2012 AKA Grand Nationals – Day 1

Traditionally our daily updates are focused mostly on reporting, but I’m finding myself on the verge of being more involved with the AKA than ever before, sort of a personal stake this time around so my updates this year will be a little more “from the hip”… I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll try extra hard not to stick my foot in my mouth.

When I attended my first AKA Convention (AKAGN) in Seaside (Oct 1990), I was just 15 years old, owned a whopping two kites (Cheetah and Interceptor) and wasn’t even registered as an attendee… In the 3-4 days I was on the beach, I managed to crash into and tangle up Scott Aughenbaugh’s lines while he was practicing nearby (he was a really good sport about it considering he was the up and coming champion), I also learned a little more about how to fly Revs with Jim Hadzicki, chatted with a bunch of master pilots and was really encouraged by nearly everyone I spoke with – nobody made me feel like an outsider for being a novice or not having an AKA name tag.

I’d signed on as an AKA member a couple months earlier and had actually gone to Seaside on a lark at the last minute, a decision I’ve never regretted in the succeeding 22 years and 17 conventions I’ve attended since that first one… Here’s the full list, a lot of amazing times here:

1990 – Seaside OR
1991 – Jacksonville FL
1992 – Lubbock TX
1993 – Seaside OR
1994 – Wildwood NJ
1996 – Santa Monica CA
1997 – Wildwood NJ
2002 – Ocean City MD
2003 – Dayton OH
2004 – Seaside OR
2005 – Ocean City MD
2006 – Des Moines IA
2007 – Ocean Shores WA
2008 – Gettysburg PA
2009 – Rochester MN
2010 – Seaside OR
2011 – Wildwood NJ
2012 – Enid OK

Of course, things have changed a lot over the years but the truth remains that our AKA and the AKAGN is in some ways, a summation of the current state of American kiting… On most years, the convention draws more kite enthusiasts (150-250) than just about any other US event, and from a very wide geographical area – it’s a place to see what some really creative and experienced folks are doing, and how they’re doing it.

Day one begins…

TK and I flew Portland to Houston to Wichita on Monday (Oct 1) starting at 5:55am, landed in Kansas around 2:30pm where we picked up a few supplies, and then tackled the roughly 2 hour drive from Wichita to Enid (Oklahoma)… We paid about $2.25 in tolls for the Kansas highway and made short work of the really, really straight roads in this part of the world (70-75 mph speed limits most of the way).

I’d hoped to arrive in time for the Monday night reception at 5pm but after it was all said and done, we got to our hotel around 6:30 – so after making a couple of calls, I found out there were a bunch of folks over at the Autrey Technology Center for a special screening of Patang, a new independent film by Prashant Bhargava about Indian kiting in Ahmedabad.

TK and I snuck into the back during the last 5 minutes of Q&A following the screening, so we effectively missed everything but everyone present seemed to be on a good vibe – I’m all the more sorry to have missed it.

Still, we got to chat with a few folks as they were leaving the building – I really love catching up with friends at AKAGN, many of whom I only see once or twice a year… One fellow I’ve seen a few times in 2012, and I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves.

Back to the hotel!

We settled into our room (six nights ahead) and relaxed after the long day of travel, looking forward to a good night’s sleep – tomorrow kicks off with indoor workshops and registration, then off to the field for a bit before we get into the indoor competition (I actually qualified this year – should be fun).

I wish y’all a good night, see you for our next update – more in depth coverage and photos to come!

John Barresi