Ben Barger on Windsurfing & Kiteboarding in the Olympics

After further study of ISAG regulations and submissions regarding the decision by council determining windsurfing and kiteboarding, I have conclusions and recommended actions for ISAF.  I’ll first state that I believe kiting has a very good future in the Olympics and this shouldn’t be intended to take away any of the great qualities of Kiteboarding.  Herein lies in what I believe was an error in ISAF to correctly situate both windsurfing and kiting in the new regulations that it had just adopted.

My observations & assumptions:

1. The Olympic Commission strategy changed regulations in ISAF’s Nov 2010 annual meeting (submission 96 & 97) that should have prevented it from just carelessly selecting or removing events or equipment.   It is found in regulation 23, and in summary sets the overall criteria and also how to select: new events, new equipment or retain or evolve equipment.

2. The Olympic Commission recommended in submission 97 that Board-Sailing be 2 core events in the Olympic program. Board-Sailing was defined as either windsurfing and/or kiting equipment.  Windsurfing and Kiting are actually much different events from each other not just on equipment. This was the fundamental flaw in the submission and what caused most of the errors in evaluation and selection process. In this submission the Olympic Commission also suggested that 470 be mixed. That eventually was overturned due to a very heated debate but it clearly defined what the Olympic Commission intended with 470 it didn’t do that with windsurfing and kiting, it just lumped them together to determine later.

3. In May 2011 meeting many submissions could have fixed the problem of selecting windsurfing and kiting as the same event. But that wasn’t any concern because equipment evaluations from choosing it as simply different equipment meant it would be decided at a later date and didn’t concern most council members, keelboat and 470 did though and drove councils debate. The submission  M10-11 was selected which still put windsurfing and/or kiting as different equipment under the same event, this logic was based on the original submission by the Olympic Commission. Continued failure.

4. By putting kiteboarding and windsurfing as simply equipment changes under the same Board-Sailing event, it allowed council to make the decision by at latest Nov 2012. The only criteria in Regulation 23.1.3 it needed to fulfill is, “New Equipment shall only be selected following Equipment trials or other evaluation against the specified criteria”

5. There were no equipment trials done for “board-sailing” as that would have been ran in similar fashion as the ones done for Multihull and women’s Skiff.  So it instead made an “evaluation against the specified criteria”  My biggest question is what was that specified criteria?

6. In November 2011 it was decided by council to: “On a proposal from Chris Atkins, seconded by Pablo Masseroni, Council approved the recommendation from the Events Committee that a small and specialist evaluation team be appointed to look at the format and event management implications for kiteboarding”  I believe that this was the “specified criteria” and technically fulfilled the regulations in my point number 5 above. This clearly wasn’t intended to make a decision of the equipment difference between kiting and windsurfing but the format and event management implications of kiteboarding alone. I will add that only kite boarders attended that evaluation, and it should be noted I wasn’t allowed to attend upon specific request. The reports were constituted by mostly interested parties.

7. If kiteboarding and windsurfing were treated as separate events in the original submission in november 2010 council may have not approved the overall strategy and the template for events and rejected both 96 and 97.  Which leads me to believe that it was considered ok collateral damage to remove the loser (windsurfing or kiting) if it could get the overall strategy passed, even though both were considered very strong sailing event candidates. Windsurfing checks all the boxes as set out in the regulations. Kiting does too in almost all categories. This 2010 decision set the domino effect for the next year. Submission M10-11 from Japan kept that theme going.  I believe that this was a unique problem created by trying to change so many events in such a short period of time due to a new strategy and lack of capability of council.

8. If windsurfing and kiting are separate events, which I strongly believe they are, it should have been decided in November 2010 and May 2011 as a submission against all other events in a submission list of ten events just like every other event.  By forcing windsurfing and kiting  together in the same event it showed absolute ignorance on behalf of ISAF of it’s understanding of the two sports.  If kiting would have beat windsurfing in this scenario then in May 2012, it would have gone to equipment evaluations and format evaluations for determining outcome. Instead ISAF just selected everything all at once this May 2012 in one evaluation, which made it select the Event and equipment and format all at once.


By not understanding correctly what the differences are between windsurfing and kiting

ISAF assumed they were the same event. Windsurfing and Kiting were the only events put together like this and clearly shows the lack of understanding by ISAF of those two much different events.  They don’t know what types of sports they have in their own Olympic program.

Any equipment evaluations must be done by uninterested parties and published to council for approval prior to the evaluation.  The evaluation that did occur for kiting actually selected a new event, and equipment and format all simultaneously. This should have been through a process spanning 2 years under selecting a “new event”

November 2012 should address the concerns regarding the process by which Council came to their vote for windsurfing vs kiting so that these catastrophic errors of application of regulations don’t relapse.  Every sport event and equipment deserve a fair, balanced, transparent and thought through process before decisions like these are passed. Windsurfing and kiting should not be positioned against each other and has caused both events to come in to disrepute because of these failures.

Council is made up mostly of interested parties and typically vote for interests of national interest and should be prevented from voting on issues that concern a global strategy, including all events and equipment.

If ISAF really wants to stay in the Olympics, then it needs to ensure that athletes interests with complete cooperation of all parties are transparently managed and transitioned properly.  Saving the sport doesn’t mean changing 40% of all the events, while not advancing the rest of the strategy  at the same pace.  Leadership must continue to work much harder and smarter on World Cup structure and other commercial aspects geared to secure revenue for the IOC as set out by the Olympic Commission report before it changes the lives of so many sailors.


Make a submission of what “evaluation against specified criteria” and “equipment evaluation” are defined for selecting of any equipment. Make part of ISAF regulations.

Make a submission that clarifies the definition of an event and equipment and how those categories are assigned. Make part of ISAF regulations.

Make a submission that outlines why windsurfing and kiting are different events and shall never be placed into the same event category again.

Make a submission for additional athlete rights and participation as set out by the IOC AC recommendations and further amend bylaws, regulations and constitution.

by Ben Barger.  Ben Barger is chairman of ISAF’s Athletes’ Commission, and 2008 Olympian. You can find out more at

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