But WHY do we do that ?
Kite fliers are "a priori" all different : young, old, productive, contemplative, painters, meticulous who undo and rebuild a complete sew if one point is not correct, organizers, etc. But what pushes us to put things in the air at the end of a string ?
• For "flying"
It is a pleasure by itself to fly a kite, to see it climbing as long as you give it line, to feel in your hands the wind that plays with it, to see it move with wind variations and whirlwinds and elude the overloads. And I don't speak here of stunt kites and their more or less "sportive" use, but even of "simple" one-liners. That pleasure of flight (by interim) can be sufficient by itself : rather many will fly with a bought kite, or an existing one copied in its shape or even in its colors, without complicating one's life for a conceptual research that does not interest them.
• For Handy-working
Here, you meet the pleasure to use your hands and your know-how to make your idea a reality. You generally must benefit of some experience in using, shaping, assembling different kite-specific materials. And, the more you practice, the more experience you gain, and the better you are able to build, to make intricate builds you first did not see how to start with. You come, with the pleasure to make clear new domains, to having acquired new techniques still unknown like using ripstop, carbon, bamboo, strings and knots for the line or the bridles, special sewing (side-to-side canvas assembling, curved hems, reinforcements, appliqué...) even painting on ripstop, perhaps. You have plenty of occasions, in building kites, but also such annex equipments as tents, bags, connections, special pickets, line bobs, banners, that will facilitate your life or make it more beautiful.
• For Conceiving
Here you enter in creation process, which joins joy of making something new and satisfaction of being arrived to the result you wanted in artistic and/or technical areas. Those two areas seem hardly distinct in kite-making :
You can make artistics without any technique, but techniques without an artistic view seems of small interest, though... on one part, the look of an even commonplace flying kite, especially beside others is already artistic in itself ; on an other hand beauty can come in a simple shape like a Circoflex. Mathematicians well speak of the "elegance" of a demonstration !
• The artistic side can just be limited to take a form, well known to fly well, and decorate it. But it includes more often coupled realization of an aesthetic form, of drawing and of colors.
• Technical side of creation covers inventing a completely or partly new shape. It must answer often contradictory criterias : your work must have the wanted shape, be solid but not too heavy, and be dismountable into an easily transportable pack. I forgot, it must also fly, and with stability. Satisfaction of these musts needs knowledge of technical constraints more learned by experience than in theory or books : canvas and rods strengths, assemblies, aerodynamic, not so much for lift than for flight-qualities, for desired stability (last one by the way is not necessarily complete : a "nailed-in-the-sky" kite is badly noted in Far-East, it must gently rock its/her hips.)
Are part of the technical aspect the trial : it starts by mounting and disassembling at home, sometimes limited by the size of your living-room, but a fanatic built an aircraft in his garage, destroying the door there after to have it out... A most important moment is the joy of the first flight (especially if it is a success on first stroke !) and goes on more rigorously, when the things stays some time in the air, by observing the flaws :
- technical flaws mainly : too heavy weight, flight regularly ended by a head-down landing, kite that always flies left, tails that mix up as soon as in the air, sleeve that transforms into a sausage string, etc.
- aesthetic flaws too : seeing such flaws only when in the air is not rare : design seen from far differing from what you thought, non aesthetic proportions, keels that mask the subject, etc. These flaws often are seen only when the kite is in flight at some distance. Something surprising sometimes : the shape of the kite is not "read" (by you or observers) as designed for : if you make a bird and the first kid says "Oh, what a funny airplane" you are surprised, deceived, and there are many more upsetting examples : a monument, a sort of dolmen, rather cubical, erected in Kosovo in homage to coal miners has been called there "the Barbecue", an "a posteriori" vision that did not come to mind to the artist nor to the choosing partners who have yet surely approved some drawing or model .
Back to techniques, flight-tests consist in observation of the kite through an expert eye to define the flaws (for example the kite dives when on top of the window), find the cause (bad camber), conceive what to change (invert such curve...), realize it on the field if possible (add a piece of string...), "officialize" the thing if it works (back at home, perhaps with a different mean, more solid and time-proof), and back again to the tests... All this with different wind strengths, for kites distort in flight, and one that will pull left with Force 2 can pull right with Force 4.
Then, generally one flies alone first to try, then with some friends (to look at their expression, listen to their comments especially for the artistic side, though on this point you generally will make it your own way...), then with open unknown audience when all fits well.
Most often, you change along your carrier with experience : you can begin with exactly copying a model, then you change dimensions or colors, then you add things : wings, boxes, then you make variations on an existing scheme, then you create a completely new kite. Except the real creators want from the first push to plunge in something new. This constant improvement is gratifying, and a kite-designer comes good when he dominates the subject enough to help others : first the newcomers who just bought an Eddy and try to fly it with inverted dihedral connection (several times seen...), then more drilled kiters who not necessarily have the aerodynamics bases or a good feeling of what happens and what to do. Is is only sometimes difficult to persuade them to change their minds and what they believed was The Truth...
• For using the kite
In this area, the kite is only a mean.
A carrier first, that will allow to take pictures, lift tails or stabilize inflatable structures (Teddy Bear, Gecko, Manta...) often impressive but which flight qualities and wind tolerance are often limited, practice human ascent (not so frequent...), etc. User here is not so much interested by the kite itself, he above all wants it to be a "good" carrier, stable and tons lifting. He will tend to copy an existing model, adapted to his needs (size, solidness, tails...). Nevertheless, you can meet unconditionnals of Their kite type : delta, rokkaku, calomel... out of which there is no way according to them.
A "puller" too : another use in effect is "traction" in a wide panel : It can be only to fly large surfaces, hand taken. First because it's a "man's kite" and you get pleasure if it pulls hard.
You can even have you pulled (especially on sand where you can control, brake and draw such large grooves) and even more jump (not recommended : it needs extra solid shape and ankles, and are you sure to be insured for that ?)
You also can pull a vehicle on sand or grass : 3-wheeled buggies, skateboards, wheel-equipped ski-shoes, or even on snow with skis, or on ice with ice-skates or skate-buggies. Finally a spectacular fashion is developing : kite-surf, where you are pulled on water on a special two-way surf. The fact that the sail pulls upwards and not horizontally as for windsurf allows : first to go faster, for the surf's drag in the water is much less ; second to jump much higher and to much longer stay in the air, which allows long figures with several turns. And, on the contrary of beaches, there are no poles, tourists or water-ditch to avoid. And mostly, when you fall back, even upside-down, you don't get hurt, especially if you wear as generally a neoprene dress. The more difficult is to restart ! But now they have a sail with inflated parts, it' a child's play (burly, the child...)
• For others'pleasure
Kiting is an aesthetic pleasure that you desire to offer to spectators. It is, individually, but especially when a sufficient number fills the sky and transforms it. This "in volume" effect can be obtained through diversity of kites of different shapes, colors, sizes, types. But it can still be met, with a different effect, using a number of identical kites, even commonplace ones : union makes strength. For instance, for a great flight of dozens of Eddies built in schools, or in another way for "megateams" that passionate spectators much more than isolated stunt-kite evolutions, even world-level.
To obtain that effect, only one solution : you have to dare put your kite amidst others even if you find it too modest or commonplace.
Further than this aesthetical aspect, kite can bring fun to young schoolboys for instance or to hospitals by which fun is not the main care. It is a great joy for a kiter to have his kite in hand of a ill or handicapped people whose mute smile at the contact of that semi-living thing He holds is worth the move. Or else to spend one morning struggling to fly machines conceived by teachers or schoolboys full of good-will, but postulating that for a good balance front and rear bridle must have the same length..
• For conviviality
We stay in the subject, kites is a powerful mean to meet people, discuss upon ideas, projects, persons, seen kites, kite-organizations... Community meals are a summum from this point of view, and I thank and encourage organizers (more en more do) who provide for even simple meals. Conviviality is an important factor, two examples show it :
- several times, during important shows or local fests, spectators have noticed and told to me (with a sort of a surprise, perhaps born from the comparison with other sports) the great solidarity they can see between kiters : they don't rival each other, don't quarrel when kites mix together but on the contrary come to help if one has a problem like a "train" that pulls too hard to be got down, or a kite fallen in a tree.
- some kiters come to the meetings without even one kite. The desire to observe, to collect documentation is their open motive, but if there were no "meeting" in the human and gastronomic sense, their number probably would be smaller !
• For travels
Kite meetings are a good occasion to leave home to see new heads, new practices, new countries. Already you make tourism on the go, especially if you have time enough, from where the multiplication of camping-cars among kiters but also among spectators. Sometimes I even ask if spectators are not just campers that only find in kite festivals a pretext to travel... An obstacle for kiters is the difficulty to tour during the festival : you cannot be at the same time on kiting and on exploring. But, if you have time, you always can stay the day after instead of rushing back home straightforward. It is sad to go afar 500 km from home and not get profit of that to know more of a country, that you would never hit so long a road to go and visit.
• For exerting a function
We seem to be out of subject, but the desire to build an association or a major event to occupy there a key post is a powerful motive. Some criticize that because supposed suspect motivations "it is to swagger", "it is to be the chief", "it is to crop clients for his kite-shop", "it is to annoy xxx or take yyy post" etc. But don't forget that most people imply themselves and a lot of time in that business mostly for the pleasure of kiters and public. Anyway, for me, I come to kite meetings to fly kites. I am not an organizer, that's true, and perhaps also a bit lazy. So, I uniformly admire the consumed energy and I am grateful to every people (I say every, whatever his motivation) who builds structures and meetings I enjoy with.
• For having your kite admired
All reasons I enumerated above are not false, but the main motivation of line-pullers stays to have their kites admired by the audience and even better by experts of the branch. A high level kiter did not hesitate to say : "WE MUST NOT HIDE IT : THERE IS A SHOWMAN IN THE HEART OF ANY KITER".
P.S. : If you did recognize yourself somewhere up there, it is an entirely wanted coincidence and not a hazard. On the contrary I hope I made a complete tour so you could not escape. If you don't fall at least in 3 items, it is because you are not a kiter and read this article in the waiting room of a kite-fan dentist. Anyway, come to kite festivals, it's worth the trip, and perhaps you will have put your fingers in the gearwheels...
And if you find any reason I forgot, just tell me, I will make repentance and add it. Friendly yours,