May 27, 2006
World's Best Kite
What do you remember of kites from your childhood? I remember assembling many diamond kites out of tissue paper and thin sticks of wood; I remember colorful box kites and even a dual-string stunt kite.
But my happy memories of kites as a kid are mostly of anticipation.
Actually flying a kite was usually a bust - long waits for a gust of air, long treks to retrieve the downed kite. My most vivid memories of kites growing up are of losing kites. Losing kites in trees, losing kites on roofs of buildings, untangling muddy, knotted line. Why did we never bring scissors when we went kite flying?
There is a better way...
Kites Need Clear Skies And Wind
I love flying kites with my children, but I have learned that kite flying is fickle. To fly, you need a dry, sunny day when the wind is strong. And furthermore you need to find a big open field where nobody is playing soccer.
The first kite I tried with Anthony and Piper was a simple delta kite: three sticks, a triangle of fabric, and a tail - the kite pictured at the top of this website. According to kite flying articles on the web, delta kites are the easiest to fly - much easier than diamond kites to lift into the air.
But what I found was that even the simple delta kite was more heartbreak than enjoyment, at least for casual kiters like us. On a seemingly breezy day, my kids and I would gather the parts together, drive out to an empty field, and then discover that the breeze was not as strong as it seemed and would not lift the kite. Or on days where the breeze was good, the wind was a precursor to torrential rain that would send us home.
Flying Kites on South Point
Then, on vacation in Hawaii several years ago, I discovered the World's Best Kite in a mall in Honolulu. My kids and I were set to travel from Oahu to the Big Island, where we would stop at the Kamoa Wind Farm on South Point. South Point is the southernmost point of the United States and a location that is notoriously windy. What better place to fly a kite?
The problem was that most kites - which use long sticks for a frame - would not fit in my little suitcase for the short flight from Honolulu to Kona. So, on a whim, I picked up a tiny kite-in-a-bag from a kite store. It turned out to be a 2-foot Pocket Parafoil from Premier Kites. All the kite parts, including the spool of string and the tail, came in a little cylindrical nylon pouch about six inches long.
I threw the pouch under the seat of the rental car in Kona and took it out when we got to South Point. Everything except for one knot was preassembled, and our rainbow-colored parafoil was up and flying in a couple minutes. Parafoils have a cell structure that is made out of fabric and air pressure. When they are hit by the breeze, they inflate, assume a wing shape, and lift into the air. Beyond opening it and holding it up to the wind, there is not much to it.
Armed with our magical kite and lunch, we faced the endless wind at South Point for hours, tugging at our flying piece of fabric in the shadow of a farm of giant, aging, lazily whirring electric windmills. It was a beautiful, dry, windy Hawaiian day.
Of course on Hawaii, South Point is not the only windy spot. Most Hawaiian beaches are very windy at certain times of day. So as we drove to different places on the island, we stopped several times on beaches to fly our kite again. Taking out and putting away our little parafoil was just a matter rolling the kite up. For the entire vacation it was always ready in the car.
The Best Way To Kite
Back home, the parafoil-in-a-bag now lives in the family SUV where it sits under the front seat. Mostly we do not use it.
However, it does come out when the conditions are perfect. When we happen to drive by an open field on a windy sunny day with a few minutes to spare, we pull over, take the kite out, and enjoy a little bit of South Point in the suburbs of Philadelphia. With our little at-a-moments-notice parafoil, we have never had a disappointing kite-flying day. We have also never planned a kite flying event in advance. The kite is pure joy.
The wonderful thing about the parafoil is that it is small enough that we can always keep it with us. It never gets in the way. And the stickless design takes no time to set up. After realizing how much we enjoy our kite, I put a couple more parafoils into the car so the kids can fly at the same time. There are several brands that make a "kite in a bag," but I still use the ones by Premier that you can get from kite stores like Wind Power Sports. The Premier Parafoil-5 is little bigger than our original pocket parafoil, and it is a nice size. The kites have never failed us.
At a scout picnic where the food was scattered by the wind, our kite became the main attraction for the afternoon. And at a recent weekend ballet practice where brother and father did not want to watch all of sister's friends rehearse their routines, we unrolled the kite to enjoy an hour of flying outside on an empty football field.
The World's Best Kite is the kite that is always with you.Posted by David at May 27, 2006 10:59 PM
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