Most of us have other hobbies outside of kites, and for some those are life long hobbies. They have shaped us, how we see the world, and how we approach different aspects of our lives. There is a lot of positive things I can say about the Kite Community, and what you can learn from diving in deep into kite flying, but what can the kite community learn from others?
Running Community - Challenges
Be it in person or virtual. This is partly behind why I started the We Fly Global Kite Challenge, and at the heart of a few more challenges I am debuting this year. Virtual challenges are something that is rather common in the running/hiking/exercise world. It gives a chance for people from all walks of life, and any location, to get together and try something. Usually this is on their own terms, at their own speed, but for the same goal. Like a virtual 5k. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, some of them you can split over a few days, etc... Right now I am actively participating in a few different virtual running challenges, including a rather epic one which entails me attempting to run (or hike/jog/walk) at least 2020 miles in the year 2020.
Challenges encourage you to try something new, or set new habits. In doing a challenge around something you think you already know rather well, you might discover a new found love, or a more productive way of doing things. Why not try something new this year.
ps.... stay tuned for a series of challenges coming out in the next few months from Fortuna Found that are meant to inspire you to create, fly, and play.
Pageant Community - Accepting and Relishing Judgement
People will judge you. Make peace with it. Expect to be judged. Because you will be, and you are. The cool thing is that when you expect it, you are not caught off guard by it. I am not a huge fan of the pageant life, but I absolutely admire the girls that still take to the stage time and time again and put on their best face, and smile and try their best in front of hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people. They don't shy from the fact that they will be judged for their participation, their performance, they realize two things. There is power in owning that and standing up. Whether the judgement is positive, or negative, what you do with it is the most important. Even if you aren't crowned the 'Queen', you better put your best foot forward, smile, and show the world what you are made of. What does this have to do with kite flying, well... if you are an avid kite flier, you have undoubtedly had that moment when non kite fliers have judged you for playing with a 'kids toy'. Or being super serious about a piddly little thing. So what. You aren't going to stop them from judging you that way, or judging you for the kind of kite you fly. Screw em. Accept the judgement, relish in the fact that if anything, they are at least talking about kites. HA.
Drag Queen Community - Be Bold
This one somewhat goes hand in hand with Pageant Community. Don't be afraid to be bold. Stand up and fly your freak flag. You love the color pink, then show off every pink kite you have and color coordinate your outfit to go with it. You like big kites, get one and fly it as often as you can.... hell... get a bunch of them. You like stunt kites, try something bold and see if you can fly them in parking garages, derelict churches, seedy alleyways, on the top of a mountain while blindfolded. Be Bold.. and own your particular flavor of boldness. Make it your thing, your look, something that undeniably is you.
Red Bull Extreme Athletes - Honoring Sponsorship
Red Bull is one of the biggest and most common names in extreme sports sponsorship. (BTW There is not only the Red Bull kite team, but there is also Red Bull Ragnarok Kite Race, and King of the Air) There are hundreds of Red Bull athletes, but only a handful in each sport. Something that is key that the best athletes realize... at the end of the day, your goal as an athlete is to increase sales for your sponsors. It means defining why you do what you do, and why you do it for your sponsor. Too often I have run into people in the current kite community that have an approach to sponsorship's completely ass backwards. A sponsorship is work, it is hard work usually, and it better dang well provide something of very good value to the person or company giving money. Treat them like an employer, honor the relationship, and give more than what you get. Over time, you might get sponsors knocking on your door willing to pay you to just keep doing what you do... but really.. most of them are to sell their product. Be good about them.
Additionally, the successful sponsored athletes have taken the time to develop themselves and their personal 'brand'. Their story is accessible, and the impact and reach is visible. Stop asking people to give you money yet you have nothing to show for it. Whether it is for an event, for yourself, or something else. Show that you are a good investment to a potential sponsor, and honor that there should be a full contract between the two of you.
Roller Derby - There is a Space for Everyone
This is a personal one for me, if you didn't know, I play and coach my local Roller Derby team. It has been one of the highlights and passions of my life for about 8 years. There is something that is at the core of the sport that I have yet to see fully anywhere else. There are hints of it on the kite field, but no where the same level as I see in Roller Derby.
I predominately play Womens Flat Track Roller Derby. But there is a space for those that play banked track, there is a space for Men's Roller Derby, and for Co-ed. There is a space for the super serious, there is a space for the weekend warrior. There is a space for the straight, the gay, the unknown. There is a place for cis-gendered and trans-gendered. There is a space for those that don't know how they want to identify, there is a space for those that are sure of who they are. There is a space for the thin, the fat, the fit, the obese, the tall, the short, the young, the old etc... Where the sport really defines itself here is that even if you may disagree with a particular 'identification' that person is still a teammate first and foremost. You can have your views, but intolerance and unwillingness to work with someone because of one of the aforementioned 'characteristics' is not tolerated.
When thinking about the kite field, I see that this should be adopted when it comes to something perhaps a little less 'critical' to self identity. What I am talking about is allowing the space for everyone of every kite persuasion to be on the field and seeing them as teammate. Stop with the camps of stunt kites vs single lines, the fighter kites vs the big show kites, all of that crap. We can identify as one or the other, but when it comes to the kite field, we are all one team working together.
Gaming Community - Peer Learning
Games act as a focal point for kids that rises above language and cultures. They can act as mentors/educators to other children and share tactics, learning patience and communication skills along the way. Many games can bring kids with different learning styles and different abilities together. Collaborative learning also boosts critical thinking skills.
Gaming is a great leveler in terms of age and gender: multi-player games give younger kids an opportunity to join and even lead mixed-age teams, and the chance for women and men to play on an equal playing field. In fact, it is generally impossible to know the demographics of someone on your 'fireteam' or that is your opponent. Gamers don't pick who they learn from by standard expertise or accolades. They may seek to learn direclty from those with experience in the game, but they can also learn competing against them, being defeated by them, winning against them. Standard demographics mean nothing when it comes to peer learning in the game environment. So, as a kite flier, open your eyes to where you might learn from. The best learning comes from action and participation and playing with and against those that are better than you. Not from sitting on the sidelines and watching the game go by.
Mountaineering Community - A Little Discomfort Can be Healthy
Imagine you are on the side of a mountain, the weather is whipping by, your legs are aching from punching through the snow, and you are only half way to the summit. You're calling yourself every type of crazy for attempting this hike in the first place. Questioning everything that brought you here; questioning your sanity. But you keep pushing forward, step by step. Then, the clouds part, the wind dies, and you are standing on the summit knowing you just achieved something. The discomfort and the pain will make you stronger. The only way we can grow is by attempting what we think we can't accomplish and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone.
As kite fliers, we should stop waiting for the perfect wind, the right kite, the right location, or the right people to fly with. Embrace the discomfort and see where it might take you. Don't think 50 mini stunt kites can be flown at the same time in a stack? Why not try and find out.
Btw... yes they can.