Issue 73: Westport Windriders Kite Festival

Welcome to our “Mid-Summer!” Yep – we’re on our way to another one again, about midway through a long string of Kite Festivals. This one’s the annual Westport Windriders Kite Festival, held on July 9th through 11th at Grayland Beach about 5 miles south of Westport, Washington. And while you might think this is just another “ho-hum” festival – that isn’t exactly correct, because this one is one of “The BIGGIES!” The Windriders are a quality Kite Club with a decent-sized membership (something of a rarity, these days), and their festivals are always first-rate. Therefore, we were really looking forward to this one.

Well, Theresa (my landlady and house-mate) got the nod to be “The-Kite-Shoppe-On-The-Beach” this year, so she would go up to Grayland Beach on Thursday, to have our campsite in place and to be ready and all set up for the “doings” on the beach come Friday. But I still had some things to do in town on Friday, so I’d drive up later and we’d meet up on the beach. Finding her with her Shoppe in a U-Haul trailer wouldn’t be a problem. So that’s what we did.

We’d spent the majority of the week “getting ready.” Renting a trailer and loading all of the “stuff” into it was no small exercise. And while we worked, we kept watching the Weather Forecast. Yeah – prognostications kept calling for clear and sunny and mid-80s with good winds. Of course, you can never be SURE about the weather, but we kept on hoping the weather gurus were right. And apparently, they WERE right – for the Friday portion of the festival anyway. It was only Saturday and Sunday that left a bit to be desired in the weather department…

Anyway, with a trip of maybe 125 miles one way, it was no problem making the trek for either of us, and we actually DID meet up on the beach at Grayland on Friday. Theresa reported a fine day, lots of sun and good onshore winds, though it had “felt like rain” all night Thursday night at the campground as far as Theresa was concerned… And, she’d done about as well as expected in getting the shop set up on the beach and even making a couple of sales on Friday – always a good omen. I set up my tent Friday evening, and settled in for a good night’s sleep. I’m really comfortable sleeping in my tent at festivals after doing it so often over the years.

Saturday morning broke, sorta… The clear skies and lovely winds of Friday had somehow evaporated overnight, and we were faced with a low, grey overcast maybe 100-150 feet above the beach, minimal winds from various directions, and temps in the mid 50s which would increase to the low-to-mid 60s. In other words – NOT ideal, but we were at the Beach with a Kite Festival in the offing – so things could have been a lot worse too. And that’s how the weather remained for the duration of the festival. Sure, some sun-breaks and semi-stable light breezes in the afternoons, but certainly nothing to rave about. Still, it didn’t rain either, so we were good with it.

After a quick cup of coffee at the campsite, I took a run at the beach just to make sure all was in order. Yup, there were people there, milling around, laying out kites, getting registered, some even getting “organized” too – though these’re “kiters” I’m talking about, so you have to take that “organized” business with some casual winks and sly grins, of course. Still, there were no major crisies or impending events that I could fathom, so I took a little time to drive to the local mom-and-pop cafe (The Mutineer) and wrapped myself around my standard “road breakfast.” Good to go now, and with a fresh cup of coffee aboard, I headed back to “seize the day” so to speak.

Well, as far as “seizing” went… there was none of it! It was more like “easing into it” as a point of fact. So I parked the van and just wandered and sipped coffee for a while. One of the nice things about a Windriders Kite Festival is the crowd of people it draws. Yes, the Sport Kite competitors were straggling in, setting up “camps” along the sidelines of the comp fields, getting kites ready, laying out linesets, and listening to Bob Wendt and Robin Haas, our intrepid announcers for the weekend. And down south, the “Big Kite” bunch has a goodly array of Suttons laid out on the beach, with a couple of ’em “testing” the breezes – struggling to stay airborne. Up north of the Comp field, various folks are beginning to gather in prep for the “Handcrafted” judging and the Mass Ascensions throughout the day. And right off the beach access road, the “Names” are gathering and swapping kite tales and laughing at/with each other… Scott Hampton – an extraordinary kite designer / builder – and his family are in, all the way from Sandy, Utah. Scott Skinner – “Mr. Drachen,” besides being an equally talented designer / builder too – is in from Colorado. And our “Invited Flier” for this year’s festival is Mr. Jose Sainz – an exceptionally talented designer / builder in his own right – up from sunny Sandy-Eggo, California!

So the stage is set… Registraion occurs. Arm-Bands get distributed. The pulled-pork vendor next to Theresa’s “Kite Shoppe” is doing a land-office business in beach-breakfasts and drinks, kites eventually get airborne, sport kiters begin to demo and compete. Of course, Marla Miller is busy doing about a gazillion things – orchestrating it all (needing only a tux, a podium, and a baton to look perfectly “official”) and we’re underway. So I wander among these groups pretty seamlessly actually… After all, they’re all kiters, so all are friends in fact – even though I have never met some of ’em.

And, as I wander, I am scoping out the weather – specifically the cloud “ceiling,” trying to determine if it would even be possible to shoot acceptable photographs. The reality is “NO” actually, but I eventually decide to take a few shots anyway – knowing that I’ll use them regardless of the quality. If nothing else, I can show how big kites can get lost in a “low overcast.” Sport kites, however, are pretty-much out of the question… I cannot get onto the comp field during events, which forces me to be so far away from the subject that they just look like smudges and “spots” on any photographs. Yes – I’ve tried with a telephoto. Those shots are even worse, because the telephoto also picks up all the haze or clouds in between me and the kite much more than normal, resulting in terrible “ghostly” photos instead. Much better if I focus on kites on the ground, and the faces of the people attending… so that’s what I do – pretty much throughout the festival. I must admit, however, that I became disheartened with the process a few times too – unwilling to take yet another “bad” photo – so I also wandered the beach without a camera a fair amount of the time.

Instead, I collect my “anecdotes” for this article over the next two days. So – in no particular order, here’s the kind of things I came up with…

First off, I am always pleased to intentionally welcome those who come some distance to fly with us – be they invited fliers or just “drive in” participants and / or spectators. And so it is this time too. Don and Joanne Lord have been attending the Windriders events for years, now, but it’s always good to see them again. Don is such a magnificent kite craftsman, his breath-taking images in rip-stop are glorious. But no more glorious than the opportunity to visit with these fine folks. We who are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest are blessed by our proximity to our British Columbian brethren, and there are none better than Don and Joanne Lord, either.

Scott Hampton and I have had prior discussions a time or two. I own a kite built by Ron Gibian to specs that Scott created and then purchased and subsequently sold. Scott’s work is always stunning – bold, exceptionally creative, and precisely built, his paint-on-ripstop creations are spectacular. Scott is a schoolteacher in Sandy, Utah by vocation, so kites are something of a sideline for him – though Scott is among the most “innovative” designers working in “kites” today. Yes, there is lots of competition in that creative “innovation” business, but Scott is assuredly up among the very best.

And, speaking of out-of-area fliers, it was especially nice to run into Jeremy and Barbara Perceval. We’d first met Jeremy up at Steveston in British Colombia several years ago. And if ever there’s been a “Poster Guy” for Sport Kiting, maybe Jeremy deserves that honor. Oh, I’m sure he’s got his “rough spots,” just like the rest of us… Its just that I’ve never seen them, either up in B.C. when I’ve been up attending a fest there, or at the Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF) or elsewhere when he’s been down here for a “fly” and a visit.

Jeremy is a darned decent Sport Kite flier. Not one of those “kid wonders” anymore, still he’s the one in the pack who genuinely LOVES flying, whether anyone else is watching him do it or not. And because of it, he’s the guy on the beach with his kite in the air, a twinkle in his eye, and a big grin plastered all over his face. Even when he’s “resting” a bit – he’s still got that twinkle and that half-grin going. Yeah, Jeremy and Barbara are welcome to fly with me – anytime, and anywhere!

Jose Sainz is a long-time “Master” kitemaker at the AKA “National” level, but I’d never met him. So it was my delight to introduce myself to Jose and welcome him to the Northwest again. I’d had Jose pegged as hailing from the East Coast for some reason, but I was quickly corrected regarding Jose’s residing in San Diego, CA instead. Still, I have seen his marvelous work for years and years now, and felt that Jose’s use of “colors” on single line kites is nothing short of spectacular, and (I understand from my friend Lam Hoac) Jose’s sewing and his frame construction techniques are absolutely first-rate too. So having Jose as “THE Invited Flier” at this year’s Westport Windriders Kite Festival was an exceptional “gift” to us all. What a nice, generous, and gracious man! And the kites Jose brought, including the lovely “Auction Kite” for Saturday’s banquet, were all magnificent. How very nice to have him among us, and apparently Jose had a fine time with us too. Maybe it has something to do with cool, overcast weather, rather than that blazing sun and those whispy vapors found so often in San Diego during the summertime, eh Jose?

…Well, somewhere in among all of my wanderings and occasional faulty attempts at kite photographs, we ran out of time… So the entire ensemble broke camp, returned to their respective lodgings, then drove the 10-15 miles to the Ocasta Grange Hall for our evening’s “Banquet.” Plenty of food. Raffles almost without end for kite-related “Stuff.” Auctions for the bigger items, including a lovely Black and Lime-Green “Alien” Flowform with an equally gorgeous matching tapered drogue-tail. And a raffle for Jose Sainz’s “Event” kite – a gorgeous, impeccably sewn, “appliqued” Green and White “Barndoor” kite… Magnificent!

Then everyone adjourned to their lodgings again (and Theresa and I back to our tents) for a well-deserved rest in preparation for Sunday’s portion of thie Windrider’s festival. Yup, we were all back out there the next morning, too – me with another “road breakfast” and a mug of coffee in the van again. Sunday generally starts a little slow however, and there’re fewer festival attendees, too. Still – we had an event to put on, participate in, or attend – which we all did!

Somewhere south of the “Invited Fliers arena,” the “Big Kite guys held sway. I’ll just mention Barry Tislow and Dale Ray here, but there were roughly a half dozen trailers full of big kites and people to fly them down there – meaning there were probably a dozen flowforms and 3-4 Octopuses in attendance, plus a huge Gecko, a Manta Ray, Dale’s new “Dragon” kite, and lots of other “Big Stuff.” These folks all hang and fly together and can be counted on to put on a tremendous show in the skies – IF there’s enough wind! Well, what wind existed was mostly “marginal” again on Sunday, but these folks worked it anyway, and came away “winners” again. If there’s enough wind, these folks will fly – anywhere, any time – at your request. They do marvelous work, and do NOT get noticed nearly enough – I think mostly because they’ve been doing it for long enough now that folks tend to just assume they’ll be there – and they usually are, too!

John and Marzlie Freeman are “transplants.” They worked and raised their family in Portland, Oregon, and then “retired” up to Parksville, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. John is an excellent “kite craftsman” and designs and teaches Kitebuilding workshops in and around the Northwest. Marzlie is a magnificent seamstress, and also the editor for the periodic newsletters for the Northwest’s “kite clubs.” Together, they are simply a superb pair of individuals.

John Barresi (Kitelife’s Publisher / Editor) and I have both admired John Freeman’s clear and precise writing when we’ve had occasion to read his emails, so I asked John F if he’d like to do some occasional write-ups on Single Line Kite plans, specifically for Kitelife. John B had expressed an interest in Kite Plans and instructions, and – knowing John Freeman – any plans and “build” instructions he created would be well received among the Kitelife readership. Well… Mr. Freeman agreed to “think about it.” Later on, I mentioned the conversation to John B, and it turns out that he’s quite enthusiastic about the idea.

And over on the Sport Kite Competition Field – the kite-geek of the hour – Connor Doran was out there competing as usual. Oh, someone will challenge me with “Whatdaya mean??? Connor’s NO GEEK” – which I both know and agree with. The problem, however – is that there’s a portion of the kiting community that TREATS him as if he IS a “geek.”

Anyway, Connor’s a friend of mine, and of lots of other folks in Kiting too. So every now and then, I’d run over to the Comp field and just give Connor a little personal message from me. “Just fly for YOU, Connor. You are a good guy, just into becoming a man, and I’m proud of what you are as an individual.” Of course, I had a little help with that message. As you’ll see below, Connor didn’t exactly end up on the “Top of The Heap” at the Westport Windriders Kite Festival Competitions. As a matter of fact, his mom beat him in the comps a couple of times that weekend!

Then there was that guy I’ve admired for years and years, but had never met. Scott Skinner is the head of the Drachen (German for “Kite”) Foundation. Scott is also a superb kite designer and builder, and a genuinely nice guy, it turns out. We met on the field at this festival for the first time, shared a little discussion about this and that pertaining to kiting. Yeah, not much of consequence… just enough to get comfortable (at least I was, anyway). We were nearing the end of Sunday afternoon, with the festival tear-down and the corresponding “run for home” quite imminent.

So I watched as Scott nursed a large “pointer” kite backwards into the dunes, and decided he could probably use a little help. He’d been flying well up there – almost into the lowest level of the clouds overhead. So Scott kept using back-glide to get closer and closer to the dunes, hopefully to land the kite somewhere in the grass where it wouldn’t get all sandy. He managed to get it just up over the lip of the dune, but the kite fell into a “grass-less” hole in the dune – but it was supported above the sand by the beach grasses holding up either end instead. What a fortuitous landing! We laughed about it together before disassembling the kite and putting it away…

…and a whole host of other little conversations and snippets and anecdotes occurred too, of course… I could run this article up to twice as large as it is now – but why? I think you have the gist of what happened at the 2010 Westport Windriders Kite Festival, and if you don’t, I doubt that doubling this text would increase the likelihood of your understanding the festival very much better.

Anyway, Theresa and I had originally meant to stay the night at the campground there in Grayland. But we saw some dark clouds on the horizon, and just decided that it was early enough for us to pack up the campsite and head for home early. That way, we’d not have to deal with the possibility of wet tents to dry out tomorrow… So we pushed the throttle down a little to get packed up and clear of the campsite, accomplishing our pack-up in near record time, and got the whole shebang on the road. Dinner was in a diner in Raymond, Washington – about 35 miles away. And for what it’s worth, we didn’t get rained on until we were on the freeway, about 30 miles from home. Good call, huh?

Oh, for what it’s worth, the Northwest Sport Kite League (NWSKL) competition scores and standings for Westport this year are:


1st Kristian Slater 61.133
2nd Patti LaValley 58.200


1st Kristian Slater 50.100
2nd Patti LaValley 43.467


1st Jim Landers 69.667
2nd Robert Hilliard 69.000
3rd Amy Doran 65.067
4th Michael Dirk 62.267


1st Michael Dirk 61.233
2nd Robert Hilliard 60.133
3rd Amy Doran 54.667
4th Jim Landers 52.933


1st Amy Doran 84.600
2nd Connor Doran 78.733
3rd Jim Landers 76.400
4th Michael Dirk 73.267
5th Kristian Slater 56.600


1st Amy Doran 72.767
2nd Michael Dirk 63.067
3rd Jim Landers 61.233
4th Connor Doran 55.733


1st Wayne Turner 82.067
2nd Jennifer Brown 79.933
3rd Doug Lommel 74.333


1st Daniel Haigh 81.300
2nd Wayne Turner 79.567
3rd Jennifer Brown 74.133
4th Doug Lommel 63.233


1st Wayne Turner 76.733
2nd Jennifer Brown 72.333


1st Wayne Turner 64.667
2nd Jennifer Brown 60.367


1st Cloud Dancers 55.267
(Doug Lommel & Patti LaValley)


1st 6th Sense 83.333
(Bill Rogers, Daniel Haigh & Wayne Turner)


1st 6th Sense 74.267


1st Amy Doran 88.767

Mystery Ballet

1st Wayne Turner 77.667
2nd Jennifer Brown 75.667
3rd Richard Hurd 75.400
4th Michael Dirk 73.533
5th Robert Hilliard 72.000
6th Jim Landers 68.200
7th Patti LaValley 67.267
8th Doug Lommel 65.600
9th Kristian Slater 65.467
10th Carol Pittman 64.800

Yup, another quite successful Westport Windriders Kite Festival, in the bag again! A huge “Thank You” to ALL the Windriders and their sponsors for yet another marvelous Windrider festival. See y’all next year? You BETCHA!!!

Fair Winds and Good Friends,