Kites… Life: New Horizons

A long strange road, but the sun is rising!

Please bear with me as I’m in a very nostalgic mood (again), but I think it’s critical to explain a little about how Kitelife has developed… It really does seem like eons ago that I first heard about my friend Mike Gillard’s efforts to start up a little online kite publication “by kite fliers, for kite fliers” in April of 1998 – I’d just gotten into computers and was familiarizing myself with basic web design, IRC chat, rec.kites and the like while Mike was charging ahead with a media format totally new to kiting.

Satori Kites – 2001

Not having regular Internet access until 2001 or so, I didn’t think too much of it until I started my own little kite-related web project called Satori Kites… Being a longtime sport kite competitor and performer, I wanted to create a site that highlighted others like myself with biographies, competition records, photos and videos – a single resource for info about hard core sport kite fliers.

As I recall, we had over 100 fliers in our database at one point, representing at least 8 different countries… Working with this site was an invaluable experience which gave me the opportunity to interact with more international fliers than ever before, and to learn a great deal more about the basics of web design.

Mike had become pretty busy near the end of 2002 with his role as the AKA Sport Kite Committee Chair, his duties as a member of the International Rules Book Committee (IRBC), editorship of the AKA’s Kiting magazine and a full family life with his wife and three children – so with all of that, Kitelife had started to suffer from lack of attention and infrequent updates.

Having seen what I was doing with Satori Kites, Mike approached me about assuming the role of Kitelife webmaster… He saw the end of Kitelife looming on the horizon and Mike didn’t want to see it expire, so off I went, learning rapidly as I put together a new format and started playing around with every possible web tool and script that I could while figuring out how to manage things.

Nearing the end of 2003, I’d added a number of “trial” features to the Kitelife site such as our discussion forum and a limited archive of sport kite performance videos… Smelling something “on the wind” (so to speak), I expressed to Mike that I really wanted to do more with the whole thing but that I needed to know I was investing all of that time and effort toward my own future – with that, we worked out a deal and Kitelife was officially under new ownership.

Click here to cruise through archived previews of the Kitelife site on

We added our Kitelife Subscription program shortly afterward, continued working to expand our video archives for the subscribers, brought our original issues back online (only available on CD at the time), added prize drawings and more and help subsidize the cost of operations… I still remember getting our first subscriber in, it was really exciting and validating to know that someone cared enough to throw a couple of bucks directly toward our efforts.

Not long after, we started converting all the old SKQ and Kite Lines issues to PDF format in an effort to preserve other, older publications for the new generations of kiting to enjoy.

In the meantime, we went through a handful of different site layouts as I’d get a whiff of something that needed to be added or went through temporary obsessions with graphics and themes, some FAR better than others… By mid-2004, we’d settled into a theme that served us well until mid-2008 when the entire site was hacked in such a way whereas folks were actually picking up viruses from the site.

The infection so insidious that we just pulled the plug on our old files and rolled out another theme that we’d had in development for several months… My wife (TK) and I had just started dating, and I remember doing most of the site rebuild from the floor of her studio in Tokyo while she was at work – no small feat since Kitelife had always been made up of static web pages and every single bit of content had to be stripped of formatting and then hand-copied into the new format – a job we never did quite finish.

On top of this, we started to lose quite a few of our senior writers as they either aged, passed away or found other interests in their life – it became increasingly difficult to farm good content as we neared the end of 2010 and throughout most of 2011 while the “live” formats such as forums and Facebook started to really absorb a lot of the news as it happened instead of folks sending their content in to our little publication (and others).

The root of the matter was that we’d been trying to preserve our original “issue” format wherein we’d accumulate content for a single release every two months, requiring a maddening amount of work in a very limited time frame amidst an already busy travel schedule… So by the time I rolled into the 2012 Kite Trade Show, I was pretty close to either changing from a bi-monthly schedule to quarterly, or discontinuing new issues of the e’zine entirely.

I was pretty disheartened before I had some in-depth and serious discussions on the matter with my wife TK, long time friend/teammate David Hathaway, and Spence Watson about the future of the publication… With a great deal of feedback and input, all three helped to re-energize me and bring clarity to the future of Kitelife.

That brings us to what you now see on the screen… After roughly six weeks of intensive work and hundreds of conference chats between us, we were able to put together a database-driven site which is way easier to navigate, far more stable, can be administrated by any authorized individual with Internet access and allows direct content submission by our authors!

Anyway, enough with the rambling for now… I just wanted to give a little background on how got to where we are.

Please take a good look around the new site, share the link with your friends and send us your feedback!

Good winds until next time,

John Barresi