What you should be asking...
There are the standard questions like:
"What is the best kite to start with?"
"Where can I learn more?"
"Where is the best place to fly a kite?"
I don't mind answering these questions time and time again. If anything, each time I am asked it gives me an opportunity to refine my answer, and work on making things better for the next time. It did get me thinking tho, what are the questions that are never asked, what are the questions that people should be asking? So, here it is... I am going to give it a go, and try answering a few of them.
1. This looks like fun, but is this an all or nothing kind of commitment thing? Can I just be a weekend warrior and still love it?
We are all feeling the changes in the world over the past few decades. Increasingly 'Time' is not only becoming more and more important, it is becoming a commodity. Buzzwords like 'optimization' and 'life-hacking' show how pervasive our obsession with getting the most out of our spent time has become. The trade off, it would seem, is that we are less likely to experiment, to try, to willingly take on things that take up time that are not 'sure things'. We are (no empirical proof here, just a feeling) less likely to want to 'waste our time'. But there is so much good in what is perceived as 'wasting time'!!!
This is something I see the Maker Movement is actively tackling. They are promoting that we should experiment more, we should play more, we should fail more. Perhaps, that is why I see kites and kite flying as having a perfect place in that community. Kite flying by its very nature is experimental. It is low risk, and it allows you to experience and learn from failure and grow.
This idea of trying, failing, and learning while using kites was the foundation of the TED talk I did a few years ago.
So, to come back and answer the question. Is it an 'all-in' thing? Yes and no. It can be if you want it to be. It can be a tool that you go head over heels with using and learning, it can be something that causes you to grow and develop. It can also be something that sits in your closet for months on end, and be 5 minutes of blissful happiness the next time you go to the beach. You don't have to put in a thousand hours to enjoy it or find happiness from it. It is not something you need to be an expert at.
I look at the parallel of one of my other hobbies, Roller Derby. Now, Roller Derby is a physical activity. It takes about a year of training to be able to play at a competitive level, let alone enjoy it. I practice for 4-6 hours a week, and workout outside of practice in order to enjoy the 6 or so games I might play in in a given year. In order to make the roster, and to be able to perform at a minimum standard, I have to commit a significant chunk of time. I have to prioritize my fitness, my overall health, and my training.
Don't have to do any of that with Kites. :) Unless, you get bit by the bug and WANT to go all in. So yes, you can be a weekend warrior and still love it and have tons of fun.
2. Can you teach me how to do that?
I get asked this one often, and so do the more experienced kite fliers, so this one really is on my list of frequently asked questions list. So, I am including this one with a grain of salt. Yes, the person might be able to teach you how to do what they do... but they are probably going to shirk it off because if it is anything like the sport kite folks, they have spent years learning how to do what they do. It isn't something that they can teach you in five minutes. (Although, that is a bit of an ego boost to think that they are making it look so easy!)
Let's take this question, and shake it up a little. How about 'Can you teach me how you learned how to do that?'.
Use this question as an opening line. A way to ask more in depth questions about others learning process. Whether you are fully interested in following that path or not, listen to the details. Did they learn from a mentor, did they teach themselves, did they use Youtube? Listen... and listen carefully. Use their response to guide further questions about learning. This way, they are not teaching you how to do what they do per se... more.. teaching you how to learn to do what they do.
3. Are there rules or manners I should know about?
You can always check out these posts I put up at the start of the year.
Lots of good information on those lists about the rules and such that will keep you happy and safe on the kite field, whether you are brand new or an old hand at this.
But, the one rule or bit of proper etiquette that I think will carry you really far and will make you look like a pro and be treated with tons of respect...... WRAP UP YOUR LINES IF YOU NOT CURRENTLY FLYING.
There is never a reason to leave your lines on the field unattended. Do not stake out your sport kite then walk away and leave it that way because you MIGHT be flying sometime in the next hour or so. Don't be lazy... wrap it up. Unwrap it when you are about to go. Do it.... Just do it... you will be a hero.
I will never understand this excuse. Kiteboarders learn it right away, yet for some reason some people on the other side of the kite field can't figure this one out.
This is a huge thorn in my side. Just thinking about it gets me all hot around the collar sitting here at the keyboard.... grrrrrrrrr WRAP 'EM UP!!! Or I will cut them.
4. So.. it looks like you are really into this kite flying thing... how did it change your life?
Of course the answer to this question is going to be unique to the person that is asked, but, I think that there is a lot of important lessons we can learn from asking this. I think the majority of people will respond in some version that includes something along the lines of 'it changed how I look at life'.
I know how it changed mine. It radically changed mine for the better in a thousand different ways.
5. I would love to get into team flying, or fully get into this kite flying thing, but it looks expensive and I can't afford all of the gear just yet. What should I do?
Get your first kite. I am going to imagine that this question is mainly for the sport kite fliers. (while there could be a version of this for the big show kites) This one is going to take a bit of time and research. First, I would recommend hitting up a resource like the Sport Kite Teams and Pairs group on Facebook, or resources like Kitelife and ask around for what kites are best for pairs or team flying. Then go chase down one of the kite classifieds groups or scour the web for a used kite. You don't need the absolute best to get started.... that can come with time. Pairs can make a splash just by flying together and in sync on a set of $50 kites.
Experienced pairs & teams will have a kite for the various wind conditions, but you can do a lot with the category usually referred to as a 'Standard'. These have the widest wind range centered around optimum conditions, and are the easiest to find. Over time you will find the right kite for you and your pair/team; and when you do, it will be well worth the investment.
6. None of my friends are in to kites... How do I find people?
Get your friends flying!!! Alright, we know that this not always possible. But you now live in this wonderfully connected world where you can find people and events all over the world. Even if there is not an event near you, find one of the hundreds of facebook groups dedicated to kites and start watching and reading what is going on. Start asking questions. Start networking. Start advocating for yourself and taking a hold of the lines and controlling your own kite. :) There really is no excuse in our present day and age for not being able to find a kite friendly group of people.
(Of course, you could always post on the Fortuna Facebook page and say you are looking for some kite friends and I will help you get hooked up!)
Also, going to give a shout out to Kitelife.com They have forums, networking, how-to's and a thousand other things that will be super helpful to the budding kite flier. Check them out.
Alright, thanks for reading. I am loving all of this, and hope you are enjoying it as well!