Issue 32: A Fine Gathering on Kite Hill

Shucks, just another normal summer day in the upper left-hand corner of the map – even though the upper RIGHT-hand corner is suffering a massive power outage right now. Not a cloud in the sky here, temps around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and a decent breeze out of the northwest. So I think I’ll go hang out at Kite Hill with my favorite kite photographer…

John Chilese let some of us know that he had some time in Seattle after a business meeting, and said he’d rather hang with kite-folks than do that touristy stuff. He’s promised to spend a couple of hours at Kite Hill, and a bunch of us are going to meet him there and fly with him. Frankly, he’s one of the nicer guys in kiting, and I sure wouldn’t miss the opportunity to share the field with him… so it’s off to Kite Hill I go, with a bunch of kites in the van and a silly grin pasted on my face.

Shucks – apparently I’m early… I get there and John hadn’t arrived yet, but there’re some folks flying kites, so I wander up the hill. Sure enough, there’s Steve Damon and Dave Harper – and a couple of guys I don’t know who’re flying the very devil out of a couple of Styxs… Nice kites, and they’re sure whackin’ them like crazy, doing really well too – say, who the heck ARE those guys anyway? Finally, one of them finds a “hole” in the wind at the bottom of the hill, and his kite drops right to the ground. The other guy gives up too and takes a break – and they both come over to meet me.

“Hi – I’m Ari – and he’s Ron Gee… and… who’re you?” one says, with a sweaty paw extended for a handshake. Holy Cow! – it’s Ari Contzius and Ron Graziano, the “Wright Brothers” Pairs Team… in Seattle on their way to the “Summer Heat” competition at Ocean Shores this weekend. Good Lord! I’ve been reading about these two “Kite Gods” for years now, and here they are on OUR patch! Wow!!! Isn’t it odd – how you react to something like this? After the intros were over, my first reaction was to check the weather with a quick glance – Nope, I don’t know why – Yup, still warm and sunny and there’s plenty of wind (mid-teens and as steady as it ever gets on Kite Hill). Well, at least they’ll be able to fly here…

So they all go back to flying and I head to the van to bring up the new-to-me Texas Wasp to show Steve Damon. Others show up in ones and twos, make their “how-de-do’s” and just set up and start flying. The Cimbureks arrive and pull out their Shivas, and Dave Harper pulls out the Custom Rainbow Elixir, and John Weldon joins the gathering, and a little at a time – more people dribble in… I’m dragging the Wasp out of the sleeve when I see John Chilese pull into the lot, so I take a quick walk and go greet him. Soon he’s done with all the intros, and announces, “I’ve got less than two hours and I brought the camera… Who’s flying?” No niceties here, time to get rolling… Sun, Clear skies, wind in the 13-17 MPH range, and kites all ready to go. Okay – we’re underway…

Next thing you know, there’re kites and lines and pilots everywhere…

– I’m busy messing with the bridle adjustments on the Wasp, and Chilese is wandering around shooting pics of anything that moves.
– The Cimbureks grab Ron Graziano for some talk and demo on a vented Shiva, and Ari is doing some amazing stuff with his Styx at a frenetic pace – with John Chilese shooting pictures all the way.
– John Nordin pulls out an Astro-Jet that I’ve never seen before (I think that was the name of the kite).
– I finally get this crazy Wasp into the air, and Chilese get his photos and moves on to the next pilot.
– Jim Hall and Dave Harper and Frederick Merli and Tim Darragh assemble a Prism collection consisting of four purple and mylar kites – all Prophesies and Illusion Classics. Chilese rearranges, setting up the shot, then finishes and moves on…
– Next thing you know, Steve Damon has his 32-panel Air FX out and pilots are beginning to line up to fly it, Ari and Ron included – and I believe John Chilese also got a few tugs on the lines.
– When all that’s all done, Blue Moon Bees begin to appear – a pretty RWB one from Steve Damon and a more traditional one from the Cimbureks.
– Chilese runs, he shoots, He SCORES! (Oops – wrong sport, but the pace and energy demands are roughly the same.)
– And Ron and Ari still continue to “WOW” us all with their aerial kite artistry…

And this activity level and tempo goes on and on – for more than an hour! By this time, I’ve just plain “lost it.” It was all I could do just to stand there – amazed – and watch all this incredible activity…

Of course, it couldn’t last… The pace was just “killer!” Plus, it must have been 90 degrees Fahrenheit in that blazing sun on Kite Hill – and even the native pilots were slowing down a little by this time. Ron G asked why his sweat-soaked shirt always looked like this after he was done flying. Some folks just sat down where they stood – “wilted flowers” in the middle of Kite Hill. And I checked my watch and advised John Chilese that he’d best think about heading for the airport to catch his plane home. He finally agreed, and began to pack up his camera and make his “So-Longs.” Oops – we gotta get a group photo or two in, just to prove we were all there. Steve Damon agreed to “block” for Chilese on his way south, since Steve lives south of the airport… John left with handshakes and grins all around – and the comment “That must be a new record for me – at least ten kites in an hour and a half!” Of course, half way down to John’s rental we met Rob Livingston coming up, just arriving straight from work – so it was drag the camera out again and a quick grab-shot for the photo-geek. Yeah – just “one more…” Then John was in the car and gone, too soon – much too soon.

So I wandered back up Kite Hill again, and you’d think I’d traveled back in time. The place looked like the remains of Custer’s Last Stand – bodies strewn everywhere… Finally, Ari stirred a bit – and asked for something to drink. Well, that seemed to be a general consensus amongst the living, so I led Ari down to the van, cranked the A/C up to “Frigid,” and we went looking for jugs of cool, refreshing liquids (all non-alcoholic, folks). Ari came out of the quick-mart with a shopping bag full of the coldest drinks he could find, even some of that electrolyte-laden stuff, and we made it back to the hill – to discover a “miracle!” All those kite pilots had somehow resurrected themselves, and kite flight was proceeding – though at a much reduced, less energetic, pace. Probably a good thing, frankly – and for some reason the wind also cooperated, dropping quickly to 7-8 mph from the mid-teens we’d experienced earlier.

Okay – now was “leisurely” time, or at least a chance for a more moderate activity level. The winds tapered off to “breeze” levels. Only a couple of pilots flew at any given time now. Rob Livingston put a kite up, and so did Jim Hall and Dave Harper. John Weldon sat and re-energized, and I had a chance to talk with Ron G a little about “kite-stuff” – you know, things like the difference between the European and North American kite competition judging standards, and those “lozenge” sail designs for the Shivas, and how good trick/precision kite designs were getting these days, and the differences between solo and “pairs” flying… Yeah – we all had a chance to “decompress” a little. Soon though, it was back again to “The Wright Brothers” and their amazing routines with those Styxs…

About that time, someone asked, “What the heck are those kites that guy’s flying?” I look up Kite Hill, and there’s a fellow flying a pair of PKC “Imperials” – a Jeff Howard design that I particularly like. So, I wandered up and had a chat with this fellow – Ken Howard, by name. Nope, I don’t think Jeff and Ken are related – but they could be. He didn’t comment, and I didn’t ask. I just admired his beautiful kites and his interesting homemade “dualie” handles. After all – it’s not every day you see someone flying “pairs” all by himself. I wish I knew how to reach Ken, but I just plain forgot to get any contact information. Forgot? Yeah, well…

While I was standing and talking with Ken, Ron G and Ari put their Styxs into the air yet again – this time demonstrating their excellent “pairs” routine. I’ve gotta say, folks, if you’ve never seen these two gentlemen fly pairs together, you’ve missed an incredible show. Like any great team, these two make it all look SO easy… Those kites appeared to be flying with “a single mind,” and flying incredible patterns, and figures, and tricks too. Amazing stuff! What phenomenal, complex choreography too! Ken Howard and I stood and watched – just mesmerized.

But, like everything else, the wonderful routine was over WAY too soon. And so I just shook my head and took my leave of Ken and wandered down the hill toward our group again. It wasn’t sundown yet, but the heat was definitely out of the day by now. Dave Harper was busy packing up his gear, and I discovered I was a bit done in as well. So I gathered up my stuff too, said my Good-Byes to all and sundry, and headed for the van in the parking lot – homeward bound. But, if you could have seen me then, I’ll bet I still had most of that silly grin on my face. Nope – If just doesn’t GET any better than this, folks…

Oh – Couple of things:

1. If you don’t know about John Chilese’s spectacular photos already, I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Check out –

– click the image of the Mamba in the corner of the site – and get lost for a few hours. By the way, those’ re John Chilese’s pictures you’ve been looking at above…

2. Also, I’m asking for some feedback, here. Click on my name below and tell me what you think of these scribbles of mine, will you? Like ’em? Hate ’em? See something you’d like me to do better? Anything I missed? Sure – I’ll pay attention, and might even answer back (except for “flames,” of
course). Let me know, will you?


Photos by John Chilese


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Author:Dave Shattuck

As one of our regular and most prolific contributors, Dave "Geezer" Shattuck is a driving force here at Kitelife and a regular at many NW events as well as other locations throughout the year.

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