Issue 5: Sportkite Issues

Part 1: Peace in our Time?

In the last issue, we wrote:


The American Kite Circuit has been a ship adrift for several years, and the AKA Conference system could use a national layer added on top of it. Bury the ancient hatchets. Benefit the sport. American Kite Magazine, change your season to match the AKA season, and make the AKA Convention the “All-American” EVERY year. AKA, make the Convention an “open” event to accommodate the 2 or 3 fliers who show who would not have qualified under existing rules. Remember Santa Monica in ’96? Incredible competition! Remember Grand Haven, the ’98 All-American…only 44 competitors. We really need your combined leadership!

There are some encouraging signs that the two major powers in US sportkiting are attempting to find common grounds and work out their differences. It is our opinion that this can be nothing but a good thing. As we have said in previous editorials, it is counterproductive for the AKA and the American Kite Circuit to not be pulling in the same direction.

For the last several seasons, the AKM circuit has used a calendar-year season, with their keystone event, the “All American”, being held at different times of the year, at different locations. The AKA season runs from August 1-July 31, with their top event, the Nationals, being held as a part of the AKA Annual Convention.

In our last issue, we suggested that the two organizations join forces, and synchronize their seasons, and top events. Our view is that US sportkite competitors would be best served by the AKM adopting the same season as the AKA, and holding the All-American at the AKA Convention.

This move would require compromise on both sides. In recent years, the AKA Nationals have been an invitation-only event. Only the top three placements in each geographic conference are issued invitations. The All-American, on the other hand, has always been an Open event, allowing all to compete. We feel that the time has come for the AKA to make the Nationals an open event, also. All other competitions at the AKA Convention (fighters, rok battle, comprehensives) are open to all comers. To our view, additional time would not be needed, as two days are already allocated. Any extra volunteer needs would be easily covered by the contestants, as at every other US festival.

The AKA would also need to ensure that AKM circuit winners were adequately recognized, and embrace the Circuit as an integral part of the event.

The American Kite Circuit would need to change their season. I spoke with a member of the committee last week, and he acknowledged that they are discussing this move. He suggested that the 1999 season may run from January 1 to July 31, with following seasons spanning the period of August 1- July 31, mirroring the AKA season.

The AKM source also said that they are looking into the possibility of holding the 1999 All-American at the site of the AKA Nationals, in Indiana, the weekend before the event. He indicated that the AKM committee feels that the fliers want a separate event from the AKA. Please take a second to answer the poll below, regarding where you feel the American Kite Circuit should hold the “All American”.

The choices are as follows:

1. Free-standing event, such as ’97 at Long Beach, WA or ’97 at Grand Haven, MI.

2. At the same location as the AKA Convention, but the weekend before convention activities start.

3. As a combined event with the AKA Nationals, at the AKA Convention.

We will make the AKA and AKM leadership aware of your responses to this poll.

Richard Dermer, AKA President, sent us the following response to last month’s challenge.

Dear Mike:

In response to your proposal the the AKA and AKM “bury the hatchet”, I am all in favor. Let me fill in some background for those who may be confused.

The American Kitefliers Association, or AKA, in l992 decided to restrict the number of sport kite competitors at the AKA Grand Nationals by instituting a qualifying requirement for fliers. This was done to keep numbers to a manageable level–“open” Grand Nationals had become so time, space, and volunteer resource demanding that they were detracting from other convention activities. The “qualification” system requires a flier to finish in the top three, in a class, in one of six regional “conferences” in order to qualify for the AKA Grand Nationals. The system has worked well since implemented–most qualifiers attend the Grand Nationals, although some alternates get invitations.

Meanwhile, the “other” ranking system for sport kite fliers was the American Kite Circuit, or AKC, initiated, maintained, and publicized by American Kite Magazine, or AKM. Unlike the AKA, which only ranks fliers within “conferences”, the AKC publishes regular national rankings of competitors in AKM. Fliers amass points by competing in designated AKC events, almost all of which are also good for AKA conference points. A few AKC events are designated “Nationals” with more points awarded, and one “capstone” event is designated the “All-American” with even more points awarded.

The AKC designated the AKA Grand Nationals as their All-American event several times in their early years. However, the AKA qualifying restriction, when instituted, clashed with the AKC desire to have an “open” All-American which any flier could attend. As a result, the “All-American” designation has been granted to other events in most recent years.

The one exception in recent years was the AKA Grand Nationals in Santa Monica in l996.

These were designated as the All-American by the AKC. A compromise was worked out between the “open” and “qualifier only” sides by identifying those AKC fliers, with a mathematical chance of finishing first in their AKC class, who had not also qualified for the AKA Grand Nationals. There were only a few. These few were given special invitations to compete in the Grand Nationals along with those who had already qualified.

We thought the system went well. We received no flier complaints (that I know of), the numbers were manageable, (barely), and the competition level was great! However, the AKC was not happy with some aspects of the competition, particularly the low level of spectators, and designated other events as their l997 and l998 All-Americans.

The AKA would love to “bury the hatchet”; we were surprised and disappointed that the AKA Grand Nationals last year and this year were not chosen to be the All-American. We would love to repeat the “Santa Monica system” again in l999 at Muncie, Indiana–I feel sure we could again extend invitations to top AKC fliers who somehow avoided qualifying for the AKA. And I know the fliers would like it. They wouldn’t have to choose between two events, or suffer the expense of attending both, if even possible.

What about it, AKC and AKM? Can we give it another try? What does the AKA need to do to make this happen?


Richard Dermer

President, American Kitefliers Association It appears that both parties are ready to make this work. We urge them to complete the process.

PART 2: Hail to the IRBC

We would like to applaud the efforts of the International Rule Book Committee for their efforts in producing the new sportkite rulebook. It obviously had a lot of time and energy devoted to it, and will make a good structure for the sport’s stability and future growth.

In its original form, there were a few items in the book that caused concern among fliers. Chief among those were the severe penalties to be administered to those violating competition field boundaries. As originally written, a boundary violation would have disqualified a competitor from the entire event.

A firestorm of controversy followed, both at events and on the Internet. The feedback led to the IRBC re-evaluating the rule, and altering the language to make the penalties less draconian. Democracy at work, great job, all.

Now that we have that issue resolved, we asked for clarification of another clause in the rulebook, detailing music editing for ballet events.

Here is the section that we questioned (the bold is provided for emphasis):

Music for Ballet:
It is acceptable to have a signal prior to the beginning of the music. The music may be composed for the performance, may be an arrangement, or an existing piece. The music, however must be an entity and shall not consist of completely separate pieces just attached to one another. If different pieces of music are used they must be combined to give the impression of one entity. The music should end naturally, not abruptly as if edited to meet time constraints.
Choreography: Choreography is the interpretation of selected music, a performance from the beginning to the end. There shall be a close relation between the music and the performance. The routine shall interpret the variations of the musical composition, such as dynamic, tempo, rhythm, originality (not necessarily meant to be spectacular), mood, creativity, variety, etc.

We contacted the IRBC to ask for clarification of this guideline. Sherrie Arnold, who was an IRBC member during the development of the rule book, and co-chair of the AKA Sportkite Rules Committee, provided the following response:

“The intent of this rule is to avoid performances where the competitor has spliced together two or more disparate pieces of music with no apparent theme.

It is not intended to discourage performances where multiple pieces are used to express a musical concept, as indicated by the next to last sentence.

As we all know, even the most basic performance must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When a ballet routine contains pieces of music that conceptually diverse, the judges have a hard time identifying these parts.

This can be extremely detrimental to the overall routine – the judges are left scratching their heads about the flier’s intent rather than absorbing the performance.

The important thing here is to judge your music while you’re in the selection process. Can it stand alone? If not, then it won’t work when you add in the kiteflying! The point of the IRBC rule is to get competitors to think this through before they enter the competition field.”

We at KiteLife hope that this statement clarifies the intent of the music guideline.

If you would like to read the full text of the International Rule Book, or provide feedback to the committee, visit their website at