With a riot of motion and celebration of wind, the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach invites amateurs and professionals to share airspace and steady sea breezes.

By Jennifer Chappell Smith
January 08, 2007
Matt Brown

Everyone with a 59-cent kite has it in the air," saysfestivalgoer Gayle Wallace of Vancouver, Washington, gazing up atthe rustling canopy of colors and shapes hovering above the beach.Among them, the red tentacles of a 90-foot octopus waver.Rainbow-colored parachutes spin. And a 1,000-square-footer pullsagainst its anchor, buried in the sand.

Near water's edge, four black-and-blue sport kites slice the airin a synchronized fury the Blue Angels would admire. They plungetoward sand, swerve over the ocean, and zoom up again in the sky."It's ballet," says Jim Barber, leader of Team Visual Impact fromOcean Shores, Washington. "We dance the kites."

Down the beach, the legendary Ray Bethell, a 70-somethingCanadian resident known for flying multiple kites, attractsonlookers. With one in his right hand, one in his left, and anotherharnessed to his waist, he makes them all dart and dip like a flockof birds.

A jerk of his hands and a bend of his knees forces them to blastapart in whirls of rippling speed. "It took me 14 years to get thisfar," says the world champion. "Next year I'll be better." The daybefore, he broke the world record for flying the most kitessimultaneously―21.

While casual visitors are welcome, this crowd is mostly asubculture of hobbyists and dealers who meet at worldwidefestivals, often on beaches. "The wind comes straight in from theocean," says Susan Gomberg of Gomberg Kite Productions.

With such experts around, novices get good advice. "Youshouldn't have to run [to launch] a kite," coaches 25-year veteranScott Skinner. "The kite should just fly."

Easy for him to say.

For more suggestions, visit "How to Fly" at gombergkites.com and "KiteFlying Tips" on raybethell.com.