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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Kitesurfers fear UK's first ban
By Malcolm Prior
BBC News Online, Portsmouth

A kitesurfer
Kitesurfing has split opinion in a seaside town
It is one of the fastest growing extreme sports to hit UK waters in recent years.

But the kitesurfing phenomenon has divided one small seaside community.

The row between kitesurfers, residents and golfers on Hayling Island, Hampshire, has reached the point that local councillors are now pushing for powers to ban the sport.

Members of Havant Borough Council want the government to bring in a new by-law that will enable the authority to bring the kitesurfers back down to earth.

They have acted amid concerns that members of the public are being put at risk from out-of-control kites.

The beach
The kitesurfers say safety is a priority
Residents have also expressed anger at their treatment by visiting kitesurfers, who have been labelled as abusive and aggressive.

Committee members of the Hayling Golf Club have been active in pushing for an all-out ban.

The club owns a stretch of seafront on the island but has allowed the public to continue using the beach.

The "duty of care" the club owes to beach-users could see it held liable under their insurance if any injuries occur there, says secretary Chris Cavill.

We are not yobbish surf bums
Kitesurfer Phil Elborough
He told BBC News Online: "The official line at the moment is that we cannot afford to take the risk.

"Kiteboarders per se we have no problem with.

"They are attractive to look at and they do not interfere with the golfers. But the problems are with people landing and taking off.

"If there is a gust of wind or the person is inexperienced they often cannot control the kite and they tumble out of the sky.

A kitesurfer
If the ban were brought in, it would be the UK's first
"We have had incidents when people have been caught in the head or shoulder."

Hayling Island has seen the numbers of kitesurfers using its waterfront increase over the past two years.

The Hayling Kitesurfing Association estimates there are about 140 regular users of the beach, attracted to the area by its sand bar and good winds.

At its peak, the association sends out newsletters to around 600 people.

'Responsible adults'

Chairman Phil Elborough, who also owns a local kitesurf store and has been a kitesurfer for the past four years, said: "If someone is actually kitesurfing on the water, going along, they are in total control.

"If they were not they would not be able to do it.

"In two years of busy kitesurfing in Hayling - and that is 365 days a year - there have been no accidents involving a member of the public and that's partly because we are self-policing.

"If you arrive on the beach as a new beginner we spot you immediately and we are straight onto you, making sure you know what you are doing.

"I know all of the people down there. We are not yobs - most of us are middle-aged guys with kids.

"You need 1,500 just to kit yourself out, that means you have to have a proper job.

There's no by-law nationally and no other local authority has brought in a ban on kitesurfing
Tim Slater, council spokesman
"We are not yobbish surf bums. What I am trying to say is that we are responsible adults."

So confident is he of the kitesurfers' safety record that he said: "As a club we are willing to pay the increase in the golf club's insurance.

"I do not know what it would be. If it was within our grasp we would be quite happy to pay for it."

But at the moment the future for kitesurfing on Hayling Island remains uncertain.

So far two committees on the borough council have passed resolutions calling for the ban to be put in place.

Decision to come

It now has only to pass through a meeting of the full council before official calls are made to the Home Office.

The council's acting director of community services, Tim Slater, said: "At the moment the council could put up advisory signs on any activity there but could not enforce them.

"What the by-law would do is give legal power to the authority. It would make it an offence to kitesurf in the area the by-law applied to.

"If the council passes the recommendation, there will be quite a long process.

"There's no by-law nationally and no other local authority has brought in a ban on kitesurfing."

A meeting of the full council will decide in July as to whether to push the government to bring in the by-law.



Wind puts kite-surfer in spin
30 Apr 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Surfers put safety first
04 Jan 03  |  England
Kitesurfer crosses Irish Sea
06 Sep 02  |  Wales

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