QUESTIONING THE AMERICAN SUPPORT OF KITESURFING
By Nevin Sayre, U.S. Sailing member
Every event chosen for the Olympics has a pathway from young kid to Olympic champion. Every event, that is, except kitesurfing, which has now been selected as the board event for the 2016 Olympics.
Kitesurf racing has no such pipeline. As an avid kitesurfer, windsurfer, sailor, US Sailing member, and also someone who has been very involved in youth sailing development, I am eager to hear US Sailing explain their decision to support kitesurfing for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The ISAF General Council voted 19-17 to overrule the recommendation of their own their advisory group and include kitesurf course racing in the Games. This decision comes at the expense of windsurfing, which is easily one of the two most popular classes at the Games, and has a huge junior pipeline.
ISAFs own Events Committee and Windsurfing/Kitesurfing Committee, which held an ISAF sponsored equipment evaluation, did not recommend kiteboarding over windsurfing for the 2016 Olympic Games. If the experts didnt support kitesurf racing, why did US Sailing place their three votes (more than any other country) in favor of kitesurfing?
So now that the U.S. is in support of kitesurfing, how do they intend to build the pipeline? What is US Sailings plan to safely include kitesurfing into Junior Sailing Programs, the Olympic Youth Development Team, Youth Worlds Team, the Junior Olympic events, and all the pathways that leads to the Olympics?
There are over 110 reported kitesurfing deaths in the last 10 years. That should be compared with an excellent safety record in windsurfings 40 year history.? During a time when US Sailing has expressed deep concern over the sudden uptick in tragic sailing deaths from coast to coast, what is US Sailings safety plan here? Is US Sailing aware that insurance companies, citing grave safety concerns, have refused to cover sailing programs which include kitesurfing? Can you see kitesurfing at your junior program and/or sailing club?
Kitesurfing is evolving, and the very small percentage of kitesurfers who race, are clearly on the cutting edge. I welcome inclusion in the Olympics when the safety, equipment, logistics, and formats are ready. When instructional and competitive programs are developing young kitesurf racers, and safely channeling them toward their Olympic dreams, let’s go. We are clearly not there yet for 2016 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, even the validity of the ISAF vote is being questioned. The President of the Royal Spanish Federation (RFEV) has issued a formal apology that their ISAF vote was wrongly placed for kitesurfing over windsurfing, and the RFEV supports the process to overturn the vote. The President of the Venezuelan Federation has informed ISAF their Venezuelan countryman (who voted for kitesurfing) did not represent the judgment of their Federation. The Chairman of the Israeli Federation is quoted in Reuters: “The delegates were probably confused or didn’t understand the motion fully because of language difficulties, or some may have been napping at the presentations and then cast their votes without realizing the implications.” Whatever conditions enabled kitesurfing to prevail in the first round of balloting, there are compelling reasons for the issue to be put to a proper vote.
Im concerned the USA doesn