Into The Wind's Flight Blog

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kite Thoughts

One of our favorite customers, Jim Nicholls from Christchurch New Zealand passed along his thoughts on kite flying (along with a huge number of pictures from his kite flying adventures) and we thought they deserved to be shared with everyone. Well, everyone who reads our blog anyway.

We always love to hear from our customers. If you have any flying advice, suggestions, tips or general feedback let us know. Sharing what you know helps make kite flying the tops! Who knows, maybe we'll even post your comments on our blog! Now get outside and fly!

Although I am a fairly recent convert to kite-flying, and left it until quite late in life to start (I am 70 years old), I now own a large collection of single line kites, and a couple of two-line ones, and have accumulated many hours of flying experience. I go out every day throughout the year when the weather is even halfway suitable. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and although the winters are cold, I have still managed to fly on average at least three times a week.

Almost all of my many kites have been bought from America, a lot of them from Into the Wind, as it is impossible to buy them here. Although I am no expert, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice that may be of interest to other adults who are just starting out, or considering doing so, in the field of kite-flying.

First of all, I would say: “Buy quality.” Cheap, unbranded kites don’t usually fly well or last long. And certainly there is no back-up service if things go wrong.

Secondly, my advice would be: “Buy big.” If you start with a small kite and get interested, you will soon want a larger one, so why not start with the large one and save money and time? (I learnt this the hard way!) Flying a large kite is usually no harder, and is often easier, than flying a small one. Sure, a big kite pulls more, but even something like the 12ft Highlighter delta is very manageable for any adult or mature teenager.

Thirdly, in order to enjoy this wonderful hobby from the start, I advise: “Choose a simple style to start with.” Some exotic-looking kites can be attractive, but may be difficult to put together and to fly. If you don’t want to get discouraged, the delta is probably the best type of kite to start with, as it is so easy to assemble and flies reliably in a wide wind-range. Don’t go for anything under 7ft unless you want to quickly become bored; the 7ft Levitation is great value, and there is a 9ft version also. The delta conyne, such as ITW’s Rocky Mountain, is another good choice, but there is not the wide selection that there is in deltas.

If you fly in consistently very light or very strong winds, the Triton and the Elevation box, respectively, will probably meet your requirements better, but are not quite as simple. And when you want something a little different, there are great designs like the various rokkaku, the dragons (the Beast is my favourite, and if you can afford it the Twin-Tail is great), cellular kites such as the Star 7, parafoils including the useful Flowform 16, and special kites like the Sun Sea Sky and many others.

My fourth tip would be: “Have a selection of lines.” For example, ITW recommend 200lb line for the Highlighter, and certainly that is needed in the upper part of its wind range. But if you are trying to fly it in very light breezes, don’t be afraid to use line at half that strength, which will make it much more likely that you will achieve lift-off. Keep an eye on the wind, however, and don’t hesitate to bring the kite down and replace the line if conditions change.

My fifth pearl of wisdom is: “Don’t ignore tails and line art.” Delta kites fly well most of the time without tails, but really they are naked without them. Tails can make such a difference to the appearance of the kite, adding color, design, and movement and increasing the sheer size of the spectacle by taking up more sky. The Highlighter, at 12ft wingspan, is a big kite, but when it’s 200 feet up, it is much less impressive. With tails, it is so much better. My favourite combination is 24ft Transition tails at the wingtips and a 15ft Cube Tube tail in the centre, but it’s good to ring the changes. You wouldn’t wear the same clothes every day, so let your kite have some variety, too. Try the fascinating Helix tail, where two 20ft tubes revolve around a third, or the enormous, but easily lifted, 30ft Bubble Tube tail. All of these are on the ITW website.

Line art, or “line laundry,” is equally attractive, and can be used with any kite that produces sufficient lift, whereas there are many kites for which tails are inappropriate. Some line art is just cute, like the Henry Hound and Skippy dogs, which are very easy to attach to the line a few feet off the ground and attract great interest. Other items are simply beautiful, like the 8ft Peacock Wrasse fish (more expensive, unfortunately) or intriguing, like the Cephalopod, Hydroid and Isopod, any of which can be lifted by a medium-sized kite. Some items are a little heavy, like the Sea Pineapple, which needs quite a strong-pulling kite, so match your laundry to your kite. Some of the tails already mentioned, like the Bubble Tube and Cube Tube, also look great attached on the line. Carabiners are the very best way of attaching any of these to your line, and small ones are quite adequate.

My last piece of advice is the most important: “Just have fun!” Here in New Zealand, kites usually mean the big traction kites used for kite-surfing and kite-buggying; almost no-one flies single-line kites. Even children are not very interested, but maybe that is just part of modern life. However, I care not if I am the only kite-flier on the beach, because to me it is a most enjoyable and relaxing pastime and one that I hope to enjoy for a few years yet, and at all seasons.

Jim Nicholls

Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring is here!

If you’ve gotten your 2011 Catalog by now, you’ve seen the kite on the cover, John Baressi’s Kymera. And if not, request a catalog now, while I wait………. We enjoy working with kite designers, even when they’re perfectionists. John took perfectionism to a higher level, like he does with everything. He’s determined to take two line flying in a new direction, just as he did with the 4 line B-Series Revs. It was a lot of work getting everything just right, but we’re both thrilled with the results. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until May to get your Kymera, as our order has been delayed. Place your order now and we’ll ship it as soon as they come in.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Locals Show Your Love!

Boulder Weekly has unleashed their annual survey Best of Boulder, and Into the Wind is up for Best Toy Store! Our internet customers may know us as Best Online Kite Store, but you, our beloved Boulderites know us as the best place to take your kids, visiting relatives, or dates on the Pearl Street mall. You may have gazed with wonder at our colorful kite filled ceiling, giggled at our many novelties, or stopped by for your third set of the incredibly addictive Bucky Balls. Perhaps you've dropped in for some yo-yo trick advice or to put on a puppet show for/with our friendly staff. Whatever your reasons are, we are always giving you more! Having just returned from a massive Toy Fair in New York, we have added lots of new puzzles, games, and toys to our store for you to enjoy. If you haven't been in before, now is the right time! With spring just around the corner, a Pearl Street stroll is a great way to spend a few hours, and you can visit us on the 1400 block (the first block of the walking mall if you're heading toward the mountains).
So please keep us in mind as you're filling out your Boulder Weekly Best of Boulder survey, we're in the Best Places to Spend Your Money category toward the end, past the Best Places to Dance, Worship, Eat Inside, Eat Outside, or Observe a Frozen Dead Guy. Remember this survey is exclusive to Boulder residents, but we'd love to hear from all of you, just post a review on our site! Thank you Boulder shoppers, we look forward to seeing you soon.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Face to Face with the Mylar Dragon Kite

In the last few months, we've had a couple of customers review the Mylar Dragon Kite, a kite we've sold ever since Jim and George opened Into The Wind in 1980. In our first black and white kite catalog in 1981 we carried two 45-ft. and two 25-ft. Mylar Dragons. Back then, we also carried three 5-ft. and 6-ft. Mylar Octopus Kites. Many people understandably think that Dragon Kites and Octopus Kites refer to the designs on the kites (and sometimes they do). But to us, a Dragon Kite has a relatively small rounded head and a long, usually tapered, tail trailing behind it. An Octopus Kite is a variation on the dragon with the tail slit into fluttering 'tentacles.' Typically Octopus Kites are 10-ft or shorter in length and Dragon Kites are 25-ft or longer. Back in the day, White Bird Kites made taffeta Dragon Kites that were 100-ft. and 150-ft. in length! The 1981 catalog says this about Dragon Kites,

"A traditional kite in the East, the dragon is now one of the West's most popular kites. The combination of an unstable flat kite for the head with a large, stabilizing tail causes the dragon to dance in the sky. One of the easiest kites to fly, it is a favorite with children. Both Dragon and Octopus kites are rustling, shimmering, kinetic sculpture in the sky."

The dragon design is a derivative of a centuries old Asian kite traditionally made out of rice paper or silk called a Serpent or a Thai Dragon. The rice paper limited the length of the tail on the Dragon to 10-ft. But the "new" Mylar plastic technology took this old design and extended the tail to 45-ft.

Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular qualities of the Mylar Dragon Kites is their low price. In 1981, the 45-ft. Mylar Dragon sold for $8.00. That same kite today is $9.95 with 300-ft. of flying line included. For 30 years they've essentially remained the same price. And for this entire time they've been made by the same company, now conveniently located in Colorado. Neil Rose, founder of Quicksilver Kites, manufacturer of Mylar Dragon and Octopus Kites, has been at the helm since 1975. He started his own company in San Francisco after working for another company manufacturing Mylar kites. Andy Anderson, the owner of the San Francisco based Little People was making the Mylar Dragon out of his home in the early '70's but couldn't fill the demand. He contacted his friend Neil Rose, asking for his help to run the fledging company. It was then that Neil left his career in the banking industry for this "alternative life style" trying to meet the demand for this "hot" product.

As Neil remembers it, "Dinesh Bahadur, one of the earliest kite retailers opened his Come Fly A Kite store in SF on Ghirardelli Square in 1973 and was selling the kites like hotcakes." Dinesh passed away last year but Rakesh, Dinesh's brother, said that other than the Mylar Dragons, the store's kite selection consisted mostly of paper fighter kites, Chinese silk bird kites, and some plastic kites imported from Gunther in Germany. It wasn't until a year or two later that the first fabric kites would be made and sold and those would be cotton cloth kites from the Nantucket Kiteman. White Bird, one of the first companies to use "high tech" materials like taffeta and fiberglass, was started in 1973 and began selling kites in earnest a few years later.

With a limited selection of kites on the market and Dinesh's great marketing skills there was virtually infinite demand for the 45-ft. Mylar Dragon Kite from around 1973 to 1985. Dragons were flying everywhere in San Francisco, from the beaches, to the wharf, to the Marina Green and downtown alongside the cable car routes. Rakesh says he flew kites in and around San Francisco 12 hours a day, every day, "advertising" the kites for his brother's shop. The original Mylar dragons, which were made from aluminized Mylar, meant that the kites could be flown at night creating a shiny spectacle. Given that, it's no surprise that these reflective and highly visible flying wonders sparked the interest of tourists visiting California. Aside from the interest in the 45-ft. Dragon Kite, originally the only product sold, aluminized Mylar itself was probably responsible for some of the buzz and not just because of its flashy properties. Lander struts and footpads of the Apollo 11 spacecraft were wrapped with multiple layers of insulating metalized gold Mylar foil and spacesuits too have reflective coatings of Mylar built into them. Mylar was to the '70's what tie dye was to the '60's. Well, Mylar and gold lame', that is.

If the Mylar used in the dragons was "space age," the rest of the materials used in the kite were more down to earth. Rattan was used for the spars in the early dragons. Because of the irregularity of this spar material there was no product consistency. After the kite was manufactured it was put on a table and the job of one employee (although Neil says they were all "hippies" back then and didn't exactly think of themselves as employees) was to decorate the kite with the felt marker. For this reason, in the early days, no two kites were alike. One of Neil's contributions to the process was to create a template out of chipwood that could be used with a roller and marker ink so that the designs would be more consistent. However, even that was subject to interpretation or more likely, suffered from lack of attention. Neil remembers seeing one of his dragons on display in the front window of a San Francisco store that was selling hundreds of them. This particular kite had been inked so far off-center that the design barely made it on the kite. But despite the imperfect printing, the store still couldn't keep them in stock. George Emmons, owner of Into The Wind, recalls seeing Mylar kites in a San Francisco kite store displayed like a fountain with the heads flowing out of the base comprised of the ripples of Mylar tails.

Back then, there was virtually no quality control except for being careful of the tails. Neil said that in those days, sending out imperfect kites seemed like a good tradeoff for getting a couple hundred more out the door. The unfettered demand inspired duplication and during this time about 20 or so companies sprung up to fill the requests of the San Francisco tourists who saw the kites flying all over the city. The limited vending licenses available in the SF tourist areas inspired cut throat business practices as all these companies tried to make a buck from the "fad." Some of the smaller fly-by-night companies used scissors instead of hot knives to cut the Mylar and those kites were short lived. According to Neil, "The trend was unrivaled with the sense of unlimited potential for this rudimentary product."

Speaking of quality, that brings me back to the original focus of this blog, the two recent reviews on our website for the 45-ft. Mylar Dragon: kitey72 writes, "This Kite is Horrible, no wonder it's 10 dollars!!! It started tearing within minutes of me opening it, and it was only 6mph winds. DO NOT BUY THIS!!!!!!!!!" Without a doubt, that is the downside to this inexpensive kite. With just a small cut in the edge of the film, the tear will extend at lightning speed to the other edge of the tail, severing it, much like plastic wrap. However, if this initial cut can be avoided, usefulbard's unsolicited reply is more typical of the experience flyers have with the Mylar kites,

"With all due respect to kitey72, I beg to differ. This kite is magnificent. It instantly becomes the center of attention once you get it up in the air, which isn't very hard to do. If you can get a steady wind of 5-10 mph, it'll lift itself right off the ground. It's also surprisingly [sic] stable and very easy to fly. That said, there are a few things to bear in mind. First, make sure you have plenty of open space to fly it in. It does, after all, have a 45-foot tail. Second, beware of inconsistant [sic ] or dying winds. If you suddenly lose your breeze while this kite is in the air, the result is not going to be pretty. Third, and most important of all, mylar is not ripstop nylon. You have to be gentle with this kite when you're taking it out, storing it, or transporting it. It doesn't take kindly to being manhandled. The good news is that if you do get a tear, a bit of clear scotch tape is all you need to patch it up. So, in summation, this kite is a bit more high maintenance than others, but it looks beautiful and is a joy to fly. On a more personal note, my father owns a 45' Quicksilver dragon kite (with the dragon print) which he purchased in San Francisco in the 1970's. It was always one of my favorites. When I recently went shopping for a new kite of my own, I was pleasantly surprised to find a similar design (or so I thought at the time) being sold on this website. The meager pricetag [sic] was equally pleasant, so I decided to order one. When it arrived, it turned out that it was, in fact, identical to my father's kite, right down to the Quicksilver monogram. He and I both thought that was pretty cool."

Besides quality control, the other element Quicksilver lacked in the '70's was a business plan. With brisk sales, there was little need for a marketing strategy so market expansion and new product innovation happened on the fly. (Pun intended.) "Hey, maybe we should make a $5 Mylar Dragon!?!" With that, the genesis of the Mylar Octopus happened and later, the 25-ft. Dragon also became part of the product line. Even if a business plan had been a necessity it still may have been impossible since none of the Quicksilver employees, Neil included, knew anything about business. Nevertheless, the outside success of the company led buyers at larger retail stores to believe that Quicksilver had it together. Neil remembers instances when "real" companies would call to place orders and he would put his hand over the receiver and yell to the rest of the staff, hippies that were working there, "Anybody know what Net 30 means?" And nobody did.

For the first six or seven years the dragons were produced with aluminized Mylar and although the kites included the regular cautions about kiteflying (avoid thunderstorms, power lines, trees, etc.) it wasn't until a couple of accidents happened that PG&E realized the danger these kites could cause, arcing between power lines causing voltage conductors to break, and the extent of the liability was known. In early 1979, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the manufacture, distribution and sale of aluminized polyester film kites. The ban applied to any kite containing 10 inches or more of this type of metalized material, including dragon, box and fighter kites. When the hullabaloo about aluminized Mylar happened Quicksilver tried different ways to get around it but eventually eliminated it from the kites entirely.

Working with the plain Mylar involved figuring out a way to incorporate the design onto this new material. It didn't take long to figure out that the printing industry had the capability to print on the non-aluminized Mylar. Between 1975 and 1980 this evolution to printing on plain Mylar left two primary players in the market, Spectra Star and Quicksilver. All of the Mylar Dragon and Mylar Octopus kites we carry today are manufactured by Quicksilver.

Since 1952, when DuPont announced the development of Mylar and Francis Rogallo, one of the earliest kitemakers, immediately saw how superior it would be for his kite, the five-dollar toy Flexikite which became one of the first products to use the plastic material, to the '70's Dragon Kite craze, to 1993, over 40 years later, when biologists used large black and white Mylar kites to coax condors farther into a nesting sanctuary in Fillmore, California, Mylar kites have been part of the evolution of kiting. Through it all, the inspiration for Neil Rose to continue making Mylar Dragon Kites has been the metamorphosis that happens when 100-lb boxes come in the back door filled with raw materials to be transformed into lightweight flowing kites that are sold out the front door. Many times he's been aware that staying in this business may not be the best financial decision but "making" a product has an unmitigated magnetic appeal. For the last 20-25 years, the products, and Quicksilver itself, have remained unchanged but 2010 will revolutionize all that with the introduction of a new but still inexpensive Mylar kite. And this one comes in nine different colors! Stay tuned...

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action!

We've added over 25 new videos to show off just how cool the kites and toys we carry are! As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Original 13" Aerobie
The Guinness World Record holding flying ring; how far can you throw?

Kid's 10" Aerobie
Just like the original Aerobie flying ring but for smaller hands.

Incredible Bubble Thing
One of our most popular bubble toys makes GIANT bubbles.

Another great flying toy that soars as far as you can throw.

The hybrid of a disc and a Yo-Yo.

Prism EO6 Box Kite
The competition winning box kite, that collapses down to an easy to transport size.

ITW Crystal Spinner Box Kite
Our own box kite the center panels spin in flight.

ITW Wisp Light wind Stunt Kite
One of my favorite light wind stunt kites. The day I flew this, and shot the video, the wind was only 1-2 mph and the Wisp was precise and fast!

Silver Fox Trick Kite
What can you do with a Trick Kite? This fantastic video will show you some fantastic moves.

Prism Nexus Stunt Kite
One of Prism's most popular stunt kites. The Nexus is a great all-around flier.

Prism Nexus 5-Pack
A stack of Nexus kites with tails have 5x the power. You'll put on quite a show.

Prism Zephyr Trick Kite
The quality and detail of the Zephyr are inspiring (and it's a pretty amazing Trick kite as well)!

Beamer IV 3 Beamer IV 4 Beamer IV 5
The Beamer series of quad line power kites has only gotten better. Check out this exciting video!

Prism Stowaway Diamond
Prism's Stowaway Diamond flies just like a diamond should, right out of your hand.

ITW Jewel Train
Into The Wind's own Jewel Train, a stack of 6 hyperactive little diamonds come trained together.

Rainbow Paradise Flower
One of our most popular lawn ornaments adds some color to your life.

Power Flower
The kinetic energy powered spinning lawn ornament that doesn't need batteries. Let the wind do the work!

Aerobie Orbiter Boomerang
Aerobie's Orbiter boomerang comes back every time.

Aerobie Football
A football with fins for that perfect throw.

Aerobie Dogobie Disc
The Dogobie Disc is perfect for playtime with your best friend.

Aerobie Squidgie Disc
A soft disc for playing catch with kids or kids at heart.

Aerobie Superdisc
The Superdisc is the 13" Original's big brother, try and break the record for the longest throw.

Aerobie Rocket Football
A smaller version of the Aerobie Football but just as fast.

Aerobie Superdisc Ultra
The big version of the Superdisc gives your throw some extra stability.

Larks Head Knot
Describing how to make the Larks Head Knot has always been a bit of a challenge, but this useful knot is now the star of it's own show.

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