Issue 1: Tip Stand

When asked to write a column for Kitelife, I thought, “What can I possibly say about sport kiting that hasn’t been said before, by far better writers?” By no stretch of the imagination am I a writer. But I am a flier. I do design and build sport kites. And I have a deep and abiding love for kiting in general. So, I ask that you readers out there bear with my limited writing skill, sit back and hopefully learn something new, share some memories and maybe have a laugh or two with me.

Tip Stand was selected as my byline as this column will be dedicated to those little nuances that surround one’s kiting experience. The hobby; the sport; the camaraderie with those sharing the same experience; the connection one has with the wind on a personal level; the traveling; the festivals; and competing all make up this wonderful way of life. Tip Stand is my way of sharing my favorite personal tips and suggestions. In the next few months I will talking about selecting music to fly to; traveling with kites advice; obtaining optimum performance from your kites (tweaking them); tips on light wind flying; and what to look for when comparing kites on a dollar for dollar basis. I am very pleased to join the rest of the staff of Kitelife and hope that this E’zine has a long and successful run.

Travel with kites

Traveling with kites is something all of us deal with at one time or another. Whether it be packing one kite for a business trip, or packing a dozen kites for a festival, it’s our goal to arrive and return with them intact and unharmed. The manner in which a person is traveling can dictate the methods used, as can the availability of packing materials, special bags and cases and the types of kites being transported. For this column I’m going to address dual line sport kites, although I’m sure many of the tips could apply to other types of kites.

Initially, your main concern should be not only arriving with your kites in great shape, but doing it so you’re traveling “Lite”. There’s nothing worse than getting in on a red-eye flight and having to lug all this heavy baggage while trying to rent a car or hail a cab. PVC tubes, hard cases designed for skis and other sporting equipment, and even your kite bags can be so weighty that you’ll find yourself often swearing to never do it again, or at least make you wish you brought a crew of personal baggage handlers. I’ve also found it to be a good thing to remember to not bring anything that can’t be used while you’re at your destination, be it a festival or simply a vacation. Who needs a lot of extraneous equipment lying about serving no useful purpose and cluttering up your rental car or hotel room?

Here’s my favorite solution for this problem, and one I’ve used successfully for years. Having a really high quality kite bag, is a very good investment, and one you’ll use both at home and travel. By adapting that piece of “luggage” for travel using inexpensive and readily available packing materials, you’ll find that not only will you save yourself hours of grief, it’s something you can use over and over, making the cost negligible in the long run.

Step One – Line your bag with two layers of bubble wrap. I highly recommend the large kind that is approx. 1.5 inches in diameter each, by .75 inches thick. (the small kind just doesn’t work).

Step Two – Find something lightweight that will serve as a spine. A piece of bamboo, a broomstick, etc. and place it in the middle, stretching the bag to its maximum length.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Think of the bag as a quiver. If you sling it over your shoulder to carry it, the end that would be facing the ground will be referred to as the bottom. The other obviously is the top.

Step Three – Place your kites on top of the spine and pull the bubble wrap around them firmly, forming a cushion of air around them. (Think of it as trapped wind, protecting the kites) Make sure that the nose ends of the kites all face the same direction —-->BOTTOM, with the fragile wingtips facing the TOP.

Step Four – Test the zipper. The finished packing job should make closing the zipper difficult. Your objective is to make the bag as firm as possible. Stuff excess bunches of bubble wrap in empty spaces until you’ve achieved this.

TIP: Pack a large plastic trash bag so when you reach your destination you can stuff all the bubble wrap in it and hide it under the bed or in a closet, with a note, DON’T DISCARD. Believe it or not, in some hotels maids will think they’re doing you a favor by throwing it away.

This method of packing does protect your kites very nicely, as well as being EXTREMELY LIGHTWEIGHT, however it is considered an oversized piece of luggage. It is worth a call to the airlines in advance to make sure you can be accommodated. I arrived at the airport once for an international flight only to be told that I had to repack my three bags into two. EICH!!! Make sure you give all the necessary dimensions and weights to the airline, and have all your bases covered. A general rule of thumb – domestic flights generally allow one to two pieces more than international flights. When you arrive to your destination be sure to ask your baggage claim where to pick up oversized. It is seldom at the same location as your other luggage which I learned the hard way at in Colombia. I had to ask the guy with the dog and machine gun where to find my bag. It was on the tarmac with the rest of my gear.

Repair kits

Not surprisingly I pack replacement framesets, fittings, ripstop tape, tubing, superglue, etc. However, even if you NEVER use it, it’s really nice just to have it. No matter how much you prepare, oftentimes someone else at the festival or competition gets caught without that particular fix-it. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like the feeling you’ll get helping a fellow flier get in the wind again. Particularly when he nabs first place.

Although I compete, and my tips will certainly help those who do, I would like to share these last few thoughts to non-competitors. Imagine how rewarding it could be to be on a vacation to some wonderful place and be able to break away from the tour for an hour or two, flying in some strange and exotic place. Be sure to take plenty of pictures for the album. Turn non-kiters on to the joys of kiting. Think of yourself as an ambassador. Call a local kite store when you arrive and ask them for their favorite kiting fields, perhaps even asking when they meet at a particular location and get yourself invited to join them. Consider bringing an extra kite or two to share with them. Exchange ideas and tips. Travel can be one of the most rewarding aspects of kiting. On the other hand, if you belong to a kite club or have a bulletin board available at a kite store, consider posting in public places locations of frequent “kite meets” so visitors to your area can join you. Extend your hand in welcome to travelers to your area. It’s such a wonderful way to meet people.

Peter Betancourt