This Sunday 13 September the skies over Bondi Beach will come alive from 11am as giant dragons, demons and sea creatures fly through the air for the annual Festival of the Winds.
Now in its 37th year, the Festival of the Winds is one of the days I most look forward to on Bondi’s calendar of events. No matter your age or level of maturity, you can’t help but feel like a child again watching the vibrant kites ripple, duck and dive. It’s a magical day for families to enjoy the beach front together and try kite flying for themselves.
A tribute to an Aussie aerial pioneer
This year, the Festival of the Winds is celebrating the centenary of the death of the great Sir Lawrence Hargrave, Australia’s most famous aeronautical pioneer. In 1893, Sir Lawrence invented the box kite. Tying his kites together, he used them to lift himself almost five metres off the ground, and has been credited with developing the basis for modern air flights.
As part of the festival there will be a tribute to Sir Lawrence Hargrave, including a display of replica box kites.
The people who make it all happen
While some of the most exotic kites are flown by international visitors, many are manned by members of the Australian Kiteflyers Society (AKS). This group is comprised of around 60 enthusiasts including Robert Moore, who broke the world kite flying altitude record for flying at over 16,000 feet at Cable Downs in September 2014.
This week I caught up with Raymond Wong, the society’s president, to find out more about the people behind this amazing aerial display.
Raymond Wong has been an active member of the AKS for seven years and has been president since 2012.
“I took an interest in kite flying when I was about eight years old,” Raymond told me. “That was when I got my first simple diamond kite for Christmas.”
His fascination for kites really took off at age twelve when his family attended a kite festival in Auckland.
“From there I grew up learning how to build and fly kites and model planes. That developed into hang gliding, sky diving and paragliding. Today I have my feet firmly on the ground and am taking a more passive interest in the new generation of modern kite design as well as flying and racing drones.”
Forty years to build a dream
Raymond told me that his favourite kite to build and fly is based on a design that was originally created in 1903 by Samuel Cody, an early pioneer of manned flight.
“Known as the ‘man lifting Cody kite’, it was a design inspired by the Australian Lawrence Hargrave box kite,” Raymond explained. “It had additional wings that extended out about 20 feet in length, giving it tremendous lift, stability and pulling power. This was the kite that I’d dreamt of building since I first saw images in a library book at school.”
It took Raymond over forty years of studying the design plans and learning how to use a sewing machine with materials like carbon fibre and light weight sail cloth to manufacture his first giant Cody kite. It had a wing span of over 4.5 metres, but while that sounds very impressive to me, Raymond says that it’s nothing compared with some kites he’s seen that have wing spans of up to 10 metres wide!
Today’s beginners are spoilt for choice
Raymond tells me that the hardest thing for beginner kite flyers today is selecting the type of kite they would like to fly.
“They are almost bullet proof with today’s modern materials,” says Raymond,”but mostly they give every person, regardless of age, the ability to enjoy hours of fun flying.
Choosing the type and size just depends on how passionate you are about the sport and how deep your pockets are. You can pick up some simple kites at supermarkets like Aldi, for around $15-$20 each.”
Want to fly a whale? You may have to re-mortgage your house…
After attending the Festival of the Winds, you may be so enthusiastic about kite flying that you decide to go all out and invest in one of the giant statement pieces such as the whales and dragons. Be prepared to re-mortgage your house! According to Raymond they retail for $30k plus and would require a two tonne SVU to anchor them to the ground and stop them from flying off.
Many of the giant kites you will see flying at this weekend’s festival are owned by international enthusiasts who create them by hand. Guest kite flyers will be attending from Germany, Italy, Tahiti and New Zealand, the home of the Peter Lynn Kites company, who have the record for building the biggest kite in the world.
You can expect to negotiate crowds of between 90-120,000 visitors at the kite festival, but the great thing is that standing pretty much anywhere along the beach front will allow you to view the display.
With fine, sunny weather predicted, it’s an awesome way to kick off spring. There will also be food stalls, children’s rides, puppet shows and art exhibitions.
The Festival of the Winds will take place on Sunday 13 September from 11am across the Bondi beach front.
Tracey @ What’s New Bondi xx