The popularity of recreational freestyle flying is only now filtering into the way competitive sport kite flying is set up and judged, but STACK and others throughout Europe have 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. This form of event is mostly flown for fun.
Another form is a href="http://freestyle.kites.org.uk/technkl.html" target="_blank">Technical Freestyle which is based on themes, however no-one seems to use it.
Increasing in popularity is the Tricks Party Format, which requires fliers to learn Tricks as a technical discipline - almost like precision figures.
You can even compete online at Virtual Freestyle!
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 abou your clothes and how you act 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 3G 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 Flexifoil 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, flown by Andy Wardley and don't forget the Midi Sandpiper designed and made by Chris 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 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. Right from the start smaller kites were designed for higher winds, like the Benson Matchbox and the Flexifoil 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 Flexifoil Matrix and the Benson 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 Mullin 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 Benson 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. This style was typified by the R-Sky Nirvana.
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 took some time to come through in production kites, but 5 years later machines like the Benson Deepspace offer a modified dynamic to some of the hard continental designs. Developments such as Roll Bars have further added to the mix.
Who knows what will come next?