Expert Tips from the Great Lakes Kite Festival

Flickr Photo Credit - Marvin GravesFlic-flac. 360. Axel. Ollie. No, we’re not talking about skateboarding moves. We are talking about something a little further from the ground – kite flying! Like skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and all of those X-Game sports, kite flying has its own stunt vocabulary, and professional flyers that wow crowds with their amazing tricks in the sky.

If you’d like to see some of these awe-inspiring moves in person, the Great Lakes Kite Festival is coming up, May 20 – 22 in Grand Haven. There are plenty of opportunities to fly your own kite, but most people end up watching the kite flying by some of the experts. Come to the festival with an open mind, a good camera, layers of clothing, and be prepared to be stunned by professional choreographed kite shows to music. After getting inspired and jazzed up about kite flying, you will probably want to try some of those awesome moves on your own!

If you are a beginning kite flyer, or have always wanted to try, we spoke with Steve Negen, a kite-flying expert and owner of Mackinaw Kites & Toys in Grand Haven and Mackinaw City, and got some great suggestions for you to get and keep your kite aloft.

First, ask yourself a couple of questions. Are you an active or more of a passive person? Will you be flying a kite with a child under 10, or older?

  • If you are on the passive side, or you will be flying with a child under 10, it is best to start with a single line kite, such as the Delta, or Parafoil.

  • If you are pretty active, and you are flying with a child over 10, you could try starting with a two line kite, such as a Vision Stunt Kite.

Kites are usually made from either plastic or nylon, and framed with plastic, wood or fiberglass. If you plan to fly your kite for a long time, you should choose a kite made from nylon and fiberglass. You should be able to easily find a really nice single line kite for around $25, although there are some two-lines that can cost as much as $300.

Flickr Photo Credit - Kathy OndovcsikNow that you’ve chosen your kite style, you need to think about where you want to fly. If you have access to a beach along a large expanse of water (not hard to find here in Michigan!), this is a great place to fly. The wind is smoother coming off the water, and it is less likely that you’ll find trees. Trees + kites = not good. Not only do trees provide a place for your kite to get stuck, ruining a nice kite-flying day, but they also make the wind bumpy and unpredictable.

So you’ve got a kite, and you found a great place to fly it. Now how do you get it up in the air? A simple way to get the kite off the ground is to have one person hold the end of the line, and have a second person walk out about 100 feet downwind with the kite, and hold it up in the air. When they let go, the person holding the line needs to be ready to reel in the line to make it climb. Hint: once the kite is in the air, if it starts to dive down, be careful not to tighten the line. Instead, start walking slowly toward the kite, and it should stop its dive.

You’ve mastered kite flying now, right? Like any sport, in order to get better, you have to practice. The best stunt kite flyers will put in time and energy into mastering the craft. You can learn to fly a kite in 20 minutes, but it takes time to become an expert. The most important part is to have fun!

Let us know how it goes!