Issue 75: Kite Paradise

** Originally posted on Rec.Kites on January 20th, 1998 **

The KTAI has come and gone and here in San Diego it’s back to reality. When I was at the KTAI demo fly on Saturday, the 10th of January, I met and spoke with Dan Whitney of Gone With the Wind Kites from San Carlos, California. I’ve talked to Dan a few times on the phone and I’ve purchased a number of kites from his shop. I’ve always thought of him as an up-front, honest and trustworthy business man. Dan’s word is, as they say, as good as gold … so when he tells me something … whether it’s about kiting or the weather … I listen.

When I spoke with Dan he mentioned that he and a few partners had invested a great deal of money in a very large tract of land (roughly 100 acres) just outside of Santa Cruz, California and that they were planning on building a kite flyers park tentatively named “Kite Paradise”. I thought Dan was kidding at first but when he introduced me to one of his partners (who requested anonymity) and started discussing some of the details of the park, I began to take him seriously.

It would appear that the “civilian” problem that I’ve written about in a previous column (from “The Latest Craze” – those “things” that walk around under our kites … totally oblivious to their surroundings … stepping on lines, kites and anything else that gets in their way … I REALLY hate ’em!) is a very big problem in Santa Cruz as well as most areas across the country where serious kiting takes place. Dan and his investors decided that rather than employ Peter Betancourt’s “Shredder Kite” solution (see article entitled “Attack of the Mutant Killer Ducks”) they thought it would be more appropriate to simply isolate the flyers from the general public and give them a private and very plush place to fly.

I have it on good authority that Prism, Avia Sport, Pepsi, Nike, Microsoft, R.J. Reynolds and Budweiser are all investing heavily in this venture and that CSPAN will be covering the opening ceremonies (which are currently slated for April 1st of this year). This is exactly what our sport needs. Heavy-duty media coverage to give kiting the national attention and credibility that it needs to survive in the 90’s … and beyond.

There are a lot of people out there who have never been exposed to sport kiting and with the “horse power” of just a few big companies, there’s no doubt in my mind that in the next couple of years we’ll see a huge turn-around in both public opinion and participation in our favored of all past times. Who knows … maybe at the next Olympics we’ll see sport kiting as a featured event in the televised coverage.

I was intrigued by the thought of having a field to fly in where I wouldn’t be bothered by all the “knuckle heads” and asked Dan and his friend to elaborate on their ideas. The following are excerpts of that conversation:

Allen: You mean you’re serious?!

Dan: Yup. We’ve got most of the money together but we’re still looking for a few more investors. They have (my emphasis) to be kite flyers though.
Everyone who is in on this thing is a kite flyer … with the exception of the corporate sponsors, of course … and we’re doing this as much for ourselves as for everyone else. We fully intend to use the facilities whenever we have the time. We’re NOT just in it for the money.

Allen: How much land do you guys have?

“Bob”: Roughly 100 acres … so far … but we’re currently in negotiations for another 75 acres that would take us all the way down to the ocean. The unfortunate part is that someone already owns the beach but we’re planning on hauling in about 80 tons of sand for the flyers who insist on that type of atmosphere. There are several small lakes and ponds that are on the land so water isn’t a problem. It may not be the ocean but it’s still wet. And, too, we can always install a “wave machine” if they insist on a surf (laughs).

Allen: A wave machine?

“Bob”: Yeah. It’s like a giant piston that you put under water and it just pumps back and forth and creates waves. It’s not new … they’ve been around for a long time now. There’s a company out of Minnesota … MTS … that manufactures them.

Allen: Cool. How big will each flying area be? I mean, if I go there, how much room will I have to fly in?

Dan: We’ve studied that problem a great deal and have decided to parcel up the land into three main areas. There will be grassy areas for the grass flyers, beach-like areas for the sand flyers, and a sort of community flying area for the socializers and competitors as well. In addition we’ll have an indoor flying arena that will be protected from the elements. Indoor flying has become a big thing with a LOT of flyers and we want to cater to everyone.

“Bob”: Don’t forget the bowling alley, Dan (laughs and slaps Dan on
the back).

Dan: Don’t do that, Bob … you know it hate it when you do that!

“Bob”: Sorry, Dan (still laughing).

Dan: Where was I … oh yeah. Each of the grassy areas will be roughly the same shape as a baseball diamond and about 300 feet wide and 150 feet deep.
There are a lot of trees in those areas and we wanted to maintain a certain atmosphere. So, we’re going to be installing the same kind of fans they use in wind tunnels to provide constant velocity wind to those areas that are shielded from the normal trade winds. At each kite “station” there will also be a rheostat for adjusting the wind speed to your personal preference. Some flyers like very light winds and some like radically high winds so we’ve decided to leave it up to the flyer to decide just how much they want.

Allen: Wow! That’s really cool, Dan. Where’s the bar?

Dan: There is no bar out here, Al … we’re on the beach … remember? There’s a hotel across the street over there that probably has one though.

Allen: No. I don’t mean I want a drink right now. I mean where are you going to put the bar at the kite park?

Dan: Oh … sorry, Al. At the hotel, of course. We’re also building a Pro Shop, of sorts … kinda like they have at golf courses and bowling alleys. You know … nothing but the best of everything. We’ll sell kites … all brands … lines, winders, a complete line of accessories … and we’re even going to have a custom clothing shop where you can get shirts and hats with the names and logos of your favorite kite company plastered all over them. It’ll be a one-stop shopping extravaganza. We’ll even have kite rentals so you can try out that kite you’ve always wanted BEFORE you buy it.

Allen: Hotel? You’re going to build a hotel too?! You’re kidding me, right?

“Bob”: No, Allen … we’re very serious. We’ve been planning this for a long time now and we’ve all invested a great deal of money in this park. We have some very big names in kiting who have already signed up and anyone who’s anybody is going to want a piece of it. By the way. Did Dan mention you can actually buy you’re own kite station? Or you can go in with a number of other buyers and do a time-share sorta deal. You just make up your minds when you want to be there and work it out with the others. It’s cheaper that way too. The best part is that when your station isn’t being used you can rent it out … through us of course … and even make money off the deal. It’s a great opportunity.

Allen: Now I do need a drink. You guys are really serious about this?

Dan: Yup.

“Bob”: As a heart attack.

Allen: What else do you have there?

Dan: Well, let’s see. The hotel will have 5-star accommodations along with lower rate rooms for the not-so-fortunate crowd. In addition we’ve already hired one of the top chefs in the country … Wolfgang something-or-other. I forget his name but he sure can cook his butt off (laughs again).

“Bob”: And don’t forget the golf carts, Dan. Parking will be off-site. We’ve arranged to have a large parking lot built adjacent to the main entrance. When you arrive you’re met by one or more kite “caddies” who will unload your car or van and transfer all your flying equipment into a custom-built golf cart designed specifically for carrying kite bags and luggage. The caddie will then take the scenic route back to the hotel so you can get a good look at the park and decide where you want to fly. You’ll get to see the whole park too … not just a few things.

Allen: Uh huh …

Dan: When you arrive at the hotel the caddie gives you the keys to the golf cart and it’s yours for the whole time you’re there. No car fumes allowed in the park. Everything is electric and VERY quite. The only areas where there will be any noise at all will be in the competition area. That’s a public meeting place too where people can fly and socialize. Not everybody will take advantage of that but it’s available just the same. We’ve heard from a number of kite companies who’ve already bought up some of the more secluded stations …
presumably for testing their new designs in private. Kite espionage is becoming a very real problem for some of them. At least that’s what we’ve been told.

Allen: You’re kidding, right? You guys are just pulling my leg.

Dan: Nope. This is for real.

“Bob”: This is going to be a huge business, Al … we’re certain of it. Once word gets out about this thing the whole park will be filled with kite flyers from all over the world and it’ll become VERY difficult to buy into it once the ball gets rolling. You better jump on this thing while you can … before the Japanese move in and buy the whole place up.

Dan: “Bob” is right, Al. If you want in … you better do it soon. You should come up next weekend so we can show you around and you can see for yourself.

Allen: Uh huh. I REALLY need a drink. Is it ok if I tell people about this? I don’t want to blow it for you guys by spilling the beans too soon … but this is hot stuff.

Dan: We’d prefer you didn’t say anything. At least not yet. There’s a lot more you need to know about the park anyway … to complete the picture.

“Bob”: A LOT more. As Dan was saying … after you arrive at the hotel, you’re luggage is brought up to your room while you check in at the front desk. Your kites can stay either in the locked compartment of the golf cart or you can bring them with you. You can also drop them off at the “Tune-Up Shop” for cleaning, adjustment, replacement of broken spars, new fittings … you name it.
This is a full-service repair facility and we’ll be able to fix ANYthing you can break.

Allen: I feel dizzy. I think I need to sit down …

Dan: Once you’re settled in you can go to the bar or the restaurant for a bite to eat or just head on out to your station and start flying. When you get there you’ll unload your kites and depending on whether it’s a private station or the social area you can select which music you want to listen to from a list of 150 CDs. At the private stations you’re restricted to wireless headphones … provided by us, of course … but at the public stations we’ve got huge speakers. Each group of 10 stations … which is called a flying “zone” … has a restroom no more than 150 feet from any station. Your golf cart key unlocks your own personal bathroom so you’ll have complete privacy. Each zone also has a fully stocked bar with fresh water, towels, soft drinks, ice, beer, wine … everything you’d want to take to the kite field with you if you could.

Allen: I don’t feel so good. Did somebody say drinks?!

“Bob”: All you have to do is set up your kite, dial in the wind speed you want and start flying. OH! Almost forgot. At the “Pro Shop” you can arrange for lessons. We’ve hired some of the greats to give private lessons to the guests.
People like Andy Preston, Chris Matheson, Tim Benson … we spared no expense.

Allen: Maybe if I put my head between my knees …

Dan: At the end of the flying day when the sun begins to set you can do one of two things. You can jump into your golf cart and head back to the hotel … or anywhere else you’d like to go in the park … or you can turn on the stadium style lighting and keep on flying!

Allen: Do you hear a buzzing? I hear a buzzing sound in my ears … (kites flying overhead)

“Bob”: When you finally get tired of flying for the day (NOT!) you can always relax back at the Club House or take in a movie or just hang out with all the other kite flyers. We’ll also be holding work-shops on kite construction, flying techniques, demos … you won’t believe how cool this is going to be, Al. Al? You ok?

Allen: Umph … (somebody whacks me in the head with a kite and I pass out. I think it was Andy Preston).

“Bob”: I don’t think he believes us, Dan. What do you think we should do?

Dan: Let’s go find a bar. I need a drink.

“Bob”: Sounds good to me!

By the time I realized they were gone, I couldn’t decide if I’d been hallucinating or if the conversation had really taken place. A couple of kite flyers had wrapped their kite straps around my ankles while I was lying there on the sand trying to regain consciousness and I quickly removed them, jumped to my feet and started looking for Dan and “Bob”. I saw a very long, black limo driving out of the parking lot at Mariner’s Point (where the KTAI demos took place) and assumed it was them since they were nowhere to be found.

I spoke with Kurt at Avia Sport the following day and was told that Avia has already put up $750K promissory note for rights to a “block” of kite stations at the park. I also spoke with Mark Reed and Scott at Prism Kites and was told that they too were in negotiations for a similar sized area along with a retailing agreement for the on-site kite shop. I was unable to pin down any of the other companies or how much they were investing in the park but from what I’ve been told (unnamed sources) we’re talking 7 figures from each of the “big guys”.

This thing is BIG!

I have a reservation with Southwestern Airlines for Friday night. Dan and “Bob” are picking me up at the airport in San Francisco. We’re driving out to “Kite Paradise” just before sunset so they can show me what it’s like to fly in “artificial wind” under stadium lighting. I just hope I don’t forget my checkbook.