By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – It’s been nearly a year since the Miami Beach City Commission voted to allow kiteboarders beach access to continue their sport. Residents in Miami Beach wanted laws to regulate kitesurfing, citing safety concerns for those on land.
In November 2017 following an accident the community was scrutinizing the sport. “It’s a safety issue,” Miami Beach Ocean Rescue Chief Vincent Canosa said. “A lot of people who live in that area have been impacted with the kites and the kiteboards. It’s a dangerous situation when you can’t go in the water because these kiteboards are going by you.”
In consideration, the Miami Beach Kiteboarders Foundation introduced three guidelines to the city council. Kiteboarders must stay at least 200 feet from the shore, 50 feet away from swimmers and cannot fly their kite over the beach unless launching or landing.
Since then, kitesurfing is prohibited south of 24th Street and between 25th and 29th streets. Only experienced, level three kiteboarders can surf in designated areas and out of swimming zones. All beginners are required to take lessons on 76th Street at The Kite Shop, the only business in Miami Beach with a permit to teach kitesurfing.
Rapidly growing in popularity, kitesurfing has become a difficult to manage issue amongst city officials and sport enthusiasts all over the world. The New York State Office of Parks and Recreation has banned kitesurfing from all 14 miles of its public beaches. Some popular tourist areas in Australia, including Bondi Beach, have prohibited kiteboarders in the water. In 2011, kitesurfing was banned from Hobie Beach in Miami.
Kitesurfing has been elected by World Sailing as one of ten sailing events in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The International Kitesurfing Association Formula Kite Class is the only series kiteboarders can compete in for an Olympic bid. Kitesurfing made its Olympic debuted last year in the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
Although considered to be a green sport, kitesurfing can cause ecological disturbance in the environment. Coastal areas are utilized by millions of birds as homes, migration routes and for breeding, according to the Global Kitesports Association. Human activity drives birds away and prevents them from accessing food, breeding and ultimately, survival.
The Global Kitesports Association says it is unclear if the kite itself is a threat to a bird but speed, movement and visual volume create disturbance. The initial launch into open water can disrupt the environment but from then on, the remainder of the action occurs in deeper water where there are fewer birds.
The Red Bull sponsored King of the Air kitesurf competition came to a close last weekend in Blouberg, Cape Town, South Africa. The event ran from January 26th to February 10th. 30-year-old Kevin Langeree of the Netherlands won his third King of Air title, beating out Jesse Richman of Hawaii and Liam Whaley of Spain.