Issue 1: UK View

We stand at the beginning of a new season and everything seems to be changing.

The Teams we’ve seen around for the last few years seem to be dropping by the wayside and to take their place we have the largest selection of Pairs we’ve seen in many a year. There finally seems to be new Indi’ fliers wanting to compete in the coming season, following on from a successful season of Winter Leagues that saw a big jump in new fliers. The industry itself seems to be coming to terms with becoming more professional in its outlook to the way it does business.

For the last few years the Team events here in the UK have been dominated by AirKraft and Skydance. As most of you will know, AirKraft have called it a day after five years of competing at the highest level. Along with this, rumour has it that we’re not going to see much of Skydance in the competitive arena this year. It seems the guys and gals from Essex wish to take it a bit easier this year after taking the world cup title for the last couple of years. This will leave the field wide open with any of the teams competing this year having a chance to be the new UK National Champs’.

Who will it be? Will it be the long standing Crosslines, the new three person lineup that is Punchlines, or will it be Harlequin a team known for demos more than their competitive history? Only time will tell. With three rounds to be held at Hackney, Fylde and Weston-Super-Mare, we can look forward to a tough battle from all the teams.

At the first ever Pairs league here in the UK we had nine pairs compete, with pairs formed from all the top teams. ie; Evolver formed from AirKraft, Rogallo 98 from In-4-Mation, Bi-line and Pair-line from Crosslines, Bitter and Twisted two members of Punchline and Bi-dance, I’m sure you can guess from Skydance. Along with these scaled down teams we also saw Gary Pullinger and Graham Piggott, two of our top indi’ fliers get together to give the rest a run for their money. Evolver came out on top, Rogallo 98 dropping into second place, with Gary and Graham (That’s what they call themselves. No fancy play on words for those guys) following close behind. The scores were close enough that it should be a great battle over the coming season to see who comes out on top. Pairs can be seen at Wroughton, Basingstoke, Weston-Super-Mare and Bristol, four festivals well worth a visit this year if you wish to see some of the most innovative competitive flying of the year.

Again the success of the Winter Leagues to bring in new fliers seems to be flowing over to the Nationals. This year has seen a large influx into the novice ranks of the leagues and a good number of these are now fired up and want to try their hands at the UK Championships. The three rounds can be seen at Bath, Hackney and Weston-Super-Mare. One of the things that seems to have come out of everyone getting ready for the coming competitions is that the average length of lines being used seems to be getting longer. Maybe this will see a return to kites flying round, filling the sky and not just being flicked around on 30ft/10m lines. Don’t get me wrong, I love to flick my kite around on short lines, but it’s time for things to evolve. The non kiters out there just don’t understand what is happening when you flick your kite from one trick to the next on 30ft/10m lines, all they see is a kite that looks like it’s having problems flying and seems to spend more time on the ground than in the air.

I’ve noticed here in the UK and mainland Europe that people are now making more of an effort to separate the tricks one from the other with precision style moves linking each of the tricks together. Not only do I think that this is the way forwards to get more people back into competing, but also non kiters will be able to see more of what’s going on and hopefully understand it, so turning more of them onto kite flying than off. Now we come to the industry. Over the last couple of months my time has been taken up with Trade shows and open days for kite distributors. Here I’ve noticed that the larger manufactures are doing their best to not only bring us great kites, but to work on the whole package. Now it’ not good enough to have just a great kite. You must also be able to give the shops a whole package, including good instructions, point of sales info, after sales service and the ability to deliver on time. As for the shops. They seem to be working more professionally, with attention being put on how they show their selves to the world. More and more of the shops in the UK are getting on-line and I’m sure by the end of the season we’ll see a number of new on-line catalogs from the UK shops. While paying attention to the wider picture the shops don’t seem to be forgetting the local scene. There’s a new initiative here in the UK to get younger people into kite flying. This is taking the shape of a program called ‘The Trick Attainment Program’. Run along the same lines as the Yo-yo programs it is hoped that this will appeal to a wider spectrum than we get at the moment. It’s good to see the shops signing up for this and doing something positive to get new people into kite flying and not relying on new trade to be generated from the festivals alone.

Now we come to the industry. Over the last couple of months my time has been taken up with Trade shows and open days for kite distributors. Here I’ve noticed that the larger manufactures are doing their best to not only bring us great kites, but to work on the whole package. Now it’s not good enough to have just a great kite. You must also be able to give the shops a whole package, including good instructions, point of sales info, after sales service and the ability to deliver on time.

As for the shops. They seem to be working more professionally, with attention being put on how they show themselves to the world. More and more of the shops in the UK are getting on-line and I’m sure by the end of the season we’ll see a number of new on-line catalogs from the UK shops. While paying attention to the wider picture the shops don’t seem to be forgetting the local scene. There’s a new initiative here in the UK to get younger people into kite flying. This is taking the shape of a program called ‘The Trick Attainment Program’. Run along the same line as the Yo-yo programs, it is hoped that this will appeal to a wider spectrum than we get at the moment. It’s good to see the shops signing up for this and doing something positive to get new people into kite flying and not relying on new trade to be generated from the festivals alone.

To sum up. It looks like we have a sport and an industry that is looking more positive than it has for a number of years. I’m of the opinion that we are looking at the beginning of an exceptional season not only for the fliers, but the shops and manufacturers as well. After sitting back on our laurels for the last couple of years after the trick explosion, I feel that this new positive feel will help keep the UK and Europe as a whole at the top of the kiting ladder for years to come.

Chris Matheson

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Author:Chris Matheson

Chris Matheson is a top UK flier and builder. He is the designer of the acclaimed "Sandpiper" line of kites, among others.

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