Issue 70: Kites… Life.

Sitting alongside my wife, I’m starting this article at 35,000 feet somewhere over Arizona on my way to iQuad’s first major outdoor festival of the year in South Padre Island (TX) and I’m finding myself a little nostalgic so I hope you’ll bear with me, or not, feel free to skip on to the next article if you like… But this is after all the kites life column, with all it’s ups, downs and fabulous “what the hell” episodes from the various projects I’m involved in over the course of the year.

It’s always interesting watching thoughts and ideas rattle around in my head after watching very nearly 20 years of organized kiting… When I started flying, there were literally dozens of custom kite makers making a go of it around the USA with dozens of sport kite events and anywhere from 40-150 competitors lining up at all skill levels to fly often in both heats and finals, all on a national ranking (standings) system, many of whom were sponsored at various levels from just a few kites in their bag to full scale sponsorship which included airfare, lodging, event registration and even a food stipend.

These days, we’re down to an average of possibly 8-30 competitors at any given event in the USA with perhaps the only exception being our annual AKA Grand Nationals, which also ended up being incredibly short on total competitors in 2009, perhaps the smallest roster in many years, if not since the very beginning.

Now bear in mind, I’m not lamenting at all – it is what it is, a symptom of the significant economic and sociological changes we’ve seen over the time frame I’m discussing here… An insanely creative and expressive era of baby boomers aging out of the scene, workplaces tightening down on our freedom and income, a general unease from the ongoing “be afraid” message being issued down from our leaders, not to mention a digital generation that not only doesn’t need to leave the house as much, but can practically explore the world from their living room, and a whole bevy of other factors… Certainly there are countless other contributing factors, many of which I haven’t even conceived of… Make no mistake, the specifics aren’t so much my train of thought here… I’m simply expounding as I look both backward and forward in our timestream, always trying to bridge the gap wherever I can with my limited resources.

I have no illusions about recreating any “lost era” or some such… It’s right where it belongs, in the past, but with the inherent and benign global benefits I’ve observed with kiting’s influence all over the world and the time I have available to dedicate, I can’t help but look forward and shake the tree occasionally as kiting continues to evolve.

Right, time to ramble (even more so that is)…

What a long, strange road iQuad’s ridden…

Since we’ve kicked off the new year, I’ve found myself reflecting most heavily on the past four years of adventures, trials and travels with my family and friends on iQuad… Other than Kitelife and experiencing the life with my lovely bride (and new teammate) Takako, the team and my co-pilots have and hold a significant portion of my heart.

It’s been pretty wild since that first day David Hathaway and I stepped onto the beach at the World Sport Kite Championships in Berck sur Mer (France) in April of 2006 to do some Rev mega flying with teams Flic, Flying Squad, Crazy Drivers, Team4Fun, and many others in groups of 18 or so kites in formation.

I remember coming back to the Northwest with David just a month later and practically bumping our kites around the sky with our old friend Todd Rudolph… Making it up as we went, we were just some guys flying almost aimlessly, trying to recreate some of the maneuvers we’d seen in France… Shortly after, we enticed (then) dual line flier Egan Davis to join us and voila, we were four!

By the time August of 2006 rolled around, we were a group of eight with a official name, experimenting with our first mega flies at WSIKF at a time when dual line kites outnumbered quad lines something like fifteen-to-one at nearly event around the country and so many folks were still figuring out how to really control the kite, let alone in a group scenario! But even so, the flexibility of the Rev mega flying format and easy going, inclusive atmosphere we tried to foster made it all so incredibly gratifying, even amidst repeated crashes, tangles and ensuing laughter within the group.

As we went into 2007, we issued an open call to every Rev flier everywhere we went, inviting them to jump on the line with us, promising a forgiving environment where anyone could come and be themselves, to learn anything they wanted from our play book and most of all, to a part of something amazing that was (is) bigger than any of the individuals involved, a kind of kite show that simply wows onlookers, drawing more and more new fliers onto the field because of the extremely varied demographics represented on the line and the type of kite culture being fostered… All the while, iQuad toured over 20 events throughout North America, refining our skills and maneuvers, working to further define our style and collective team personality.

In 2008, we barely saw home as we expanded our rotating panel of team members to TEN and attended over 30 events in North America, England and Japan… Some of our members (including myself) had as many as sixty-five boarding passes (i.e. individual plane flights) and as few as seven weekends at home, the rest spent on the road touring, often four guys crammed into a room, often driving from one event to another to make the most of our plane flights, spending as much as five continuous weeks on the road and away from home.

Crazy, absolutely bonkers, sure – but brothers on a roll, doing what we absolutely love to do above and beyond anything else – flying with our wingmen and unabashedly sharing what we love with anyone else who naturally attuned with it…  Just raw doing it, you know?

In discussion with my teammates I think it’s fairly well common agreement that we’ve really had to work at overcoming some of the natural “band dynamics” that take hold after so much time together, in so many environments, so many external infuences with family, work, life and personal feelings… Those small, nearly intangible but palpable barriers and resentments that can’t help but form after so many hours spent together… It’s enough to create a real “miss the simple/old days” kind of sentiment, and rightfully so, as it’s easy to lose that pearl that we so treasure when we first start out on any great adventure.

My teammates will assuredly will back me up on this… Don’t lose sight… Protect your passion, remember the joy and most importantly, continue sharing it… We’ve really scaled back on our travel schedule for 2010 to balance with our home lives, and are making an effort to make our events as raw, honest and passionate as possible, working on a new six-person routine and just having fun.

This is the kind of attitude we’re looking forward to bringing to events in 2010, and especially to Long Beach (WA) for the 2010 Washington State International Kite Festival where we’re going work with other fliers from all over the world to attempt a new world record with one hundred Revs/pilots in coordinated formation (grid) flight… Fliers will be coming from all over North America and abroad to help make this possible.

For info on this as it develops, be sure to check the Rev forum!

Our squad for 2010:

  • John Barresi
  • Steve de Rooy
  • Takako Barresi
  • JD Fabich
  • Bazzer Poulter
  • David Hathaway

Also filling in the gaps here and there as alternates, Joji Davis who joined us last year, and an occasional return by once-lost and founding member Egan Davis (no relation).

Your friendly neighborhood webslinger…

With the Internet being the single largest and most expansive community, information pipeline and consumer market in the world, I’m really working to use and learn more about the tools available to us as a kiteflying community, not only to bring folks all over the world closer together, but even more so, to express, feature and expose the very best we have to new audiences whenever possible.

By some counts, Facebook has over 350 million users worldwide and is growing every day… I put off joining up for quite a while, but since I bit bullet about a year ago, I’ve greatly enjoyed the way it all works with personal profiles with photos, videos and information, all with privacy settings determined by their owners, as well as a plethora of “fan” and business pages also on the Facebook network.

Some of the pages I’m involved with, feel free to check ’em out…

While I try to update everyone through other channels, we’ve got a pretty steady stream of information, links, videos and commentary through the Facebook channels… And even if you elect not to sign up for an account, the Kitelife, Revolution and iQuad profiles are visible to anyone who brings up those repective pages, although you will need to log in if you’d like to comment or add content.

Along the same vein (i.e. online media), we’ve also got a YouTube channel going with a number of videos we’ve uploaded, along with a whole bunch of favorites we’ve found…

At this point in time, I’m simply astounded at the number of new fliersI’ve heard of who have been recruited (turned on) simply through chance encounters with a good kiting video on YouTube… If used effecively, I believe this resource will prove to be invaluable for expanding our ranks in years to come.

On the horizon…

As I look in the muddled crystal ball at my immediate disposal and given my assortment of channels, I’m looking forward to specifically expanding and fine tuning kiting’s presence on the web as a whole.

Part of the issue I’m seeing in my particular mixed vocation (kiting and Internet) is the ongoing dominance of both direct sales Chinese kites and retailers who are using mass marketing tools but aren’t necessarily part of our actual industry, i.e. not “paying back in” to the pastime and definitely not run by kitefliers.

With this in mind, I’ll be tasking myself with a series of steps to help regain some of the all-too-valuable positioning that is available on the world wide web in an effort to funnel more of the general populace into our channels… Again, I’m referring to any person or business that is actually involved in the kiting scene in some fashion, directly or otherwise.

One of the main tools I see at our disposal that is being greatly underused is YouTube… The sheer amount of exposure that is possibble through well made and properly listed videos is enormous, both to manufacturers and retailers, as well as to kite performers and festivals.

Right, you may hear the “little man” murmering something about pie in the sky at this point and you’re entitled… But hey, it’s my job, and again, the number of kitefliers I’ve met over the past year or so who got turned onto serious kiting purely through chance contact with a YouTube video gives me enough initiative to give ‘er a go, in addition to some other approaches I might get into with you at another time.

Besides, YouTube is free… The only investment is time, and I’m not going anywhere.

Ever onward…

As I’m finishing this article I’m sitting outside our hotel in South Padre Island as the sun comes up over the gulf, fondly looking back on our first day reunited as a full iQuad team for the first time in five months… Yesterday’s practice was great fun, writing our new 6-person routine and bringing Takako (aka “the missus”) up to speed on the team tempo and calls… We’re changing up our style a bit, going a little more classic, dramatic and complex, but keeping it tight and exciting as we’re well known for.

As for “going back to roots”… I’d say we’re well on our way to clearing out the baffles, reviving the purity of our approach and mutual enjoyment of team flying, and I have no doubt it’ll carry on through the season.

In closing, I’d just like to express my open thanks to everyone out there in the kite world for their ongoing support and yes, even the grief I occasionally catch from a few precious souls… It’s all fuel for the fire, I actually enjoy the antagonists as well, so please keep it coming. <grin>

Doing it, right from the heart…

John Barresi