After dallying with kites for seven or eight years, I got seriously hooked in 1983 when I walked into Reza Ragheb’s Hi Fli Kites, a store in Aurora. Very shortly thereafter, I picked up a Saturday Evening Post and saw the shocking back-page photograph of Steve Edeiken being lifted by a huge kite on the Northwest Coast. Steve’s shocking death sent a wave through the kite world and gave us sobering insight into the power and danger of these behemoths.
I remember one year at the Washington State International Kite Festival when the Dutch “World’s Largest Kite” flew on a light wind day at the beach. I was impressed by the professionalism of the Dutch team in their preparation, communication, and coordination working with volunteers to safely and successfully fly the kite. These two giant kites were so dissimilar, it helps to show the direction of evolution for future giant kites.
The Edmonds Community College kite, for which Steve acted as safety marshal on the day he died, was a then-standard parafoil design with multiple bridles and flares and an open leading edge. It displayed the dangerous characteristics of any large parafoil: rapid inflation, lots of moving lines, and extreme power. The Dutch kite was a very wise step forward in that it had a closed front, so it had to be slowly inflated through the work of a coordinated team. It had only three bridle lines, and, additionally, guide lines or steering lines on each side. It had been designed to produce less lift than a parafoil design of the day. All of these made it a safer, if less spectacular, flier.