Winds of War
Kitesurfing's soaring popularity has Windsurfers flipping out
This is an article from the April 23, 2001 issue
On a cloudless day in Maui, 20-mph winds blow across a strip of
sand the locals call Kite Beach. Standing at water's edge, Marcus
(Flash) Austin, a tanned, muscled Floridian, holds two lines
leading to a giant orange-and-yellow kite hovering 90 feet over
his head. A gust lifts the kite, and the kite lifts the board
strapped to his feet five feet off the sand and down again onto
the sea. From there, Austin zooms out to sea, and when his board
hits even the smallest wave, he soars as high as 25 feet. "It's
like flying," says Austin, 25, "like Superman."
Until a few years ago Austin was one of a pioneering few to
kiteboard (or kitesurf) off Maui's shores. Today he is the
top-ranked competitor in what is probably the world's fastest
growing--and most controversial--water sport. Some 50,000 kites
will be sold across the globe this year (in 1998, 10,000 were
sold), and 34 events are scheduled worldwide. (In '98, there was
one, with beer as the first prize.) There are purses of up to
$50,000 and TV coverage.
Yet the sport's rapid growth may be short-lived--and not because
kitesurfers commonly get dragged across jagged reefs or sliced up
by their lines, or sustain impact injuries like broken ribs. In a
fighting spirit that recalls the eternally noxious snowboarder
versus skier rivalry, Windsurfers and other anti-kiters are
railing against kiteboarding as a menace to beachgoing society,
not to mention an infringement upon traditional windsurfing turf.
Prey to fickle winds, kites can crash without warning into crowds
along the shore, and the long kite lines sometimes entangle
As a result, kiteboarding has been banned on many beaches in
France and virtually every lake in Switzerland. (So much for
Swiss neutrality.) On Maui's North Shore kitesurfers are confined
to waters upwind of a sewage treatment plant. The segregation has
created a fragile truce, but the resentment lingers. In December
a Windsurfer, Dane Barnhard, cruised into the kiteboarders'
region in Maui and ran over Austin as he lay in the water
following a jump. Austin suffered a six-inch gash along his shin,
and though Barnhard has not been charged, Maui County prosecutor
John Tam says that he is reviewing whether to bring a charge of
felony assault before a grand jury.
That incident is only one sinister threat to the sport. Equally
menacing are the town meetings in Oahu and other places where
bitter residents continue their push to get kiteboarding banned
entirely. Says Donnel Nunes of the Hawaii Kiteboarding
Association, "We're one bad crash from the end of the sport."
Gucci Goes Overboard
If you're looking to make fashion waves, has Gucci got a
surfboard for you. For a mere $2,100 (pastel blue) or $2,400
(bright red), you can hit the beach with the latest from the
international design giant. And hey, Brad Pitt has one.
So what do you actually get for your dough? The new boards have a
fiberglass coating, a foam core and detachable fins--all of which
make them about as cutting-edge as a Slinky. Gucci has begun
selling the boards at stores in Los Angeles, New York and
Honolulu at about three times the price of a top-of-the-line
board like the Channel Islands. If you still choose to take the
plunge, the Gucc-meisters throw in a free black canvas surf bag.
(That'll come in handy in case your beach companion wants
something to put over his head lest he be seen with you.)
Olympic gold is no halfpipe dream for 15-year-old snowboarding
prodigy Shaun White (above). With his No. 5 ranking in the
International Snowboard Federation (ISF) standings, he is a
strong candidate to earn a spot on the U.S. squad for Salt Lake
City. "He already rides like [boarding legend] Terje Haakonsen,"
says rider Xavier Hoffman. "And he's only going to get bigger
and stronger. Then he'll really start to kick our asses."...
By finishing sixth at the Boston Marathon, Rod DeHaven became
the first American to land in the top 10 since 1994....
In the ongoing mystery of whether George Mallory and Sandy
Irvine--and not Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing
Norgay--were the first to summit Everest, one man believes he
has the answer. "Not a chance," Ang Tsering Sherpa told London's
Daily Telegraph last week. "They might have got close, very
close, but there is no doubt in my mind that they died on the
way up, not down." The 98-year-old Ang Tsering, who accompanied
Irvine and Mallory as far as Camp Three before parting ways with
the English climbers, is the lone living member of the ill-fated
Hillary was released from a Kathmandu hospital last week after
being treated for high altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially
fatal disease that causes swelling and fluid buildup in the
lungs. The 81-year-old Hillary was in Kathmandu to dedicate a
new children's ward at a hospital.
Long before the race begins, each entrant in the Marathon des
Sables, the seven-day, 124-mile trek across the Moroccan desert,
has to make a down payment on his own funeral. Article 20 of the
Rules and Regulations of the Toughest Footrace on Earth requires
participants to pay a "corpse repatriation fee," an undisclosed
portion of the $2,600 entry cost. If you die during the race,
organizers will fly your body gratis to France. Alas, it costs
extra to bring a corpse back to the U.S. C'est la vie.
Average number of homes (in millions) that tuned in to USA
Network's Eco-Challenge coverage April 1-4. That figure pales
beside that of, say, Survivor, Eco-founder Mark Burnett's more
famous TV show (27.7 million), but it did top ESPN's Friday night
NHL telecast (283,000) and both NBA games televised on TNT that
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com. Check out these
--High Gear: our guide to climbing and hiking gear
--Trail Guide: complete U.S. national parks info database
--The Next Big Thing: teenage snowboarder Shaun White
A globetrotter and his nemesis duel in a 2001 cyberspace odyssey
Few tell a tale as bloody riveting as Robert Garside, who during
his four-year quest to make the first solo run around the world
has, among other indignities, been pelted with stones by Indian
villagers and detained in a Chinese prison as a suspected spy.
As of Monday the 34-year-old Brit claims to have covered 30,000
miles and 30 countries during his Homeric odyssey, all of it
breathlessly chronicled on his website, www.runningman.org.
Tracking Garside's every step, it seems, has been ultrarunning
enthusiast David Blaikie, whose sometimes incendiary, always
incredulous musings on his website, home.nstn.ca/~dblaikie/,
dismiss Garside's quest as mere globe-trotter fiction. In
addition to his own muckraking screeds ("Cheating Okay with
Guinness Book of Records," "Has Anyone Seen Garside Running?"),
Blaikie has furnished numerous accounts from other (mostly
British) media sources that also cast a suspicious eye on
Garside. The runner stands by his story (though he's
acknowledged stretching an occasional truth), and Guinness
officials are confident that after they vet his saga, Garside
will have easily eclipsed the previous distance running record
of 11,134 miles set by the U.S.'s Sarah Lovington-Fulcher in 1988.
Faces and Feats
Clint Jones, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Clint, 16, jumped 87.0 and 89.5 meters to win the Junior
National Ski Jumping Championship on March 25 in Park City. He
also competed in five World Cup events this season and was the
youngest competitor at the February world championships in
Jessica Royer, Big Lake, Alaska
Royer, 24, was named Iditarod Rookie of the Year for her
14th-place finish in the 2001 Iditarod Dog Sled race, which
covered 1,161 miles from Anchorage to Nome. Royer also tied for
the fastest time from Safety to Nome, the last leg of the 10-day
Fenya Crown, Lakewood, Wash.
Crown, 88, ran the Rome Marathon in seven hours and 29 minutes.
The great-grandmother of six has completed 11 marathons--her first
at age 70--despite a decadelong fight with breast cancer. She is
believed to be the world's oldest active female marathoner.
Submit Faces candidates to siadventure.com/faces.