According to the Dutch Kitesurf Association (NKV), the number of practitioners has tripled in ten years from 5,000 to 15,000 (2017 figures). Zeeland has a number of hotspots where not only Dutch players ski, but also Germans, French and Belgians in particular. Growing crowds are a concern among ecologists and ornithologists. They see migratory birds being chased away, especially by kite passengers who go outside the indicated boundaries and thus scare the birds.
One of the most visited places in Zeeland is Oesterdam near Tholen. Sometimes, crowds force surfers to use more space than is permitted. Last fall, the place was very crowded because the site was also becoming more and more popular among our southern neighbors and dozens of kite surfers came to Oesterdam from Belgium.
Everyone uses nature here
Mark Gorter of NKV has a kite surfing school in Oesterdam. He is aware of the complaints of bird lovers and nature associations, but he does not share the opinion: “It’s not entirely clear that birds are being chased by kites. See who uses nature here. Even the Air Force Base in Woensdrecht uses space.
According to Forester Paul Begijn of Natuurmonumenten, more consultations should be made with the kite community. A beach sign in Krabbendijke clearly states that kite surfing is prohibited. “However, the winds happen to be favorable for this part and kite surfers are still blowing into the water here. A little later there is a frog wintry area, intricate sandpoints and oysters. These birds are disturbed.”
Looking at what is and is not possible
Beggen notes that enforcement is minimal and so the tool builders themselves should be called in. The forest ranger believes that surfers’ needs and possibilities within National Park Oosterschelde, the Natura 2000 area, should be considered jointly. He also points to the Delta Waters Management Plan, which expires in 2022: “Then we can evaluate and adjust what is not going well.”
Mark Gorter also confirms that NKV is committed to engaging in consultations with governments and stakeholders. “But don’t forget that Zeeland is a province where water sports are of the utmost importance. So it should still be attractive for kite surfers to come here. As mentioned, the sport is growing, and there are many kilometers of coast on Oosterschild. Give us more space!”