By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002
[Times photos: Dirk Shadd]
A stunt kite soars 125 feet above the ground on a windy afternoon at Treasure Island.
TREASURE ISLAND -- The kite looked out of control, its four lines tangled in a seemingly hopeless mess, but Gary Resnick kept smiling.
"Stressful?" the kite master said in response to a reporter's question. "No, it is actually quite relaxing."
Then with a few quick rotations of his hands, Resnick untangled the lines and the kite kept flying 100 feet above the ground.
"This is a typical Sunday afternoon for us," said Resnick, a member of the Treasure Island Sport Kite Klub. "We usually have a couple of dozen kites out here, and the people flying them are all different skill levels, from beginner to expert."
Resnick said kite flying is a user-friendly sport that doesn't require a large initial investment.
"The most basic kite is the delta, or triangular shaped kite," he said. "The design, initially developed by a NASA engineer, was later used to develop the hang glider."
The delta is easy to assemble, efficient (which makes it easy to fly) and inexpensive.
"You can pick up a good delta kite for anywhere between $20 and $50," said Resnick, who sells kites at Oldsmar Flea Market.
Today's kites are high-tech and the line used to control them is made of twisted or braided nylon or dacron.
"You don't see much cotton kite string anymore, except with kids' kites," he said. "When we fly our high-tech stunt kites we are always at the mercy of the cotton string because it will cut through or melt the high-tech line."
Another popular kite is the rok kaku, a six-sided Japanese kite made for fighting.
"Whole towns turn out for these battles," Resnick said. "The object is to knock the other guy out of the sky . . . steal his wind, tip his wing, anything goes."
Claxton Thompson, president of the Treasure Island Sport Kite Klub, rolls along in a buggy built specially for kite flying.
At a beach festival a few years ago, the kite klub invited nine mayors from beach communities. "We gave them a crash course in how to kite fight, then let them battle it out," Resnick said.
Kite fighting is most popular in Japan, but it is known around the world. In India, people fly small paper fighting kites.
"As many as a million kites will be destroyed in a matter of weeks," Resnick said. "It got so popular that it spilled over into Afghanistan, until kite flying was banned by the Taliban."
In Thailand, kite flying has become part of the mating game.
"They get one very large male kite that flies above several smaller female kites," Resnick said. "The male drops down and tries to snag one of the female kites. Meanwhile, the female kite tries to grab the male kite and drag it down."
Another popular design is the foil. But these kites are for the more advanced operator because they generally require more skill and wind to operate. They also are more expensive -- as much as $1,000 for a 250-square foot kite.
"I never did like just going down to the beach and hanging out in the sun," said Todd Copeland, a kite flier of three years. "I always had to be doing something. This is a great way to keep busy."
But not all kite fliers are content to just sit back and watch a kite fly. Some want to be pulled across the water on a surfboard, others along the beach in a buggy.
Claxton Thompson built his first beach buggy with his son for a Cub Scout project.
"This is just another way to get out and have fun," he said. "It is a little more active than just flying a kite. That is why I like it."
- Kite Crazy, Gary Resnick, Oldsmar Flea Market, Unit C-29, (352) 588-4202, email@example.com
- Treasure Island Sport Kite Klub (TISKK), meets every Sunday on Treasure Island Beach behind the BilMar Hotel.
- Kitesville USA, 405 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, 33785, (727) 596-3431, www.kitesville.com.
- The American Kitefliers Association, www.aka.kite.org, P. O. Box 1614 Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA.
- Kitelife Magazine, a bimonthly Internet publication, www.kitelife.com.
- The Laziest way to find kite sites: www.kitez.com.
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