In Part 1, I’ve rambled on some thoughts of moving from friendly fly-togethers to a more formalized team, and the start in creating flying routines for demonstrations. You can view the post here.
In this part, I’d be sharing my thoughts as the team progressed through the learning curve from a fledgling team to somewhat more experienced, or rather more wise :P. Specifically, I’d be covering the aspects of consideration of wind conditions and individual flying skills when comes to construction of team ballet routines.
As usual, these are my personal thoughts and what we’ve encountered as we embark on our kiting journey. Feel free to comment, share or use these points of references for your own journey.
1. Breaking wind
“Gotta fly, nothing else matters”
Being in the tropics and surrounded by massive land masses with no direct exposure to open seas, Singapore is not exactly the country to be blessed with strong, smooth ocean winds. Yes, we may be on an island but no, we are not in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Annual average temperatures are within 29C-32C, while the wind here is typically varies from zero to around 10mph of relatively smooth winds during the southwest monsoon period from April to October. Northeast monsoon from December to March typically bring stronger winds up to ~15mph but prolonged rainy spells too. Flying areas are also limited as most open land areas are either surrounded by tall buildings or trees. Thus, it is rarely that we’d get to experience winds of all seasons.
What is experienced and common at home might not be necessarily what one would get when overseas. Our first taste of this was at the Vietnam International Kite Festival in Vungtau in 2010. We were caught out with our mid-vents kites in >25mph winds. Even doubling the rods in the leading edges did nothing to help tone the kite down. While having said that, not many kite fliers were able to take to the skies that night too. I vividly remembered only Lam Hoac ably survived the onslaught. We are talking about a serious pro here so that’s to be expected! :P.
During the recent RICV Berck-sur-Mer festival 2013, temperatures were <5C on some days, adding to that wind chill, rain and >25mph winds. On other days, it was comfortable 20C sunny days and perfect “T-shirts and shorts” weather, even for tropical boys like us. Personally having flown in colder and windy climates, I’ve got first-hand experience at what it feels like to have the elements against you, when the cold bites into your fingers and ears; when it feels like a the wind is too much no matter what you do and at the end of it all, when you feel like putting the kite down and take refuge in a shelter for a hot cup of coffee.
While the above has got more to do with the cold, the learning point here is to expect the unexpected! Never be too confident that conditions are “as expected” because you can never predict Mr Weather, with his notorious family of Typhoon boys and Stormy girls. During festivals, the crowd would not go away even if the wind is blasting or dead or if the rain is pounding. When you are up for a demo, you just gotta go do it and the crowd is waiting.
Recently, I’ve been wondering if there’s any relation between wind speed and the human psychology. When winds are up, the human emotions get whipped up. We feel excited. When the music starts blasting, the hearts start pounding. A fast routine feels more exciting at that instance. Conversely, during a light breeze, the heart is calmer and a slower, gentle routine appeals to the emotions more. Other factors include time of the day and other factors like presence of spot lights etc. My opinion is that the environment would have a part to play in determining our emotions, just like we feel more subdued from sundown till night fall after a hard day, while spot lights at night stokes emotions because it compensates for the night sky. What do you think? Would it make sense to have different routines in the day or night?
To summarize, think about wind conditions when creating your ballet routine. I’ve always asked myself, “Would this routine or move work in light winds? Strong winds?” In a light breeze, it is easier to keep the kite moving than in static positions. The reverse is true in strong winds. Turns and straight line flies would require different levels of tending as well. A personal trick that I do is to fly my part of the routine when I’ve overseas in strong winds conditions to test if it would work out. It helps to serve as a point of reference for myself and for the team. I find that testing the routine at different conditions helps in selecting the right routine to fly at a demo, even making last minute choices or changes to make it flyable. What connects the routine to the audience is the overall synchronization and interpretation of the music with the flying. You are still in business as long as the kite doesn’t fall out of the sky. A sexy move that doesn’t work in the wind condition at that instance is to the audience, a kite that falls out of the sky.
Although having routines that could work well in a range of conditions makes it easier, pilot skills could definitely overcome such difficulties. However, it would require the whole team being able to overcome the wind conditions together. It’s no good having 1 or 2 pro members while the weaker members are struggling and not enjoying themselves. Remember, it’s the team that counts 🙂
2. Team skills
“You ain’t heavy, you are my brother”
We are in this hobby, or some say sport, simply for the love of it! We are mostly “burdened” by our day jobs and flying or practices are confined mostly to weekends where we have to juggle with our other personal commitments. The interesting about kite flying is that it brings people of different walks of life together and no two persons are exactly the same. Each of us has different preferences and methods of doing the same thing. As such, each would have a different approach to learning the same thing, much less how much can be achieved with the same amount of learning and time spent.
The fact with most recreational fliers like you and me is that everyone is endowed with different learning styles and levels of adaptability. It is a rarity to find a flier with a resume in flying that would read like this: “More than XX years of experience in demos and competition” or boast any description like “multiple champion” etc. You are lucky if you do, and more so if you’ve got one with such experience in your team! I remembered when Scott Weider asked me, “Have you got a mentor?” My answer to him then was something like “No, but in Youtube we do” :P. Frankly, you can learn almost anything from the internet these days. I learnt how to set up this blog via “your friendly neighborhood” Youtube videos too! While learning from videos get can get you started pretty much, it takes much more than that to understand the nuances that are not captured in the videos. There is nothing like watching an experienced flier or team in action, from their flying styles to their control and even their preparation on the field on off it. Yes, I do watch a lot of teams at festivals. Now that you know 😛
Without going too far off track, the point that I’d like to make here is that other than the internet, recreational fliers often learn on our own and from one another. The more we fly, the more we watch, the more we fail and the more we learn. Individual idiosyncrasies aside, a team will comprise mostly of members with different flying capabilities. During routine composition, it might be wise to think about how difficult certain moves might be for different team members and work around it. For e.g, reverse flight might be daunting for some while speed control might not be as apparent to some others, as some may not be comfortable with a particular manoeuvere in too light a wind. As I’ve touched on in the above section, pilot skills can overcome unfavorable wind conditions. I’ve seen pro pilots with full sail kites in blasting wind, pulling off moves that I’d expect others even having difficulty with on a vented kite. So rather than push the envelope too hard, it might be wise and smart to take these into considerations when creating the routine.
Starting simple is my opinion, so that each member gains in self-realization of what he/she brings to the team and enjoy doing so. The gain in confidence would help break the “balls of chains” and allow the team to work towards more difficult moves. Learn from one another, listen and tap experienced guidance as often as possible; and influence each other to have an open-mind and try new methods so as to improve skill levels.
What you never try, you’d never know. When you never listen, you’ll never learn. What has always been might not necessarily be correct. Learn, improve and have fun!