Well, we’re headed off to the Washington State International Kite Festival – or as it’s know on the field – ‘WSIKF’ (and it’s pronounced just like it looks – “Whisk-If).”
But there’re a couple of things you should know about WSIKF – and a couple of things you should know about Kitelife’s reporting of the event, too!
First off, there’s SO much going on at WSIKF that it’s impossible to participate in it all, or even to see it all, so it’s definitely a “Marathon” event rather than a “Sprint.” So plan to “pick and choose” what you’ll see and do – and what you won’t!
Next, regarding Kitelife coverage… We intentionally chose NOT to do Kitelife Daily Updates at WSIKF this year for a couple of reasons. One is that we kill ourselves in the process every time we do those darned things. Then there’s the “other side of the coin.” When it comes time to create the next issue of Kitelife, it’s like we have nothing left to say. We’ve poured all our hearts and souls into the “daily updates,” and – having already reported all the details – there was really nothing much left to report. So this time you get an “event report” in the Kitelife issue but no daily updates, which is just peachy with me. And this year, I’m gonna list ALL of the events that are scheduled for each day and that way you can see what I didn’t see and report on.
But enough of this “preamble” stuff – let’s get with it!
WSIKF really is “The BIG Show!” So, since it takes an entire week, we actually start working on it several days ahead of time. Laundry on Thursday, so we pack the kites and gear on Friday. Saturday’s the rest of the packing and last minute schedule adjustments. Sunday is a couple of hours of travel and 3-4 hours of “getting situated” in Long Beach. This year, I brought and stayed in the motor home, so Barresi drove my other vehicle, both up and back.
Anyway, it was finally time for a trip to the beach, and I also needed to check in with Evonne Miller, the WSIKF Beach Director. Parking passes and (new this year) Field Passes for access to the restricted fields were needed.
Still, on Sunday evening before the opening Monday – about a dozen of us ended up at the Thai Restaurant just north of downtown Long Beach. It’s “tradition” by this time, you know. Ed Jensen, the “big kite” guy. Bob Wendt, one of the festival announcers. A few of the iQuad members, plus Lam Hoac. Ben Dantonio the GM from Revolution Kites, and Barry “Bazzer” Poulter of Glued To The Blue kites, and Theresa Norelius of The Kite Shoppe, plus several others. And included with our party were a couple of fellows I hadn’t met yet, who eventually turned out to be Pedro and Esteban Gonzalez… But much more about the Gonzalez brothers later!
- Kite Trains – Arches – Multi-Line Stacks
- Fighter kites Warm-Up
- Special Friends Day
- Kite Train Workshop (Cost: $6.00)
OK so, we’re finally at WSIKF. The beach opens early, but I end up going to breakfast at Debi’s in Long Beach, and running into Ben Dantonio and Bazzer Poulter – which, it turns out, would occur every day of WSIKF. Then it was off to the Latte stand, where I get a Mocha for myself and a White Chocolate Mocha for Evonne! Then to the beach, where my van would remain parked for at least six hours. That’s fine – it held all of my kites and the necessary Kitelife gear and other things I needed to survive. It’s really my rolling office…
Yup – by this time, it’s all that’s “tradition” stuff anyway.
Then it was time to start moseying around, doing my Kitelife bit, so I said “Hi” to Theresa Norelius and Ben Dantonio and lit out to confer with John Barresi who was setting up down toward the water just seaward of the “Big Kite” field. John and the rest of iQuad would be ensconced there for the entire week, doing their iQuad “bit.” Actually, that bunch is more like a three-ringed circus at times, so along with Ray Bethell who was also setting up toward the ocean, they’re a rather constant “draw” for the crowd. Anyway, for the next seven days, I could probably find John somewhere near iQuad Heaven there during the festival hours.
Then it was not much more than a glance at the Big Kite field, and then off to see what was going on over on the fields in front of the announcer’s both. And there were trains and arches all over those fields. Yup – Monday is the “trains and arches” day, and Ed Jensen among others had a ton of kites out in 5-6 gorgeous arches, with them all staked out together as a single “rainbow” display. Most of the arches would fly throughout the morning, though some came down with the first real wind-shift we experienced mid-morning, Ed Jensen’s among them.
Wind? WIND – for a KITE festival? Oh, yeah – we’d been plagued with light and variable winds in prior years, but 2007 winds seemed to be amenable to kiting in general with decent amounts of sunshine to boot. We’d generally have adequate or better for wind-speeds throughout the entire week, with them coming out of the North or Northwest for the most part. And only one day of rain – which we’ll get to eventually.
And over on the Big Toys field, I noticed that someone was pulling a HUGE inflatable “Devil Kite” up into the sky, so I left Ed and his arches and wandered back over to see this big kite – and a real “gem” it is, too!
Nothing against Dave Gomberg or Peter Lynn or Martin Lester, but I’ve never really been a fan of those inflatables. They always seem to wander around the sky bit, they also seem to have difficulty staying inflated unless the conditions are exactly right, and more than a few of them need to be flown with a “pilot” kite to keep them airborne.
Still this Red “Devil” kite seemed to have surmounted all of these difficulties. The Devil is really a huge disk with a couple of yellow pointy horns on top, and three big tube-tails coming straight off that big round “hockey-puck” body. This one seemed particularly well-mannered, flying steadily straight downwind. And it was holding its round shape well too, with no burbles or sags or deflations at all. And it was flying all on its own – with no help asked or required. So how in the heck did they do all THAT? So I wandered over to try and find out!
And, it turns out that the “owners” of the Devil, were Pedro and Esteban Gonzalez, from our dinner party of Sunday night. Pedro and Esteban are this year’s Featured Fliers, in from Spain, and apparently they have made something of a scientific analysis of inflatable kites and have resolved most of the difficulties I described above – both in the design of kites and in the construction phase as well. We had a short discussion on the subject of “inflatable flight” there on the beach – short only because I’m not really knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions or understand the resulting answers, I’m afraid. Suffice it to say, the Gonzalez brothers have the answers to the problems that have plagued those large inflatables for years – and can discuss the theory behind the answers too!
All of that notwithstanding, however, Pedro and Esteban turned out to be two of the nicest young men ever to visit WSIKF as Featured Fliers. As Dave Gomberg mentioned later on, the Gonzalez brothers arrived in Long Beach on a Sunday, not knowing a soul, and by Wednesday there wasn’t anyone on the beach that didn’t count those two gentlemen as fast “friends.” Well, I can’t speak for everyone on the beach, but I know that those two are welcome on any field with me wherever and whenever we meet!
Oh, did I happen to mention that the Gonzalez kites are superb? Well, they certainly are as far as I’m concerned, and I got to see that big Red Devil “up close and personal” later on!
Still, it was well into mid-afternoon by now, and I figured it was time to take my annual stroll down “Vendor Row” and then head to the Be-Bop Cafe for a good burger. So I made my way down Bolstad Street toward town, stopping to greet those vendors I knew from years past. Among them were Dave and Keli Colbert at their “Above It All Kites” booth, ably assisted by our old friend, “Doc” Counce. It’s always good to see these folks. They’ve done a whole lot for kiting over the years, and have all befriended me a time or two.
The “downer” for the day, however, is that Skip and Kathy at the Be-Bop Café no longer existed. There was another small restaurant there instead, but they were closed on Mondays so a quick exit to the Cottage Bakery right around the corner satisfied my hunger and put me back on the field a half hour later.
The day was pretty much done, however, so all I had time to do was shoot a few more photos of some pretty deltas flying across the way, and call it a day. Both Ben Dantonio and Theresa Norelius were ready to leave, and perhaps it was time to get myself back to the motor home and think about some real sleep.
- Terrific Territories – Terrific Tuesday Top Team
- Camera Workshop with Larry Kellis
- Hargrave Event
- Club Camps
- Totally Tubular
- Fighter Kite Warm ups
- Individual Rokkaku Battle
- Pun Fun
- Team Rokkaku Battle
Yep, right back into the fray the next morning, just like yesterday. Breakfast across from Ben and Bazzer, get a couple coffees, park the van, and do the “wind-check” bit all over again. It’s already a never-changing routine… So I’m back on the field by 8:30 or 9:00, grabbing the camera and headed out to see what opportunities would present themselves. Nothing new there either, except…
I happened to glance over toward the Big Kite field, and noticed a tall lanky fellow setting up the pretty delta kites I’d seen late yesterday afternoon, so I thought I’d wander over for a chat. Besides, there was something familiar about him, but I just couldn’t place what it was…
And then, all of a sudden, I knew who that was, so I exclaimed, “I should have known…” out loud as I was walking over – and got a funny look of inquiry for my outburst. Well, I quickly backpedaled and explained that I’d not seen him for at least three or four years, and I didn’t connect him with the pretty deltas I’d seen flying across the way yesterday afternoon. Indeed, I’d not run across him since the time he’d been selling his lovely “birds” kites and those entrancing “Angels Play With Sin.” Yes, it was our favorite Tasmanian, Robert Brasington. So we settled into a chat for a while.
I asked if he knew the brothers Gonzalez, or as their business card reads: Los Hermanos Gonzalez. Yes, Robert had run into them several times over the summer, and said they were really quality guys – which helped put them into perspective quite well. I mean, I liked Pedro and Esteban immediately, but it was nice to know that the European kiting community thought them to be worthwhile people.
Then we got into what was going on in Robert’s life, and how things were with him. He felt he was doing quite well with the kites, but felt ready to be going home to his wife and his own corner of the universe back in Tasmania. Bravo, Robert.
Finally, we got around to discussing his kites. I’ve always admired Rob Brasington’s design work a great deal – and told him so. From my own viewpoint, I feel his use of color and his overall design work, going all the way back to his original cellular “cathedral” pieces, has been just stunning – and my admiration for his continued efforts has not wavered over the years. Yes, Robert was gracious and humble, but he also heard me too. And somewhere in there, we reached an understanding of sorts. I understand and like his work very much, and he seemed to appreciate it…
Anyway, we spent somewhere around an hour together, me helping him launch his “display” and us chatting back and forth while we launched. It was a most generous sharing of his time, thoughts, and energy on his part, and it is one of those high points I will take away from WSIKF 2007, because ultimately kiting is not so much about kites for me – it is much more about the people who make and fly them. And Robert Brasington is a real “class act” in my book!
Anyway, we’d finished filling the sky with color, and settled back to small talk and discussions of concepts. And it felt like I should move on and leave Robert with some time to himself, since to do otherwise almost felt like I was monopolizing too much of his time – perhaps even preventing him from doing the business he’d come to Long Beach to do.
Across the way in the center of the field, the Gonzalez brothers were launching the big Devil kite again along with several others they’d brought over from Spain. Soon, however, Esteban broke away from the launching efforts and began dancing all over the field, flying a very small single line kite – sort of like a fighter in flying style, but the kite seemed to have two wing panels rather than a single sail like most fighters do. I wandered over to have a look, and recognized it from a video I’d seen on the Internet of something we’d called the “White Butterfly” around the office. It turns out that is the name of the kite too, although there’s some longish Spanish name for the kite, so Esteban and Pedro just call it by the first syllable of that Spanish name – the “Bai.”
Well, it certainly was an interesting kite. The more I saw of it, the more I liked this kite, and I ended up buying one right there on the field before I left the Gonzalez brothers. Esteban is excellent at demonstrating what the kite can do, and I was also impressed by how easily and how well it flew in a novice’s hands – namely mine! Anyway, it’s a good thing I liked the kite, because by that time, I already owned one.
So we stood and chatted a bit about this and that having to do both with kiting and with international travel. Finally, I decided I’d best put this new kite in the car and get on about taking some photos and talking to some other people. I knew I could find those nice Gonzalez brothers around that big Red Devil kite nearly anytime.
I headed back to the car, put the kite away, grabbed the camera, and visited with the “neighbors” a bit. WSIKF is one of those events where folks tend to put up a “camp” and return to the same spot every day. Yes, Theresa was my close neighbor, as were Ben Dantonio from Revolution, and an old friend of mine, Ellen Pardee was also in the “neighborhood.” And Ellen was shepherding a ‘grandson’ named Oscar around during WSIKF this year.
Ellen always gives me “heck” whenever we run into each other at an event – I suspect mostly because she can get away with it because she knows we both enjoy that kind of back-and-forth banter. But today, Ellen is busy-busy-busy! After all, it’s Tuesday at WSIKF, which means competitions! And this battle is a “Team” Competition where nearly anything seems to count, and high silliness can make your team’s score grow by leaps and bounds! And grandson Oscar would happily join Ellen and her compatriots in this exhibition of craziness – thus helping grandma Ellen and her Team, the “Lady Kitefliers,” prevail over their competitors – groups with names like the “Goat Hill Gang” and the “Pierce County Kitefliers Association!”
Well, I have to say that discretion must have clouded my senses or something, but in spite of numerous offers to join this mayhem, your humble author chose to walk away and let these ladies do battle for these extraordinary honors all on their own (and Oscar’s) efforts. So I grabbed a can of Lemonade to wash away the thirst and a brief respite instead. Yeah – just put this crusty old curmudgeon down as a perpetual wet blanket, I guess… Besides, it was probably time for me to wander off and check on something or other anyway (Nearly anything else would do!) so that’s what I did!
Yes, I DO make light of these “competitions,” but they’ve been an integral part of the WSIKF traditions for quite a while now. Indeed, some of these folks take pride in their standings in these things, while they don’t mean very much to me. But I have also learned not to discount these activities out of hand. Among other things, the camaraderie among the teams and across team lines is one of the nicest things about being at WSIKF. These folks all know and love each other and come back to Long Beach to compete, but also to share their love of kiting and its people. And, in truth, it doesn’t GET a whole lot better than that in Kiting, folks!
Anyway, it was time for me to get out among those Big Toys again and shoot photos of all of the joys and delights to be found out there. I’ll grab some shots of the Brasington offerings. Shoot a few photos of all those Gonzalez kites. Wander through the fields and document what Phil and Barbara Burks were flying. And anything else that happened to catch my eye and the camera lens. After all, it was the first real day where we had a decent amount of kites up.
Then maybe a visit to Ray Bethell’s camp and a quick stop over by the iQuad patch to see what trouble they were getting into today. And while I’m up, I should probably grab the obligatory “mob” photos down Vendor Row on Bolstad Street, paying special attention to the World Kite Museum’s tent in the process. And, while I’m at it, let’s see if we can get some shots of the banner farms – and maybe even a few pictures of a few kids just enjoying the festival.
Well, as expected, the Big Toys field was beginning to fill up. Not only the Brasington aerial and ground displays in the corner of the field, and the Gonzalez brothers kites – at least a half dozen VERY big inflatables – but several big Sutton Flowforms with long tails or huge Spin-Socks too. And there were several other not-so-big kites, both inflatables and sticked kites, out there too. It was an interesting mix of kites, and filled the sky with color, and I was quite happy out there among that incredible display up in the sky – shooting photos and chatting with several of the fliers of these wonders.
And afterwards, time for a quick sandwich, and maybe even time to FLY a kite as well!!! Wouldn’t that be extraordinary? Me? Flying at a kite festival? Well, stranger things have happened, I guess. So I shot my share of photos and then got my sandwich and some coffee.
Sure, I went and flew. I ended up on the seaward side of the Big Toys field, and set up one of Bazzer’s Comets. The darned things are a pain to drag out onto the field along with all of the gear, and it takes me about 20-25 minutes to set one up properly, but they are SOOOOoooooo pretty in the sky that I know they’re well worth the effort, and the public seemed to appreciate them as much as any of the other big kites… I really enjoy flying these kites, so this was just some “me” time for a change!
By the way, if you intend to fly big kites at any AKA sanctioned event (fest or comp) anywhere in the Northwest, plan on getting “banded.” It’s the organizers’ way of checking you in and certifying that you’re flight-capable and up to speed from a safety standpoint. We’ve had instances where people who have no clue about how to fly large kites have just wandered onto the field and gotten themselves into big trouble all by themselves. But, if we’re all banded, it’s pretty easy to see who belongs on the Big Toys field and who doesn’t!
Anyway, I had myself a decent couple of hours out there, and then stowed the Comet away and went to eat an exceptionally nice dinner at the 42nd Street Café with a lovely friend of mine. Then it was back to the motor home and time to log some shut-eye to get ready for another day.
- Paint me Patriotic
- Children’s Events
- Senior Fighter Kite Challenge
- Kids for Today Day Events
- Quilted Kite Fly
- Fighter Kite Showcase
- Kid’s Kite Making
- Senior Ballet
- Red, White & Blue Individual Rokkaku Battle
- Indoor Kite Flying
Okay, NOW this WSIKF is starting to get a little more energy to it. That list up there is growing, and about half of today’s events up there have several “sub-events” listed in the printed WSIKF program…
After my usual morning routine (Breakfast, coffee, parking, weather-check, etc.), I got out the camera and headed for the fields straight away. Today was both “Kids’ Day” and “Patriotic Day” which meant that as well as the normal old activities (Ray Bethell, iQuad, etc.) there’d be all kinds of competitions of various kinds with people running about, and judges with clipboards wandering everywhere… I wanted to get “my stuff” done early, so I wasn’t in the way of all this high-energy activity.
I took a bunch of photos quickly, and said ”Hi” to the iQuad gang, Ellen Pardee, Theresa, Robert Brasington, Bazzer, and Ben Dantonio, and several others along the way… All told, I pretty much “ran” through my routine, rather than moseying along as usual. Yeah, it got me out of the way pretty quickly, but it also gave me lots of extra time, too. So perhaps today was a good day to go say my “Hi” to some of my favorite vendors and shopkeepers, too.
It must have been about 10:30 when I wandered off down “Vendor’s Row” (Bolstad Street) and stopped at the booth of “Above It All Kites.” Well, Dave and Keli Colbert and old pal Doc Counce have been friends for a number of years, so it’s pretty normal for us to josh back and forth with each other… So we spent a decent amount of time chatting back and forth, with the geezer (me) being very careful NOT to get in the way of any pending sale they were making…
Please note: WSIKF is BIG BUSINESS for the vendors and other retailers in Long Beach during this festival. And those who’ve been there a while know there’s a fairly long and not—too-profitable winter coming on within a couple of months – so it really behooves them to get as much profit out of this event as they can. From a consumer’s standpoint, I know that sounds pretty mercenary, but from a seller’s standpoint, a “good WSIKF” can mean the difference between closing your doors forever and staying alive to do it all over again next year. No, they’re not “crass” about it, but they ARE serious!
Then it was time to wander into town – all three blocks of it anyway. I did a quick tour of the two functional kite shops (Above It All Kites, and Long Beach Kites), and took a quick tour the Hat shop, stopped at the new/used bookstore, meandered into an art gallery and perused their goods, and wandered into a few other places. No rush, after all… so I stopped and chatted with folks wherever and whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was a nice time, with the same retailers in the same locations for the most part – save only that Ocean Kites, a Long Beach mainstay, was empty and sported a bi “For Rent” sign. Nice to see that the old town is still there for the most part. And after an Apple Turnover and a cup of coffee at the Cottage Bakery, I headed back to the beach about 1:30…
And, with not much happening other than the usual “Kids Day” mayhem (kids going everywhere with and without kites, in all directions) I was kind of lost for a while. Okay, I’ll just sit in the car and “observe” for a few moments, but that didn’t last long. Still, there WAS all that kid and grandparents “activity” and the sky displays and ground art and the banner farms and “camps” all combined in a riot of color. So I banged off a few more shots. As veteran kite pilot Ray Bethell says from time to time – “Good Stuff!”
Then I wandered over to Robert Brasington again and told him I needed the prices on a couple of his kites. Yeah, I was going to buy ‘em… and, sure, I knew I should probably resist, but those kites are soooo pretty and soooo addictive that they easily fall into the “I just gotta have ‘em” category… I’d pay him whenever he liked, but he was free to keep them and use them for his display for the duration of the festival. That’s always the way it works with me – I pick up kites at the end of the festival. That way, my purchase doesn’t detract from their exhibits. Anyway, Robert and I struck a deal, and we were both happy campers!
Then I wandered back over to my “rolling office” and grabbed a can of Lemonade and waited to see what was happening with my friend Theresa of The Kite Shoppe. And as usual, Theresa was busy talking with folks and filling prior Kite Shoppe orders. When she goes to a large festival, she will normally take some kite and accessories orders over the phone ahead of time and customers can pick up their products from her right on the flying field – so there are always a fair number of kite folks hunting Theresa up the first few days if any kite festival. For WSIKF, she will commonly have as many as a couple of dozen pre-packaged boxes of “stuff” for her customers. Yeah, she gets a chance to talk with her customers face-to-face, which she enjoys very much.
And, as expected, Theresa is talking with someone I’ve not met before, and there’re one or two others waiting to speak with her. So I settle in on her SUV’s tailgate, drink my lemonade, and help however I can. Usually, my role is simply making sure stuff doesn’t vanish, but today someone wants a bit of discussion, so I end up talking to her customers as well – this time about the wonders of iQuad, which I happen to know a fair bit about. But after a while, the talk dwindles down and pack-up starts in earnest. We’re heading off the flying field early in hopes of making it over to the Indoor Fly this evening.
Soon, all of the assorted paraphernalia is stowed away and we pull out, headed for Long Beach Elementary School, where Ron Suyematsu opened the gym for free-flying at 4:30. We missed the appointed time by a bit, but there was still plenty of floor space, and a place in the bleachers for my body, and I found it’s kind of nice to be off the beach and out of the wind for a change. There were a goodly number of excellent pilots out there on the floor.
Penny Lingenfelter was busy exercising her Indoor Revolutions. And, as usual, Penny had a number of youngsters involved in a skit she was going to present – complete with a cast recruited from the audience. And in the middle of it all, John Barresi and Ben Dantonio were locked in a discussion. Ben, of Revolution Kites, has a new set of Indoor spars available, and John had some questions about those rods. Elsewhere, Lam Hoac was conversing with Ray Underwood and his family – including young indoor hot-shot, Tristan Underwood, who is 11 years old and at the top of the heap in the Indoor standings for the league. Lam and Ray have an easy relationship and son Tristan is not at all shy about asking Lam how to do some stunt… And Alan Cunningham was there too, along with several other very good indoor pilots… I watched and kibitzed with various members of the indoor crowd for about an hour.
But this was Wednesday of WSIKF – which means it’s the night for the Washington Kitefliers Association (WKA) “Spaghetti Feed” over at the Grange Hall – so I left the indoor fly, drove over to the Grange Hall, and ate my annual portion of WKA’s pasta. It’s not a bad deal, with pretty much all-you-can-eat (oh, I know they won’t say so, but there were folks who went back for THIRD helpings.) And as usual, the “floor show” for the evening was the distribution of the items won in the bag raffle that the WKA uses to fund next year’s Spaghetti Feed! It all amounts to an inexpensive meal, and a bit of fun among fellow kiters assembled there for WSIKF.
Then it was back to the motor home for a bit of rest before we get to do it all over again tomorrow.
- Handcrafted Comprehensive Competitions
- Single Line Show Off
- WSIKF/NAFKA Fighter Kite Challenge
- Indoor Kite Flying
Yes, we were underway again. Same routine – Breakfast, Coffee, Park-it, Weather-Check, etc.
…WHOA!!! What has happened to the weather???
By now, we’re very used to moderate winds out of the Northwest, increasing slightly throughout the day, along with bright sunshine starting about mid-morning and continuing all day long.
Today, the reality is – we have moderate-speed and “flukey” winds out of the SOUTH-west, with a moderate cloudy overcast at about 1,500 feet that looks like it could bring us some moisture. Perhaps I should just leave the camera in the car and just “watch” the weather for a while? Well, I kinda chose to do that – sensing a front moving through Long Beach that may or may not produce some rain – but I changed my mind about the camera about 10 minutes later. I finished my coffee to the dregs and decided to get out into it. We ARE at a kite festival after all, and sitting in the car in the mornings at WSIKF wouldn’t cut it. Grab the camera and get going!
Now, the “schedule” above doesn’t seem like all that much is going on, but I have to explain that first item. The “Handcrafted Comprehensive Competitions” are really a SERIES of competitions, broken into sub-categories. First of all, there are different kinds of kites, which are all judged within their category. And then, there are also different “levels” of skill assigned to kite builders, so that competitors compete against other builders of similar skill levels. So in reality the handcrafted comps take most of a full day, and judges get a bit “testy” in the late afternoon and a little cross-eyed by the time the day is over. Still, there is incredible workmanship in many of these kites – and each kite is fairly examined and judged by a panel of qualified judges. And winners, when announced, take extraordinary pride in their kites and the efforts used to build them – and justly so, too! These are among the best of the best from across the nation.
So anyway – keeping a wary eye out for weather changes, I begin my usual rounds. Yes, there are kites in the air. Indeed, more kites than usual, because all of the handcrafted kites must fly for 5 minutes for the judges as part of their judging process. Therefore, everyone is putting their handcrafted kite up to test the wind and make any adjustments to ensure it will fly well when it is their kite’s turn to be judged.
So I wander through the throng of kitebuilders, shooting all those intriguing kites wherever they’re found, including some on the ground. Yes, there are kites here that match or beat anything I’ve seen in the air during WSIKF so far. And out on the judging field, pilot/builders are flying their “babies,” praying the wind holds just right and that the judges notice how well it flies and see how well constructed it is, and how innovative they have been in their designs too. Yes – kites – and more kites – and kites galore – everywhere!
And I finally extricate myself from the “seductiveness” of all these custom kites and try to work my way over to the Big Kite field again, and I eventually succeed. Oh, it took some time to extricate myself, because as soon as one category of kites is done being judged, another category begins going through the very same process. And kitemakers who have entered multiple categories have pretty much “dumped” the last kite and picked up the next one to be judged and they’re busy making certain that IT will fly well… So the “activity” involved in the judging process is really all part of the “Handcrafted Comprehensive Competitions” – and also part of the seduction. So by this time, it’s early in the afternoon.
Anyway, many of the old friends we’ve seen on the Big Toys field are up there again, though the low overcast seems just a tad lower and perhaps a bit “juicier” too… Yeah, I see most kites flying, but on shortened fly-lines. Will all those yards and yards of rip-stop nylon get a little shower today? Actually, it is beginning to mist a bit already – it’s not too bad yet, but maybe more precipitation to come?
As it turns out, this is just the beginning… The clouds would continue to drift lower, but not low enough to completely stop activity on the fields. And the amount of mist/rain would slowly increase as if Mother Nature were gauging things and choosing to add a little more liquid in frequent tiny amounts.
Still, the camera lenses began to fog quite badly and photos shot in this stuff weren’t worth taking, let alone printing. Time to put the cameras away.
And, since the pilots on the Big Toys field are not novices, many of them are pulling their stuff out of the sky – realizing that 20 or 30 or 50 yards of wet nylon dumped in the sand will weigh a ton and be a heck of a mess that they’ll have to dry off and “de-sand” before they fly it again. Care is being taken to ensure they have as little of that kind of work to do as possible. Indeed, the crowd, what there was of it – has pretty much disappeared anyway. And once kites are down, I suspect many pilots adjourned to the Beer Tent to commiserate with one another. Anyway, kites gone = pilots gone too.
There was the exception, of course. Apparently the brothers Gonzalez have gone for lunch or something, because that huge red Devil kite that dominates the whole field anyway is still up there flying in that mist. A bit “drippy,” of course, but ALL their kites are still up there flying!
And come mid-afternoon, when Pedro and Esteban Gonzalez had returned and the red Devil was heavy enough to settle gracefully into the sand, one other kite was still aloft too, though barely – a big delta, flown by a relatively new “large kite” pilot. And the pilot eventually brought the big delta down and it landed, scraping across the tails of the red Devil in the process and nearly severing two of the three tails. The pilot quickly apologized for his rather uncontrolled landing, and offered any help he could give – but unfortunately the damage was already done.
Needless to say, the Gonzalez brothers were dismayed. Fortunately, they are NOT the kind of men to explode, or even to get particularly angry. But they were upset nonetheless – especially since they now had mounds of wet rip-stop to deal with and they both figured that the kite would have to be transported back to Spain where their “showpiece” could be properly repaired. Well, word of the mishap spread like wildfire, of course. I happened to be near Teresa’s SUV when I heard of the difficulty, so I put my camera away and walked directly over to Pedro. “Can we help you repair the red Devil,?” I asked. Of course, Pedro was very interested in pursuing timely repairs.
So, together, several of us marshaled the efforts of the kiting community. Bob Wendt, our announcer, happened to have a very nice Pfaff portable and plenty of red thread with him. Theresa was staying at a condo about 10 miles away, and offered the space – plus a snack of cheese and sausage and some decent beer to tide us over until we could eat a real dinner. Bob knew exactly where the condo was located. And between Bob, Theresa, and myself – we could all provide transportation to the condo for the kite and both brothers. So I helped the Gonzalez boys bring in the rest of the kites, and the beach crew carted them off for storage – all except the big red Devil kite, of course. Come on, folks. It’s nearly 4:00 and they’ll let us off the beach and we can have this thing done in time to make it to the Indoor Fly or even to the Associated Oregon Kiters (AOK) Barbeque down in Ilwaco tonight! So off we went to the condo – picking up a few “supplies” on the way, and by the time we all arrived, the mist was gone and the sun was shining brightly again. Yep, just another weather front, passing through.
Anyway, Pedro was amazed that we would offer the equipment and facilities for the repairs. Esteban took one look at the Pfaff, and said it was a “very nice machine” and it would do just fine, thank you! So we pulled the kite from it’s bag and left Esteban alone to do all the repair work. Instead, Pedro and I took the opportunity to stand on the balcony of the condo and look out to sea, and he was plainly delighted by all of this – the friendship we were showing them, the accommodations and equipment, and the chance to have their Devil back in the air the following morning!
But to be honest, I would have felt very bad if we failed to help these fine men. THEY were the Featured Fliers, invited to come over from Spain to be a part of this festival. WE would be remiss if we didn’t do everything we could to help – not only from a “festival” standpoint, or even from a “fellow kiter” standpoint, but also strictly from a human-to-human standpoint. Believe me, we were all delighted help, though a bit sad that help needed to be given!
And within an hour, Esteban had completely repaired the big red Devil. Yes, just as simply as that sentence says it. And, as he accepted a beer AFTER the sewing was complete, I asked him how much permanent damage was left on the kite – and he replied “None! Good as NEW!” And, true to his word, the red Devil flew well the next morning with no problems whatever.
And, we all DID make it down to Ilwaco for the very last of the hamburgers and potato salad and cookies from the AOK Barbeque. Yep – another bag raffle, too – and I think I remember that Theresa got her tickets into the bags very late and so won several prizes from the raffle. LOL
So, we missed the Indoor Fly that night. No big deal… Some others drove the Gonzalez brothers back to their hotel, so I headed back to the motor home and crawled into the sack for a pleasant night’s sleep.
- NAFKA Fighter Kite Line Touch World Cup
- Mass Ascension #1
- Mass Ascension #2
- Junior Dual Control Competition
- Sport Kite Events:
– Flyer’s meeting
– Masters Individual Precision Competition
– Novice Individual Ballet
– Novice Individual Precision
– Novice Individual Precision
– Open Pairs Ballet
- Fort Worden Fly
- Mystery Ballet
- Lighted Kite Night Fly
- FIREWORKS will follow the lighted night fly.
Yep, the BIG DAY! It’s traditionally the day everyone wants to go to at WSIKF. It’s the day when the “late arrivals” are all in. It’s the day when the Sport kite competitions start. It’s the day when the Fighter Kite Line Touch World Cup occurs. It’s the day when all the “locals” attend. And it’s the day the rest of the crowds gather too – when WSIKF is “mobbed.”
Well, never mind the predictions based on prior years. I didn’t notice a lot of extra people on Friday. Oh, and Me? I just did my usual morning routine!
Oh, and the weather was just like every day at WSIKF (other than Thursday). Clear skies, temps in the high 60s to start and topping out in the low 80s by mid-or-late afternoon, and winds from the northwest at around 4-5 MPH early in the morning, slowly building into the low-to-mid teens by late afternoon and evening. I’d love to say it was so regular as to be boring – but good, flyable winds are NEVER boring to kite pilots!
After a run by iQuad and Ray Bethell, I headed for the Big Toys field, and ran smack into Robert Brasington as I walked onto the field. After yesterday’s rains and other mishaps, he’d like it if I took the two kites I was buying and took them away – so the kites wouldn’t be harmed presumably. I paid my bill and happily carried them back to lock them in the van before I returned to the big kites.
Once I was back there, it was very nice to see that big red Devil kite in the air again. No, I could see no evidence of it flying the least bit differently from the earlier days, and I had to look very carefully to even find Esteban Conzalez’ repairs. Great job, guys! And it was also nice to see the Gombergs in evidence, David flying a large inflatable penguin, using a lifter.
Over on the main field (Field A) not much was happening other than folks getting ready for the first Mass Ascension at 10:00 AM. Since friend Theresa was quite interested, I eventually got a blow-by-blow account of the Mass Ascensions, but they mostly included pin-counts as the most important part of the description. She would eventually fly in all four ascensions and acquire all four pins.
But over on Field B, the Northwest Sport Kite League (NWSKL) already had Sport Kite events underway – full-blown competitions for league points. This one happened to be Masters Individual Precision. And way down on Fields C and D, the North American Fighter Kite Association (NAFKA) was busy running the “Line Touch” World Cup! I have always sworn that I would get to a Fighter Kite competition at WSIKF someday, so – holding to my own personal tradition – I once again swore I’d do it “someday,” but I didn’t make it at this WSIKF either!
Yep – plenty of stuff going on. So I decided that I’d spent enough time not watching iQuad fly, so moseyed over to their corner of the universe and just watched for a while – and I was certainly not alone. There’s certainly something that attracts people to iQuad, though I’m not altogether sure what it is. Yes, the patterns are pretty eye-catching if you’ve not seen them before. Yes, they’re always in motion and it looks very “controlled.” But I’m well aware that people came to watch iQuad and stayed for hours, glued to the same spot, just watching. Anyway – there they all were, the iQuad members and “friends” and protégés… Yes, I stood and watched for a few minutes with the crowd, but I was the exception rather than the rule I guess, leaving within 10 minutes of my arriving.
So, rather than going to sit in my car and feel bored, I fell back on one of my photo “tricks” that I use when I don’t know what else to do – I started taking pictures of people. Just “the people,” not of anyone in particular! I wandered out onto Vendor’s Row and shot several frames of people. People walking into the festival – or out of it. People standing in line at the mini-donut stand. People buying Tee-shirts at the Official Festival Booth. People sitting at picnic tables eating… Finally, I got tired of that too, so I headed back to the car, figuring there had to be something better to do than waste my time this way.
One of the things I’d noticed on my way across the fields several times were several glorious kites and yard-art “assemblies” (for lack of a better term) made of spray-painted ripstop nylon. I’d mentioned them to Barry Poulter earlier in the week and he exclaimed “Oh… That’s Scott Hampton’s work! He’s the guy who pioneered that kind of stuff, doing all the research and everything to find out what REALLY works!” Okay, Bazzer would know about all that stuff, since he uses the same techniques on some of the kites HE makes! So I walked over to meet Scott! Nice guy, and we shared a bit of info back and forth between us – some of which may or may not eventually make it into Kitelife! And in the whole process, we discovered that I now own a kite that Scott Hampton had Ron Gibian design for him over a decade ago. I already knew of his connection with that kite, but had no inkling that he was THAT Scott Hampton! What a small world kiting is… Anyway, I’m pleased to report that Scott’s current spray-painted kites and line art offerings are truly Spectacular!
By now, things had progressed enough so that it was early afternoon and they were getting ready for the second Mass Ascension, and I finally decided I’d had enough! I was at a loss for what to do now, I really wasn’t accomplishing much of anything, and I need an honest-to-god “break” – so I took myself to lunch in town. Just a nice Ham and Swiss on Light Rye and a small helping of Potato Salad at the Cottage Bakery, but well worthwhile for me, and I felt better for it and was more productive in the afternoon – though perhaps not for Kitelife.
I spent most of the afternoon helping people over by Theresa’s SUV. Some needed directions, others needed advice, and one or two just wanted someone to talk to. I did the best I could until about 4:00 or 5:00 PM. Then I ran into Bazzer, who said they were planning to fly as many Comets and Meteors as they could get their hands on for tonight’s Night Fly – and did I want to donate my three kites to the show? And perhaps even set them into the air? Well, certainly – I’d be happy and honored to join you, Barry! So when everyone else was leaving the field, Barry Poulter, Ronda Brewer, Lindsey Johnson and I were all quite busy “constructing” Comets and Meteors for the night-fly!
Yes, it took us the better part of two hours to set up and “hang” all this white fabric on the roof of the world like that. And I have to say that those Night Fly offerings were certainly impressive! Any time you get a flight of four full 150’ Comets into the air side-by-side they WILL BE impressive. Add another four 100’ Meteors into the same mix and things get even MORE impressive. About the only thing that would have made this display EVEN more impressive yet would have been to “light” all of this sky-candy! Maybe next year, eh?
The sport kiters did their share too of course, putting on quite an impressive show for about an hour. And, iQuad’s contribution at the end was truly incredible! I wonder how many people who watched that show knew just how difficult that kind of quad-line team flying is, when all you can see on the end of your 120 foot lines is a handful of lighted “dots” – that look just like all the other dots on everyone else’s kite? Truly AMAZING stuff!
Yeah, the night-lights and glow-sticks on all the kites were an impressive sight! Certainly the night-candles and glow-sticks on the people were too! It was loads of fun just being out there for the night fly, and we certainly had a fine time of it – and those fireworks were pretty darned fine too!
Then it was bring ‘em all down and try to get those Comets and Meteors broken down and back into their bags successfully without breaking anything. Yeah, we managed somehow, thought 1,000 linear feet of kites on the ground is a daunting concept for anyone to consider. We even rolled up the fly-lines properly – though I have to say that Bazzer did the lion’s share of the real work, with the rest of us just “helping out” near the end.
Then it was off to the motor home and right into that comfy sleeping bag to finally get warmed up, and to pray that I survived to see another day again. MAN, was I bushed!
- NAFKA Fighter Kite Line Touch World Cup
- Mass Ascension #3
- Teddy Bear Drop
- Sport Kite Events:
– Flyer’s meeting
– Experienced Individual Ballet
– Beginner Sport Kites
– Open Pairs Precision Competition
– Open Team Precision Competition
– Open Team Ballet
– Masters Individual Ballet Competition
- Parade of Colors
- Pin Challenge
- Rokkaku Challenge
- Cody Fly
- Indoor Kite Flying
- FIREWORKS DISPLAY
Yup – back at it again the next morning, though a bit worse for the wear if I were honest about it. Same routine, which I’m glad to say I could now accomplish in my somewhat “groggy” state! Fortunately, all was well with the world and WSIKF burbled along without too much effort on my part! Good Thing – that…
The program says the NAFKA folks continued their World Cup on Saturday, but I have to say that it wasn’t so. Those “fighter” jocks had so much fun on Friday that they refused to quit, so they just finished he off on Friday instead. So I have it on good authority that any fighter flight seen by the crowd were “demos” rather than real competitions. Still – hats off to NAFKA! They continue to do fine things there on WSIKF’s beach every year, and I’m still gonna get to see one – someday!
And along with that, the NWSKL can be proud of their involvement in WSIKF as well. This was only the second year that WSIKF invited the Sport Kiters to come back and fly and compete at WSIKF, and they showed the festival what a “class” organization they are – putting on an excellent show and some superb comps! Particularly well received were the “Unlimited” events where innovation counted and crowd appeal was quite important.
Still, it was mostly the Big Toys and fancy Single Line Kites (SLKs) and those two areas near the water – Ray Bethell’s and iQuad’s that garnered most of the attention. And Saturday was certainly no different.
So I was out on the field early, shooting any “newcomer” big toys to start with. Not much new there however – except the Gonzalez brothers got out their “Portrait” kites again – the inflatables with their pictures on them. Good show, Senores!
And so I wander back over to the main competition field and find we’re into heavy traffic from the get-go out on the main field – Field A.
First up is Experienced Individual Ballet, a judged Sport Kite event put on by the NWSKL where the contestants fly their kites to music, interpreting and choreographing their kites movements to help describe a piece of music of their own choosing.
Then it’s time for another Mass Ascension again, this time for the flat and bowed kites such as Eddys and Hatas and Della Portas, among others.
And so the festival rolls along, with each event occurring in proper sequence and nearly as on time as possible – considering that WSIKF, like most kiting events, truly functions on “Kite Time!” Any correspondence between Kite Time and any “official” time at all is more than somewhat coincidental UNLESS the “official” time has shifted to align itself with Kite Time for a change!
There are several noteworthy events that occur on Field A on Saturday at WSIKF, so I stay close and hang out near Field A – and my van.
Probably the biggest crowd-pleaser of the entire festival is the Teddy Bear Drop! Children nine years old or younger can register to go out onto Field A and catch a Teddy Bear that parachutes down from a kite overhead. Yes, I know most kiters have seen this kind of exhibition before, but most casual festival attendees have not. So can you imagine what happens with a thousand people up on the dunes watching this event and cheering for some 7 year old kid who is trying to catch a parachuting Teddy Bear? Of course you can! Heck, these Teddy Bear Drops can garner as much attention as iQuad sometimes does – which is going some!
And then there’s the traditional “Parade of Colors!” All of the WSIKF participants (not the general public) identify themselves with flags or banners of some kind. This is the festival’s traditional display and approval of all participants and their banners! This is also the festival’s time to give their recognition to the Feature Fliers. Participants line up and march in with their banners, followed by the usual “official” welcome of the invited guests by the city of Long Beach (never mind the fact that they’ve been here all week). This event fills the entire Field A and is about as colorful as WSIKF gets! So what happens when the participants all line up with their twenty foot high banners – and the wind is well into the teens? And to compound things, you might throw in a bit of a squall with the possibility of resulting rain-showers! Yeah, when that occurs things get just a bit “interesting,” which is exactly what happened this year!
And, if that’s not enough, there is the Rokkaku Challenge event, where teams of fliers square off and “fight” each other for airborne supremacy using the traditional Japanese style Rokkaku (hexagonal) kites. The object is to be the last kite aloft by cutting others fly-lines or knocking the other kites out of the air – and sandbagging (refusing to fight) is specifically not allowed! Dave Gomberg is a long-time master at this sport and has enough of a glib announcing delivery to bring the crowd (and sometimes the participants) to a fever pitch, so the “action” can get pretty fast and furious! For this one, both David and the teams were in fine form today!
Yeah, I hung around Field A and watched all the action. It wasn’t all that much effort on my part to dop that but I felt as tired as if I were out there stomping over the field all day long. Musta been last evening’s Night Fly that did that to me, huh?
And late in the afternoon, I wandered over to check on how iQuad was doing, and was actually astounded. I walked up behind the onlookers just to observe, and caught a bit of the comments running through the crowd. They were conversing about iQuad among themselves, using all sorts of nifty adjectives – and it seemed to be an unending series of comments and opinions from a fair percentage of the viewers. Things like:
– Gosh, did you see THAT? Those guys are sure fun to watch…
– That’s incredible! I’ve never seen anything like that!
– WOW!!! How do they DO that stuff! I don’t understand…
– They’re AMAZING! They must have practiced for years to do that stuff!
– Who dreams all this up, and do they sell tickets to the brainstorming sessions?
– Lookit all those lines… How do they keep them all straight, and who untangles all that mess when someone gets lost?
– I bet they all live together so they can practice all the time to get so perfect!
Sure, I had several urges to respond to their questions and comments, but though better of it. I think it’s probably better if the crowd just keeps wondering like that. Being amazed and mystified is not necessarily a bad thing for kiting… But one thing’s for certain. Wherever they go, iQuad makes (seduces?) their own crowd, and keeps them entertained for hours!
Soon, however the day was at an end – or at least the “on field” part. Then we were off to the WSIKF Banquet / Raffle / Auction over at the Elk’s club in town. Yup – yet another “tradition!”
When you attend the WSIKF Banquet, there’s a part of you that’s still “high as a kite” from all the field activities of the week – but there’s also a little wistfulness too, in that attending the banquet is a way of admitting that all this glorious fun is coming to an end!
But… Actually, the Hors d’œuvres were pretty decent. The Bag Raffle had a few interesting items, but I much preferred the Silent Auction items, and ended up buying a couple. And the Live Auction was a bit too rich for my blood. Sure, there were probably a couple of items I’d have liked to own, but I certainly wasn’t willing to pay the Top Bid prices even though the proceeds went to feed the WSIKF coffers. All in all, however, it was a fine night.
And the Banquet ended with Pedro and Esteban giving “Bai” lessons in the Elks Club parking lot after it was all over!
Then I was off to bed in the motor home. Tomorrow was the last gasp of WSIKF!!!
- Memorial Fly
- Mass Ascension #4
- Sport Kite Events
– Flyer’s Meeting
– Experienced Individual Precision
– Open Quad Precision
– Open Quad Ballet Unlimited
– HOT TRICKS
Okay, I was a bit slow getting going on that last day. Nope – no hangover or anything like that – especially since I’d had no alcohol to drink last night. I guess it had more to do with my reluctance for it all to end than anything else. Yes. As Kris Kristopherson wrote – “Sunday Mornin’ Comin down…”
It used to be that Sunday morning of WSIKF week meant an empty beach, with everyone on the road to home after a fun but trying week. Yes, there were some events on the schedule this Sunday, but somehow the urgency was gone.
Still, I went through the motions and made it to my parking space with plenty of time before they buttoned up the gate behind us, and then we all went through the appropriate motions even though our hearts weren’t in it somehow.
Yes, the Sport Kiters were into it, being used to Sundays being just another competition day. No, I didn’t attend this time.
Soon enough though, we were into another kind of mass ascension on Field A again – this time, the Memorial Fly… It is a time to recognize those “empty spaces in the sky” and to honor those who have gone on before us. Larry Ziler does such an extraordinary job with the concept that it’s hard to imagine going to WSIKF and not attending the Memorial Fly to pay one’s respects to those pilots who’ve passed away during the prior year. Yes, there are always far too many pilots who have left our presence, and reside only in our memories now. Yes, we come to show our love of these souls and our caring for those of us still left behind, grieving. Thank you Larry. And thank you to everyone who participates in the Memorial Fly, too – even if you only stood there and thought good thoughts about a friend or relative or an acquaintance you hardly knew. Thank you!
And, yes, I did attend this one – thinking of an old friend, Chuck Johnson – “The Old Man On The Beach” from Ocean Shores who was my friend for many, many years, and of a tiny little miniature Poodle named “Suzie, the Empress of the Universe” who was Glenda Kleppins’ constant companion forever and ever… and who just quit breathing on Thursday evening during WSIKF this year.
Over on the Big Toys field, there was a decided absence of anything meaningful, at least to me. The red Devil was gone from the skies, headed home with Dave Gomberg instead of the Brothers Gonzalez, who were also absent. No more Brasingtons or Bazzers either – though Barry Poulter was still at WSIKF but holding court as his alter-ego, the British feller playing with iQuad!
So, I wandered a bit, and found it amazingly easy. Not hard to do when the WSIKF crowds were trimmed by half. Still, there were still some diehard kiters out there, setting up for the final Mass Ascension – this one for “soft kites” so no stick to adjust this time. Yes, Theresa attended, and I watched from the sidelines, unwilling to let go of the festival I guess.
I opted out of the rest of it for some reason, my heart not really into it anymore. Oh, I saw Amy Doran fly her “Charlie Chaplin” routine in full costume and stood and applauded. Amy has captured the essence of Charlie Chaplin in both her dress (tux with tails and a bowler hat) and her demeanor, so the crowd identified with her character quite easily! And she performed the routine very well, as did all of the other competitors!
And following her Open Unlimited performance, Amy (now “Charlie”) came over to me and asked it I thought that iQuad would like to “play” with Charlie? If so, she would be happy to make Charlie available… So I walked over to the iQuad patch of sand and Steve DeRooy made moves with his Revolution to play with ME without my even asking… so it was no great stretch of the imagination to just slip “Charlie” right into the iQuad frivolity in my stead without even having to ask anyone – and Steve and “Charlie” were off and running! Fortunately, I had my camera handy for this bit since “cameos” like that don’t come along every other moment… Finally, a bit of FUN to the day! Yes, the crowd loved it too!
But finally, we were winding down. John and I made moves to get the van right for his trip home to Portland, and I would take all my kites and gear with me and drive the motor home back by myself again. It meant a trip to the campground to unload all that “stuff” into the motor home so that John and Shannon could have the use of the van to haul all of THEIR stuff. But that maneuver was easily accomplished and pretty soon we had said our final goodbyes to all and sundry and had the rolling stock headed south toward home.
Nope – no rush about it at all. It’s sometimes agony not to be there for the very start of a festival, so I can certainly understand John’s interest to be among the first to arrive. But heading home is another matter altogether. We’d get underway, but in no particular hurry. After all, if we kept our foot on the throttle and just steered the thing, the road would unwind all on its own – and at the end would be – “home.” Ollie, ollie, in free…
Warm Regards to all you kiters, and we’ll see you at the next one –