Know No Boundaries
Please. If the story ended there, I’d be out of a job, not to mention a lifestyle. Because, dear reader, we cheat, so there has to be more.
Rule II, Section B, of the new International Sport Kite Handbook, states that “…any competitor flying their kite(s) or moving their body over the designated boundary shall be disqualified….” As cheaters, we love semantics, so the key word there is “designated.” Keep that in mind.
What is a boundary? At most competitions it’s a rope or plastic tape strung between posts, delineating the flying area. The rulebook suggests that in a perfect world that boundary would be 360’ on each side, with an inner perimeter marked off 10’-30’ inside of that, and an outer perimeter 15’ outside of it The inner perimeter is designed to be like baseball’s warning track; a line judge stands on the inner line, and warns the flyer when the kite/flyer crosses it. The central line is the actual boundary; cross it and you’re out. The outer perimeter provides a buffer zone between the field and the spectators.
But that’s in a perfect world. . Since here in overdeveloped America we can only dream of spaces that large, a typical field is 300’x300’ with no inner or outer perimeters. Spectators come right up to the boundary, and a semi-untrained line judge may be snoozing about 10’ inside the line.
So let’s go back to our favorite word, “designated.” A good cheater always attends the pre-flight meeting where the chief judge goes over the boundaries. Boundaries may be hard, soft, or mushy (perhaps this is why there are more men in kiting?), and can change during the day.
A hard boundary is fixed, solid, unwavering, the Berlin Wall of boundaries. I recall a story about George Peters losing a single-line kite at a festival in Israel, and watching it drift down outside the festival boundaries. As he went to retrieve it, a soldier stopped him. The kite had landed in a minefield. That, folks, is a hard boundary. There is no way to cheat on a hard boundary, so don’t even try. Of course, there’s one exception: tails. For Open Team Train events, tails are allowed to cross the boundary. Kites can’t, only tails. Try it; it’s harder than it looks.
A soft boundary usually occurs on a low-wind day. The judge may say that the north boundary is soft and all others are still hard. That means that you or your kite can cross the soft boundary line only. Take advantage of this. If the wind is light, set up your kite as far away from the back line as possible. At one typically windless day in Kalamazoo, Jim and Jeff Poi — the Aviators — set up their kites in the next county (well, maybe not quite that far, but one judge did request binoculars) and finished their ballet with their legs touching the hard rear boundary. Use whatever space you’re given.
Mushy boundaries are more rare. One example would be a body of water; three boundary lines are clearly marked, and the ocean is the fourth. Chances are you don’t want the kite in the water, but if you need it, it’s there. As a rule, however, don’t expect the judges to follow you into the surf. Also, keep the tides in mind. During the morning meeting, what looks like a lot of open sand for you to use may be underwater four hours later. A different kind of mushy boundary was set up by Eric Forsberg at a west coast event last fall. Eric said that all boundaries were hard below 10’. In other words, you could fly anywhere, but if your kite threatened a spectator you were gone. Cheaters, of course, were prepared to use that space if they needed it.
You can use the boundaries to your advantage with a few simple tricks. As you’re coming onto the field, make sure to fly the kite back and forth, and ask the line judges to indicate how close to the line you are. Mark off a line in the sand, or drop your hat, or leave some sort of warning device that shows you the point you absolutely can not cross. Chris Moore of Wind Wizards always makes a line in the sand to show his teammates their stopping point. Think of it as the point where the minefield begins. Also, by using the line judges to help you, it wakes them up and shows you what kind of signal they’re likely to give you.
For low wind competitions, learn to do a good 360, and know where the kite will be at all stages of your circle. I know that if I run a 360 from a certain starting point, the kite will stay inbounds and I’ll gain 50’ of field. And if you can throw in a loop or two over the judges’ heads, you’ll get a rise out of the crowd. In addition, bear in mind that if you’re out of room to move backwards, you can still give your kite some extra lift by moving sideways.
Learn to listen to the field director. As you get close to a boundary, he or she should be telling you how far you have left. If you don’t pay attention, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself. I once disqualified a flyer after repeatedly warning him that his kite was right on the boundary and he should move back toward the center of the field. He ignored me, flew over the line, and in the middle of his final compulsory figure I DQ’ed him.
Many events now require flyers to walk their kites on and off the field. That’s right, you can be called out for flying out, and called out for flying in. The idea is that for safety’s sake, a ground crew should carry your kite onto the field, and back into the pit. Personally, I think it slows down competition, and some events don’t use that rule, but it’s another thing that the chief judge will cover before competition begins. To make it easier for myself, I usually just set my kite up a few feet inside the boundary as the competitor ahead of me finishes, then I can step onto the field, pick up the lines, and fly to the center. (And, if you’ve read previous columns, I’m also setting up my spare kite and lines just inside the boundary at the same time.) Be careful, though. Once you fly your routine and the adrenaline is flowing, remember to walk the kite back off the field. I nearly disqualified myself at the 1997 Grand Nationals for almost flying off the field; to the anonymous flyer who shouted at me just in the nick of time, thanks.
So, fellow cheaters, look, listen, and learn, and you’ll never be out of bounds again.
A quick note: to the list of Banned Music, one reader suggested anything by Jon Williams. That would cover “Star Wars” and a lot of other movies. I heartily agree.
Next issue: Victory through consistent mediocrity