Oh boy.... I love this list. I actually have hundreds to pick from, but, for the sake of the list I picked ten memories that were pivotal in my 'kite life'. Each one of these not only is an interesting moment in time, but the emotions associated with that moment have lasted and are something I like to reflect back on. Here we go.... Top Ten Wonderful Kite Memories.
1. Flying in the UAE - I flew kites as a kid before this, but, this the moment I credit with launching me into this new life of loving kites as an adult. Flying a Prism Nexus on the beach as the sun was setting, something clicked. When I returned back to the states it was a short time after that that I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and thus met the folks at Into The Wind (A really cool kite store). I fell in love... and.. well.. I jumped in head first down the rabbit hole of kites.
2. Building Kites in Kerala, India with the Helping Hands Organization - About this time last year, I was invited to Kerala, India by the Helping Hands Organization (H2O)to help put on a kite festival. H2O seeks to better the lives of differently abled children, particularly those with autism, the underprivileged, and the elderly. Myself, Nasri Ahmad from Malaysia and Graham Lockwood from England joined kite fliers from the One India Kite Team on the shores of the Indian ocean and put on a ktie festival. Hundreds of kites were given away, and thousands came to the beach. The moment that really stands out for me is when Nasri and myself went to the H2O headquarters and did a demonstration for the children. We didn't speak the same language, but the warmth and smiles of those children is still with me.
Here is a video recap from that event.
3. Watching Paul the first time at the Indoor Kite Competition at the Washington State International Kite Festival - I had heard about indoor kite flying before 2011. In fact I had attended the indoor performances at that event in the past 2 or so years. It was different, it was weird, it was quirky, and I chalked it up to yet another one of those aspects of kiting that makes it fun and unique. Then... in the summer of 2011, I went to the WSIKF Indoor Event and watched Paul fly. I was blown away. It was incredible, I had never seen someone fly like that before. It made me want to fly indoors, it made me want to learn more about kite flying. (At the time I was mainly a powerkite flier)
The video below is from an earlier event that year, but lets just say it was just as impressive
4. The first time I went to NABX - At this point I was a sponsored power kite flier for HQ Powerkites and was living in Colorado. In spring of 2010 HQ told me about an event down on the dry lake beds south of Las Vegas. All about power kites, speed, friendship, and having a good time. The North America Buggy Expo (or NABX for short) is one of the coolest events I have ever attended. I don't know how to explain what happens at NABX on the playa... it is one of those ... that you know if you have been there. Ska Brewery (a microbrewer out of Colorado) are long time kite enthusiasts and sponsors of the event, and provide copious amounts of fresh beer to help wash down the inevitable dust.
5. Storm and the triple rainbow at Antelope Island - In 2012 Paul and I went to Antelope Island Stampeded Festival (AISF) in Salt Lake City, Utah. When I say 'in', I actually mean ON the great Salt Lake. There is an island on the northern end that is mainly a wildlife preserve and natural space for the public. The AISF wasn't a kite event perse. It was a public festival with live music, food trucks, bmx demonstrations, hot air balloons, and us kite fliers. The kite fliers and the hot air balloon folks set up behind the main stage to help provide a backdrop of color in the sky for festival attendees.
After a particularly uneventful day on the field a large black storm cloud moved in from off the lake, and it moved in fast. There was hardly enough time to grab all of the kites in the sky and on the ground and get them stowed safely. In the span of 20 minutes it rained harder than I have ever seen it rain anywhere. We quickly sought shelter in our cars, others attempting to hide under the tents and having a fire hose open up on top of them. Nothing was safe. Then.... just like that... it was gone. Heads started peeking out from under covers, and the kite fliers were ready to go out and pick up the pieces. Except.... everyone stopped.
Bright golden sunlight was breaking through the other side of the cloud casting rainbows everywhere. Including, a triple rainbow on the far side of the field. The only time I have ever seen a triple rainbow. I remember very clearly that day walking around and hugging and smiling at the sky, forgetting for a moment that some of our kites were in tatters, or our bags had become swimming pools. The moment was pure love and peace.
6. Building Falenas with Lindsey Johnson - One fine day I was hanging out with my friend Lindsey in his shop in Lincoln City. He has a an impressive workshop where he builds high end custom cabinetry, and also builds the kite kits for his side business. He uses a press to cut out multiple sails at one time from layers of Tyvek. The scraps are uniform in size and there are boxes of them. Lindsey is a Maker at heart, and sees that there is always something that can be created, and perhaps that is why he held on to the box of scraps.
"Nic, do you think we can make something from these?"
That started it all. Over the course of the next month we used Facebook messenger and Google drive to share out ideas and concepts. Eventually settling on a 'wind art' structure that uses a custom 3d printed fitting (made in Lindsey's shop) and adds movement and color to the kite field.
Lindsey has gone on to teach how to build the Falenas at various workshops. Not only is the workshop meant to show a new design, but also to encourage people to look at things around them with a creative approach. From trash to art!
7. Meeting Ray Bethell and Chuck
Ray Bethell is a legend. Amazing man. Someone that has touched the lives of thousands around the world through kite flying. I didn't know this the first time I met him. I met him on the beach at the Washington State International Kite Festival the first year I went. I showed up with all of my power kites to do demonstrations and the organizers placed me in an open space beyond a roped off field with a sign that said "Ray Bethell Kite Field".
Wow, the man must be important if he gets a whole field to himself! As the day went on, I looked over to see this guy, out there flying 3 stunt kites at one time. It was a real showstopper to see, and I took it upon myself to go over and introduce myself and was stopped by another old guy sitting in a chair at the edge of the field. He introduced himself as Chuck. Chuck was Ray's friend and was eager to share his knowledge of kites and the world. (Chuck was a rodeo star, roping and riding bulls, all that jazz) Then I met Ray, and asked if flying the power kites next to his field was a problem.
He said it was no problem, he actually liked it because it kept other people from flying to close to his field and potentially letting their kites drift into his space. From then on, for the next few years, I would show up, set up next to Ray and Chuck (and camp at Chucks place), and enjoy the sky.
8. Seeing the Jacob Hashimoto Exhibit
Some time ago I had come across the artwork of Jacob Hashimoto. He uses kites as the basis for large scale art installations. This last year on a trip to the World Maker Faire in New York I took a little side trip to see a temporary Hashimoto exhibit on Governors Island. Worth it.... breathtaking.... amazing... inspiring. I feel silly trying to explain the feeling. Watch the video, the ending is 100% real, still the feeling I have thinking back on that moment.
9. Snowkite Solider and almost getting taken out as two racers came across the finish line.
Several years ago I was touring the snowkite competitions, and found myself in Idaho at Snowkite Solider. Due to a previous shoulder injury I was not competing, so I offered to help with the race. I sat in thigh deep fresh snow at the finish line recording as the competitors came across the finish line of an endurance race. The call came across the radio that the first set of competitors were inbound, so I got ready. I was set up right next to one of the finish line cones, with direct sight to the other one so I could see everything in 'photo finish' fashion. Two competitors, (well renowned kiteboarders) were neck in neck and screaming across the snow. They were coming in fast, with their kites low to the ground. Looking back on it, we all figured out that thanks to the color of my gear and the finish line cone, they didn't see me. The lines of the kites were mere feet above the ground, the tips of their kites almost scuffing the snow, and the riders were edging in hard easily doing 20+mph. At the very last second I jumped to the side into the soft powder out of my little stomped in fox hole in the snow and felt the lines and kites woosh over my head.
I didn't see who won...... but... both of the riders were extremely apologetic when they found out what a close call it had been. Not necessarily their fault, but the drinks were flowing freely that evening. :)
10. Sitting around a campfire in Ocean Shores with fellow kite fliers.
Paul and I have some good friends in Ocean Shores, Washington, that just happen to be the owners of the local kite shop. There have been some wonderful moments where we have spent all day on the beach flying kites, then retired to a private campsite to have a large bonfire, and share the stories that can only be shared by firelight with good friends. This memory is more a 'lifetime' memory then a single incident. Each time adds to the previous time, and they all begin to blend together in a beautiful creation. The other folks that have filtered in and out of that campsite over the years has added to this collective memory.
Nothing else in the world better sums up what I love most about kites in one moment: friends, food, kites, camaraderie.