied the local parks department and ultimately they were successful in getting kiting banned from this beach. A few lessons were learned here, the biggest one is that you can not assume you have rights to a beach. They can be revoked instantly.
Most kiters are very reasonable, but few take the time to read rules when they reach a beach in a frenzy. What is the biggest change each of us can make when we kite? ASK ABOUT THE RULES WHEN YOU SHOW UP.
As one of the grumpy kiters who tried to protect his local beach (and failed) I can tell you that I must have told the same story hundreds of times. About 50 per cent of the time kiters ignored the rules, stating that it is a public beach and I have no power to impose rules on them... after all they have just driven an hour in brutal traffic to get here, and the last thing they want is someone telling them they have to follow some rules.
Contrast this with when a new kiter shows up an asks the rules. There is no confrontation, they are eager to kite, but don’t want to mess up kiting for themselves or anyone else. These kiters, once the rules are explained are the same kiters that now help educate others on why the rules are there and encourage others to follow. This also eliminates any contention with the locals riders who again, tell the same story hundreds of times a weekend. These new kiters tend to be welcomed in quickly and we get back to what we all enjoy, which is kiting.
None of us like rules. We love the beauty and adrenaline rush of kiting, but we need some self-imposed rules or the local residents will police us with a less than desired result. So the simple learning is ask the rules when you get to the beach, be proactive in your community and help other kiters to do the same. This way we can stop more beaches from being closed.
Tell us what you think.