The Pledge

ONE SKY, ONE WORLD, and at least ONE KITE

How invited kite fliers can support kite event organisers better than we have been.

But first, just so as we don’t start taking ourselves too seriously; single line kite flying, like art, is an activity for those who are too useless, or too self indulging, to be able to contribute something more worthwhile to humankind and the planet- like myself.

OK?!

But whatever our rationalisation, (providing enjoyment for others is a pretty common one), kite flying is what we do, and that it is trivial in the wider scheme of things is not a reason for doing it badly (there’s no doubt an apposite biblical quote about this, probably called the parable of the toilet attendant).

Kite festivals are the window through which the world sees us, and kite festival organisers (along with those who run kite making workshops), are the heroes; not us show-off kite fliers. But unfortunately, as for so many human activities, there seem to be more shirkers than workers amongst the kite fliers at kite events.

Something needs to be done about this.

At the Pasir Gudang event in Malaysia a few weeks ago, Robert Trepannier (definitely not a shirker) remarked that at around 2pm on Sunday (the main day) with 50,000- 100,000 eager spectators, there were just 8 kites flying (though under interrogation he confessed to two of these being trains). There were ( I recall) 136 international kite fliers there and wind -not pleasant mid-range steady wind, but not none, and not too much either. And it wasn’t during a tropical downpour like there had been the year before about this time of the day.

The excuses I heard were all the usual:

“I was taking a break for a bit.”

” Big kites upwind of us were making the wind too turbulent” (bull- the wind was cross-field).

” I’d broken my light wind kite and there wasn’t enough wind for the others”.

“There wasn’t any space to fly in” (like that 8 kites could completely occupy 5 hectares !)

The reality: Shirkers outnumbered workers there by more than 10/1.

And then at Satun (Thailand) a week later, when it was 40degrees and there was absolutely NO wind for an hour or so, I counted 43 kite fliers out on the field trying to get kites up; a reasonable effort, but still a 5/1 majority for the shirkers.

What’s the reason for this?

Are the shirkers incompetent kite fliers or just terminally lazy?- or have they come to believe that scoring invitations to international events is a reward for something (like telling lies about how many kites they will fly maybe)? Well, if this is how you think it works, I have news for you; it’s actually an employment contract.

This is what everybody should agree to before accepting a kite festival invitation:

I pledge:

To keep at least one kite flying at all times during the hours of the event.

Even if it’s too hot or too cold, or if there’s too much wind or not enough,

Or if it’s too sunny or raining, or if someone else is flying in the space I want:

And when I don’t have any kites up, I’ll be trying to get one launched,

and won’t sit on my backside, go for lunch, or cruise around gossiping until I have.

Signed……………………….

In fact it’s especially when conditions are not ideal that real effort is needed; kite events do not need fair weather fliers (those who bring their kites out only when conditions are perfect -and then complain loudly that the fliers who have endured through all the bad patches are now hogging the sky).

It’s not a lot to ask; but if every invited kite flier could just manage to keep one kite up, at most events there’d be at least twice as many kites in the sky as what we usually now see.

There’s plenty of time for eating, resting, and socialising while kites are flying- or after hours if the wind is particularly uncooperative.

Personally, the only exemption I’d allow would be for those doing kite making workshops.

But of course, there might be kitefliers who would game this pledge by flying something small, boring, and invisibly high (I’m specifically NOT referring to Phil Broder here) – but there are people who will abuse hospitality in every field of human endeavour- and if event organisers would show a little more fortitude, they wouldn’t get a second chance, and our trivial, irrelevant, but wonderful world of kites would be a noticeably better place.

Peter Lynn
Ashburton New Zealand
April 1 ’13.

Comments from the author:

With “The Pledge” I’ve been pretty much the mouthpiece for various event organisers. Their privately expressed views all have a common line: “The more we do for these people (kite fliers) by way of travel, accomodation and entertainment, the less kites there seem to be in the air. What do we have to do to get them to do their job?” Some of them are close to giving up- and historically there are some event organisers who have pulled out for precisely this reason.

The tragedy, to my view, is that these same event organisers appear to be unable to set standards that must be met as a minimum condition for invitations.

When challenged on this, they say that they don’t want to get a reputation for being unwelcoming or difficult. They see themselves as being in some sort of host/guest relationship I think- which is admittedly a rather core human program. But so is abusing hospitality.

And it is indeed an issue that needs to be rammed home to kite fliers who go to public events.

Without these windows to the world, kite flying will have much less influence, which I would regard as regrettable because kiteflying is one of the very few shared and binding experiences that easily crosses age, gender, language, cultural and relative wealth barriers.

Nor do I buy the argument (that I’ve received many versions of in the last week), ‘If I pay my own way I can fly, or not, when I like”. When an attorney is working pro bono, are they then justified in doing less than their best? In your sport’s team’s area finals, is it OK to slack because you’re not being paid?

I’m a slacker sometimes, no exemplar (can I use long Italian lunches as an excuse?) , but one distinction I never make is money. At local events when there’s zero support, I fly just as hard- and just keeping one kite up?- this is a laughably inadequate minimim for anyone claiming to be a kite flier.

Peter Lynn

Editor’s Note:

This article is republished with permission from Peter’s newsletter, please click here if you would like to sign up for future mailings.

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Author:Peter Lynn

A New Zealand kitemaker, engineer and inventor. Peter is notable for his construction of the world's largest kites (Guinness book of records holders), giant inflatable (sparless) display kites (the most widely-known is the 27 m octopus kite), the invention of kite buggying and contributions to the development of power kiting and kitesurfing. He spends much of the year travelling worldwide and displaying his kites at International Kite Festivals.

You can read Peter's complete biography on his website.

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9 Responses to “The Pledge”

  1. August 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Well said Peter!
     
    I’m guilty of being lazy at times, but I do try very hard to “fill in the gaps” particularly when the field is going dead for whatever reason… After a while, I think you’re right – some folks start to take the invites for granted, forgetting to consider not only the expense and effort put forth by organizers to bring them to the event, but also the big picture – sharing what we do with the world!
     
    Especially now, with so many kite types available – we can fly in pretty much anything, if we think ahead and bring a good selection of gear.
     
    Thanks so much for sharing your newsletter with us, I’ll be interested to hear from others on this. :)

  2. August 2, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Wow, never thought of this as an issue. At the few festivals I’ve attended, I’ve been too busy flying to think about it. Except I didn’t fly much the last day at Wildwood this year, I was watching the Rev flyers mostly, but didn’t really feel like I belonged on their field, a noob just taking up valuable space. Maybe I’ll look at it differently next year…

  3. August 2, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    Thanks Peter.
     
    Wise words and a good attitude.
     
    West Oz has not had a kite festival in a long time (as far as I can tell)
    I would love to contribute to one though.
     
    I have my train of 25 rainbow kites ready and waiting…

  4. ricmerry
    August 2, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Admittedly I’ve often been in the “If I pay my own way I can fly, or not, when I like” camp. Although I still think this is true I actually appreciate that attitude challenged. I’ve both thought and said out loud “a kite festival is not the best place to fly a kite”. This has been especially true for me at the WSIKF at Long Beach. I’ve been content to mostly observe and take the time to catch up with old friends, kick the tires and talk to peoples about various projects. I’ve often worried about tangling up my “inferior” kite with the expensive and labor intensive “show” kites. This has been especially true at mass ascensions. My experience last year was that I did get tangled up a couple times and…nobody minded! That was liberating. I think if one person would have yelled at me for this that would put an end to it for me. The truth may be that I’m one of the few people out there that’s at all worried about this. It seems I need an adjustment of perspective, and perhaps thicker skin. I’ll certainly try to pay this forward and use any in-the-sky confrontations to create an on-the-ground introduction to my fellow flier with a shoulder shrug and smile.

    On the other hand, at a festival where there are great crowds but little to no wind (Lincoln City Oregon this year) and there are no SLK’s in the sky I feel compelled to try to have something/anything up rather than just act as an observer. I tried ultra-light deltas with long line launches, indoor glider kites and fighter kites. I pretty much had the single line display field to myself and plenty of ready-made anchors to tie off to and duffels of huge grounded lifters to sit on. I worked hard in an attempt to keep something in the air and felt some kind of duty towards that goal. While Team iQuad kept the crowds entertained in the multi-line field with indoor or ultra-light kites and lots of leg power while I flew things “small, boring, and invisibly high”. I got no mention from the announcer which was fine with me, I did have a few spectators ask me how I was maneuvering my little single line kite (fighter) so I felt my efforts paid off.
    That afternoon others (who maybe wouldn’t normally fly in this environment either?) joined me in the almost empty field and I got to see another Dale Vanderhoof Black Feather and both see and briefly fly for the first time an original Focus Manta. It all paid off.

  5. flyguy
    August 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Interesting; Other spectator events like surfing, racing, hang gliding, don’t seem to have this shirker vs worker characteristic no matter what the weather….. so yes that is quite unique. I’ve only been to one event in Lincoln City, OR., I didn’t really notice, cause the sky there was a mass of colorful kites of all varieties, quite a worthwhile event for a newbie like me.

  6. August 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Energizer Bunny here, at your service! ;) On the trick kite field.

    I must say though, festivals, in their purest form, are mainly to bring people together to celebrate a common interest… While there is a social aspect to flying kites, especially my Revs, its not the same as having a nice chat on the sidelines! I need the opportunity to try and make friends, despite my initially shy nature, and I’m (mostly) not going to get that done while freestyling my Rev. I don’t drive hundreds of miles to kite festivals to fly kites – I can fly at home. I make the trip to be with friends and meet people who enjoy my sport.

    I understand, these festivals are created around kites, and there is lots of money involved, and that sets an expectation of having kites flying at all times… This is a tricky subject IMHO. So maybe we shouldn’t have festivals. Maybe we should just get together as a community many planned times a year. Everyone attending would chip in on permits and stuff. (I’m sure its not that simple…) It seems to me that festivals these days are organized as a way to make money off large groups of people rather than to bring them together… If you remove the money aspect from this, nobody would complain if the kite field was empty. But, if you remove the money from this, there may be no kite field…. Tricky…..

  7. August 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Fliers do enjoy festivals, but festivals are not exactly put on for the fliers themselves.
     
    The focus is those watching, the sponsors, the city, the visitor and convention bureau, everything in a community which might benefit from a quality event. ;)
     
    Again, just to make sure we stay focused – Peter’s article is specifically directed toward those who are invited by the event organizers (expenses covered).

  8. August 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    In the author comments, I took not paid to mean anyone not paid to be there, but Peter must have meant invited to be there, but not paid to be there.

    Despite my comments above, I’m glad to support any festival I can, anyway I can as its definitely the best way to connect with others :)

  9. August 3, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    In all fairness, I’m just interpreting Peter’s sentiments so I could be off. :)

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