The end or the start of an era?
News came down this week of two rather major developments in the sport kite world, and potentially meaning two completely different shifts. Well renowned and loved boutique kite builder R-Sky announced in a statement on Facebook that while they are celebrating 25 years in business, they are effectively shutting down their kite division and will be focused on wind art. At the same time the titan in the market, Prism Kite Technology, released a collaboration with the highly popular Supreme Streetwear.
Let's dig in to what these two actions/statements could possibly mean a little bit more.
25 years old! Captain Tricks, Major, Feeling, Cyrius, Histrion, Eden, Maya, Queen Maya, Frezy, Opium, Nirvana, Jordana, Krystal, KFX, NFX, Hobby, Essenciel, Fifteen, Krystal, Shooter, Blvd 'X, Shift, Bird' X, Unik, Next, K07, NSE, Manga, NFX Sport, Wao, Initial, Toxic, Extend, Diablis, Vision, Still, KSE, N3E and all their wind declinations. Bars, Icone, R-tube, accessories... 25 years of projects, creations, design, competitions, challenges, 25 years of victories, emotion, passion, 25 years of sharing and happiness with you! Today the kite is different, we helped it grow, we helped it build itself with all the energy that characterizes us. But the challenges have moved away. The lack of motivation, enthusiasm, the general level down, the desertion of riders, non-existent manufacturers, mass closed shops, a federation not very inclined to modernity, to make this sport, a great sport, do not we don't even believe that this could happen one day. So we decided to stop the production of acrobatic kites. However, our passion remains intact, and we will use our energy to other aspects of kites, event organizing, competition and producing large kites. Naturally, the wind and kite experience will have led us to the decoration of the street skies of city centers, and aerial architecture will be part of our upcoming activities We are also working on the creation of ephemeral museums of sculptures on intra-muros sand. It is with great pleasure that we will meet you on our next organizations. 25 years of emotions, with a team and riders we deeply loved and still love. A big page is turning for R-SKY, however, with still some great ideas in the boxes... Thank you all for participating near or far in this great adventure. Roger and Sylvie
R-Sky came on to the market during what many consider to be the peak of sport kite competition and evolution. Hundreds of events and competitions were happening around the world, and thousands of people were picking up kites and trying to improve their skills. Some have argued that after 2005 the market reached a point of oversaturation mixed with a highly technical approach to sport kite flying (new school slack line tricks taking over exclusively). Add on to this overall cultural shifts from society; like our change in attention span, increasing use of technology/internet, and a reluctance of the kite community to adapt. This is a long debate and many have different view points as to why the change happened, and what the root causes are, but most of us agree that the market began a rather significant downturn. There were fewer fliers, fewer events, boutique builders stopped building, and shops began closing. Through all of it, there were a few that held on and kept the charge going, R-Sky being one of them.
They made amazing creations, standards really in the kite market. Typically they were on the 'leading edge' of sport kite evolution and flight. But, when the market drops out from underneath you, it is hard to stay the course and keep being innovative, especially when there is no longer the strength in the niche you serve. (in this case higher end sport kite fliers). It is hard as a flier to see when of the last major boutique brands 'give up the lines' so to say. Especially without another one to step in and lead the charge. It makes the void a little bit bigger. Does this symbolize the true end of the era?
Something I want to highlight, and this is not a criticism of R-Sky in any way, if anything it is an acknowledgement that they too have seen the light and the way to survive is by pivoting and adapting. The brands, builders, and businesses that have survived and thrived, and by some accounts not only kept the market alive but helped it grow, are those that have taken a hard critical look at their core/target demographic or purpose... and adapted. Which leads me to Prism
Prism Kite Technology
Earlier this week word spread like wildfire that Prism was doing a collaboration with a rather popular streetwear clothing brand, Supreme. The funny thing is that while I say it spread like wildfire.... that wasn't in the kite community, that was in the fashion and skateboard community. Folks were posting all over Instagram, Tiktok, and even Youtube about this kite with the rather recognizable 'Supreme' bright red logo on it. Folks that have never been super serious about kites, or interested in kite flying were queuing up to purchase one, and for many locations and pop up stores they sold out in less than a few days.
The kite community on the other hand.... Hardly noticed it, with some folks even saying that this feels like a departure from the Prism Brand. Here is the thing though, the crew at Prism figured out some time ago that they needed to pivot from a rather small niche market of higher end sport kites, and serve the greater public. When they saw an opportunity last year to do something a little bit different and reach out to a whole market that is traditionally outside of their usual market, they figured 'why not'. They have done this in the past with having their kites carried by the rather large and prominent high end outfitter REI Co-Op, and making special collaboration color schemes with individual kite stores. They know the market they serve, and have adapted to create a bigger one.
If anything they might be starting or encouraging a new era of sport kite flyers. Ones that are not encumbered by the traditions of our kite community, ones that are not beholden to the infrastructure that we created, ones that are happy to slap a tail on it and take it for a spin. It is something that might help us see how we can get back to our grassroots and grow this thing back again.
Ultimately...... I just want to fly kites and have more people to fly kites with. Anything that makes that happen I am going to celebrate!! Plus, then I get to show them some really cool old school kites and ignite their passion for the sport.