Issue 57: South Padre Island Competition

Windchasers Kite Shop, owned and operated by Guy Blatnik, held the 11th Annual SPI Kite Competition/Festival November 3-4. There were competitors from Dallas, Austin, Fulton, Pharr, and the surrounding area. Those of you who have attended one of the South Padre Island kite events know about the large kite field they have to use on the Island known as the “flats.” The flats is a vast area of sand on the north end of the Island on the bay side just north of the Convention Centre. The plus side of the flats is that there is lots of room to spread out with kites, and cars can park right at the field. The down side is they are tidal flats, and when the tides are high, the flats are completely under water. High tide warnings at the beginning of the week, which put the flats under water for several days, had Guy and the local fliers quite concerned; but as the week progressed, the flats dried out just in time for the weekend’s event.

Friday evening, everyone began arriving on the Island. Jeff and I got out to the Island early to park our trailer. Yes, we have joined the RV’ing kite fliers. We were happy to get a spot at the Andy Bowie RV park across the street from the flats where we found Bill and Kitty Seward a couple of spaces down from us with their camper. The Bahia Mar was the host hotel for the event.

At 6:30 everyone began gathering at the local kite flier hangout The Padre Island Brewing Company. Barry and Karen Ogletree hosted the evening with a great spread of appetizers followed by dinner and, of course, the refreshing brewed beer. Friday night get-togethers are always a highlight of the kite festivals. It becomes a big family reunion of kiters where you get to see friends you haven’t seen in a long time and get to make new friends to add to the extended family. Dallas and Donna Oliver came back to fly kites with us after moving away a few years ago. Dallas said, “I returned to the roots of my passion this last week. This is the first competition of the new kiting season, and what better place to start it off than where I first learned to fly kites.” We’re so glad he did. Dano Wright was able to join us again. Some new faces we got to add to the group were Susan Orgeron from Breaux Bridge/Lafayette, Louisiana, and Sara Stephens and Brad Willis from Missoula, Montana. Sara and Brad come to SPI for a month in November to do some windsurfing. Guy’s mom and sister, Betty Richwine and Loretta Anne, from Conway, Arkansas, came to be a part of the kite festivities.

Saturday morning began at the Grapevine Cafe where everyone fueled up with breakfast for the long day ahead. Then it was off to the field to set up. Barry and Karen, along with Hans and Inge Goepfert, began launching their big inflatable kites that got the people’s attention to the festival. The rest of us began putting up banners and ground displays, along with more single lines around the competition field. Tom Chaffee, our announcer, and Geoff Clifton, our sound man, got the sound tent all set for the day’s festivities.

Roger Horne did the honors of opening ceremonies by doing a patriotic performance to the National Anthem and God Bless America. Then it was time to play ball …. I mean fly kites. Now that Jeff and I have retired from the competition arena, we were able to offer our services by judging the events. Betty Richwine and Loretta Anne joined us on the judging staff. Guy was field director, and Gayle and Coatie Dawg took care of the scorekeeping. This year, Michael Boswell added a special treat for the audience members. He stepped up to the microphone and narrated the precision portion of the competition so that everyone could follow along with what was going on on the field. It made it much more enjoyable and understandable for everyone watching. I guess he knows he’ll be doing that at more competitions for now on.

In the dual-line novice class, we had three competitors: Bill Seward, Roger Horne, and Deontae Boswell. In precision, only two of them competed. Bill took first place and Roger took second with only .77 points between them. In ballet, Bill was first, Deontae second, and Roger third. There was only a little over 1 point difference between the first two places. Deontae is making his move in the kite arena. Roger was quick to point out that there was around a 50-year age difference between Deontae and him. It’s so great to be involved in a sport in which all ages can have fun together.

In the dual-line experienced class we had two flyers: Michael Boswell and Dallas Oliver. They were pretty evenly matched and great to watch. In precision, Michael was first and Dallas was second; and in ballet, Dallas was first and Michael was second. Bill Seward was our only multiline competitor, so he took home the coveted first place in quad-line precision and ballet. Roger Horne debuted his open individual outdoor unlimited routine of Team Roger-Roger. He entertained the crowed by flying two stacks at the same time. Then at the end of the routine, Roger turned around to wave at the audience with his four arms and hands. Such a showman.

After a quick lunch, which everyone was able to order from Woody’s Beach Shack, then it was time for some fun flying and demos. All the competitors flew demos and there were performances by Team SPI (Jeff and I, Guy, and Claudia Steen) and Windjunkies (Jeff and I). Chris Shultz entertained everyone with his performance running 360s around the field. He can really make those kites dance. Michael and Deontae showed everyone what a great time Dad and Son can have flying kites together. Jeff, along with the help of Michael back on the microphone, put on a trick demonstration. Michael would describe the tricks as Jeff demonstrated. Chris spent a lot of time getting a kite into people’s hands and teaching them how to fly. Gayle manned the AKA tent handing out pamphlets and magazines, answering questions, and if she didn’t have the answer, she sent them to where they could find the answer.

Everyone got their kites and banners put away in time to get cleaned up and then meet back at Boomerang Billy’s Beach Bar to unwind and relax. Guy delivered pizzas, which we all devoured in no time at all. Kite flying really does build up an appetite. Jeff and I then took our lighted dual-line kites and did a night fly on the beach for everyone. Michael had to join in on the fun. Then I put my kite in Brian Isaacs hands and said, “You want to fly?” Now, mind you, Brian has never flown pairs or team before in his life. What a way to try it out for his first time. After a couple of nose dives into the ground, he got the hang of it and was doing a good follow the leader drill. We then told him he would have no problem now when he did it in the daytime and could actually see the kite. What a sport!!! Then Chris decided to have a kite show of his own, only he didn’t plan his show. Chris’ single-line kite had been anchored on the deck flying proudly above us all throughout the night until a freaky gust took it sailing up and onto the roof of the condos next door. We could see its little head poking out over the edge, but it was good and stuck. After finding out that the manager wouldn’t be coming to the complex until the next day to be able to get Chris up to the roof, Chris decided he had to do it on his own. After a few minutes of pulling from all different angles, the kite let loose and was back to its post above our heads. What a relief.

Sunday morning began at the Grapevine Cafe again, and then we were off to the field for round two. Awards were presented to the competitors from the previous day. Demos were flown throughout the day. Dano did a quad demo for us. Susan could be seen off in the distance buggying. Brian Isaacs flew his debut performance to a Beach Boy’s medley and did a great job. I bet we’ll be seeing more of Brian on the kite field in festivals to come. Brian’s wife Beryl had camera in hand for the big event. it’s been great to have Beryl’s pictures to share. I’ve never been able to figure out how to take pictures and fly kites at the same time, so now I have a lot of help from Beryl. It’s been wonderful.

Raffle tickets were sold throughout the festival with the prizes being New Tech kites. Bill Doan from B & S Kites won the Diode kite. Brad and Sara won the Chinese Opera face kite. One of our Winter Texan audience members won the BLK stunt kite and a free lesson from Chris. As the day went on, people began packing up for their travels back home. Mother Nature was gracious to us this time around. We had two near perfect days of weather: great temperature, great wind, great sunshine, and great friends. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Donna McCown