Issue 9: Anchors Aweigh

Anchors Aweigh: The Care and Feeding of a Good Kite Anchor

Recently, when a kiting friend invited me to an international kite festival, I expressed doubt as to my qualifications. After all, I don’t actually make my own kites, I don’t own anything really spectacular, and I wasn’t sure how my stunt kites would be received by the single liners at this Asian event.

My friend thoughtfully pointed out that I made a damn fine kite anchor.

With that in mind, I am re-invigorated, ready to travel to every kite festival I can, thrilled to pursue my new found goal of becoming America’s pre-eminent human dogstake, a regular walking sandbag. For the rest of you talentless flyers out there, the folks who can’t sew, who could care less about the difference between carbon fiber and fiberglass, or who just think that trick flying is for weenies who can’t do a square turn, here’s your guide to anchoring.

1. Select your parents carefully. I used to be angry at my parents for the cruel genetic legacy they saddled me with, but now that I’m into anchoring, I see the grey cloud’sStckguy1.wmf (3908 bytes) silver lining. Sure, I’m short and fat (in technical terms, vertically challenged and abdominally enhanced), but that just gives me a better center of gravity. Stick people like Stretch Tucker and Bob Childs have limited potential as anchors.

2. Bulk up. “South Park’s” Eric Cartman is my role model. On your way to Biggy2.wmf (15840 bytes)your favorite flying spot, say to yourself, “Beefcake. BEEFCAAAAKE!” Then stop at a convenience store – the cornerstone of the American economy – and get some snacks. Yes, you could use any of the myriad weight gain products, anabolic steroids, or Mark McGwire’s androstendione, but why waste the money when you can get the same results on a steady diet of Butterfingers, Cheezits, Mountain Dew, and Pizza Hut?

3. Get in touch with gravity. While some say the Earth sucks, it’s really gravity that holds you, and thus the kite, down. You have to feel gravity. Imagine it tugging at your feet, pulling you down, mashing you flat. If you can even picture yourself dunking a basketball, you’re not close enough to gravity. I personally feel that uplifting, happy people – for instance, Mary Poppins — are less affected by gravity, which in this case is not good. Model yourself after Eeyore, or George Costanza.

4. Feel the friction. Gravity holds you down, friction keeps you from going sideways. Proper footwear is crucial to solid anchorage. Good boots help; Teva sandals hurt. I also find that on frictionless surfaces like ice, spikes are helpful but not necessary. It’s more important to think high-friction thoughts – Teflon, grease, and Vaseline should never even cross your mind – than to actually dig into the surface.

5. Get a grip. Any idiot can simply hold onto a halo spool. And with their wrists bent backward in the natural spool-holding position, those idiots will be the first ones wearing those ridiculous-looking carpal tunnel braces. No, the true anchor slips the spool over his hand and on up to the elbow, allowing him to cross his arms, use both hands for conversational gestures, or scratch himself while still holding his beer.

6. Never reach. Keep the spool close to the body, near the all-important center of gravity. Allowing the kite to raise your arm up into the air gives the kite the feeling that it is in charge. Remember, you’re the boss of you. If your arm is in the air, not only will you look like the Statue of Liberty, you may also be revealing your own personal fragrance to the world.

7. Be careful what you’re holding. Recently, I had the opportunity to anchor Ray Bethell on an icy surface while he flew three kites. For the love of Gomberg, watch what you’re holding onto! Who knows where Ray’s backside has been? Grip the hips, unless you’re anchoring somebody cute like Dorothy Wagner or Tanna Haynes, in which case grip whatever you think you can get away with.

8. Timing is everything. Never volunteer to help hold another person’s kite just before lunch is served, or near the end of the day when people are heading to the bar. You may never see that person again, and your new kite (hell yes, take that kite home with you if its owner bails out on you!) is no substitute for a hot meal or a cold drink.

9. Assume ownership. It’s always better to be the anchor for a real showstopper of a kite than for a Sotich miniature. When clueless spectators question you, say things like, “Oh, this is only a small trilobite. You should see the bigger one I made…” or “I made a kite very similar to this that’s in a kite museum in Japan now.” It’s also okay to introduce yourself as the kiteflyer in question. “Lynn’s the name. Peter Lynn.” Try it; it rolls right off the tongue.

10. Until disaster strikes. The kite is yours until it tangles somebody else’s line, or cuts another kite, or explodes in mid-air. Then, disavow yourself of any knowledge. We’re talking full military denial. “I have no knowledge of whose kite this is. In fact, it was only a weather balloon. Next question.” Later on, start rumors. “Hey, did you see that kite that tangled up all those other kites and cut down Pete Dolphin’s rok? Yeah, I think it looked like a Gibian.”

You’re now well on your way to being a highly-qualified lump of dead weight. Start small, with a 4’ delta or maybe an eddy. Then, follow your dreams, reach for the stars (or don’t, actually; see tip #6), and soon you to will be trampling grass and compacting the soil as you hold down a Grand National Champion.