Issue 7: Novice Class

Tips and hints for the new sportkite competitor.

Greetings and welcome to Novice Class. This month’s topic is the AKA Convention and Grand Nationals, held in early October in Ocean Shores Washington. This was my second AKA Convention and Grand Nationals. There are some things that I feel are important and the “first timer” should know about the convention. After returning home from the convention I spent some time talking with AKA Novice Ballet National Champion – Susan Shampo from San Diego, California. Susan is an exceptional kite flier and competitor. I enjoyed our conversation, she is like myself, excited about kite flying and loves the activity and sport. If you get the chance to watch her at a competition, I know you’ll enjoy her routine.

 AKA Convention and Sport Kite Grand Nationals

The idea of flying across the United States to attend a sport kite competition was something I would have NEVER imagined myself doing three years ago. However, in October 1998 I found myself getting on an airplane with fellow competitor Terry Murray to fly to Seattle, Washington. The fact that I had never flown before did little to dampen my enthusiasm but this fact did make me a little uneasy about leaving my kites alone, with ANYONE. My kites went with me, inside the plane. I was not going to arrive in Seattle without my kites. This caused me some frustration, but the airlines were VERY accommodating and the fact that I took a 6:20 AM Flight out of Baltimore, Maryland probably did help things a little bit… the plane was not at capacity. I had to start competing the following day and my kites needed to be with me!

We had a slight layover in Cincinnati and met up with Lee and Sue Sedgewick. You won’t meet a nicer couple than the Sedgewicks, It just so happened that they were seated close to us and it took some effort on my part to not turn to them every 5 minutes with a question. I wanted to ask these “kite gods” about the sport, competition tips, Lee’s famous Lady in Red routine, etc. For those of you who don’t know about it… let me tell you… in the early days of Wildwood, Lee Sedgewick flew an innovative routine to the song “Lady in Red”. It would be difficult to find a more emotional routine. Lee flew a red sport kite and flew dogstake during the routine with the kite landing next to him and on his shoulder during the routine. I’ve seen video of this routine and it is beautiful. I wish I could have been there, but in 1987 I had no idea what a sport kite was… and didn’t even know Wildwood New Jersey existed. Dogstake flying is when you run your line set through a dog stake (the little corkscrew shaped devices that are sold in the pet department to leash your pet to) or similar device and end up flying facing the wind with the kite flying beside you. There are good discussions of this technique in Ron Reich’s book “Kite Precision” or in any of the Dave Gomberg Sport Kite books.

Sorry for the wandering and briefly changing the topic… but this column is intended for novices… who may not know about the “Lady in Red”… or dogstake flying. Back to the Grand Nationals trip. This was my second Grand Nationals, having won Novice Precision at the Wildwood Convention in 1997. I was to compete in Intermediate Ballet and Precision, Experienced Quad Ballet, Experienced Team Precision and Ballet with the Richmond Air Force, and MPB as an alternate with Terry Murray and Late for Supper. This was a busy schedule… and I had resolved to the fact that my mind was going to be on my competing each day. This, unfortunately, left little time for all of the other things available to someone attending the Nationals. However, I figured that this was a once in a life time type of opportunity, to fly in that many events at a Grand Nationals. It’s the People that make the convention

The AKA Convention, however, is more than just a meeting of the country’s best sport kiters. It is a meeting and gathering for everyone who loves kites. The AKA conducts a General Business meeting during the week, the sport kiters hold a meeting where individuals get the opportunity to tell the Sport Kite and Festivals committees of their concerns. Take advantage of these opportunities to speak to people in charge of the AKA and let them know your opinion. Many of the famous kite people you read about in this and other magazines are at the convention. They are usually more than willing to answer any question you have about kiting. DO NOT hesitate to walk up to them, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation.

Although there is plenty of time to meet people at the convention, the best times are during the mass ascentions, workshops, mixers, or the fly mart. The fly mart is an area at the convention, usually in a ballroom at the host hotel, where you can get some good deals on kite stuff. Everything from new kites by Dodd Gross, Joel Scholz kites, to kite designs on t shirts, cards, or wind chimes are available. Bring what cash you can to the convention because there are some good deals. Also, if you’ve got lots of extra cash and want a one of a kind item… The AKA Auction at the Convention is where it’s at. Nationally and Internationally known kite makers donate items for auction to raise money for the AKA.

The opportunity to meet other AKA members and learn from them is the real reason for going to the convention. Look at it as if you were going to school. I watched the Masters Ballet competition and was in awe during some of the performances. Shane Snowden’s performance that won was unbelievable, Moving up from Intermediate to Masters didn’t slow him down a bit. Susan Shampo, who won Novice Ballet and finished second in precision plans to skip a class next year and move to Experienced Class – best of luck to Susan. Novice Class at the Grand Nationals was dominated by Susan Shampo and Bill Rodgers. Bill won Novice Precision and was second to Susan in Ballet.

Competition Tips

After the Nationals, I had a conversation with Susan Shampo who won Novice Precision. She offers these tips to someone competing in Novice Class

    1. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t let your fear or nervousness stop you from competing. Things are not as “strict” as they may seem and you’ll learn by competing. Be Prepared. Don’t have your precision figures or your routine written on your wrists. Know your routine.
    2. Shadow Judge. Judging will make you a better competitor.