The following report originally appeared on the rec.kites newsgroup.

Off to Fighter Heaven

Our van was packed with fighters of every shape and size, leaving barely enough room for the four of us (Johnny, Basir, Michelle and me). We managed to leave hot and smoggy Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening. Driving straight through, we reached Long Beach, WA around 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Johnny and Basir were eager to hit the beach to do a little flying and test out their kites, so off they went for a few hours. Later that night, we answered a knock at our door, there stood Brian J. with Philippe Gallot. That kicked off the week-long socializing that occurred at our “Penthouse suite”. I say that because our rooms are over a garage. This was our third year at Arcadia Motel and we had the same room as in the past years (1 bedroom w/ kitchen and livingrm), so by now all our friends know where we can be found! Also staying at Arcadia this week were Karen Gustavson, Richard & Marti Dermer, George Gilchrist & family, and Dale & Calvin Vanderhoof.

Day 1

Monday morning found us down at the beach. The festival committee had roped-off a nice Fighter Demo field and placed a much needed tent in the International Guests Area. We met up with Philippe and Brian, and were introduced to Ludo Petit and his daughter Sara. Philippe and Johnny hit it off right away (they both love to joke around). Philippe had found a smelly old piece of kelp and presented it to Johnny along with a “windsock” (a child’s sock on a piece of driftwood). Monday was *THE* day to browse thru everyone’s fighter boxes, comparing kites, testing Manjha; a lot of Ooh-ing and Ahh-ing was heard!

We met Robin Levick who brought out the kites he had made for the festival, making quite an impression on Johnny and Basir. This is definitely one 15 year old to watch out for! Later in the afternoon there was a chance to do some flying with Manjha and everyone had a great time. Johann, a 12 yr. old boy who became interested in the fighter group, retrieved most of the “cut” kites, and by selling them back to Johnny, he was able to collect enough money to buy one of Robin’s fighters by the end of the day.

When the international guests left for their first of many dinners during the week, the fighter guys (Johnny, Basir, Brian, Robin, and Gophal) went up to the ballpark to fly until the sun went down, returning to our place for dinner.

Day 2

Tuesday morning it started to sprinkle around 6:30 a.m., but by 9ish it started to clear up so we headed to the fighter field. Philippe and Ludo conducted a kite making class. Everyone who participated made a fighter using mylar and bamboo. Manjha was brought out after 4 p.m., (they were told to wait until all the large tethered kites around the fighter field were pulled down). We hosted dinner again for several friends then Philippe, Ludo and Sara stopped by to visit and show off their recent purchases from Marsh’s Free Museum (a fun, tourist-trap full of souvenirs with a few “museum” type artifacts in the back).

Day 3

Wednesday’s events were for Kids and Seniors. I took Michelle and her friend, Sharaya Aggers (a San Diego Kite Club member), to J.R. Tolman’s kite making class where they made small “Tukkal” shaped fighter kites. What a site to see all the children out flying those cute little kites!

The Senior Fighter Competition started at 1 p.m. and consisted of a variety of fighter kite games: touching a delta kite, popping a balloon, knocking a cup off a pole and flying through a hoop.

Wed. night’s dinner was the WKA Spaghetti feed. Afterwards, Johnny and I visited the Carouseland other rides (we promised Michelle), while Marie, Barbara and Gophal took Ludo and Philippe across the street to Mary Lou’s to play some pool and throw darts.

Day 4

Hand-crafted day. My turn to get up before 6 a.m. and park the van down at the VIP parking lot. I met Don Mock parking on my right and Brian on my left (looks like I am the only female up this early and down at the beach). Brian helped me set up our little wind tent before walking back to town.

Basir entered two of his Afghani kites, winning a first place in Traditional Eastern and another first in the Flat-Bowed category.

The winds picked up making it hard to do anything but eat sand, the fighters were hampered by the strong winds... so no Manjha this day.

Ed and Matthew Alden (and family) had arrived earlier this year and they were out practicing until the winds became too strong. When plans to go fly at the ballpark failed, they came to visit us at our motel and we all headed to McDonalds for dinner. McDonalds has only been in town for a year, this year they added an indoor playground. “Yahoo!!” exclaimed Michelle . Later, Richard, Terri and Arlin Hurd landed at our doorstep... another night of socializing with old friends.

Day 5

Friday, strong winds and Yucky weather! We didn’t even venture down to the beach. I stopped by the Museum around 10 a.m. and watched Bob and Jennifer put the finishing touches (the large hummers) on their kite from Bali. The rest of the day was spent at the ballpark and we still froze!

Ed got a round-robin fighter fly going, several fliers came and went; Johnny ended up with the most points that day, with Gophal 2nd and Matthew 3rd. Friday night was the Museum reception and we were honored to watch as Scott Skinner was presented with a plaque commemorating his induction to the Hall of Fame. Philippe gave a funny speech that had everyone who could understand him laughing.

The traditional Friday night fireworks and Nightfly were canceled, so it was back to our Penthouse for an impromptu dinner. The number of visitors had grown since the beginning of the week, we had to borrow chairs, dishes and silverware from Karen’s room. It was a fun night, Marie had the champagne flowing, and a few of us finally got Philippe to autograph our books.

Everyone was gearing up for the big event, the Fighter Kite Competition would start early Saturday morning, so they all left by 11:30 p.m. I was finishing up dishes when Robin appeared. He said he was too excited to sleep, so he stayed for a while talking and watching Johnny and Basir as they made final adjustments to their “combat” kites.

Day 6

Saturday - The BIG Day!! I parked the van down at the beach at 6:00 a.m., then headed back to the motel to wake up the guys. The winds were still blowing strong, when registration closed, there 30 brave fliers signed up to fly in the Fighter Competition. They had waited all week for this event and they were determined to give it a shot!

At the fliers meeting, rules of the fight were discussed and voted upon. Touching would go in the order of Top, Bottom, Top, (best of three, Finals would be best of five), and instead of standing in a roped-off “circle”, the fliers would only have to worry about stepping “Back” over the line behind them. This became beneficial to a majority of the fliers as the winds were so strong, that many lost hold of their line during the fight and had to lunge for it. Several times the “lost” line actually pulled the reel down the field too. At one point, a lost line got away so fast that several fliers ran to help catch the reel. Johann made a flying tackle, landing on top of the reel at the very edge of Field A.

As luck would have it, Johnny‘s first fight was against Philippe. It was 1-to-1, when Johnny got the last point. Philippe was so enthusiastic, even though he lost, that he ran over and grabed Johnny for a big hug. Later he authographed his kite and presented it to Johnny as a trophy.

It was very interesting to watch the fights, and I am having trouble remembering all the match-ups. Tom Joe, in a funny, tall, striped, “Cat-in-the-Hat” styled hat was the only flier to use a Koren kite and spool. Marie Dube, the only female entered in the competition, flew against Brian and won, then she flew against Ed Alden, and won. Basir ended up winning First after a hard fight with Gophal. Gophal came in second, and Matthew Alden third.

Everyone had a marvelous time, it didn’t matter if they won or lost. Most notable during the entire competition was the commradery among the fighters. Many were seen helping each other by launching, retrieving, reeling in line after a fight, untangling knots, picking up debri blown onto the field, etc. When Robin’s spine broke, I watched as Garry Smith, of Sensei Kites, ripped apart one of his own kites and gave the spar to Robin.

Saturday evening we attended the Dinner and Auction, missing the Fireworks that were re-scheduled from the night before. At 11:00 p.m. when I left to put Michelle to bed, the Auction was still going strong. The money raised from the auction went to the Museum’s Building Fund, a very worthwhile cause.

Last Day

Time to pack and say our Good-byes...Where did the week go?? Ludo and Philippe presented Johnny and Basir with Manjha Club T-shirts. We made one last visit to the Museum and then back to the motel to load up the car. We were on the road heading back home by 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

What a fun, exhausting week of visiting old friends and making many new ones. There were several people absent this year who we greatly missed, Paul and Dorine Imbach, and Scot Hampton. There were so many exciting events planned for the week, and just not enough time to do everything. This was our 6th year attending WSIKF, and most definitely the best so far!

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