You may be wondering what this whole freestyle thing is about. Sport Kite flying is a fairly new sport, and is still evolving and changing. In the last 5 to 10 years of its development Freestyle has begun to dominate recreational flying. Freestyle flying is about expressing yourself with a kite through a range of unusual maneuvers; flying the kite on its back, its belly and linking it all together to look really smooth.
The popularity of recreational freestyle flying has never completely filtered into the way competitive sport kite flying is set up and judged, but STACK throughout Europe has tried a number of ways to engage what is quickly becoming the majority aspect of the Sport.
In the UK one form of competition is a knockout event where fliers compete to music, one to one in three 30 second rounds each. Whoever impresses the judges most, often the other fliers, gets through to the next round. Another form is the Trickster competition which is based on scores for particular tricks. Probably the best form is Technical Freestyle which is based on themes, however no-one seems to use it. In France there is the Tricks Party Format .
Where the competitive element in freestyle is strongest is within yourself and the people you fly with. It's about flying in a way that impresses yourself and your mates, rather than ticking off long lists of tricks which you can knock out at will.
Freestyle however continues to evolve, with the frontiers constantly being pushed. What you can do with your kite this year is likely to be surpassed next year with new styles and new equipment. As it is there is no set of moves that all freestyle kites will perform, making technical judging a nightmare. Many kites that do one set of tricks won't do another. Ultimately freestyle comes down to expression and attitude. An attitude you will find on kHiTe. It's not about just flying a kite it's about how you dress and act. Recreational Freestyle is a lifestyle choice!
The History of Freestyle goes back to the dawn of time; before people even had Broadband Internet connection, or GPRS on their phones.
I know, it is hard to imagine.
Because of the great time spans involved we have to piece together the evidence - what you read here may not be accurate.
Before Freestyle kites there were just sport kites, huge lumbering beasts. Some way back had aluminum frames, but even the creatures boned in carbon rod were noisy and fearsome. Thankfully these creatures are now pretty much extinct. No-one knows what strange proto-fliers piloted these obscure beasts. Rumor has it some of them are still around today.
However in the mid 90's a evolutionary change came about that transformed the world of kite flying. Some time in 1993 a new breed of sport kites evolved that brought the end of the lumbering Jurassics to an end. Kites like the Stranger designed by Andy Preston and eventually made by Flexifoil, the Box-of-Tricks designed by Tim Benson and made by Fizz and later Tim himself, and later the Midi Sandpiper designed and made by Chris 'Beaker' Matheson.
These kites would stop, axel, flat spin and recover in a way that the dinosaur kites couldn't. The basic building blocks of intelligent kite life were now in place; thus was born what we now confidently refer to as 'OldSkool Freestyle'.
Apparently there was also something going on in the US as well but none of us were there and we are not going to take anyone else's word for it. There may even have been kites that could Axel before the Stranger but this is probably just be a folk myth; like dragons. Okay it was probably some guy called Steve Thomas who invented the Axel in the US in 1992 . The Prism Eclipse would have been the first Freestyle kite. The whole thing might be a conspiracy.
It gets Odder
As the years go on the Freestyle kites evolve and spread until all kite fliers own at least three. Smaller kites are designed for higher winds, like the Matchbox and the Psycho.
As well as radical all out Freestyle kites some begin to seek a kite that would perform freestyle and precision. Always a compromise this began to lead to a divergence of different styles in Freestyle: Short lines vs. long lines. 6ft vs. 7ft vs. 8ft. As Freestyle conquered the planet it diversified. From this orgy, kites like the Andy Preston's Matrix and Tim Benson's Outer Space were born.
With further diversification came a new emphasis of tricks. Preston's new Stranger Level 7 was stranger still; performing 3d moves it was 6 levels too strange for most people. But the cat was out the bag, suddenly Freestyle flying got a whole lot more pitch and back based.
Kites like the Area 51 wowed Blackheath festival in 1999 by performing multiple backspins, lazy susans, flap jacks and all sorts of stuff that hadn't been seen quite in that way before. Later that year the Andy Wardley / Tim Benson designed Gemini hit the scene. A new era of Freestyle had dawned. Or had it?
Power kiting hit. Despite the exciting and innovative new designs many in the UK joined the power rush. People who would have bought Freestyle kites bought Blade 4.9's and gave them to their 5 year olds. Thousands were injured quite a lot.
Freestyle however was not dead. In warmer climes the Arctic pull of power didn't sway everyone. Especially not the French. The French decided they liked the new pitched based tricks. Very much. They flew on long lines and soon were developing a whole new range of tricks and kites that fliers in backward nations could not pronounce let alone perform; multiple yo-yo's wapdowaps, comete's and so on. We saw it coming, but instead we kept flying the same moves on 15ft lines.
By 2002 the NuSkool was well under way, suddenly feeding back into a renewed interest in Freestyle elsewhere, including the UK. Sadly none of the new Continental kites could flat spin very well so one result of the NuSkool is a sort of Progressive OldSkool.
This brings us to the present day. Kites like the Nirvana, the Lynx, the updated Gemini and the Fury all represent the cutting edge of Freestyle in all its wondrous diversity.
:: kHiTe 2004