Just in time for summer, the Vancouver Park Board will soon review a decade-old bylaw that prohibits kitesurfing, canoeing and other water sports at the city's beaches.
Stephen Codrington, a kitesurfer and beach-access director for the Squamish Windsports Society, helped set the review in motion after contacting the park board last summer. Commissioner Niki Sharma, on behalf of chair Sarah Blyth, will introduce the motion on May 27.
Most local kitesurfers call the Squamish Spit B.C.'s best place to kitesurf, to its ideal wind conditions, Mr. Codrington said. But the majority of the Squamish Windsports Society's members, who live in Vancouver, had lamented not being able to enjoy their sport at home, where it's not allowed between the Victoria Day and Labour Day weekends.
"We thought it was a shame," he said. "It's not a common thing, for the right wind to fill in those summer months, but it feels like a crime against West Coast living when we can't get at it [when it does]."
He contacted Ms. Blyth in August and was pleasantly surprised at her receptiveness, he said. The two connected through phone calls and e-mails and, in the fall, Mr. Codrington met with park board staff on a local beach to tell them about the sport and make his case.
"He showed us the kites, and kitesurfing, and told us about some of the safety features that have changed over the years," Ms. Blyth said. "You don't really know these things until someone tells you."
Kitesurfing – which employs a kiteboard, similar to a wakeboard or small surfboard, and a large kite used to harness the power of the wind – is seen as a combination of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and gymnastics.
Ms. Blyth likened the amendment of the bylaw to the creation of a bike polo court that opened in East Vancouver in 2011, believed to be a world first.
"I'm always open to new sports," she said. "The [bike polo space] was quite easy; we just added a few feet to a sport court and there it was. When people come forward with different kinds of sports, and they're having issues, we have to think about how we're going to do this so we can accommodate these people."
It is believed the bylaw was put in place out of concerns over conflict of access and potential safety concerns – issues that could be resolved with designated areas and posted guidelines, Mr. Codrington said.
The motion will focus specifically on Spanish Banks, the westernmost stretch of English Bay beaches, chosen for its conditions. Ms. Blyth has also asked staff to look into the possibility of allowing canoes – also specifically mentioned in the bylaw – to launch in that area.
"The biggest surprise has been how progressive the park board is," Mr. Codrington said. "I have just been pleasantly surprised with the progress we've made through this winter, and how rational, logical, progressive this whole conversation has been."