High winds, high stakes

Why fly a kite? It all depends on who is asked. There are many reasons to fly a kite, but there are two main reasons. You’re either flying for recreation or to compete. The competitions involve many different aspects from choreographed team maneuvers to tricks and fighter kite bouts. Recreational kite flying is what most people find appropriate. It can be relaxing, it can be terrifying (if you’re the guy jogging nearby who almost gets hit by an out of control kite flying 20 miles per hour), but it’s mostly just fun.

So maybe kites aren’t the most exciting things in the world. However, they can provide almost endless hours of entertainment with the right breeze. The most common frustration with flying a kite is finding the right spot to get the right wind conditions. We are lucky here in Washington with our lakes, easy access to the ocean and mountain sides that can all provide adequate flying conditions. Avoiding power lines, rows of buildings and trees that disrupt the air current should be a priority. Locally, we have Gas Works Park and Magnuson Park a bit farther north. These are prime spots, but any open field that meets the above conditions will work on a windy day. Just make sure the wind is not blowing too hard, quicker winds will make the kite faster and harder to control.

Learning how to fly a kite is a bit of a challenge. Once you’ve got the right area, away from buildings, a steady wind and no power lines overhead, it’s just a matter of learning how to control the kite in the air with the line. This is where it can tricky. Some kites have only the one line. Other kites have two lines, and then some have four lines. Personally, I’ll stick with one- or two-line kites. They are fun, easier and cheaper. One benefit of the parafoil styled kites is that they can be used as training for kite boarding, paragliding, skydiving, anything that involves a parachute, even B.A.S.E. jumping.

If you want to watch the pros fly kites, take the third week in August off and drive to Long Beach, Wash. This week in August brings hundreds, if not thousands of kites from all around the world to compete and show off at the Washington State International Kite Festival. If you’ve never been to this beach, just being there would make it worth the trip!