Issue 3: UK View

Hmmm, jet lag, ZZZZZZZZZZ…… I hate jet lag, but I love doing things that end up with jet lag as the result. Just got back from a trip to the US and boy did I have a good time. I was in the US for a couple of festivals, first I got over to Grandhaven and then Wildwood. I’m in a very lucky position, I get paid to promote kites and kite flying. What a way to make a living. As part of my job I get to travel quite a bit and that’s how I ended up in the US for a couple of weeks. I flew into Washington Dulles on the 13th to be met by Dodd’s smiling face and a two and a half hour drive to his house. Spent the night there and then it’s off on an other flight to Grand Rapids to be met by an other smiling face, this time belonging to Tom Moermond. Tom is the dude that puts the Grand Haven festival together for the boys at the Mackinaw Kite Company and he does one hell of a job. The weather forecast for the weekend was sunny and hot, well it lived up to that all right, with a nice breeze just to put the icing on the cake.

I wasn’t the only Brit to be there that weekend. The Robertshaw brothers Carl and James were both there doing their thing on the competition field. Last year I was at Grand Haven and was lucky enough to be put up with Lee Sedgwick and Sue Taff, now that was a blast. You see, here in the UK the first vids’ we got about kites and kite flying came from the Grand Haven festival/comp and guess who the stars were. That’s right, Lee and Sue. Well last year I was buzzing like mad about getting to hang with those guys and it looked like it was having the same effect on Carl and James this year.

I managed to get a room in the same house as Peter Werba. I’ve known Peter for a couple of years now and love to hang with him when ever I can. He’s not only a great designer, but a skateboard dude to boot. I’m into skating myself, so there’s always something for us to bounce off each other, be it kites, skateboards, or that I’m a limey git and he’s a yank. Peter stays at the same place each year and it’s not hard to work out why. The house is less than a hundred yards from the beach and the flying field, it’s great in the morning to wake up and see the lake and the festival laid out in front of you.

This year the sales tent on the beach was almost twice the size it was last year. Making it the largest kite store in the world for the weekend, not a bad claim to fame. I was walking round the tent checking out all the great kites when who should I come across but Eric Wolff. “Hi Chris, how’er you doing?”. Wow, Eric Wolff remembered me, well that made my weekend there and then.

It’s Friday afternoon, Dodd and Hunter Chadwick Brown (One of the hottest flyers I’ve seen in a long time) turn up along with Hartmut from Germany. Now it’s time to get down to some work. It seems Hunter and I will be on the beach, flying the kites, while Hartmut is in the tent  doing the sales side. Oh Dodd, he’s not silly. Dodd will move around between the two, still think Hunter and I got the choice jobs that weekend.

The weekend seemed to go well for all the Brits’. Carl and James Cleaned up on everything except the ‘Quad’. Carl got firsts in precision and ballet in the masters class, while the the ‘Pair’ also got a first in ballet. James managed a second in ‘Quad’, held at bay by Lam Hoac, one cool quad flyer from Canada. I had a great weekend myself. I got to fly all day and hang out with flyers all night. It’s excellent the way your flying gets so much better after a few days solid flying.

One of the nights there, we all went round to Steve Negen’s (One of the partners of the Mackinaw Kite Co) house for a BBQ. The reason, well other than to eat lots of good food. Steve’s got a new deck and he wanted us all to see it. This is a strange one for me, we’re not too big on decks in the UK. It was a nice deck, but not a patch on the food though. Think the highlight of the night was when we played rename the Prism kite. With such classics as the depressed ‘Illusion’, the ‘Disillusioned’ and the latest model of the ‘Alien’, the ‘Legal Alien’. the last one comes with its own green card. Oh, if you’re reading this. “Nice flying Mark and thanks for the ‘T’ Scott”.

The weekend goes much too quick and I’m getting ready to get back on a plane to Dodd’s house. I make plans to catch up with Tom in Wildwood on the way to the airport. I just don’t get enough time to spend with Tom, he works much too hard over that weekend. After a little bit of a shuffle with planes and shuttles we’re back at Dodd’s with a day to rest before getting off to Wildwood. Well it’s off to the mall for me, I love American malls. It’s not that we don’t get them here, well not as many. It’s just that you get a lot more great junk to look at in American malls. If you’ve not been to a K-Mart, you’ve just not lived. We also need to drop in on Dodd’s new workshop to make sure everything is running smoothly with Dodd running around now the festival season has well and truly kicked in.

Wednesday and we’re back on the road, this time it’s off to Wildwood. We cruise down to Wildwood in Dodd’s Jeep via Amish country loaded to the gills with kites. After about four hours we get into town and book into the hotel. Dodd gets the same house from the hotel every year and we’re soon getting down to getting our gear unpacked and in Dodd’s case his buggy put together on the front garden for a bit of buggy action before the festival kicks in on Friday. Who should come by at this point than Dean Jordan and his friend Beano. The boys are off to New York for the evening and invite me along. Well you can’t refuse an offer like that, so I throw a toothbrush in a bag and jump in the car.

Man New York’s a blast. We hit a club to see a few bands. If you like high energy stuff and see a band called ‘2 Skinnie J’s’ on the bill, I’d not hesitate to go. After the band we hit a few bars till 5am and grab a few hours sleep before heading back to Wildwood.

There’s a few more brits’ at Wildwood along with Carl, James and myself we are now joined by Andy Wardley along with Paul and Natalie Reynolds, looks like we have a small invasion going on this weekend.  The weekend soon kicks in and it’s down to the hard work (Yeh right) of flying kites all day. Wildwood is huge, the buggiers are down by the water, the single lines fill the sky, the comp’ is in full flow and the demo fields are up and running. In the single line field I spot Wolfgang Grimsel with his wonderful kites. Wolgang’s from Germany and I’ve been lucky enough to have seen his work before. Wolgang’s one big kid, who just loves to make kites that have movement in them. This can be seen in just about everything he makes, from his ‘spinning windmills’, to his ‘Seals balancing balls’.

The comp’ field isn’t quite as big as last year, but there’s still a good turn out. The Robertshaw brothers don’t do quite as well as last weekend, but still put on a very good show and wowed the audience with their demos.

The next couple of days were spent flying kites, talking kites and even watching kites on vid’. There’s a bit of a tradition at Wildwood, at least one night over the weekend everyone (Well not everyone as they wouldn’t all fit in) comes round to Dodd’s place to check out a few new kite vids’. The night was spent drinking beer and whooping in up at the screen. Quad foil had a few new vids’ I’d not seen before, man they were cool. There was lots of action on sand, ice and water, with some excellent air time and some spectacular wipeouts. Also got to see some raw footage from Dodd’s camera, man it’s strange seeing yourself flying.

There’s also a new face on the buggy scene, Eric. Sorry Eric can’t remember you second name. Eric comes from a snow boarding background and boy does it show. What Eric lacks in experience, he sure makes up for in commitment. Keep an eye out for Eric, he’s going to be real big.

I missed the indoor fly, but got there just in time to see Curtiss Mitchell do a refly of his routine. That boy can really fly. He seems to take it one step further than I’ve seen indoor flying go before, Curtiss manages to make it into a whole kind of performance art thing. Thanks Curtiss, that was just, well moving is the only way I can think of describing it.

It’s now the last night of the festival and it’s off to the crab house with about fifty other flyers. This is where we all went off for the last night meal last year and I’m really looking forward to it as I had a great time last year. Well it didn’t let me down, the lobster was great and the company a real giggle. Everyone had a story from the weekend and as we had Corey on our table, if the stories looked like slowing down, not a problem, Corey seems to have one million and one stories just waiting to be heard.

Tuesday morning comes and it’s time to hit the road. Dean, Beano and Corey come to pick me up and we’re off on the airport run. Corey keeps us entertained with his vast knowledge of just about everywhere we pass through, Dean keeps us on the road and Beano lays back and catches flys for an hour. Corey’s the first to get dropped off at BWI and then it’s me leaving the boys to their long long drive home.

Well I’m home and jet lagged. That’s just about where I started this, so it just leaves me to say thank you to all those that helped get me out to the states and made my time there as great as it was. Thanks Dodd and HQ for getting me there. Thanks to all the organisers for making my staya comfortable one and thanks to all the people that made my stay so much fun.

Until next time guys and gals.

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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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