Issue 42: AKA Corner

Did you know that all AKA members are covered for $1 million at a sanctioned events? That’s part of the good news as we slowly re-build our insurance program. Of course, it also means that non-members have no coverage at all at festivals, workshops, fun flies, or competitions. So organizers have a stake in encouraging fliers to join, and fliers have an incentive to get events to request sanctioning.

AKA sanctioning means that AKA members are running an event, that basic safety criteria have been met, and that your Regional Director has reviewed the event plan. There is a $50 fee for sanctioning. But the cost of insuring local events presently exceeds $150. AKA pays the difference as part of our commitment to support local flying. In most cases, local events could not afford the cost of a one-event policy which often runs thousands of dollars.

Sometimes I think that insurance has taken too high a profile in recent years. Insurance is important. But AKA is not an insurance company. We are a collection of kiters!

If you are an AKA member, then you are part of a great group of people that share your passion for kites. We are also the folks that help you and people like you share and spread the joy of kiting.

  • AKA publishes materials to help schools use kites as teaching tools for math, science, art and international culture.
  • AKA promotes and rewards design innovation and craftsmanship through our national competitions.
  • AKA subsidizes the cost of local event organization.
  • AKA publishes the only print magazine in America for the kite community.
  • AKA awards free affiliation status to local clubs and allows them to insure their activities through our umbrella policy.
  • AKA organizes National Kite Month each year.
  • AKA maintains a staffed office and toll free information line.
  • AKA develops rules used for sport kites, fighter kites, buggy racing, and kitemaking.
  • AKA tracks records for achievement in kiting and maintains an archieve of kite history.
  • AKA has over twenty manuals, booklets and information reports available for free online.
  • AKA offers one of the most extensive web resources in the world for kiters, which includes the Kite Talk Forum – all open to the public for free.
  • AKA sends news, information, and potential new members monthly to local clubs.
  • AKA assists other charitable organizations raise funds through our involvement in their kiting events.
  • AKA organizes the World Sport Kite Championship each year, and sends fliers to participate in other international contests. .
  • And AKA helps local kiters keep parks open for flying or helps small towns get festivals up and running.

AKA has worked hard to promote kiting and create an environment that benefits fliers. So I don’t mind telling you that it makes me a little crazy to encounter serious, involved kite people who choose not to join or support the effort.

Here’s an example.

I was recently looking at the website of a well established kite club who list their membership online. Of the 77 people they list, 19 are current AKA members (including the regional director), 17 are past AKA members, and 41 have never been an AKA member. Non-members include the club vice-president and newsletter editor. And the club has not chosen to affiliate with AKA even though there is no charge to do so.

So I have to wonder — why did the 17 not renew and the 41 never join?? Is our $30 fee too high? Are they getting the benefits of AKA membership without needing to belong themselves? Have we somehow made them angry? Or do they simply think that someone else will help pay the costs of promoting kiting??

I can guarantee that AKA has made serious efforts to contact and recruit these folks.

As we face declining revenue and increased challenges like closed flying fields and insurance coverage, how do I help serious kiters understand that kiting needs them to be a part of this organization. There is strength in numbers. Providing all the services we do costs money. Programs are in jeopardy and its going to get worse as our numbers decline.

If you fly kites, stand up and be counted!

Those that grumble about politics need to get in the game. You don’t like all the “insiders” but you come to events. The way inside is to walk in.

You want the AKA to change in some way step up. Fighter fliers mobilized and are now a greater part of what we do. The traction people have worked hard to be part of our community, many of them came to traction through the AKA by being at an event where they first saw a buggy.

Not enough activity in your area? Let us help you get something started!

AKA membership costs 42.00 for a family of four – about the same as a tank of gas or what lunch at McDonald’s would cost that family. We haven’t increased dues a nickel in ten years.

There are plenty of direct benefits to being a member­from the magazine to the discount in stores to the insurance to the monthly updates and online forum. But the real benefit is something much less direct. It is knowing that you support the cause. It is part of helping the sport grow. It is about sharing your passion and excitement and enthusiasm with others.

On another note, having just returned from China…

The Weifang festival has always showcased traditional Chinese kites made from bamboo and painted silk. But this year, the skyscape was dominated by western style sport kites.

I saw dual and quad pilots on the field performing maneuvers, teams entertaining the crowd with practiced routines, exhibitions of flying with 100 foot tubes streaming behind, and even formal competition for individuals and teams. Perhaps even more significant, I saw these same kites casually flown in parks after the focal festival was over. Inexpensive sport kites were for sale in festival stalls, local shops, and even at the airport.

Competition rules were fairly simple with precision figures being flown that were designed by competitors and submitted to judges at the beginning of the event. Ballet wasn’t offered.

Most commercial sport kites sold in the USA are now made in China. But until now, I have not seen widespread use of those same kites on Chinese fields. And of particular interest to me was the style of kite being flown. No fancy trick kites here!! Wings were big, fast, hard pulling and noisy. They were exactly the same kind of kites that drew so many enthusiasts to the sport in the States twenty years ago. Most fliers used halos to launch short and spool out lines on crowded fields.

The growth of sport kite flying in China has all kinds of ramifications. AKA, STACK in Europe, and AJSKA in Japan have worked hard to build a common rule book and now a consistent World Championship. If sport flying indeed catches on in China, we will soon have a major new player — and a huge number of new fliers — in the competitive arena.

Chinese festivals and flying associations have formal ties to government and commercial sponsors. They also have a traditional appreciation for kiting that is sadly lacking in our own potential sponsors. Already, the Chinese are talking seriously about kites as a demonstration sport at the Beijing Olympics. So it is important that we find ways to cooperate and ensure that all of us are working together.

Long term sport kite fliers remember when different rules were used in different countries, and even in different parts of the USA. All of us have a stake in promoting consistent regulations if our sport is going to be taken seriously, spread, and flourish.

Two years ago, AKA and the Weifang Kite Society signed formal sister-association documents. I have now invited representatives of Weifang City, the China Kite Association, and the Chinese Leisure Sports Department to attend the World Sport Kite Championships as observers. If they are prepared to fly both precision and ballet, I’d expect to see Chinese teams at the WSKC in France next year.

I have also asked the International Rules Committee to consider the conditional appointment of a delegate from the Chinese Kite Association as a way to further cooperation and the spread of our current rules. Since no common rules are in place in China yet, they seem anxious to adopt our current flying standards rather than suggest changes or develop their own. Giving them one vote on this now six member Committee will demonstrate our willingness to work together.

And finally, I have suggested that Chinese fliers attend our Nationals to lean more about Western flying techniques, competition, and judging.

An essential role of an association like the AKA is to interact with similar organizations to the benefit of our members. Diplomacy and negotiation isn’t always easy. But if we encourage China to join the partnership we now enjoy with STACK and AJSKA, I believe we will have significantly strengthen the sport.

So that is the news from China. For those of you with little interest in sport kiting, thanks for bearing with me.