Are you an AKA member? Why Not?
The value of an AKA membership continues to grow. “Kiting”, the bi-monthly publication that all AKA members receive continues to grow with each issue. Roger Chewning, the “Kiting” editor and his staff are doing a fabulous job. Liability insurance, annual convention, and many more benefits will be yours if you join. Go to http://www.aka.kite.org and see what you are missing if you are not a member. It will be the best $25 investment you can make into your involvement in this sport.
Down with Copykiters!
Our sport is plagued by the theft of intellectual property, in the form of direct copies of commercial designs being produced for sale. I think that most kite designers don’t get too aggro if someone makes a copy of their kite for personal use, but commercial sale of copies is out-and-out wrong. Ken McNeill, upon spotting a direct copy of his AirFX in a kite store, sighed, and said “Well, I guess there are only so many things you can do with a triangle.” A short time later he decided the sweat wasn’t worth the meager payback for being one of the top designers in the business, and he folded his tent. His loss became our loss. May a pox fall on that copykiter’s house.
Last night, December 5, I was on the #kites IRC chat channel shooting the breeze with my kiting buddies. A newcomer popped in, and we welcomed him warmly, as we do all those new to the channel. After some introductions and niceties, he started asking questions about the best wholesale sources for kite cloth, line, and spars. We queried him about his need for large quantities of building materials, and he invited us to check out his website.
It was a well-made, fully functional web store, selling his own line of kites. Everything was in place – color choice charts, spare parts order form, charge cards that were accepted, and warranty policies. The only problem is that the kites were seemingly DIRECT copies of Prism’s designs. The similarities were too numerous to be coincidence. Mylar, almost exact panel match, and a shape that was too close to be a coincidence.
Did we challenge him about this? You bet. After claiming he had never SEEN a Prism kite, and taking more probing questions from us, he left the channel for a while. During this time, we rechecked his website, and were delighted to see that it somehow disappeared during this period. Seems that he was off in search of a better-received design.
An even more outrageous example of the copykiter is the owner of “Oregon Kites”, at http://www.oregonkites.com/. Seems that this fellow bought his first kite, an Airmaster “Bad Boy”, in 1997 and decided to copy it and start a kite company. I wonder what, say, Patagonia would do if they were ripped off like this. “I bought a Patagonia parka last year, and made some copies. I changed a few things to make them fit better, and they are MUCH cheaper than the original, buy mine”. He’d be in debtor’s prison by the time the lawyers got through with him, I bet.
That Was the Year that Was.
1998 was a transitional year of sorts for the kiting sport. The reality that kiting was not going to be the next “hot sport” seems to have sunk into the heads of most of the major players, quiet constructivism took the place of wild-eyed radicalism in the areas of retail, manufacturing, and event promotion. This does not mean that all were asleep at the switch, indeed, there were those who continue to make a difference. Our awards, presented elsewhere in this issue, are meant to recognize those people and companies.
1998 Trends and Happenings
By and large, ’98 was a lot like ’97. The big get bigger, the small disappear or get gobbled up by the big. Invento swallowed up the excellent Buena Vista and Synergy lines, who is next? Shanti bought the wonderful Aerie line from Ken McNeill. Wonder where this is heading?
Jerry Springer couldn’t have staged wilder affairs than the public marital breakup that occurred early in the year, and the Dodd/HQ divorce late in the year. While ranking high on the titillation scale, I hope we are spared such spectacles in the new year.
1998 – should it be called “The Year of the Internet Store”, or the “Year of the Yo-Yo”? The number of Internet-based retailers increased exponentially, they sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The low cost of selling on the Internet has enabled seemingly hundreds of folks to sell all manner of kites at prices that would have been unbelievable even a year ago. The already-established Internet retailers continued strongly, with the exception of BFK, who appears to have given up on the game. Their site still has the ’97 catalog, but they promise a new effort for ’99.
More and more traditional kite shops are broadening their lines to include yo-yo’s and other toys to insure their survival in the face of the Internet onslaught. This was not a good year for the neighborhood kite store, see David Gomberg’s article for more on this. Next month’s KTAI show will be interesting… we will report on the number of toy companies selling their wares to kite stores, and the ratio of internet vs. storefront businesses attending.
Where are the American Kites?
Recently shopped a few US kite stores, and was struck at the lack of USA made merchandise. I know that we are in a global economy, but it seems that only European goods are represented in many kite stores. Don’t confuse me with Pat Buchanan, I am not advocating closing the borders and burning all imported kites; but I strongly feel that the loss of the few remaining US commercial kite manufacturers would be a hard blow to the sport in the USA. The thought of seeing kitemaking return to a “cottage industry” basis scares me. Expect a feature article on this topic in the near future.
The year saw some solid developments in the evolution of kite festivals, but with a slump in the number of sportkite competitors at US events. Roger Chewning continues to do a superlative job of growing his East Coast events, the Wildwood International and Maryland International festivals were the best yet. Roger has aggressively promoted his festivals to the general public, and provided them a lot of entertainment once they arrive. The AKA National Convention had a disappointing turnout, despite the great facilities and schedule chock-full of great activities.
All things considered, it was an entertaining year.