Creative interpretation of the Sportkite Rulebook
Before I dive into the rulebook, let me begin with personal opinion. I believe that at the beginning of every season the AKA should publish a list of banned music (STACK and AJSKA could publish it too, but it might have different songs). The list would include all the songs that are so overworked, overdone, overplayed, and overused that we’re all sick of them. It’s one thing to see someone fly the same ballet to the same annoying tune at four or five events. But when the same person uses the same song the next season, or a different person picks the same bad music the next year, the cycle begins anew, and I feel like reaching for my shotgun. So here, in my humble opinion, are songs that should face mandatory retirement from kiting…
1. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
2. “Superman” theme (for the love of all that is holy, would someone please buy Captain Eddie’s Flying Circus a new CD?)
3. anything from “Lion King” (the next person who uses “Circle of Life” should be strung up with 250# Black Death line).
4. anything more than two years old by Danny Elfman (“Batman”, “Nightmare Before Christmas”, etc.)
5. anything featuring chicken clucking (Alex Mason, give it up!)
6. anything from “Toy Story”
7. the United Airlines theme music
8. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (Charles Stonestreet, we’re talking to you!)
9. anything featuring Muppets (I’m guilty here, and I promise to quit)
I invite you to e-mail your suggestions for the Banned Music List to me at email@example.com, and I’ll pass them along in future issues.
Now, let’s start with the assumption that you’ve picked out your flying music. Enough has been said about doing that, and I have nothing to add. But what form does it need to be in when you give it to the Field Director? Ideally, you’re using a single unedited track from a CD. Take a piece of paper, and write on it (for example), “Phil Broder, Experienced Individual Ballet, Track #1 Mambo I, I, I”, and slip that paper between the plastic jewelbox and the cover artwork so that it’s clearly visible. That’s it, you’re done.
If you’re not using one song from a CD, you need to make a tape (yes, you can make your own CDs now, but why are you spending all that money on high-end stereo gear and computers when you could be buying more kites?). This really isn’t hard. Personally, I make a lot of mix tapes for my friends, and I’m pretty good at splicing bits of songs together with just a well-timed finger on the PAUSE button. Practice a few times. You can make it nearly seamless if you try. Also, keep an eye on the REC LEVEL meter on your stereo. If you record at too low a level, your tape will be inaudible outdoors on a windy day. Too high a level, it’ll sound like the speakers are about to blow up. Try to keep the recording level between –3 and 0 on the meter. Finally, put a label on both the tape cassette and the plastic case. This is your competition tape, and that’s the only time you should use it. Now make another tape for practice; just record your music over and over and over so you don’t have to rewind.
The rulebook specifies that your music should be one seamless piece. I don’t believe that this rule was intended to eliminate the use of tapes, or to force you to buy professional editing equipment. The intention of the rule was to stop flyers from mixing varying styles of music; in other words, don’t start off with 90 seconds of classical, then segue into two minutes of techno dance music. If you’re using two different parts of the same song, I don’t think that a reasonable judge will score you down for an audible half-second gap on your tape. But that’s just what I believe, and until someone tries it in competition we’ll never know. There’s already been lengthy debate on this topic, and believe me, it ain’t over yet.
The rulebook also specifies that music must be no more than four minutes for individual ballet, five minutes for team. You probably know how to run a stopwatch, so timing the music shouldn’t be difficult. BUT… unless you’re using the same stopwatch that the field director will use, don’t cut it too close. Not every watch is the same, and the song that is barely legal at 3:59 will get you an improper ending when the field director’s watch says that it was 4:02. I’ve seen this happen. At Grand Haven in 1997, I called John Barresi out of MQB when he flew past the 4 minute mark. I’d seen him fly the routine before, I knew that he thought is was less than 4 minutes long, and I knew that he was moments away from being done, but the stopwatch said 4:00, and as the field director I had to be fair and stop him. Sorry, John, I didn’t want to do it, but if you dance close to the edge sometimes you fall off.
If you’re like me, your music collection includes plenty of potentially good kite songs. No need to limit yourself: pick three! You’re allowed to turn in three tapes or CDs, for different wind conditions. Clearly label them as LIGHT WIND and HEAVY WIND, or something that obviously tells them apart. You don’t have to choose which one you intend to use until you enter the competition field. All you need to do is tell the field director which one to cue up. Since most flyers now have light wind kites and regular kites and vented kites, you’re opening up a world of possibilities. If you’re wavering between your light and regular kite because the wind is right on the edge, why not fly the regular kite with the light wind music? Or the light wind kite with the heavy wind music? Cheating is all about options, people.
For teams and pairs, a visit to Radio Shack will acquaint you with radios. On the field, teams are allowed to use two-way radios to communicate amongst the flyers. They may not use them to communicate with ground crew on the field or coaches on the sidelines. Also, they must not interfere with field communications; if you’re radio is identical to the field director’s, and you’re all on Frequency B, you’ll be calling maneuvers to the sound tent. But for big teams, high winds, or noisy area, radio communication is a good way to make sure the whole team is on the same page.
As a field director, I was exposed to team radios for the first time recently at Ocean Shores. This presented me with two problems. First, I had to be aware of which ear the flyer had an earpiece in, and which ear they could hear with. It doesn’t do much good to be giving flyers instructions in their deaf ear. Second, it was sometimes difficult for me to be sure when the flyers were talking to each other or to me. Flyers from Wind Wizards and Valli Boyz said things that sounded like “Out”. I guessed that they weren’t actually finished, and since nobody complained, I’m guessing I made the right call by not calling them out. But flyers, beware of the potential for accidents. Be safe, like Eric Wolff of the Chicago Fire: land the kite, turn around to face the judges, and shout “OUT!”
A quick word to the economical flyer: stop buying batteries. If you’re using radios or a Walkman, you’re probably going through batteries quickly, and sometimes they die five minutes after you get to your flying spot. Get a battery charger and two sets of rechargeables. Keep one set of batteries in the Walkman, and the second fully-charged set in the charger in your bag.
Now, despite the best CDs, radios, batteries, and sound systems money can buy, things will go wrong, usually halfway through your ballet routine. Good cheaters never let someone else’s mistake hurt them. Typically, there’s a sound system malfunction: a speaker stops working, a switch gets bumped, someone trips on a cord and unplugs the whole thing. If the music completely stops after you’ve started, it will be fairly obvious to everyone, and a re-fly is automatic. Sometimes, though, you can’t hear the music clearly even though it’s playing. If it’s too loud, it distorts. Too soft, and you can’t hear it enough to fly to it. If one speaker fails, you may not be able to hear it clearly, or you may lose parts of the song altogether. Talk to your field director! Most volume problems are easily solved in a matter of seconds, and you’ll be expected to continue flying. If you feel that the problem is so bad you can’t continue, keep flying while you ask the field director if you can have a re-fly. If the field director tells you to keep going, fly your routine all the way through, call OUT, and immediately protest to the head judge on the panel. This is like any court case; you start small in the county courthouse before you plead your case to the Supreme Court. But be forewarned: if the problem lies in your poorly-recorded tape, expect no sympathy.
So recharge those batteries, dust off those CDs, press PLAY, and prepare to cheat at the speed of light. Sometimes it’s not how you fly, but who has the best woofers and tweeters.
Next issue: Know No Boundaries
Phil Broder is a soon-to-be Masters Class flyer and soon-to-be winner of the “American Kite Magazine” Rising Star Award.
As a kite flyer in Iowa, he has only recently got hooked up to that newfangled electricity stuff.
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This issue of Kitelife was produced by Mike Gillard/Quicksites Webstudio.