I have to admit it. Writing up the AKA Convention is always hard for me.
There are six full days of flying, workshops, competition, meetings and fund raisers. There is the chance to see old friends and meet new ones. There are awards and recognition for just about everything. And there is political intrigue — or what passes for it in kiting.
Rochester was the smallest AKA gathering in more than 20 years. Blame it on the economy, the location, problems in sport kite competition, or frictions within the organization.
With just 150 attendees, it was half the size of any recent convention. But what you got was primarily the core supporters who would likely go to the moon — and have a fine time there – if that is what the Association scheduled.
For a nice news report, featuring a handsome and articulate fellow, click here.
The hotel was vast and in my opinion, awkward. Directly across from the famed Mayo Clinic, there were wheelchairs at each elevator (great for transporting heavy kite bags), and lots of guests. But that made it harder to find fellow kiters in the hallways. Downstairs we discovered a labyrinth of corridors and tunnels that made it possible to attend the convention and never see daylight.
Daylight? The first day it rained. The second day was clear but with strong turbulent winds that decimated kitemaking competition. And by week end, the temperature dropped below twenty. We flew out Sunday — just ahead of a heavy snowfall.
So what happened in Rochester? For a really good daily overview, check KiteLife.com. For a very personal perspective, read on. I always say that life is about the stories. Here are three from Rochester.
Story 1: Gomberg gets a trophy. Back at Berkeley, Darrin Skinner and I entered Team Train sport kite competition on a lark, and won! It is easy to win when you are the only competitor…. But that win qualified us for Nationals and placed us in the top four Train Teams in the country. Did I say before that competition had problems??
Tuesday afternoon, “Susies Spouses” were the first competitors scheduled to fly. We scrambled to assemble and prepare three-stacks of Starburst Stunters which we had never flown together. The wind was gusting over 15. I tied on a set of vintage spectra lines and the music began.
Our musical choice, “If you Knew Susie” by Dean Martin got a few chuckles. But 30 seconds into the informal routine, both of Darrin’s lines broke at the handles. Both of them! The kites fell away and Darrin turned to me with both handles and a bemused smile and said “We’re done…”
“No”, I replied. “There is no longer a 45 second crash rule. Go find the ends of your lines and re-launch.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Later the judges told us we’d shown more control in the heavy winds than some other competitors. Good understanding of the rules, too! We had a solid third (out of three) and were within reach of second!
It turns out we got the third place trophy and a good story too! And I’m now proud to say I’ve placed in all competition categories — sport kites, kitemaking, fighters, and roks.
Story 2: Gomberg gets another trophy. Saturday early afternoon, Pete Dolphin phoned me. The rok batle was about to begin.
I was miles away, wrapping up the FlyMarket Booth and had promised Susie lunch. I’d have to pass on Roks this year.
But when I got to the field ninety minutes later, the individual battle was just wrapping up. I looked around for a kite, and Dean Murray was kind enough to loan us a Gomberg Eagle. I promised to replace it if there was any damage.
It was cold — below twenty – and the gloves were more for the cool wind than the rough lines. The “Not Dead Yet Presidents” didn’t fare well in the first two heats. We snagged a point or two but got taken out before the final three were determined. So in the last heat, we did the only thing we could — immediately confront the leading competitors.
The first place kite fell away with all bridles slashed. Two other kites were tipped out. And then we found ourselves in an endurance contest with the remaining contender. It was a long heat and we were actually sweating in the cold before it was over. But in the end, we prevailed and managed to back into a solid third place finish.
Story 3: Gomberg gets a trophy, but……. The Steve Edeiken Award for ongoing contributions to the kiting community is the highest honor in AKA. I was privileged to receive it 15 years ago. And although no one has ever won the award twice, I was particularly proud to be nominated again this year.
No one was more surprised than me when my name was called Saturday Night. As I slowly walked to the stage, my head was filled with a rush of emotions and ideas.
I thanked the Association. I thanked those who had nominated me and the selection committee. I thanked everyone who had worked hard on a number of projects with me in recent years. I particularly thanked Susan.
And then I said that it seemed unfair to me that my name appear on the award again, when other deserving names were not yet there. It was unprecedented to win the award twice. And it was also unprecedented for anyone to ever decline the award. But that is what I did.
Make no mistake. I was honored more than I can say to receive this award again. Giving it up was an intensly difficult thing to do. But I felt it was the right thing to do.
Congratulations to kite engineer Bill Bigge and kitemaking guru Steve Ferrel for their deserved win of the Edeiken Award this year.
Susie and I started home early Sunday and finished the trip early Monday morning. (The joys of air travel!)
Rochester was an interesting week. I’d have rather been in Cape Town or Coolum, but wouldn’t miss an AKA Convention. The Association faces tough times with budgets and memberships straining. But we have a new President in Barb Meyer and an optimistic new Executive Committee. I thank the outgoing Board and wish the new one the best of success.