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Island Kites @ Canarsie Pier, Brooklyn, NY

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I have twice been a guest of the island's tourism bureau in Tobago, flying over new years eve week at various festivals scattered around. The MadBull and other traditional kites these folks make were simply amazing. Built of plastic trash bags and whatever they could find for a frame. 1-1/4" aluminum square tubing on the big ones (I mean larger than a pick-up truck size) The back of the sail material is reinforced with a a spider web of intersecting string (home-built scrim!)

The power company parks a boom-bucket truck on the field to fish kites off of the wires. The hotels can't keep trash-bags stocked for a couple of weeks prior to the event. The pilots would RUN their creations up to the smooth trade winds, easily 500 feet above us.

In one of the AKA magazines I posted a set of directions with photos of the assembly as modeled by Dexter, How to make a traditional Tobago Kite. Everyone was super friendly, the wife & I had a fantastic time sharing our passion with the locals.

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That's really cool, Paul, getting to actually see these kites in the Islands. I remember reading about the really big kites they fly at their festivals (probably in Kiting magazine). I never really paid too much attention to kites like this, though. Having never seen them and what they can do, I just didn't give them the proper appreciation. I'm going to have to look back through my old issues of Kiting magazine for your article, it does sound familiar now that you mention it. Thanks.

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On ‎8‎/‎5‎/‎2014 at 10:28 PM, RobB said:

I was passing Canarsie Pier again on my way home from work, and saw that the kites were flying again. I didn't feel like sitting in traffic much, so decided to stop in and hang with the guys I met last week. They were all there, along with some new faces. All of them are incredibly friendly, they remembered me and took me right into their group.

The kites that they fly are all home-made, just like they flew on the Islands that they come from. The kite that they fly is called a 'Mad Bull', because they pull so hard, especially considering their size. The line they were flying on was kevlar, looked like around 150#-200#, seems really strong for a kite no bigger than 2 feet across, until you feel the pull ! Materials were ripstop fabric, split bamboo spars, glued seams with very little sewing. The long tails were made out of strips cut from basketball jersey material with the little holes for the most part, but some of the kites had what looked like strips of bedsheets. Oh, and they had a little buzz strip on the nose that you can hear when the kites are low, but you can only feel it in the line (interesting effect) when they're a couple hundred feet up.

They fly these kites pretty high, nice solid, stable flyers until you give the line some input. A pull or a push at the right time can make the kite turn left or right, loop, power dive & recover. Pretty amazing in their skilled hands. Pretty scary in my inexperienced hands, I mean, the last thing I wanted to do was crash the kite, and I had no idea how to get out of a dive. I could hear them laughing a little as I panicked... A little slack, and the kite turned back up and recovered.

I know, I said I wouldn't fly at this spot again, but the spool was just handed to me, and my new friend walked away. :cat_shocked:

I was just stopping to take some pictures of them flying and ask them more about their kites. I can't say how much it means to me to have found this friendly group of kite flyers, to learn about kites that I knew nothing about, and a little bit about their culture from the Islands. One thing that one of them told me really stood out... when they are home flying kites and it gets dark, they just tie them off, go to sleep, and come back in the morning... the kites are still there flying, and they pick up where they left off ! One guy said the longest he had a kite flying was 2 weeks ! (WHAT ?) Yeah, he told me that with a straight face, I believe it.

Long tails ? (Got tail ?)


Launching the Trinidad Colors...


You can tell from the tails how the kite dances as it climbs, on purpose from the pilot's inputs...




Nice, solid, straight flight with no inputs...


Looping around at altitude...


Some of the others flying...



A few loops & a dive...


I thought this one was a nice design...



What a great story, RobB!   Thanks for sharing and taking the time to get these great shots.  I have the Kevlar cord...not sure what thickness, but the kites they made are really beautiful...

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