Issue 73: Kites… Life.

One of my primary areas of focus and interest over the past 2-3 years is the obvious lack of cohesion and growth in the North American dual line kiting community, evidenced by less competitors, fewer dual line teams at World Championships and even fewer full time dual line teams in North America… Now bear in mind, I’ve somehow garnered a reputation for being a dedicated “Rev guy”, but anyone with a memory span in the kiting community that extends beyond 2006 (the birth of iQuad) will remember that I am also a passionate and experienced dual line pilot as well, although my efforts since 2006 have primarily been directed toward the Rev community.

Sure, this is going to read at first like a shameless Rev promotion, but if you stick through and read on, the heart of my sentiments will hopefully come across, which come from a desire to see ALL of kiting flourish.

First, an explanation… My group’s focus on Revs has primarily been due to the fact there were so few Rev fliers (comparatively), we’d been seriously bitten by the Rev team flying bug and that we’ve been able to readily teach and transmit that excitement to others at the events we’ve attended since iQuad’s inception.

First and foremost, the excitement we’ve felt on iQuad since day one stems from being able to play and experience it with others... Not just pros either, but anyone with an interest, since we’ve been able to break it down and accelerate the learning process for so many people.

What have we noticed, and where am I going with this?

Team, or group activities like this attract a lot of attention from the general public… Not only due to the visual impact, but also a great deal from the visible and audible “fun level” that the Rev groups tend to exhibit… They’re big in the sky, it’s always moving, it’s community-oriented and designed to be accessible to anyone with an interest, and by golly, they’re having a loud, rocking good time which is obvious to anyone who stops to watch for more than five minutes.

  1. I believe what we’re observing is primarily driven by a few key points:
  2. Rev groups try to make it look relaxing and fun, nature of the beast.
  3. Rev team fliers generally go out of their way to interact with the public, explaining what they do and how easy it actually is with a little knowledge.
  4. The Rev community has made tons and tons of information available to anyone who has an interest, both for excitement and education.
  5. Most of all, again, the whole concept is group and community oriented, not everyone thinks they want that, but in my experience, I strongly believe that almost everyone secretly wants to be a part of something cooperative (regardless of kite type or pastime).

Yes, yes… Not everyone is a “team player” and that’s all good, 100% respected in my eyes, I do understand… Experience and taste is individual, I’m not even getting into that, it’s nowhere near my point… What I’m getting at here is perhaps relevant only to those who have an interest in seeing the kiting community expand their ranks, but hey, you are reading Kitelife, after all.

I’ve attended over 100 kite festivals worldwide since 2006, and time after time what I’ve seen attract the most new fliers, hands down, is group efforts or direct pilot interaction… Giant cooperative show kite displays (like the Octopile at Berkeley), Rev teams, dual line teams, fighter kite events, hot trick shoot outs, and the like.

Want to put this to the test? Step out of your role as a kite flier, go stand in the audience for 30-60 minutes at “high noon” on the Saturday of a festival and use your various senses to see where the attention and excitement is.

  • Where is the bulk of the audience standing and what are they watching?
  • Close your eyes, what parts of the show can you hear above the others?
  • Looking with fresh eyes, who looks like they’re having the most fun?
  • What fliers are going out of their way to speak with spectators?

Let’s be clear on this – I’m not referring to what we know or are aware of as fliers, but what the audience sees with non-kiteflier eyes… That’s exactly where the hurdles exist, making kiting interesting and accessible to the general public who are observing.

Now, some interesting stats…

Along the lines of group activities in sport kiting, I went through the 2010 AKA Competition rankings (as of 8/3/10) and pulled up the number of active dual line teams:

  • Northeast (8 US states) – 1 Masters, no Experienced.
  • Southeast (12 US states) – 0 Masters, 2 Experienced.
  • MidWest (7 US states) – 1 Masters, 1 Experienced.
  • Central (13 US states) – 0 Masters, 0 Experienced.
  • Pacific (5 US states) – 1 Masters, 0 Experienced.
  • Northwest (4 US states) – 1 Masters, 0 Experienced.

Grand total, seven competitive teams for 2010.

Our four Masters teams:

  1. Air Zone (Pacific)*
  2. Smitty & The Girls (NE)
  3. Chicago Fire (MidWest)
  4. 6th Sense (Northwest)*

Side note, it’s also interesting to know that only two of these four masters teams (*) have accepted an invitation to World Championship over the past several years… Another curious fact, is that all four of those teams have been together for no less than five or six years (no “new” Masters teams), at least two of them have been active since the year 2000 or earlier, and while there are occasional exceptions, none of those four are regularly traveling (across country or internationally) to perform either competitively or demonstrative.

Our three Experienced teams:

  1. 7-8-9 (MidWest)
  2. Crash N Burn (Southeast)
  3. Wing Nuts (Southeast)

Aside from the competitive teams above, I’m also aware of these dual line demonstration teams in North America:

  1. Bay Area Sundowners (CA) – 25+ years
  2. Detroit Windjammers (MI) – 25+ years
  3. Too Much Fun (CA) – 10+ years
  4. Austin EOL (TX) – 15+ years
  5. Team SPI (TX) – 10+ years
  6. Team TKO (TX) – 10+ years

I’m sure I’ve overlooked some teams, but that should be the bulk of them.

Now that we’ve identified what we’re working at the moment, lets talk about the dynamics at hand…

Q: Do we actually have less (recreational) North American dual line fliers than ever before?

A: Probably not by any degree that is relevant to this discussion.

What we do have, is a clear reduction in the number of team-based formats that appear to be fun and accessible to the general public… Certainly not all, but most of our fliers these days are primarily interested in trick flying… A few folks off by themselves (separate) on the field, flipping the kite to and fro, rarely being graceful, rarely carving loud and clean corners in the sky, frequently tumbling to the ground.

Most of us have heard it before, but trick flying looks (to the untrained eye) like the kites are out of control… And honestly, sometimes, they are.

A large number of the kites made today favor this style of flight, bridle points are set higher for slack line (trick) ability which in turn reduces the power and drive in the kite, also reducing the tight, clean SNAP in corners, all of which are crucial to effective team flying.

Recreation fliers aren’t generally practicing compulsory style shapes like octagons, clover leafs, hard angles and proportionate loops… The few competitive fliers we have do this to some extent, but once off the competition field, it’s back to the slap and spank style of flying… Compatible with, but not integral to team flying ability like precision and other well rounded skills are.

Did you know that the USA didn’t have a World Championship in dual line team flying for twelve years until Cutting Edge came up and won 2005/2006 back to back, and that we haven’t seen a US champion since then?

That’s a grand total of two World Championships to US teams in 17 years.

I’m not trying to say that trick flying is responsible for anything in North America, its awesome in its own right… I love to trick my dualies too, but I also love to carve the sky and explore the entire window… So I’d argue it’s not the presence of tricks, but rather the decline of other well rounded skills that are heavily contributing to the significant reduction of dual line team flying in North America, one of our greatest display assets… IMHO, its high time those who are interested in the long term growth of the community made an effort to reinforce a wider range of skills and cooperative activities amongst the upcoming class of dual line fliers.

I believe it’s necessary in order to bring more teams into existence (group activity and audience appeal), it will up the general quality of individual competition and demonstration routines, and give us a larger body of fully experienced pilots who can pass these skills on to the fliers who come up the ranks after them.

Just for comparative purposes, I did a little research on the number of currently active (traveling and performing) quad line teams in North America:

  1. iQuad (NW)- created in 2006
  2. Island Quad (BC) – created in 2009
  3. 180GO! (Illinois) – created in 2008
  4. Rev Riders (NE) – created in 2009
  5. Too Much Fun (CA) – created before 2005
  6. Team SPI (TX) – started quad in 2008

None of them compete, all of them teach and share their experience freely, all participate in and help coordinate large team gatherings wherever they go.

Of course, there are also a few regular local recreational team flying groups (no team name) in North America and well over one hundred “drop in” team fliers who attend festivals and events with the express interest in team flying with others who share the same interest.

Another interesting observation I’ve made is the amazing number of dual line, single line and power kiters who have added team Rev flying to their repertoire over the past 2-3 years especially… Most often, it comes with the sentiment of “look how many of them there are and how much fun they’re having“.

I say again, loud as possible… I don’t imagine or believe for a moment that Revs are the sole source or venue for open sharing of knowledge or group activity, but the Rev community is currently an excellent place to look for ideas, ideals and approaches that may very well enhance and stimulate participation in other areas of kiting… Goodness knows they’ve observed and borrowed a number of successful dynamics, and it should go both ways.

I encourage anyone reading to share their thoughts, criticism or passion via the link below… You’ll also find a few outstanding videos of dual line team performances from past and present:

Well, I’m under a bit of a time crunch here and it feels like there’s so much more I could say… Really, this seems somewhat incomplete and I hope the depth of my actual sentiments have managed to show through… I’m not 100% Revs, organized dual line kiting will again have its day (all things in cycle), nothing is the end, only the beginning… Let’s just stir the pot, change the paradigm and see what happens.

Whatever you fly, fly it well and share it freely…

John Barresi