It was a sad sight for kiteboarders and windsurfers.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, a crew gathered to roll up the protective carpeting that covers the Squamish Spit during the windsports season. Volunteers talked about the great winds this summer as they reluctantly packed up the gear at one the most popular kiteboarding destinations on Canada’s west coast.
“Sept. 15 is the official last day,” said Denham Trollip, who manages the watersports site for the Squamish Windsports Society (SWS). “It opens again on May 15.”
The non-profit SWS holds liability insurance for the Spit to protect the Crown and District of Squamish against damage, loss or injury; without this indemnification, access to the Spit would be banned. The society is constantly improving safety and organization at the point. This season that included the purchase of two new jet skis to conduct rescues and ensure kiteboarders and windsurfers don’t enter the Squamish estuary, Trollip said.
“There are constantly improvements being made,” he said. “It is a game of catch-up, given the popularity of the sport and the number of members.”
In 2015, SWS membership jumped by a head count of 158, to a total of 788 people. The Spit saw 6,747 users – including members, non-members and kite school students – over the sport’s four-month season. SWS staff rescued 734 people from the water, clocking 140 staff hours on the jet skis.
With the jet skis now out of the water and staff long gone, people are not technically allowed to kite or windsurf at the Spit, although Trollip said he knows many still do, and many were on the water again this past weekend.
Trollip would like to see the windsports season granted an extension by the District of Squamish for the protection of the estuary and the athletes themselves.
“We are constantly trying and hoping to change that,” he said, noting a six-month period would be more realistic. “It is turning into a safety hazard.”
Windsurfer Martin Goetsch agrees, adding there needs to be more flexibility in the decision making. While Goetsch said he realizes the current timeline was set to avoid disturbing nesting birds, the schedule could be organized in a similar manner to the way climbing is limited at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park when falcons are nesting. Goetsch would like to see the ban specific to the exact nesting weeks, rather than a blanketed approach.
“It would be nice to have options to have the season extended when the weather is good,” he said.
As it stands, on hot days on the shoulder of the season, people get out on the water whether the Spit is staffed or not, Goetsch noted. No one manages the site, the washrooms are closed and there is no garbage removal, leading to unwanted consequences, Goetsch said.