A Lofty Idea

Oh, go fly a kite -- we can tell you where and how.

Focus On Kites

March 28, 2004|By Larry Bingham | Larry Bingham,Sun Staff

There is a difference between people who fly kites regularly and those who go out once or twice a year.

You can tell them apart by the lengths they go to get their kites in the air.

Some run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

And some don't.

You want to get tips from those who don't.

"Two people can launch a kite easily with the wind blowing at your back," said Dr. Adam Grow, a Silver Spring veterinarian who is president of the Maryland Kite Society. The two should stand about 50 feet apart. One lets go of the kite as the other tugs on the string.

Flying a kite is meant to be a simple pleasure, after all. An ideal wind is 10 miles an hour. The direction of the wind doesn't matter.

"What you have to do is get the kite up over the tree line where you get clean winds," Grow said. "The winds are usually good at about 200 feet."

Where you fly matters a little more. A neighborhood schoolyard on a windy day should be fine as long as it's the size of two soccer fields. A wide stretch beside a body of water works best.

The key is to enjoy yourself.

"You don't need to run," Grow said.

Leave the running to Charlie Brown.

SHAPE MEANS EVERYTHING

Ever seen a grown man collapse, pound the ground with his fists and kick his legs? There's a chance that he was trying to learn to fly a stunt kite.

No matter what the kite makers say, stunt kites, also called "sport" kites, are not so easy to learn. Flying with two hands, learning to make nylon and plastic dip, dive, and do tricks, takes patience.

More patience for some people than others.

The delta kite is shaped like a triangle and is the easiest model to fly. It is also the most stable in the air and requires the least wind.

Any pre-schooler with arms strong enough to hang on can toss a delta in the sky and watch it climb, climb, climb.

Think of the diamond kite and you think of Charlie Brown. This traditional style has been around since man first sewed together buffalo hides and thought they looked nice billowing against a spring sky.

Diamonds are also easy kites to fly, but this is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. Forget rock, paper, scissors. Nylon beats paper, hands down.

Kites come in all shapes and sizes these days -- airplanes, cars, ships, sharks, jellyfish, flamingoes, butterflies, dolphins, UFOs -- but be warned that lovely to look at is not necessarily a breeze to fly.

We had great luck with a high-end shaped kite that looks the Red Baron, partly because it is large and the belly of the plane is shaped like a windsock. A smaller kite, shaped like a parrot, was harder to get airborne but was quite a sight once it got over its attachment to the ground.

WHERE TO FLY ONE

Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine

End of East Fort Avenue, Baltimore

410-962-4290

* Admission free

The winds that blew that gallantly streaming flag in 1814 may not be the same winds swirling around the park today but the point overlooking the harbor is a nice place to fly a kite in the city. Kites are not encouraged but are permitted in a limited grassy area near the picnic tables, away from the historic battlefield.

Sandy Point State Park

1100 East College Parkway

Annapolis

410-974-2149

* Admission $3 per car

Sandy Point is the perfect spot for a family with children of different ages. There's plenty of wind to keep all sorts of kites afloat, a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge, sand if the little ones get bored and playground equipment nearby.

Gunpowder Falls State Park (Hammerman Beach)

2813 Jerusalem Road

Kingsville

410-592-2897

* Admission $2 per car

While the beach overlooking the Gunpowder River is not as expansive as the beach at Sandy Point, the view is soothing, and the wind steady and strong. Plus, there's windsurfing in warmer months -- in case you want to see how it feels to be a kite yourself.

WHERE TO FIND KITES

Flights of Fancy

20 East Street

Frederick

301-663-9295

The Kite Loft

511 Boardwalk

Ocean City

410-289-6852

www.kiteloft.com

Premier Kites Inc.

5200 Lawrence Place

Hyattsville

301-277-3888

www.premierkites.com

(Site directs you to stores carrying their items.)

Go Fly a Kite

11 Heritage Park

Clinton, CT 06413

800-243-3370

www.goflyakite.com

(A division of JAKKS Pacific Inc.)

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