Friday, January 4, 2002

A kite-surfer and windsurfer competing for space in waters off Kailua Beach Park illustrated the conflicts that can arise.

Wave rage on maui
gets court’s attention

A windsurfer allegedly sailed into
a kite-surfer and faces charges

By Gary T. Kubota

KANAHA, Maui >> Many surfers, bodyboarders and windsurfers in Hawaii are familiar with "wave rage," when crowded waves sometimes lead to fights in the water and flattened tires in the parking lot.

Art But throw a new wrinkle into the mix -- kite-surfers -- and there is an added potential for conflict, especially on Maui.

A confrontation in the water spilled over into Maui Circuit Court Wednesday, when a windsurfer was told by a judge to stay away from Kanaha Beach after he allegedly sailed deliberately into a kite-surfer.

Dane Barnhard, 54, of Wailuku is charged with second-degree assault against professional kite-surfer Marcus "Flash" Austin, who required nine stitches in his shin. Barnhard's trial, stemming from the Dec. 20, 2000, incident, is scheduled for March 18.

"Instead of coming to his aid, the defendant wanted to pick a fight with him," said County Deputy Prosecutor Melinda Mendes. "He was yelling at the person to stay out of the water."

Mendes said Barnhard has a "problem with kite-surfers" and was heard two weeks prior to the incident saying if he had a chance, he would get any of the kite-surfers.

County aquatics official Marian Feenstra said the alleged incident was the exception, and there are designated times and places for windsurfing and kite-surfing at Kanaha.

But windsurfers and kite-surfers say the increasing number of people on the ocean creates potential for conflicts, especially on the Valley Isle.

"It's been happening on Maui since the very beginning. There's always been hostile waters," said Carol Naish, president of Naish Hawaii Ltd., a windsurfing business on Oahu.

"It's really crowded. They've got tens of thousands of people coming."

At Kanaha, Naish said, kite-surfers have been given a small section of beach, and their sport is growing tremendously in Europe and is only beginning to emerge in Hawaii.

On a good day, about 300 windsurfers and kite-surfers are in the ocean, mainly along a 1-mile stretch at Kanaha.

Kite-surfers use a large parafoil kite to catch the wind and power through the water. Waves are used as jumping ramps, propelling them and their boards into the air.

Windsurfers and kite-surfers tend to be more aggressive in maneuvers in Maui waters, where the sports are popular and attract world-class athletes, observers say.

Ocean users say many visitors are unfamiliar with county rules about when and where they are allowed to windsurf and kite-surf, and some lack the level of skill to control their direction.

"The wind directions also change more on Maui," said Laurel Eastman, a kite-surfing instructor.

Eastman said at Kailua Bay on Oahu, there is less of a conflict because there are fewer windsurfers and kite-surfers in the ocean, and many of them are residents.

"When you mix up people visiting who don't know the rules of the road, things can flair up," said Mark Sarver, a Maui windsurfer and surfer.

Windsurfers and kite-surfers say they do not know if the alleged confrontation between Barnhard and Austin stemmed from the typical conflicts that develop in overcrowded waters.

Austin has lived on Maui for several years and won several awards in world kite-surfing competitions.

Barnhard has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree assault charge. Both he and Austin were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Judge Reinette Cooper has released Barnhard on the condition that he not contact Austin or county lifeguard Jay Sniffen, not possess any firearms or ammunition and not go within 100 yards of Kanaha Beach.

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