With so many competitions and festivals around the country, Kite Party was created with the idea of a more laid back environment in which fliers and kite makers could show up without it being “work”, giving them the opportunity for more socialization and leisure flying rather than running around doing demos and judging all the time.
After hearing so much from fliers who attended last year, a trip was in order to see it for myself… Predominantly smooth winds, good weather, many of the best sport kite fliers and kite makers in the country can be found in Huntington Beach, California every year for this annual Kite Party put on by Dave Shenkman and the Kite Connection.
Thursday, February 10th
Catching a direct and uneventful flight from Portland, Oregon down to John Wayne (Orange County) International Airport early on Thursday morning, I had arranged to meet up with one of my fellow Northwest fliers, Wynne Lincoln-Rowsen outside the terminal around 9am… Arriving right on time, Wynne assisted me with wrangling my brand new SKB hard travel case with about 70 pounds of kites and gear into the trunk of his convertible Mustang along with my suitcase and camera bags, no small task indeed.
After a quick stop at the host hotel Howard Johnson to drop off my luggage, we headed straight down to the beach to see if anyone was out and about… Wynne had already been in the area for a few days and had been enjoying a wide but pleasant range of wind speeds, and I was chomping at the bit to get out on the beach and fly. Strolling down the pier towards The Kite Connection, I was chagrined to see that the spinsock over his shop was hanging straight down… Not even a puff to work with!
Wynne and I hung out for a minute chatting with Shenkman and watching the surfers before wandering down onto the beach in order to make a go of it. While stylish, the Mustang simply didn’t allow for my travel case and Wynne’s kite bag at the same time so I sampled a couple of his kites, the Nirvana and Double Zero… Still, with about 0-2 mph it just wasn’t much to work with.
As we took turns working the fickle morning breeze, a number of other fliers started arriving… Among the first group of fliers and kites were Todd Suter (CA), Doug Charleville (VA) with a Vanishing Point, Andrew Albosta (PA) with Sky Masters, Jim Byrne (NY) with a Mantis, and Scott Weimer with a Gemini, all of whom were eager to get in the air after greetings were exchanged. Being held in February, this is one of those “break out” events where people have been nestled indoors during the course of the winter and are rearing to go!
Not long afterwards, we also saw Chris and Steve Hall (CA) from Gone With The Wind, Rob Autry and Ted Goodman (Doz Guys from FL), Lam Hoac (Canada) with his brand new Sea Devil, and the Lummas family (Mark, Jeanette and Ben, originally from Britain and now CA residents)… Other arrivals included Shane and Shelley Hill (CA), John Gillespie (CA), Donna Houchins (MO), as well as Gary Haskill and Bob Ianson (Canada).
By this time we’ve pretty well peppered the field with kites from all over the country, and it’s only Thursday! Given more favorable winds, this just might just prove to be everything I was hoping for.
With the wind gods being preoccupied as the day came to a close, everyone eventually packed up and headed back to the hotel to regroup and coordinate somewhere for dinner. After some refreshments and socializing around the various rooms, most of us trundled a block down the road to Chili’s… “Uh yes, party of eighteen please!”
After dinner we made our way back to the hotel for a bit of “room hopping”, stopping in with different groups, swapping kite lies, and having a great time before heading back to the room I shared with Shane and Shelley Hill… Shane had said something about heading out to the field nice and early, so a good rest was in order.
Friday, February 11th
Did I say early? At about 5:30am I walked to the Starbucks 3 blocks away for a cup of go juice, and by the time I got back Shane was ready and rearing to go. So, off to the beach at 6am… No worries, the sun would wake up with us eventually.
A bit overcast, we found that there was an inland breeze ranging about 2-5 mph but not as turbulent as one might expect considering it passed through the whole of Los Angeles before getting to us… Shane set up his SS Sano, and I went to work with my Rev 1 and Shiva, both of us jamming out with our MP3 players stuffed in our ears, and all before the sun even came up! As 9:30am rolled around, we found ourselves scrambling for cover as a light sprinkle came and eventually turned into a down pour… Safe to say that we already got the best flying of the day, and we spent the rest of morning huddled under the the overhang of the nearby snack shop and restrooms.
Joining our huddle over the course of the morning were Alex Herzog (CA) and his father, Jon and Marianne Trennepohl (MI) as well as Andy Wardley, Scott Winters (UK), Tim Benson (UK) and Cristophe Walken (UK).
The two bravest fliers of our group that morning were Lam Hoac and John Gillespie who, undaunted by the rain, spent a reasonable amount of time flying despite the conditions… They were however blessed with 10-15 mph winds, albeit coming from inland.
At about 11:30am the Hills and I packed up our gear and went off in search of breakfast at the IHOP near our hotel… As if to acknowledge the wet weather, their roof wasn’t holding up very well and gave us cause to change tables as water was dripping down onto our table.
After breakfast we made our way back to the beach and came across Pam Kirk and Mike Dennis (CA), Brent Jensen (CA), Shawn and Patty Tinkham (NH), Ron Graziano (CT), Jim Strealy (CA), Dodd Gross (PA) and Chris Shultz (TX)… Already this was turning out to be the “who’s who” of sport kiting as we know it!
Dave Shenkman was busy setting up his tent and gear along the sea wall, preparing for the coming weekend… But, with the weather not getting any better the majority of us headed back to hotel to dry off before meeting up for dinner at the Center Field bar and lounge across from the Howard Johnson where I enjoyed an excellent rib eye steak and great conversation with some of the most prominent figures in the kiting community.
We sometimes hear about different kite companies being on so-so terms with each other, but this certainly seemed to be an exception… A particularly cool sight was Gross and Shultz (New Tech), Wardley and Benson, Trennepohl (Skyburner), Mark Reed (Prism Kites) and Jim Cosca (Premier), all sharing drinks at the same table, talking kites and business… Without competition or an “official” festival, it seemed to allow for a more open dialogue which I for one, greatly appreciated and found myself deeply moved by.
Okay, one too many refreshments and a lot of good conversations later it was time to hit the hay in preparation for yet another early day out on the beach.
Saturday, February 12th
Giving ourselves a little more slack, Shane and I slept in a little bit later and got to the beach at 7am to find that the weather was much improved, with a light morning breeze and a sun that was threatening to come out in full force… Cristophe Walken, John Chilese (CA) and Allen Carter (CA) were among the first to show up. Among the other arrivals were the Champie siblings Brian and Sharon (CA), Dan Whitney (CA), Ron Despojado (CA) and Jim Byrne.
After a quick run for breakfast at the Sugar Shack with my friends Scott Ralston and Theresa Norelius (from The Kite Shoppe in WA), along with Kurtis Jones (NJ) and Andrew Albosta, I made my way back down to the beach to set up for a bit of southern California flying.
Some of you may be “old enough” to remember the solo or dog stake flying which was so prevalent during the lat 80’s and early 90’s… Rarely done these days, I always thought it was a beautiful way to fly and had not done it myself in a number of years so I had set up a special rig just for this purpose. Using a jet-ski sand anchor (big sand screw), I welded two ceramic fishing line guides onto a V-piece through which I could run my quad lines so that I can stand down wind with my Revolution while flying it… Add in my trusty MP3 player, and I was in heaven for a couple of hours while the sun came out in full force and winds gradually rose into the 10-15 mph range.
Being a “non-format” or “un-official” kind of event, sport kite fliers pretty much came and went from the south field at will… Judging by those who were out there, trick flying was certainly the order of the day. This definitely allowed for more fliers in one area, since trick flying is generally done almost straight down wind within a more confined space.
Up on the north end of the beach Ron and Sandy Gibian (CA) were lofting some of their beautiful handiwork into the sky… Jim Cosca and Chris Shultz were also gracing the sky with single line kites from their respective companies, along with Brian Champie and Dan Whitney’s collection of inflatables including a Gecko, Fugus and an Octopus.
Once things were fully up and running, we also saw a few ballet demonstrations on the main field by Lam Hoac, Team Much Fun (with Shampo absent, they drop “Too”), and Bi-Dance… And talk about a man who couldn’t get enough, Ron Graziano spent pretty much all of the weekend flying the heck out of his Machine as well as a bevy of OPK’s (other people’s kites)… Small wonder why he’s one of the best in the country.
With pretty much everyone having arrived by this time, plans were made to meet up a local pizza place for an impromptu banquet and auction… All proceeds went toward organizing expenses, and made for great fun with a few bidding wars.
Some of the highlights included Jim Byrne, John Chilese and Scott Ralston bidding back and forth for one of the C-Class prototypes from Benson and Wardley, as well as the first finished version scheduled to come off the line in several months… Final bid for this great combo went to Jim Byrne for $600+. Too many to list, there were some great treasures that found new homes with those present.
Afterwards, I closed out my evening with Chris Shultz, Jim Cosca and Dodd Gross watching videos on their lap top and talking about old times… For those of you who don’t know, each of these guys were darn fine competitors in their own right during the late 80’s and early 90’s long before they became involved with manufacturing kites. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with this group, as they have a great balance between kiting as we know it today as well as back in “the good old days”.
Sunday, February 13th
At 7am Shane and I met up with Isaac Trejo (WI) for a ride down to the beach… Once there, I spent another hour or two on my dog stake rig getting even more comfortable with this unique skill in preparation for freestyle comps later this year.
Sunday arrivals for this year’s Kite Party were Al Stroh (CA) as well as Susan Shampo (CA) who would go on to fly a
number of demos as part of Team Too Much Fun along with her teammates Ron, Mark and Jeanette. Also coming back for some more demonstrations was Lam Hoac, showing off the abilities of his new Sea Devil design which will be on the market very soon thanks to the sewing skills of Pam Kirk and Mike Dennis… Stay tuned!
Borrowing my Revolution for a spell, Dave Shenkman snuck out of the tent for a little while to tease onlookers on the pier… Going by RevGod on the web discussion forums, he’s certainly no slouch on a quad line kite!
Another auction was held right on the beach, the highlight of which was probably a custom Quantum Pro donated by Mark Reed. While up to his usual standard, this kite featured something unique… It incorporated some of Ken Conrad’s computer printed ripstop fabric, which allows him to put some really amazing patterns and designs on sails.
All manufacturers gathered together about half way through the day for their annual Kite Party group photo… Talk about a primo turn out – many of the best kite designers in the world, all breathing the same wind and sharing the beach… Way too cool! A microphone was passed around while everyone was getting their products set up, giving each person an opportunity to showcase their company and latest kites.
|Shawn & Patty
|Viper Kites||Viper, Tantrum||NH|
|Lam Hoac||Sky Sport Design||Sea Devil, Sky Master, etc||Canada|
|Mark Reed||Prism Kites||Quantum Pro, etc||WA|
|Shane Hill (proxy)||Aerostar||SS Sano, etc||PA|
|Jon & Marianne
|Skyburner||Delta Drive, etc||MI|
|Dodd Gross &
|New Tech||Techno, Air Yo, etc||PA|
|Tim Benson||Benson Kites||C-Class, etc||UK|
|Andy Wardley||Wardley Kites||Gemini, etc||UK|
|Ron Graziano||Machine Shop||The Machine||CT|
|Ron Despojado (proxy)||Revolution Kites||Revolution, etc||CA|
|Doug Charleville (proxy)||Blue Moon||Mantis, etc||NC|
|Rob Autrey &
Ted Goodman (proxy)
|Avia Sports||STX, etc||NC|
|Jim Cosca||Premier||Night Hawk, etc||TX|
|Ron & Sandy Gibian||Gibian Kites||AstralGlide, etc||CA|
I may very well have missed one or two, but that’s a fairly complete list of the manufacturers who were present or had a presence by proxy during the group photos… Certainly a majority representation of the most popular kites in America.
Wind conditions proved to be fairly identical on Saturday and Sunday, leading off with 2-4 mph breezes and building to a steady 10-15 mph by early afternoon… On this, our final day, the winds actually turned around and came off the water by the middle of the day.
Good flying, good fun, good friends. This event proved to be well worth the trip, and will definitely make my schedule for next year… How about you?
See you on the field,
Be sure to check out the extra photo gallery
from this event, found at the bottom of this
issue’s “cover page”.