The government in Belgium decided to FORBID kitesurfing at more than 6Bft.
Bft – what is that? Bft is something called the Beaufort Scale (Beaufort Wind Force Scale to be exact), so a 6Bft means a strong breeze between 22 – 27 knots (39 – 49 kph or 25 – 31 mph). If you need a more graphic version to understand this speed – 6Bft is when trees begin to bend with the force of the wind. Telephone wires will make whistling noises.
7Bft is when large trees sway in 28 – 33 knots and there is a moderate gale.
This new ruling came in last week and feathers are being seriously ruffled. Control an extreme sport that is considered to be the epitome of freedom?
I have not been able to find a copy of the new kitesurfing regulations, but apparently the government have also set an exclusion zone of 200m from the shore – this will from now be a no kite area. I suppose one should ask – how will a kitesurfer get 200m off-shore?! If you’re an entrepreneur in Belgium, now’s the time to invest in a rubber duck to transport people out there! Although there is probably a ban about launching from anywhere near a beach so that’ll be shot down in flames too.
Beginners will also have to wear a helmet with red lycra and advanced riders yellow lycra.
As one kiteforum participator says “Thankfully the Belgians and Dutch have a healthy disrespect for the millions of extraneous rules they are saddled with. I suspect it will end up being discretionary – only d*ckheads will get fined and the authorities have their arses covered.”
However, the debate is going to rage across the kitesurfing world…
The fear is that other governments will think… “what a good idea” and thus the controlling of kitesurfing worldwide might happen. THIS IS NOT the right way to a better and safer kitesurfing future!
As Ricki on kiteforum intelligently remarks “Freedom entails a lot more than just doing what you want, it means doing it with sufficient responsibility to where government doesn’t feel compelled to step in to tell you what to do. Picking an arbitrary maximum wind speed like 28 kts. is short sighted, shows a lack of understanding of the sport and weather for that matter. On the same token, those that do understand the sport, (us), we should take effective steps in building awareness to try to avoid severe accidents that prompt this sort of panic government response.”
And he’s right. The reason why the Belgium government has stepped in with these panic measures follows the fatal accident last year of an inexperienced kiter who was killed after the wind increased drastically in a short period of time from 15-20 knots up over 25-30.
But is this the right reaction?
It is probably true to say that more restricted kite zones will result in MORE crowded beaches and MORE ACCIDENTS. It is a pity that people with no knowledge or understanding of a sport can put in place draconian laws which will be extremely difficult to police – unless their cops are now going to carry wind meters?
What happens if you’re out there in 5Bft winds and it picks up? How are you meant to know it’s gone above a 6? Are you going to have to carry a wind meter too?!
If you feel strongly enough about this issue and would like to support the Belgian kitesurfers you can SIGN THE PETITION HERE
As one new Zealander succinctly says: “Jeez I would be upset if someone from here made up something like that, they would be disowned by the whole country and sent into exile.. no shit!”
And a UK kiter says: “If this happened here I would just ignore the ban and continue to kitesurf and ask for no ones help. Its a ridiculous law that is un-enforceable and the Belgium goverment will realise this in due time.”
It is a bit bizarre that kitesurfing has been singled out above all others because of the tragic death of one person. Is it only a matter of time before Belgium imposes restrictions on all other sports? It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they target the cycling crowd!