Issue 50: Oostende Kite Festival

“Happy rotor hour” ? No, it isn’t a helicopter demonstration. It is one of the -returning- highlights of the Oostende Kite Festival! A demonstration field full of rotors, up to 10m in diameter, an hour long display. The 21st edition of this festival was, just as all previous ones, family-day oriented. It is held on Saturday and Sunday on the beaches of the city of Oostende, Belgium. The beach is not as wide as some of the beaches in the north of France, like Berck, (but a lot wider than in the time Flashback fought both waves and wind).

Along the more than one and a half kilometer of beach there is plenty of space to fill with kites, and the walkway or boulevard right alongside is the perfect place for all spectators.

Despite the weather forecast (cold, rain, windy) more than 50000 people came to have a look on saturday, to find out weather was sunny, dry and with just the right wind. Even more showed up on Sunday, even though the weather was not as good as the day before.

The sky was filled of course, as it should be on such a festival. Big and soft like parafoils and Nasa-wings, an almost complete zoo and a dog, top and bottom half-people, divers and mermaids, everything was there, maybe a bit “standard” for many kiters, but as ever surprising to the public. In-between of course, the less spectacular ones, like marconi’s, a Brogden, Conyne and bigger and smaller box kites. Some graphically well-designed Genki’s too. Fliers from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, England and even Shanghai made sure the public had something to watch!

While many participants showed their creations along the beach, the demonstration area in the middle was the place for a whole program of kite activities.
Of course the rokkaku fights, held in real competitive spirit, in six heats on two days, resulting in a final fight on Sunday. With tangled lines, pulling and running the last three competitors showed this kind of “kiteflying” is a real sport, that needs stamina, if not a very healthy lifestyle.

Candy droppings brought many children in the arena of course. A large delta and a clever pulley system delivered five bags of sweets, enough to make -almost- everybody happy. From greater distance the rotors provided a very colorful view for all spectators on the boulevard. For an hour at a time these giant soft machines showed a different but equally spectacular way of playing with the wind.
Main attraction in the arena were the demonstrations of the two and four line kites. Flying Squad (UK), Team4Fun (Germany) and the Crazy Drivers (France) showed separate as well as together (with 14 kites) their amazing abilities, both in handling the kites, as well as flying as a real combined team of 14!

Of course people stopped and watched the many ballets that were shown. The Flying Squad with two line and four line kites, ever astonishing, and Stephen Versteegh, from the Dutch Stack team flew his competition ballet several times. Not very noticeable from the boulevard, but very present on the beach, with less years than lines: young Daniel Hoath, flying his quad with the same moves and tenacity as his dad. Not only a large part of the beach was “kite territory”. On the boulevard, exhibition tents, showings of kite photography, Chinese kites (and other objects), brought in by Yao Yuanlong from Shanghai, the mini kites exhibition from Ralph Dietrich and Otto Vossen’s “Art to Remember” kites.

A family-oriented and family-organized festival, Oostende is one of the oldest still existing European kiting weekends. With a beach a lot wider than 10 years ago (and even bigger next year they say), the relaxed family ambiance, Belgium beer within reach and so a lot of kite flyers BBQ party on Saturday evening gives every opportunity to meet the people that were “tied down” and too far away during the day!

      Jans Jansen op de Haar