• entries
  • comments
  • views

About this blog

ramblings by a Solo Hill Billie Kite Flailer

Entries in this blog


In the mid-sixties I had a paper route in Brigham City, Utah delivering the Deseret News.  It was my first experience in how to operate a small business as we were all essentially independent contractors.  My route took about an hour & one half delivering 50 to 60 papers on my 3 speed English bike.  The newspaper company was always trying to get us to sign up new subscribers.  Incentives were given based on the number of new subscribers we recruited.  The most memorable premium I ever received was a Gayla Sky Spy kite.  While not my first it was a very good kite.  I could stand out in the street in front of the house & launch it by propping the kite up, laying out about thirty feet of line & towing it until it cleared the roof top & got into some clean air.  I considered this advanced kite technique at the time.  I was fourteen. 

Once in the air it was easy to go to the end of a 500' spool of line.  We used the latest kite technology, Hi-Flier Megalon Super Strength kite cord made of thin light nylon.  It was much better than the old cotton string of the fifties.  You could splice on more line but after a while the kite could not lift more line & it would not go higher, just further away.  If you had out enough line you could let go of the line & the kite would still have enough tension on it to keep flying as the line slowly slipped along the ground.  It was a lot of effort to reel in a thousand feet of line using an empty Suran wrap tube.  One time we even tried to use an Erector set motor to make a power winder but long extension cords were hard to come by which was the limiting factor on that effort.  Eventually I got a Hi-Flier spin winder.

Certain times of the year the west wind would blow for days.  I don't know why we left the kite up all night for the first time.  But once we found out it was possible we would try to go for a record number of hours.  The best we ever did was three days.  When the kite did come down unattended we would leap on our bikes & follow the string for a couple blocks to hopefully find the tough little kite laying in a yard some ways away.  Eventually there came a day when the kite was not to be found.  Then I went into a dark time of no kites, but the girls kept me distracted....   SHBKF



So my nearest big time kite store was too far to go to very often.  There is now a nice kite in a store nearby.  Might never sell but that's okay too.  SHBKF



Support your LKS

Support your LKS


I started reading the kite forums with some intensity over four years ago.  I had used computers for many years even back before the days of the WWW.  It has been quite awhile since I’ve seen that initialism used in any context.  I had previously been on a few forums of interest but I was really fired up wanting to learn anything kites.   I saw mention of an initialism LKS, Local Kite Store.  Out here in the mountains of western Virginia there was no such thing.  Maybe a toy store with a few single line kites & a hobby shop that had small selection of dual line kites, both located over sixty miles away in eastern Tennessee.  It is five & one half hours, three hundred & forty-four miles, to get to my Local Kite Store, Kligs in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


I try to support the kite stores that I visit with a purchase or two & enjoy talking to the people working them.  Some are active fliers, some are just working retail that happens to sell toys & kites.  I have been to a store in Mystic, Connecticut that was not much larger than a walk in closet.  Most seem to be around the size of a shoe store.  Kligs is a very large store with hundreds of kites on display.  My first serious kite came from Kitty Hawk Kites back when they had only one location.  There are many on the east coast that I still have not visited.



I always check for anything in a bargain or clearance mode & have come away with some nice items.  I have learned to ask if they have any used or demo kites also.  Scored a nice vintage Prism Alien that way as well as a Sun Oak delta & a couple Revs.   Sure, these kites may not be the color I might want or the latest but I get a deal & the sale helps the cash flow of the retailer.  I have bought many kites at full retail with no regrets knowing it might help them especially in the off season.  Support your local store. The few bucks you might save elsewhere will never make up for a small business lost forever.



Sometimes we leave on a vacation having no idea where we'll wind up or how long we'll be gone.  It is a powerful kind of freedom that our vast country provides.  So we decide one evening to load a little gear into the RoadTrek the next morning & head up to a small town on the Ohio called Madison.  We chose to leave with minimal preparation planning to buy anything we might have forgotten along the way.  After a couple evenings on the road we decide we will venture onward.  There was something in a store that we wanted.  Wall Drug is in western South Dakota.  I like to drive.  When I left home that first morning I actually thought about not taking any kites.  Maybe try to buy a few along the way was my logic.  But at the last moment I just had to grab a few.  I chose from some laying on the kite table.  Tornados were threatening in the mid west so we were watching the storm patterns in order to avoid severe weather.  We have had some crazy times on previous trips.

We stopped for the night in western Illinois.  Stayed in a campground that was surrounded by fields of ankle high corn.  The wind was blowing from the west at a good pace with some gusting.  Time for high wind kites.  Pulled out the Micron, attached it's tail & entertained the neighbors with the humming & buzzing little gem.  The wind picked up a bit.  Usually, where I live, the evening brings calm conditions.  But wind started gusting higher causing the lines to sing & the leading edges began deforming.

So out comes the B2 mid vent with a 50' x 50# line set with 11" handles.  I could launch & fly around a bit but the turbulance from numerous small trees made sustained flight tough.  I walked around trying to fly myself into a better spot without any real improvement.  It looked like there might be a bit of a wind tunnel where the entrance road came into the campground near our site.  I was lazy.  I did not bother to wind up my lines to walk across a seeminly harmless stretch of taller grass carrying the kite & dragging the lines.  Not too good.  So I parked the kite at a good launch site & dealt with the line issue.   I knew the lines should straighten out if I kept my head & did the right things.  There was a good snarl of loops & knots at the twenty foot area of the line set.  I staked the handles & gently teased out the snarl in no time.  "Dang, I must be starting to get some of this kite knowledge I've read about!" I thought.  The wind blew down the road, through an opening in the trees & out over the pristine corn field.   The small flying window was about 30 x 30 so I practiced small manevers & positional hovering.  The B2 mid vent is a wonderful kite.  After a half hour I heard a toot of the horn signaling me to return to the campsite.  Life is good.  Next morning we stopped at Antique Archeology then battled the wind driving across Iowa.  It would be a couple more days before there was time to fly again.   SHBKF


Seeking Nirvana

Reading the forums & watching videos you eventually notice that some kites have achieved an almost mythic reputation.  But there are those that dismiss them too.  Kite fashion moves on to the next latest greatest kite.  But still you wonder about these special ones.   The RSky Nirvana is one of those kites.  New ones are pricey & used ones don't seem to be sold often.  But somehow I wound up with one described as a SUL.  I believe it is called a Nirvana WW.  Didn't know what that stood for until I consulted with one of my kite mentors.  Rob said "Wow, that's a purty kite ! A Nirvana Without Wind ? I am no Nirvana expert, but I would guess it to be a Second Edition."  The complete kite weighs 195 grams, 6-7/8 ounces.  Tip to tip is 92" & the spine measures 34-1/2".  The tunnels are 11" deep & the leading edge length is 59".  Being a kite that large & that light, it is a true Super Ultra Light.  

Easter afternoon was overcast, temperature in the sixties with light wind out of the southeast at a measured 2 to 4 mph with occasional puffs reading 5.  Average reading after ten minutes was 3 mph.  I have tried to fly many different kites in similar conditions.  Most times it is simply an exercise in keeping the kite in the air & moving.  Certainly no attempts at slack line maneuvers & landing often to wait for the next puff of wind.  Only a couple of my kites really work in these inland sketchy conditions so this would be a real test.  I thought I would probably fly around a bit using up a lot of ground stroking the kite.  But I have one other kite that is full size & similar weight so I thought it would fly okay.  I unrolled the same line set I use for the PD SUL, 100' x 90# with Norm's finger straps.

Alright! an easy launch with the kite climbing effortlessly up into the more active air that starts about ten feet above the terrain.  The kite flew very straight, carved nice circles & exhibited no oversteer, none.  Wasn't too long ago I could not even have judged a kite for oversteer.  Flew figures for a few minutes then went to the zenith.  I turned downward & walked downwind to slow the kite.  It behaved just like the SkyBurner Pro Dancer SUL.  It glided wonderfully.  I could have run downwind & it would have still glided elegantly.  That's a good sign I thought.  It occurred to me that all the PD flying will translate to this one.  I held my hands low & a bit behind me.  I threw my hands forward & stepped toward the kite.  It flared just like the Sea Devil & a moderate tug pulled it around to a fade, first try!  Now that's a big deal for me at my level of flying.  Held the fade nicely bobbing a bit but I was in control.  I rolled out & climbed a little bit, flipped over & did it again.  Dang! this kite is gonna be good.  I proceeded to go through a few other slack line items I am working on.   And that's how the next two hours went.  I was finally flying an SUL that even I could trick a little bit in very sketchy inland conditions.  It also was easy to fly the window 90 degrees to each side with very little walking backwards.  For the first time ever I noticed I was using more of the field giving slack to the kite then I had to use to keep it flying.  I was walking backward using up what was usually precious ground in order to have more room to give slack to the kite.  This kite will fly very slowly & still behave.  I guess you would say I like it.  

I have found Nirvana.  SHBKF


Just one more

We have had a few pretty days here in the valleys of western Virginia.  It even hit eighty degrees for a bit this afternoon.  So spring fever has everyone in a good mood round here.  Then you feel a nice warm breeze blow late in the evening.  And after a lot of work you may somehow get to the point that you're saying to yourself "Why am I doing this?  Might as well spend some of the hard earned money,  on a, on aahhh, another kite!"   Just one more, don't really need one but why not.  So it goes when you have this addiction.

Later, at home, you check KiteLife to see what's going on.  There's a post about a kite that has been for sale for a bit & now it's been endorsed by a Master Flier.  It's one you have always been curious about.  And it just happens to be a SUL version which will be perfect for the summer lulls that follow spring in these parts.  Nice looking, excellent condition, good price & a great seller.  What are you waiting for?  Jump on that thing before someone else goes through the same thought process.  Right.  It's similar to the sequence of rationalizing another great kite that has occurred right here in this chair more than a few times.  

So it should ship in a day or two.  Does all this sound somewhat familiar?  Or maybe I'm alone in all this kite quest thing.   SHBKF

3-14-2016   So it arrived today....



Zero to Sixty

February has been quite a month.  Working six days a week passes the time quickly.  I finally had a day when it wasn't bad weather and coincided with a day off.  As I headed out Sunday afternoon I checked the thermometer, sixty degrees.  Checked the lowest recorded temperature and it read zero.  I had not reset it since the beginning of the month.  The breeze was blowing gently in my little valley so there was hope for stronger wind at my nearest flight area about five miles away.  Grabbed a few kite bags & headed out.  It had been quite some time since I had flown any kite and over three months since I had flown quad.

So I started with a kite I had not flown before. I had high hopes for Will Sturdy's Saber II & I was not disappointed.  I assembled it & leaned it against the rear of the car.  Unrolled some 90# x 100' lines with Norm's straps on the ends.  It launched nicely off the back of the car in a light breeze & immediately it showed fine precision.  Even a flailer like me could do nice wide ground passes & figures in the variable wind.  It flew a little slower than other kites I've flown of that quality & I liked that about it.   Somehow it seemed like I had more time to think about the next move.  I tried a few slack line moves.  "Dang! this kite is just right for me", I thought.  But maybe I am just making progress & it is more me now than the particular kite.  I don't really know at this point.  Regardless, I was not disappointed.  I especially like to do a back flip launch to fade, rise a little & roll out.  I will fly this one as my standard for a bit of time while going to the Sea Devil light or Solus UL as a light wind kite.  I will also carry the Pro Dancer SUL for the puffy light air days.  After a few years of collecting kites I have many other fine standards to choose from but the Saber goes back to some of my first flights when a friend let me fly his in a snow shower three years ago.

Below image is the Saber II.


Next up, why not fly another kite I had not flown before.  I laid out a set of 50# x 50' quad lines, attached some 11" handles & set up the little B2.  The wind moved up a notch & I thought, "This is gonna be fun."  So I like fast kites.  Short lines make them seem even quicker.  After a half hour of screaming across the little arc of lines, doing several mad spins, smiling a bunch, I parked it & went back to the Saber.  Flew the dualie until it hummed & quivered.  Landed it, weighted the nose down & got out one of my favorites.

The Sedgwick Rev 1 had a black race leading edge & Zen verticals in it so I thought I'd give it a go on 90# x 85' lines .  Not too good!  The wind was ten or so with gusts to fifteen.  Flew it carefully but it was obviously being overpowered with the big sail & the light frame. Luckily I did not break it.  Time for THE DARK ONE.

So some of my kites are named.  My full vent Rev B 1.5 has dark blue & black stripes with a black center.  It looks almost meanacing in the sky.  A gusty wind is where it really shines.  The wind began varying widely & a few times I flew to the side of the window with the lines singing as large long gusts nearly blew my Tilley off.  Last I flew the Christmas kite, my Prism Bora 7.  It is a looker & would have been willing to fly with all the line out.  Had a few spectators that day so I tried extra hard.  Round here I am the best flier, the worst flier, the only flier.   SHBKF


Kites in the trunk

large.enough_kites.jpg.48dc933f9cea8dc13Other fliers talk about their “A bag, B bag, Rev roll up bag, single line bag” and so on.  This is what’s usually in the trunk of my car.  The Cruze is a fairly small car with a trunk you’d expect.  If you want to carry large dualies with the leading edge tubes together you have to lower the rear seat back to let them poke through.  So you can see I have the Quantum & the Zephyr broken down.  The 4D is in a 3D case that allows full length storage.  You would also notice I like Prism kites.  Four of these kites were among the first kites I bought three years ago.  The 75’ tube tail, the Quantum & the Bora 7 are fairly recent.  With this selection of kites I can fly just about any wind & mood I might encounter.  Sometimes the Revolution Roll-up bag is in the trunk & it fits nicely but that’s another topic.  These are the kites that are always with me & they may be enough.  I would not be unhappy if they were the only ones I had.  For a while they were my main kites.  But it is still a substantial investment as this collection of kites cost almost exactly eight hundred dollars.  So my “A bag” consists of fancier kites but these are always ready, just in case.   SHBKF                              (specifications in comments below)



Headin' out

The leaves are gone now.  As I gaze out the bay window, looking for wind in the hollow, I see the tops of the tall white pines gently waving, calling.  Down to the dungeon I go, pondering which kites to select this day.  Some days I only take one type of kite like maybe just foils.  Other days I select to sort of force myself to fly something that has challenged me previously.  Plenty of times I will just take one or two of my latest favorites.  Additionally there are also at least five kites living in the kite cart which would be enough to cover all local winds anyway.  In three hours I will generally fly three different kites.  Wind changes come as often as my whims so it is unusual for me to fly only one.  If I would concentrate on just one wing I would probably make more progress.  Five miles away there is a large open area of a stalled housing development.  Mowed a couple times a year it works for me.  Hop in the Cruze, turn on the jump drive tunes & listen to Tom Petty sing about Melinda as I get going.  Approaching the field I see a flag gently rustling on it’s pole & I begin to smile….SHBKF



Down in the dungeon

It’s not really a kite shop but sort of looks like one.  I call mine the kite dungeon.  There is a troll living under the staircase.  In some of my early visits to kite stores, with broken kites in hand, I noticed they had large tables or counters to lay kites out on as they repaired them.  Later I saw a video of a famous kite builder framing a kite suspended from the ceiling on a cord with a clip on the end.  So I made a four by eight table out of two sheets of plywood screwed together sitting on a couple scrounged bath room vanity cabinets.  As I worked on stacks I started putting up clamps on mason’s twine attached to the ceiling joists.  I believe I have fourteen on sixteen inch centers in a pretty straight line now.  Then I started moving in shelving with boxes for the various parts & nails along the tops of the walls to hang the growing hoard of kites in their sleeves.  Once in a while other hobbies invade the space but the kites eventually chase them out.   Sometimes I wonder if I have as much fun maintaining the kites as I do flying them.  After the recent beach trip I assembled each kite I flew, cleaned it gently & carefully packed it for it’s next adventure.  Yesterday I finished increasing the Micron stack to eight & tonight I will complete the new Rev 1.5 three stack.  Now that’s a power kite.large.now_eight_Microns.jpg.6c339225e3f4large.tails_wrapped_on_tips.jpg.6aee38f2large.Rev_1.5_kites_to_stack.jpg.0da0d47


I have flown many different kites in the past few years.  I would like to think that they were all logical choices for my place on the path at the time.  Some were chosen with my limited knowledge as the next great thing & others were purchased with raw emotion and/or true randomness.

Thanksgiving week I stayed at a beachfront campsite where I could actually step out the door & launch a kite in my front yard.  It was less than a hundred steps to cross the dunes & stand on the shore.  That is likely to be as good as it’s ever going to get.  So first up was the Sky Burner Widow Maker standard.  Opened up my little Prism fanny pack & big surprise.  Did not bring my go to line sets for a couple of the dualies I planned to fly.  But I did have enough variety & came to the realization that I could borrow pairs of lines from the many quad line sets that were in the Rev Roll-up bag.  Flew the WM for a bit but the wind was little light for my taste so I switched to the Sky Burner Solus EC ultra-light.  That is the only kite I have ever custom ordered.  I think it’s a real beauty.  It is the same color scheme as the one in the Sky Burner promotional video I first viewed before I ordered it.  The big kite has a few Prismatex panels & is gorgeous glowing in the sunlight flashing colors across the sky.  Saw a few people stop & stare momentarily. 

Flew mostly on 90# x 65’ lines as there was limited space to fly kites.  Either the tide was up or the beach was busy with tourists like me.  Wind came from the North or Northeast so it was blowing down the length of the beach most of the time.  At night it usually blew faintly from the South.

 Other dual line kites flown that week were the Pro Dancer SUL, the Prism 4D, the Sky Sport Design Sea Devil Light & Tekken DOA SUL .  Two days were strong winds & the rest were zero to light.  On the strong wind days, probably 15 mph +, I flew the Revolution 1.5B full vent & a Shook Mesh 75%.  Flew the Rev 1 & the Zen also but on the lighter wind days.   I will comment more about actually flying the kites later.


Where am I now?

It's been over three years since: The Prism Flip appeared on the clearance table at LL Bean.  Went to the beach & got a SnapShot 1.2 based on the cash in my pocket.  Met Reef Runner on the forums, bought a Zero G from him.  Flew my first Rev, a gift from my wife.  And almost three years since I got everyone to buy kites for me for Christmas.
As time rolled on many more kites have followed, along with many great kite friends who are all still my kite heroes.  I have been wisely advised by the Masters.  It's still almost unbelievable.  My original thought about kites still holds true.  I just want to fly them all.  I now see the goal as a moving target as I make small steps in so many directions.  It is adding up slowly.  Do I "own my hover" with Revs?  Not really but I've made significant down payments.  Can I trick a dual line kite?  Well, some progress has been made & I have the "right kites".  Single line kites?  My collection expands but have spent the most time on the gliders.  Power kites?  I have learned how to not scare myself too much.  But know they deserve special cautious effort & study.  Should I be at a certain level of skill after a defined amount of time?  No, for me it's always going to be about the journey & the individuals who share it along the way.

My humble thanks, SHBKF


It begins

So it's four in the morning, cold & raining here in the mountains of Virginia.  And I am reading KiteLife & thinking about kites.  I thought kites might be an interesting thing to get into again a few years ago.  Knew they were an old passion but did not think they would dominate me as they have.  So now, for what it's worth, I will attempt to have a place to ramble on about my thoughts & efforts along the way.  

Just got back from an extended beach trip.  Even the beach has less than great conditions many days but all the inland flailing I've done payed off & flight was continuously possible out on the sand.  Got some new kites but did not fly them.  Flew vented kites the first few days & then SUL's as the conditions changed.   But that's past & I think I will just talk about the moments of kite flying as they occur.  Later....