Celebrating and Conquering the Winds: Kite Flying

With sunshine, clear blue sky and gentle breezes swirling in the air, summertime arrives in the Northeast by May. Suddenly there is so much to do outdoors: hiking, biking, walking, running, swimming and paddling. Rich, lush green forests and parks await, calm-watered ponds invite swimmers and boaters and sandy ocean beaches with white-topped chilly waves tempt thrill-seekers and surfers.

The long, wind-swept, less crowded beaches are also ideal for kite flying. There are few happier, more pleasing sights than an agile, colorful kite dances up against the vast blueness of the lightly clouded summer sky.

Flying kites is a special experience. When you first take out this funny-looking, plastic thing and unfold its lines, it just lies numbly, helplessly on the sand. As the wind hits it while still on the ground, it may flutter a little, jump a few inches, gathering up the first parcels of the nervous wind energy. It does require some careful preparations, but soon you will be all ready to pull it up into the sky. As it starts lifting off the ground, you will feel the wind grabbing it, starting to push it up higher and higher. The lines in your hands stretch and firm up, become perfectly straight and all tense. You can feel the wind in your hands, in your arms as it keeps tugging and pulling at your kite.

Once the kite is up and stable, the wind and your skillful hands having reached an equilibrium in pushing it and pulling it, the fun can really start. With skill and coordination, you can keep it floating quietly, almost motionless, suspended in space and time. You can run with it, intensifying the feeling of the wind’s eager pull at you and your kite. You can make the kite dance, a gracious aerial ballet maneuvering it into pretty figure eights and daring, speedy loops and swirls. You can hear its plastic material swooshing against the air as it swiftly moves against the wind, The lines fill with awesome energy and tension as the intricate and thrilling flirtations of your own power and skills and the tireless energy of the wind send the kite into a controlled, yet whimsical dance. Finally, at the end of the fun, you can hear its tired thud on the sand as it helplessly falls out of the kite once the wind or your energy and enthusiasm dies down letting the lines relax and loosen up and the kite tumble down back onto the beach.

Watching kites at a nice summer kite festival can fill up an afternoon or even a whole day for the non-kiters, too. The endless variation of shape, size and color, the almost dizzying array of kites, big and small, flat and puffy, majestic and funky offer an unforgettable visual experience. The show of skill by the experienced kiters will shock and awe the unsuspecting first-time visitor.

But one does not need to stop at watching in amazement. Anyone can fly a kite. Kids as young as 3 or 4 years can run around with a funky, simple single-liner. Older children can try their hands at flying a multi-liner, experiencing with more intricate moves and maneuvers. The real enthusiasts have an army of kites, flying them for hours. They build their own kites, experimenting with different designs and materials. The adventurous types are not satisfied with watching and feeling their kites fly: they want to ‘˜fly’ with them enjoying the many types of traction kiting. Kite buggies are light vehicles attached to big power kites that drag them and their passenger through sand, mud or even ice and water with the awesome power of the wind. Kite surfers jump on surfboards while holding on for dear life to their big kites that power them to thrilling speeds, fly them up into the air with their boards or drag them through the waves in scary, uncontrolled waves if they are not agile and skilled enough.

Yes, kite flying can have a dangerous and risky edge to it, especially the most extreme versions. Nevertheless, it covers such a wide spectrum of activities and fun: from the serene, peaceful contemplation of a gracefully floating kite, through the thrilling maneuvering of a beautiful kite into aerial ballet all the way to the adrenalin-filled craze of high-speed kite buggying or kite surfing, there are so many different ways to enjoy and celebrate the summer wind. Contrary to popular belief, kiting, even the tamer, less extreme versions, does require skill, stamina, good balance and fitness: after all, what it is truly about is commanding the restless power and energy of the wind for your own personal fun and thrill.