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Squamish Windsports Society wraps first season with boat shuttle

The organization will need a more powerful boat once further demolition of the road takes place. Public-use water sports beach to come in about a year.

The Squamish Windsports Society recently wrapped up its first season with part of the Spit demolished but it lost several hundred members between the 2021 and 2022 seasons.


Olivier Corbeil, the director of community relations for the society, said the society lost over 250 members from the 2021 to 2022 season for various reasons.

"Last year, we had 881 members and we did 683 rescues over that season. This year, we had 623 members and a similar number of rescues," he said in an email to The Squamish Chief.

"COVID didn't help, of course, with foreigners coming in," he said in an interview, adding that many international kiters couldn't come to Squamish as usual. 

"Also, with the uncertainty of the access this year, we lost a lot of people coming from further away."

The deconstruction of the Spit is led by the Squamish River Watershed Society. The first deconstruction began in January 2022 after a long process of getting approved. The hope is that removing the road will help repopulate a diminishing salmon population by helping them reach the Skwelwil'em Squamish Estuary Wildlife Management Area more easily from the Squamish River.

There is currently about a 300-metre gap between the current end of the road and an island where the windsports society members launch  from. At low tide, there is a small land bridge between the end of the road and the island. But with a quick moving tide, the bridge doesn't remain for very long and is, therefore, unsafe to cross on foot.

Weather permitting, Corbeil said they operated a daily boat shuttle from May 15 to Sept. 15. The shuttle would help members or those who bought a daily pass to get to and from the island to launch. The society also operated two jet skis to help with rescues.

"In 2021, our single pass membership was $180 and it was increased to $280 for this season to cover additional costs of running the shuttle," he said.

Looking ahead to the 2023 season

With an additional 550 metres of the Spit scheduled to be demolished upon approval, Corbeil said the society would need a larger boat to shuttle for the next season. 

But, Corbeil said they are looking into grants and partnerships to keep costs as affordable as possible for members.

"We know we have to buy bigger boats, there's no doubt about it," said Corbeil.

Corbeil explained that the boat would need to be more powerful to handle the river currents as they could only operate on the river side because the water would be too shallow on the estuary side.

Corbeil also worked to dispel the impression of some that the windsports society is against the environment.

"We're all about saving the salmon and just anything in the ecosystem."

But, he added that waiting to see how the estuary and the Squamish Terminals are affected by the partly deconstructed road may give a better understanding of what continued deconstruction may do.

"Is there a better solution for everybody to win in here?" he questioned. "Including for the fish."

A spokesperson for the Squamish Terminals sent an email to The Squamish Chief stating they were still assessing the data from the Spit Road removal so far and, therefore, it was too early to comment on the impact. 

The review is looking into the safety of sea navigation, sedimentation transfer, shoreline stability and structural stability of the wharf.

Beyond the 2023 season

The Oceanfront Squamish development at Sp'akw'us Feather Park has two public access beaches, one meant specifically as a launch for water sports.

The scheduled completion of the park and beaches will be in "late 2023," said Taylor Wood, the director of operations for Matthews West. This completion will be after the end of the windsports society's season. 

Corbeil said they were not planning on it being used for the 2023 season, but rather into the future.

Wood explained that the sports beach would be 78 metres across at average tide. Yet, Corbeil said there were some possible concerns about the size of the launching area for kiteboarders.

"Having been there this summer, one single kiteboard … takes the entire beach," he said. "It's essentially going to be one person out or in at a time, which is going to become very, very tricky."

For that reason, Corbeil said it may be easier to keep kiteboarders on the Spit side.

Wood said the sports "beach was designed with direct input from representatives of the Squamish Windsports Society."

"[W]e maintain that the intent of the sports beach will be to serve wind sports users as an additional launch point to help them access the winds that take place closer to the Spit."

Additionally, the director of planning for Matthews West, Carlos Zavarce, said 50 parking spots plus five pick-up and drop-off spots will be available near the park plus "hundreds of surface and underground parking spaces" when the site is fully complete. Before site completion, there will be more surface parking available on undeveloped land.


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