THE CLASSIC KITE, flown by generations of children on beaches across the country, was simply a shield with a tail: a piece of paper or cloth attached to a cross frame. Called a two-stick flat kite, it's still popular, but today it has a lot of competition from box kites, dragons, tetrahedrons, and, currently--the hottest things in the air--dual-line active kites.
The dual-line kites are controlled by two strings, not one, so the kite flyer can manipulate the kite, making it "dance" according to the flyer's whim and the wind's cooperation. In contrast, the old single-line kites are passive; the wind does all the work and the human just holds on, managing to achieve degrees of control through the design and construction of the kite itself (box kites, or three-dimensional structures, offer the greatest stability in a single-line kite).
The Chinese invented the kite eons ago, and the world has been pulling strings ever since. But whatever the kite, modern or old-fashioned, the ace flyer should know the basic principles of lift (what gets the kite up), angle of attack (how and where the air hits the kite), and balance and stability to keep the kite soaring and swooping. While a kite pilot's longing for precision flying is understandable, there is also a measure of beauty and excitement (not to mention humility) in just letting the kite string us along as the wind toys with us. Kite-making instruction and materials are available at Let's Fly a Kite in Marina del Rey. Store owner Gloria Lugo says she and her staff will help prospective kite makers find the materials and put a kite together. Windworks in Panorama City offers books, struts and frames but no fabrics; owner Howard White says he can show customers how to make kites. Village Kite & Toy Store in Ventura plans to stock kite-making supplies in the spring. Keely's Kites in Santa Monica (formerly Colors of the Wind) also has some kite-making supplies and instruction books.
Recommended instruction books: "Flight Patterns," by Leland Toy (Sky High Press); "The Stunt Kite Book," by Alison Fujino and Benjamin Ruhe (Running Press); "Kites for Everyone," by Margaret Greger (no publisher), and "Stunt Kites," by David Gomberg (no publisher), all available at Let's Fly a Kite. Also, "Dynamite Kites," by Jack Wiley and Suzanne L. Cheatle (Tab Books Inc.), offers clear, detailed instructions for all kinds of single-line kites. Magazines devoted to kite flying include American Kite, published by Daniel Prentice, 480 Clementina St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103($10 for 4 issues); it focuses on the American kite scene and the people who make and fly them. Kite Lines, published by Aeolus Press, P.O. Box 466, Randallstown, Md. 21133 ($12 for 4 issues), offers kites as art, sports and science, plus kite plans and international coverage.