Kiting is truly a passion! You know, every now and then Kitelife runs across a story that just plain grabs your heart and won’t let go… Well, we’re going to share this one with you, and surely hope it touches your hearts in the same way!
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We did an interview a couple of issues back on an amazing group in Buenos Aires called “El Fabuloso Team.” Then in our last issue, we followed up with a story about the first-ever major kite festival held in Buenos Aires… We thought that might be the end of that for a while, but we received an email from LAlo Loescher of El Fabuloso Team, asking if he could please do a story/interview on another team with which he was in contact – this one from Cuba.
We read what LAlo sent, and what a heartwarming story it turned out to be…
Rafael Vera Rodríguez is 18 years old, and works as a High School teacher. He started flying dual-line sport kites near the end of 2003. When Rafael saw an Internet video showing some quad-line kites, he decided to make one – quite possibly the first one in all of Cuba. He couldn’t carry out his dream, however, until he met Luis Martínez Brito, who is a 22 year old architecture student from the same town of about 25,000 people. Luis is able to take a rough concept, turn it into a drawing or plan, then gather the necessary materials, and turn them all into a kite.
Together, Rafael and Luis “created” a couple of their own quad-line kites, and began to experiment with the kite’s possibilities, as well as continuing to fly dual-line sport kites, of course. They were soon joined by a 20 year old who publishes videos and photographs for a living named Miguel Angel Rodríguez Briel, and together these three men fly both dual-line and quad-line sport kites… So much for the basics!
Inspired by the Cuban team, Conquista (Conquer). and later on through a video of The Decorators, this group of gentlemen from Cuba formed their own team… Now in touch with Troy Gunn (TKO Team, USA) and El Fabuloso Team (Argentina), they are some of the most passionate kite fliers we’ve come across to date, especially considering the resources they have to work with.
Rafael, Luis, and Miguel all live and work in Güira de Melena, Habana Province, Cuba which is about 20 miles SSW of Habana (Havana), and about 8 miles from the southern coast of Cuba. Güira de Melena was the first city in Cuba struck by the eye of Hurricane Charley on August 13th last year. Of roughly 5,000 houses in the city and surrounding area, 520 were totally destroyed, an additional 340 suffered major damages, and an additional 2,160 had their roofs blown off. In short, Rafael, Luis, and Miguel live in a city under reconstruction. Moreover, as the center of an agricultural area that depends heavily on crops such as bananas, fruits, and tobacco – all of which were devastated by Hurricane Charley – the entire area is suffering under an economic disaster of epic proportions. In short, there IS no money for kites. Still, these three men build and fly them – with joy in their hearts and boundless enthusiasm! Yes, the REAL story here is one of joy and delight – which I find totally amazing, given the circumstances under which they live. These three young men have a refreshing, pure enthusiasm for our sport that thrills me.
We started off by finding out more about Rafael, Luis and Miguel…
Rafael Vera Rodríguez is a high school teacher and the most enthusiastic pilot, as well as their information researcher and supplier. He likes to draw and to listen to music (KANSAS). Rafael prefers team kiteflying rather than flying alone. He is the Captain and calls their maneuvers.
Luis Martínez Brito is an architecture student, who also likes to draw, paint, and listen to music (Sonata Artica, Angra). Luis is also a fan of indoor flight. He is the one that builds their kites.
Miguel Angel Rodríguez Briel is the craziest guy with a wild sense of humor. He designs and organizes the team’s information, and he reportedly sometimes has a bad temper (but only when a kite does not fly as he wants). He also likes to draw and to listen to rock music. He works publishing videos and photographs.
All three like ANIME (Japanese cartoons) a great deal and are self-described OTAKUS… “Otakus” is a Japanese term meaning “Young people who are computer game fanatics.”
Influenced from afar, Casiopeia has drawn further inspiration from Andy Wardley, Andy Preston, Troy Gunn, LAlo Loescher, Alberto Alberighi, Joan Faura… Just to mention a few.
Curious about the origin of their team name, we could help but ask… Where did it come from?
“That was Luis’ idea. Casiopeia is the name of a constellation whose form is similar to a Revolution kite.”
As we’re always researching the common ground between teams and fliers worldwide, we asked Casiopeia about their non-flight activities and how they bond when they’re not flying together.
“Our individual tastes coincide very closely, and we also do other activities together. We usually draw together, we watch Anime, we listen to music, we are fans of video games and we go together to parties.”
“Friendship is very important for us.”
What they enjoy most about team flying is people’s reactions, their expressions and their comments. But they also think that their accidents can be pretty funny sometimes.
With regard to starting a team, they advise fliers to look for people that enjoy kiting just as much as you do while being considerate of a common obstacle for any team… Your job and study schedules.
Sharing a level of passion that seems to growing and commonplace in South American and Caribbean fliers, they also had this to say:
“We know that it will sound simplistic and romantic, but beauty, control, and the freedom sensation are what most appeals to us. Part of what keeps us involved is how difficult things are for us and the solutions that we have to devise to overcome the difficulties about materials for kites and elastic nature of our lines.”
Since each member is an avid individual flier as well, we asked each of them about their personal visions and dreams for kite flying:
“To learn and to exchange ideas and experiences with friends around the world.”
“To be into new kite specialties, as quad-line or dual-line, and to make friends in the sport.”
“To develop our kites with more efficient materials in order to increase our flying level.”
All Casiopeia members very much want to expand the sport in their home country of Cuba.
Being somewhat removed from the rest of the kite flying community, they don’t have any sponsors yet but are working on a website project in order to let people knows about their team… Regardless of sponsorship, they are adamant about their passion and refuse to give up.
As with any sport new to an area, Casiopeia Team has had the usual learning curve as you might expect… Aside from the occasional crashes and accidents with the kites, they shared their most significant learning moment with us:
“The Electric Flying Experience… This was when Miguel, who was accustomed to maneuvering near high tension cables with kites with the wood frames we often use, one day he did it with a four liner carbon fiber kite that he had gotten. The kite made an electric bridge. The only things left were ashes – and the unforgettable expression on the pilot’s face!”
Needless to say, they learned their lesson and have since become much more aware of applying kite safety and educating others through their own kite flying experiences.
Based on information gained from other fliers on the Internet, Casiopeia Team has found that staggered lines work best for them… Their lines are 35 m, 30 m and 25 m long. They are unusually short, but the stretching level of the best lines they have available to them is very high.
With the wage scale and resources available to most Cuban residents, commercially produced kites and materials are nearly impossible for them to obtain at the moment without any manufacturers in their home country, and foreign products are severely price-prohibitive… They cannot even pay for imported materials because of the very low purchasing power that exists in Cuba. Apparently a month’s average salary is the cost of three carbon rods!
Since they have to manufacture all their own kites, they’ve become pretty resourceful with regard to material resources… Knowing that they do not have the ideal materials available to them, they do the best they can with what is available to them.
We asked about what materials they are using:
“For sails: a kind of a plastic fabric (polypropylene) used in poultry farms (to cover the hens’ hatcheries).”
“For the frame: pine wood or bamboo.”
“The lines: caprón line (a kind of Dacron) or polyester, used as internal reinforcement in truck tires. These lines must be tied together every 5 meters and they have a high stretching rate. Our lines stretch out 1 meter (3 ft) for each 20 meters (65 ft) of line with the normal pull of a kite.”
“The designs are mostly our own, based heavily on what we see in Internet pictures, adapted to the mechanical resistances and weights of the materials we have available to us.”
“We only have access to pictures in Google’s cache.”
With our hearts going out to them, we also inquired about how they could receive materials, and what customs taxes or duties might apply…
“Materials can only be sent by DHL, since with our local post office, things get lost. It would be a great help to have better materials. It would put us on the right track to end up having a flight skill level that allows us to compete at a world championship. And that is another team’s dream we all have.”
Going back to the subject of flying, they disclosed that they have very little time flying together and with no audio resources, they have not developed themselves in the specialty of ballet. At the present moment, they only make simple precision routines.
When asked about musical choices they’ve considered, they feel that slow, very melodic music such as that of Yanni, Enya or Rick Wakeman might be best, although they have also considered the possibility of something quicker and more radical like Flight of the Bumblebee.
Practicing together almost every weekend, when the wind allows, they build their team moment by moment right there on the flying field… No diagrams, although they have been experimenting a little with laser pointers.
From our past experiences with kite culture in other countries, we were also curious about how popular kites of any kind are in Cuba…
“Only traditional Cuban single line kites are very popular in our country. Sport flying is not treated as a serious sport. That’s why we work to promote it.”
“We have to be able to demonstrate our local authorities that with dual-line and quad-line kites there are: movement, coordination, reflexes, and physical power, all applied with accuracy and know-how – that is Sport.”
“But also there is beauty, harmony, good taste, and music in the air – that is Art. And lastly, it is necessary to develop the kites in Cuba and to adjust them to fly properly, to understand winds and materials and their physical resistances, and mainly aerodynamic laws – that is Science.”
“All this is very good for the general culture of any boy, adolescent or a grown-up. We think it must be considered in such a way and then it must have Government support.”
There is a Cuban kiting association, but it is part of the National Recreation Office (INDER), but according to Casiopeia Team the INDER prioritizes other sports and activities above kiting. Not considering sport kiting as a real sport, the two or four lines kites have not yet gained recognition with their officials.
Kiting activities in Cuba are generally simple meetings of few people that fly single line kites. Their team is occasionally invited to make demonstrations, but they are the only team who takes this sport seriously.
“Because we know how it is through out the world, other people in Cuba have no idea at all.”
Competitive festivals exist as “nationals” where exceptional kite fliers go just for fun, but in Cuba they don’t have judges with the required knowledge and there is only another one team to compete with (Conquista).
They have formed their own local kite club in their home town called Cuatro Vientos (Four Winds), it is comprised of the two teams, Casiopeia and Conquista.
Rafael, Luis and Miguel graciously credit Conquista team with motivating them. It is mainly their captain that has helped them a lot, since he is apparently the one that knows the most about sport kite flying.
The members of Conquista are: (Captain) Jorge Luis Pérez Díaz, Carlos Rodríguez Pérez and Javier Romero León. Their ages vary between 40 and 50 years old.
Mirroring what we have found to be a common and beautiful sentiment with South American and Caribbean sport kite enthusiasts, they have the following message to share…
“Kiting is a healthy way of life for those that are devoted completely to the sport. It creates pleasant moments in friends’ company and in contact with nature, almost always.”
They are grateful and congratulatory for the pictures of kites and other things that have been related to them through the world wide web…
“We are in our beginnings and in Cuba we won’t stop. This interview gives us more confidence to believe in what we are doing and that is why we want to thank Kitelife Magazine for the opportunity and all the readers that have spent their time reading about us and our experiences. We also want to say “thanks” in advance to those who want to offer us some help, for as small as that help might be, it will be a large step forward in our evolution.”
As you have no doubt felt by now, and may have experienced with our past interview with El Fabuloso Team from Argentina, fliers from South America and the Caribbean are very much in the beginning stages of their modern kite flying and hold it with high regard… The message? Kiting offers common ground, beauty, artistry, passion, sport, social skills, expression of self, and draws on the creative nature of the human soul.
The staff here at Kitelife is currently soliciting donations and assistance with gathering more up to date materials with which these great people can grow their sport… If you have a bundle of old spars, fabric, fittings, old lines, you name it… Get in touch with us (or directly with Casiopeia), and we’ll see what we can do to extend the caring hand of kite friendship to Cuba.
We’ll close with a message from LAlo Loescher, team captain of El Fabuloso Team:
I have been very lucky to be one of the first kiteflyers outside Cuba to get in touch with this wonderful Cuban guys group. As a Latin American too I feel very much the same as they feel in many of their living circumstances and missing experiences. It was an honor for me that Kitelife offered the opportunity to make this interview after I sent some pictures of Casiopeia Team.
They are a big example of optimism and power. To us, personally, it helps us to continue on this track that you and I have in common in our respective countries that are walking their first steps in sport kite flying.
El Fabuloso Team
Buenos Aires, Argentina
If anyone would like to get in touch with Casiopeia Team members, here is their e-mail:
(this preferable but…)
(…always with copy to this)
– Interview by LAlo Leoscher –
– Editing and composition by Kitelife –
– Photographs by Miguel Barba Roja –