Taking over the skies

Nearly 100 people gathered at the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier on Saturday morning for one purpose — to fly kites.

Some traveled as far as San Diego, Washington, Pennsylvania and Canada. A few even flew out from Germany and Tasmania.

These kite fliers congregate to Huntington Beach for their yearly Kite Party, now in its 11th year.

There's no flying competition or any judging of kites. These participants had only one thing in mind: a weekend of flying their kites in the beach air and having fun.

"It's kind of addictive," said John Mason, 65, of San Diego. "Once you fly with somebody else, it's even more addictive because it becomes a lot more interesting and you get to do creative maneuvers. It makes you feel like a kid again."

During the event, sponsored by Kite Connection, beachgoers stopped in their tracks as a dozen or so kites soared in the air while a group of fliers performed a choreographed routine to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The days leading up to the weekend almost spelled doom for the event, with rainclouds hovering over Huntington Beach, but for the past 11 years, Kite Connection owner Dave Shenkman has never been concerned about the weather.

"You ask anybody here. We're never worried about the weather because Huntington Beach has its own weather system and it's void of Kite Party karma," he said. "The weather is never a concern."

The rain falling Thursday and Friday had Benn Huggett, 43, of Philadelphia, concerned. .

"I was looking at the weather [report for Huntington Beach] last week and it was in the 70s, and I was thinking it was going to be fantastic," he said. "Then I got up on Monday to pack and I looked at the weather again and it was in the 60s. But it's snowing in Philadelphia, so it's better here."

It took Robert Brasington 24 hours to travel from Tasmania, Australia, to Surf City for his first kite party.

"I'm used to that," he said. "To get to Europe takes me 36 hours for me and to get to New York is another 10 hours to that. So coming to L.A., to me, is relatively a quick trip."

Brasington has been flying and designing kites for the past 20 years and hasn't lost interest in the whimsical item.

"For me, it's the passion of design, but if you ask a cross-section of kiters, they would say it's incredibly relaxing and very social," he said. "Particularly on a good beach where everyone parks their stuff upstairs and everyone just sits down and talks."

Traveling almost as far as Brasington was Christoph Fokken, from Cologne, Germany.

Participating in his fifth kite party, Fokken, who runs a kite business in Germany, said he escaped the winter storms in his country for the sand and sun in Huntington Beach.

"I still like blue skies and the summer breeze," Fokken said.

Most the kiters that day were into their 40s, but Dylan Turelli, 22, of Buena Park and Sean Gurganian, 22, of Long Beach have become more involved with the hobby as the years passed.

"I used to work for Dave Shenkman and he got me into kites," said Turelli, who has about two years of flying experience. "Ever since then, he told me about the kite party and I decided to come down and help out."

Gurganian also worked for Shenkman and met Turelli at the kite store, and has been flying for almost eight years. Starting with a simple one-line kite when he was 13, Gurganian now has a collection of kites and still looks forward to seeing the latest kite designs and technology.

"There's just a lot of possibilities in the kite-flying world for all types of flying that you want to do," he said. "If you just like to fly something pretty around or something that moves really fast, there's something for everybody."

Turelli has had other outdoor hobbies, like BMX or dirt biking, but he believes that kites will be the next big thing.

"It's going little by little, but it needs to be introduced to a better and younger crowd," he said. "It could be the next new yo-yo phase."


Twitter: @acocarpio

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