Issue 39: 2004 Spirit of Kiting Award (KSOK)

For the first time ever, we at Kitelife felt it important to create a special award to recognize one kite flier each year for their ongoing contributions to the kite community and most of all, for their unique spirit and effect on the kiting community at large… Their “Spirit of Kiting”.

It is our hope that by bringing this individual’s achievements to the attention of the kiting world, he or she will provide the kind of example (to others) that best exemplifies those qualities of generous spirit and character we most admire in our fellow fliers. It is also our hope that this recognition will inspire others to follow in their footsteps, thus improving our sport and the lives of those who are touched by it.

While we are an American based internet magazine and thus have a closer perspective on our part of the world, nominations were also welcomed and considered for people from any country worldwide.

Many factors and characteristics are considered when determining the recipient for this award…

  • Activity in the community through volunteering time, running workshops and organizations.
  • Those who have pioneered or made innovations within kiting that have affected our community profoundly.
  • Generosity above and beyond the call of duty in ways which enhance kiting for all involved.
  • Someone who is still actually FLYING kites, who is on the field and participating, either as a performer or regularly for fun where they can inspire others.

Most of all, and highest on our list of considerations, is the way someone might glow with spirit in such a way as to change the dynamic of kiting simply through their very nature and energy… Someone who has the ability to bring growth and joy to those who come in contact with them, through no concerted or specifically conscious effort to do so.

We enlisted a hand-selected panel of 5 renowned kiters from all over the USA, most of whom have been very active in various committees, festivals, and other facets of kiting, both single and multi-line, familiar with enough individuals and groups within kiting to fairly consider each nominee.

[twocol_one]Troy Gunn

Al Stroh

Deb Lenzen

Steve Santos

Bill Rogers[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Texas


North Dakota

Rhode Island


While we received nominations for nearly a dozen fliers, one name came up far more than the others and was seconded by the majority of our panel members:

Hailing from Vancouver BC, Canada, Ray started flying in 1980 and began flying multiple kites around 1984, he has been an innovator since very early on in his flying career.

Using his own special handmade handles, he is best know these days for flying three sport kites simultaneously both as a competitor and international performer… His renown is such that he receives on average, over two dozen invitations a year to kite festivals in 12 different countries all over the globe including the USA, Europe (UK, Germany, France Italy), Asia (Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan), South America (Columbia), Australia and New Zealand!

Among his many accolades, Ray was a team competitor and Canadian representative in the very first Sport Kite World Cup in Seaside Oregon during 1990 as well as the following year in Bristol UK.

One of the things that makes Ray really stand out on the field is the fact that whatever festival he attends, he is out there all day… Flying, sharing his experience with others and speaking with spectators.  Even in difficult conditions, he is a dedicated showman and almost always has all three kites in the air.

Rumor has it that over 4 million people watched him perform his magic in 2001!

A multiple world record holder, his first attempt at an endurance record at Long Beach WA in 1991 saw him fly his two kites simultaneously for 4 hours 19 minutes, then in 1992, at the same event in Long Beach WA, he established a new World Record, flying three kites simultaneously for 5 hours 42 minutes… Not satisfied with that, he went on to fly three kites simultaneously for 8 hours and 42 minutes in 1993… Then in 1994 he went on to surpass his previous record yet again by setting the current official World Record of flying three kites simultaneously for 12 hours and 12 minutes.  In addition, Ray also set the record for flying 3 stacks of 4 kites each (a total of 12 kites) for 2 hours and 41 minutes in 1997!

Having received 10 “People’s Choice” awards in 10 consecutive years at the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach WA, they recently honored him by naming the award after him in 2004… At the same event, he became the first sport kite performer ever to be inducted to the World Kite Museum’s Hall of Fame!

Now in his late 70’s, the most remarkable thing about Ray is not all of the awards he has received… But rather the very presence that he has on the field.  The entire time we’ve known him, he’s had a way of touching people and bringing them into his show, moving them, inspiring them, and creating an audience out of thin air… The consumate gentleman, he even refers to his kites as his “ladies”.

Over the last few years he has become almost completely deaf, and now flies purely by the vibration of his music… An excellent lip reader, Ray has taken this in stride and continues to deliver the excellent performances he is well known for.

It is his unique spirit and perseverance that has earned him this award, his infallible and unpretentious influence on the people around him, truly bringing a light into their eyes and leaving them with a lightness in their step… Helping other’s spirit come to the surface.

Thank you Ray, for all you have shared with the world… And for being an ambassador of kiting.

For video of Ray flying, look here:

If you would like to read even more about Ray Bethell and his amazing adventures, visit his web site: