Kite surfers fly in the face of public criticism
By DAWN COHEN
KITE surfers may fly like the wind, but that does not mean they are out-of-control hooligans, according to Byron Bay kite-surfing devotee, Mike Andrews. The president of the Australian Kite Surfing Association was responding yesterday to NSW Maritime fines of $550 for kite surfers who fail to observe safety rules. The new measures were unnecessary, he said. "We have been keeping track of accidents since our association started four years ago," he said. "We have never heard of a third party being injured in Australia." Injuries were few, the former geologist said, and it was generally the surfer who was injured. Ash Woolley, who kite-surfs the Ballina-Lennox area, smashed into the Ballina wall three years ago, sustaining injuries that kept him out the water for six months. "I rigged the kite wrong. But nobody can do that nowadays because they have changed the rigging to foolproof connectors," he said. Kite surfing was invented by the French seven years ago and involves a kite powering a small board. Since then more than 1000 Australians have become enthusiasts. Mr Andrews does not deny that an accident involving a bystander could occur, but he argued that other water sports were more dangerous. "I have been injured by a guy letting go of his surf board, and lots of other people have too," he said. "Whether we are swimming, surfing or kite surfing, we have to be adult about this and share the waterways. We must be respectful of the other person's rights. Generally, there should not be too much of a conflict. "Swimmers prefer calmer water, surfers need wind- less weather, and windy days are what kiters go for."