Issue 59: Windless Kite Festival

Yeah – Kite-fests come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors…  From the “biggies” like the Asian Weifang fest in China and Gujarat in Ahmedabad India, or Chervia on the Adriatic coast or Berck Sur Mer in France, and let’s don’t forget about our own week-long Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF) right here in the USA.  And then you can start to look at the other, smaller festivals – right on down to the littlest regional and local celebrations and fests and flies that just seem to “pop up” everywhere that people know about flying kites!

And out of all of the festivals and comps we attend each year, those fests that are labeled “Indoor” seem to have less general interest and less attendance than any of them.  But, let’s face it – an “indoor” kite festival is purely a defensive move in “sanity preservation.” I mean, if we all had our “druthers,” we’d all chose that bright sunny day, about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 to 10 MPH of steady breezes (about a “3” Beaufort) right off the water, and we’d be out there for the duration right there on the beach. So – comparatively speaking – indoor flying “don’t signify,” as the saying goes.

Therefore, in some ways, it’s kind of surprising to note that “Windless” – the oldest continuous indoor kite festival in the USA – is in its SEVENTH consecutive year, and counting…  So we’re off to attend Windless once again, mostly to enjoy the company of good fliers and to watch the comps, but also to pay a visit to a small seaside resort town that’s had some significant impact on kiting over the years – Long Beach, Washington – Home to WSIKF, and the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame, among other things…

After a 100+ mile, two-and-a–half hour solo drive including a stop to grab a bite to eat, I arrived in time to meet Theresa at the grocery store while Paul DeBakker was off at Long Beach Elementary School with his Reflection (which is a very nice kite, by the way), participating in the free-fly…  We finished our grocery shopping in short order, and then we were off to say “Hi” to the folks at the Elementary School.  We didn’t stay there very long either, however, because we still needed to check in at the Condo too, – about 10 miles away. Besides, it’d been a full and busy day for both of us before we even left Vancouver, WA, so our day had really been kinda long and a bit tiring.  Therefore, once we were checked in out at the condo, it was time to unwind, relax a little, and get ready for bed.

Saturday morning found a typical Northwest winter day of low clouds and showers with temps in the low 40s – not unexpected for this time of year, but no matter – we were going indoors, after all… So we grabbed a coffee to go and headed to the Elementary School again, where all of the regular fliers were gathering, plus one or two new faces.  It’s always nice for us to reconnect with all of our Northwest Sport Kite League (NWSKL) “kite family.” And it’s especially delightful to meet those new faces, too!

Now, if you’ve not been to a NWSKL Indoor event before, the schedule for them is pretty much “cast in concrete.”  At most of ‘em, you can expect the weekend to go something like this:

Friday Night Open Free-Fly
Saturday AM Open Free-Fly, Demos as time and interest permits
Saturday PM Open Individual Indoor Unlimited (OIIU) Comps
Any Remaining Demos
Open Free-Fly
Saturday Eve Open Free-Fly (Warm-ups)

Demos as time and interest permits

Sunday AM Open Free-Fly (Warm-ups)

Demos as time and interest permits

Sunday PM Non-AKA Comps = Mystery Ballet or Hot-Tricks Final Awards and “Thank Yous”

Open Free-Fly (until gym closes

Sign-ups for the OIIU event are usually listed in reverse order of registration – meaning that those who sign up early (online) are usually last, and those that register the morning of the event fly early in the order.  Mystery Ballet is usually flown in random order (names pulled out of a hat). Hot-Tricks participants are “paired all the way through” on a chart created by the organizers. And Demos are flown based on you putting your name down on the Demo Sheet.

So, when you show up at a NWSKL Indoor, you pretty much know what you’re going to see, who’s going to fly in what order, and when.

Anyway, those “Open Free-Fly (Warm-ups)” mornings actually mean you can show up when you wish and warm-up as you want.  Some folks (like Jerry Cannon, Bud Hayes, Scott Davis) use all the available time.  Others (like Lam Hoac and Wayne Turner) sometimes arrive later in the morning, and may spend very little time in warn-ups.  It’s all up to you… So on Saturday, Jerry and Scott – and Kay Buesing from the World Kite Museum (WKM), the “Windless” sponsor – were all among the earliest to arrive, while Theresa and I were a mite tardy. Still, Theresa had some kites she wanted to put on display, so I put in a very brief appearance at the school and then went out and got a bite to eat.

Once back, Scott Davis corralled me to let me know that he would be coming around, wanting to get my Windless “thoughts” recorded on his camcorder.  Seems like he was making a ”documentary” on the whole “Windless” concept, and he’d catch me sometime later in the event for my thinking – whatever that might be. (He’d eventually talk and record conversations with about 20-25 people before the weekend was over.)

Now, the gym floor was filling up with various folks flying, warming up, or just plain “playing” with kites.  It’s what the whole morning session was about, of course.  Don Ostey was out there, “ghosting” a Platz Glider around – a very unusual kite that’s had a fair amount of interest in the Pacific Northwest.  Jerry was putting a PKC Wren through its paces, as was Jennifer Brown…  Others were flying those nice “Borelli Fighters” – a single-line indoor kite made from trash-bags and bamboo spars pulled from window blinds. Plus the usual number of indoor Revs and various more conventional indoor dual-line kites, of course.

After a couple or three of hours of playing and tuning, it was time to get a bit more “structured,” so the powers-that-be kicked off the Demos, and we saw half a dozen demo performances before it was time for a lunch break.

Following a run past the Cottage Bakery for an absolutely “killer” Turkey Sandwich for lunch, it was back to the gym for the afternoon’s program.

Again – for those who’re not familiar with Indoor Kite-Flying – the competition rules are a bit different than you’ll see outdoors. You can fly whatever kind of kite you like, including several different kites in the same performance, the competitor can wear costumes (see photos of Jerry Cannon in his yellow “Zoot Suit”), and the scoring takes flying performance, choreography, innovation, and audience reactions into account.  Yep – put on a “show” folks.  It’s what it’s all about.

A few “impressions” for you here… Alan Cunningham flies Premier Canards and HQ “Birds” from poles, in an action-packed performance – I’ve seen Alan with as many as four “Birds” in the air at once.  Dick Curran flies outdoor kites, often a patchwork “Genki,” from poles as well – though Dick is usually so “resplendent” that you tend to focus on the flyer rather than the kite. Wayne Turner flies somewhat more “conventional” kites, in that his are usually (but not always) dual-line, and often one single kite at a time.  Jeff Reed is a long-time “Fighter Kite” guy, and usually flies a three-stack of “diamond” fighters. And Scott Davis, the most “energetic” of them all, sticks with his Indoor Pizazz in an action-packed, high energy routine, while Jerry Cannon is known for his low-and-slow mastery of the Indoor Wren.  So – if you don’t particularly like what you’re watching right at the moment – just wait until the next performance… We guarantee you won’t be bored

Anyway, the results of the Open Individual Indoor Unlimited were:


1 Paul DeBakker


2 Lam Hoac


3 Jerry Cannon


4 Jeff Reed


5 Bud Hayes


6 Scott Davis


7 Alan Cunningham


8 Wayne Turner


9 Toby Arndt


10 Dick Curran


11 Jennifer Brown


12 Dave Bradley


13 Tyler Rakes


The Judges were Bill Rogers, Jeannie Rogers, Don Ostey, Brian Davis and Willy Hendrickson.
The Floor director was Sonya Turner.

To recap the top three for you, Paul DeBakker flew an impressive performance with his own Reflection kite. Lam Hoac started his routine with his own VIP dual-line kite, then switched to flying a Revolution 1.5 with his usual élan and mastery. And Jerry Cannon (in his “Zoot Suit”) gave us all a lesson on Low-And-Slow with a PKC Indoor Wren.

Then it was time for a few more Demos, ending up with our own Penny Lingenfelter (who chose not to compete in OIIU) and her veritable “Cast of Thousands” recruited from the audience and her fellow fliers. I believe this time it was her “Cat In A Hat” routine from Dr, Seuss – but I could be wrong… Anyway, Penny doesn’t just “fly” kites in her demos – she puts on a SHOW!!!

Finally, it was time to break for the “Banquet, Awards Presentation, and Bag Raffle, this time at the World Kite Museum And Hall Of Fame.  If you’ve never been to their new “digs,” as opposed to their “old” one, I have to state outright that just coming to the WKM is well worth the trip to Long Beach – so one way to look at it is to think of “Windless” as a “bonus.” The WKM began life in a cracker-box beach-cottage of roughly 600 square feet (my guess), where they existed for many years. Their “new” building is “Huge” by comparison – and just FULL of kiting wonders! A full-sized Cody and an equally large Sauls Barrage kite, maybe 40-50 Japanese Kites on display, and an equal number of other oriental kites,  plus a HUGE Competition-Caliber Rokkaku (ceiling-to-floor), and any number of one-of-a-kind European and/or American kites on display… If you’re ANY-where nearby, the World Kite Museum is a “Gotta GO!”

So we all converged on the WKM for fellowship, camaraderie, food, Awards (see above), and the inevitable Bag-Raffle.  Naturally, the food, awards, and raffle all pale when compared with the opportunity for all these folks to get together and talk kites and kiting. So, there’s really nothing to report other than, “we all went, had fun, and were delighted to spend more time with our kite family.” I only say this because it was impossible to participate in even a few of the many conversations and discussions and shared-ideas that were happening simultaneously. We all ate like pigs – we applauded the winners and the other competitors – we handed out raffled items – then we headed out for our respective lodgings and our beds!

Sunday morning broke clearer than Saturday – meaning only that we didn’t see raindrops on our windshield until we were half way to the Elementary School again.  Welcome to Winter in the Northwest!

I don’t know why, but Sundays at indoor fests seem a bit loosey-goosie.  People show up when they want to rather than early, and with less “urgency.” Maybe it’s because the formal “competition” is already over, or maybe it’s just that everyone’s familiar with the venue and have had enough flying under their belt yesterday to know that their kite’s tuned up and their music actually plays on this particular sound system. Anyway, folks straggle in a bit more…

Yep, the first item on the agenda is the Free-Fly period, followed by the Demos.  Most go get their name on the “Demo Sheet” and then see about kite-prep and begin to shake any kinks out… Still, it’s sort of “going through the motions” but without much real enthusiasm. And as soon as everyone’s present and has had maybe a half an hour to get their warm-ups in, the organizers cancel the Free-Fly and go on to the next part of the schedule.

But with Demo-Time, however, the mood changes slightly and things start to get a bit serious. Since Demos share the day with a non-AKA just-for-fun competition, for more than a few people the Demos are the last chance they’ll have to present their flying expertise to an audience. Therefore, Demos are sort of “for real,” and the fliers do their level best. And the people in the audience are appreciative and even a bit vocal. There’s no way for audience comments to affect any judging now, so those other flyers in attendance offer suggestions and verbal critiques (both positive and negative) to the pilot on the floor. There’s a sense around the gym that everyone wishes the Demo pilot well, and the crowd is openly friendly and a bit less reserved than yesterday.

During the demos, I headed to the restroom to relieve myself of a little of the pressure generated by the morning’s coffee, so I ended up out of the gym during a couple of demos. As I was headed back in, Scott Davis grabbed me.  It was “my time” to get myself (and my thoughts) onto Scott’s camcorder for posterity.  As I mentioned earlier, Scott was making a “documentary” about Windless… What it was, what it offered, what it meant to the kite-flying community.  Yup – it was my time to answer some of Scott’s questions for the camera.

We shared maybe 5-8 minutes out in the lobby – Scott sitting with his camera rolling and asking questions, and me sitting on another chair trying to think up really “neat” answers to some of Scott’s interesting queries. I don’t think I came up with a single “cool” reply though, since all I could manage was “honesty” instead – mostly because Scott asked such interesting and thought-provoking questions.

“Do you feel Windless has been a successful event, and if so, why?”

“What has Windless done for, and to, the kite-flying community?”

“Who do you think has benefited – has grown – as a result of events like Windless?”

“Has Windless changed your attitudes about indoor flying, and if so, how have they changed?”

(Note – now it may be that NONE of the precise questions listed above were asked by Scott Davis of me on that Sunday. I can honestly report that I don’t really remember… But it’s that kind of “deep thinking” that occupied my thought processes for much of the remainder of Windless 2008!)

I was relieved when Scott finally let me go – but not because I felt any real rush to get back to the remaining demos.  Rather, Mr. Davis had started my mind rolling in such a way that my brain wanted time by itself to mull his questions, and the implied concepts and ideas behind them, over.  I was happy just to have the time to watch a few demos while my mind ran riot with the “stuff” that Scott had generated…

Anyway, after eight or ten demos – most everyone who wanted floor time got a shot – and a short general adjournment as a lunch break – we’re back at it again.  The “event” for the afternoon was sort-of announced earlier in a break between demos:

“Uh… Does anyone happen to have a Hot-Tricks CD with them???”

Well, that kind of gives the secret away, doesn’t it?  I guess we’re not watching Mystery Ballet this afternoon!  And so we queued up eight contestants strung out along the floor – paired up by organizer edict, and ready to fly Hot-Tricks.

OK, I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow account here.  After roughly 45 minutes of competition, Miz Penny Lingenfelter stood out there as the lone undefeated pilot – having beaten both Lam Hoac and John Baressi one-on-one in the process. Yeah well, I know it ain’t very easy, but SOMEONE has to keep those young bucks knocked into line every now and then… Seriously, folks – Penny won the Hot-Tricks contest fair and square.  And, believe me, the audience was absolutely delighted!

But, that was the real end to Windless 2008 right there.  Oh, sure – the gym was open for another couple of hours and some folks stayed around and flew/played/yakked some more.  But after the final kudos for Penny, et al, and the “Thanks” to Sponsors and Organizers and other hangers-on – those who needed to be on their way home left without very much ado.

And the rest of us?  Well, for a bunch of us die-hards – there was still a beach less than a quarter of a mile away, with some wind out there, and the skies had cleared a bit… Maybe some OUTDOOR flying?  I had six un-flown kites with me – two of them were Custom Gibian SLKs that’d never had any airtime to speak of… So the kite-van headed west, toward the water and some wind.

Finally, I need to report that beach and wind and clear skies do NOT necessarily make for perfect kite flying weather.  The wind was in the mid-teens, but off the land – so it was bumpy and switched direction about every minute or so (sometimes by as much as 50-60 degrees). And, still being Winter, with temps in the low 30s (plus the wind-chill factor), it was bitter cold out there.  I managed to get both Gibians flown, plus a small Sauls Barrage Kite I’d purchased, and an old Premier Double-Diamond I was given that was missing spars when I received it (hence the “gift” part).  The Cody I was hoping to fly and an older Brasington dual-line I’d purchased didn’t make it… My fingers got so cold that couldn’t untie a larks-head to pigtail attachment – even though I’d been wearing gloves.  I finally gave up, decided that discretion was the better part of valor, threw the line and the attached still-assembled kites in the back of the van, and called it a day – all under the “If it ain’t fun, DON’T DO IT” principle.

Yup, Windless 2008 was another fun festival.  We stayed overnight at the condo Sunday night (where I eventually warmed up), and then we made the 100+ mile trek home the next day without incident.  Another “good ‘un” was history.

Hope to run into you out there on a (warm) beach sometime soon –

Dave “Geezer” Shattuck