March 26, 2015
Kiteboarding businesses contend with
what some term 'unfair' competition
By CATHERINE KOZAK
owners on Hatteras Island already have to contend with unpredictable
weather and periodic road issues, but local kiteboarding businesses say
unfair competition may be also undercutting their bottom line.
it is mostly done under the radar, some out-of-town companies have been
sub-leasing large houses to groups and offering kiteboarding workshops,
meals made by an “in-house” chef, and participation in classes and
other activities without paying occupancy and sales taxes or permit
Terry Burns, owner of Blowkite, a Buxton business that
sells kiteboarding lessons, camps, and gear, said that when interlopers
essentially set up shop for the season without obtaining insurance,
licenses, permits, tax identification numbers or even work visas, not
only is the traveling public unprotected, the local businesses are
“They come down here with gear that all of us sell,” Burns said. “I’m in business - this is not a charity.
I didn’t have overhead, or pay taxes,” he said, “or if I was making
money renting the houses out, then, sure, I’ll make you a deal.”
who opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, has brought the situation to the
attention of local officials and the state Department of Revenue, but
so far nothing appears to have changed.
“None of those groups were shut down,” he said. “There’s tons – at least a dozen – coming this year.”
groups have advertised online, he said, but others rent large houses
and pay the fee upfront. Then each person in the group pays the renter
directly, rather than dealing with the real estate company, which is
kept in the dark.
The Pamlico Sound off Hatteras Island is
renowned as one of the best kiteboarding areas in the world. Many of the
groups that rent the houses are from northern states or Canada, and
they come in the spring and fall when the Outer Banks winds and
conditions are good for kiteboarding, and the area is still
uncrowded. But some also come in the summer.
online sites advertise kiteboard camps on Hatteras Island, offered by
businesses based in New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island and Canada.
Holly Austin, operations manager for
Hatteras Realty, declined to comment specifically on situations where
people were reportedly making money charging extra for rooms. But she
said that guests at rental houses are not allowed to sublet.
we are aware of a leaseholder that is in violation of the terms of the
lease,” she said in an e-mail, “we will take the steps allowable by law
to correct the situation or remove the reservation.”
office of state Rep. Paul Tine, who represents Dare County, told Burns
that his concerns were shared with the Revenue Department, which in
turn said it cannot divulge any information about investigations.
office believes that all of your reports have been investigated,” wrote
Tine’s aide Katy Kingsbury in a February e-mail to Burns, “and most of
the businesses were found to have been operating properly under the
In other correspondence, Dare County Board of
Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard told Burns that the county tax
collector will attempt to collect whatever occupancy tax is due.
Ty Luckett, a veteran Hatteras Island kiteboarding
instructor, said the practice doesn’t just hurt the kiteboarding
“The real estate companies are getting crushed and
the restaurants are losing out,” he said. “Everybody here –- we
have a seven to eight-week window to make a living.“
who also does commercial fishing, said that outside instructors cut
into demand for his skill and undermine the value of his experience and
local knowledge. Even his business model of trusting people’s word has
bitten him lately, he said, with last minute cancellations costing him
an entire week of work.
“This is probably the best place in
the U.S. to kite and teach,” he said, “and they’re not using our local
resources. Everybody is losing out – it’s not just kitesurfing.”
Nygard, general manager of Waves Village Watersports Resort, says
he understands the frustration the local kiteboarding professionals
feel toward outsiders trespassing on their turf and skimming off their
But he also sees it as a symptom of the “growing pains of the industry.”
not taking it lightly,” he says. “Yes, it impacts us. But the best we
can do is provide a superior service and the sense of community. In my
honest opinion, that’s the best way we can counter it.”
who has been in the industry since 1999, said that Waves Village, an
offshoot of Kitty Hawk Kites, has eight certified instructors, four Jet
Skis and four boats that are used at its soundfront school. The
business has a concessionaire’s permit, a business license, commercial
liability insurance and pays federal and state taxes.
on Hatteras Island has come a long way since the early days of
windsurfing back in the 1980s, and kiteboarding has become a huge draw
for the island.
“On one side, I think there will always be
people who organize trips and rent houses,” Nygard says. “People like
to hang out with like people. “
On the other hand, he added,
it’s hard when everyone is pressed so thin to keep track of all the
activities and rules in a resort atmosphere.
will more than likely not be enforced – that is just reality,” Nygard
says. “I don’t think the state of North Carolina has that on the top of
its to-do list.”
George Pare, owner of True Progression
Kiteboarding in Rhode Island, said that his company had planned to rent
a house from a local realty company this year to hold an event, but he
said he decided to cancel after questions were raised with him about
the rental arrangement, and there seemed to be no easy answer for
incorporating the additional fees.
“I would love to
contribute,” he said. “It would be great if there was a way for us to
do so (but) I don’t want to do anything that hurts anybody in any way .
. . I wouldn’t want to negatively impact local businesses.”
Progression had been offering a package that included costs for
kiteboarding, yoga sessions, chef-cooked meals and a room at an Avon
“It really is more to go down there and have a
retreat,” he said, “to bring a group, with a package and have an
inclusive experience. We were hoping for healthy food, an all-over
balanced experience, meeting people.”
The “rent” included all
costs for the retreat. If they hadn’t advertised, he said, no one would
have even noticed, since people routinely split costs in the large
houses. And the rental companies probably would be fine about it.
“I think generally,” he said, “if they don’t know about it, they don’t feel they need to do anything.”
said that kiteboarders have long pooled their resources, with one of
them fronting the money, to rent houses together, and the Outer Banks
is a premier location for the sport.
“It is really a wonderful
place and it’s a great place to go if you want to go on vacation,” he said.
Pare said one reason he wants to continue teaching the sport here is
that he knows the area well from having visited so often over the
Although he is still mulling over working with the
established companies to bring a kiteboarding group to the island, Pare
said, he doesn’t want to be dishonest and try to slip in under the
radar with accommodations. He would love to work it out on the
Outer Banks, he said, but he also does not want to lose control over
“I’m just trying to see if something fits,” he
said. “The only way I’d want to be involved with anything on the Outer
Banks is if it was mutually beneficial to the local community and to
myself and my students.”