Would you consider kite flying a professional sport? While this well-known sport is known for being a hobby, there is more to it than that. In this article, we cover all you need to know about kite flying and mention whether it’s a professional sport or not.
Kite flying is a professional sport with biannual world championships held by STACK (Sport Team and Competitive Kiting). Competitions are also held at the national level.
Is Kite Flying Considered a Sport?
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A Kite is a toy that consists of a light frame and a thin material stretched over it. It is flown in the wind at the end of a long string. This game comes with various sizes of kites which are used in different competition stages. We have the small, medium and large.
It is a game played for centuries by both children and adults, especially during the windy and sunny weather (source).
Previously, kite flyers mainly used kite-string, made with three to nine layers of different treated cotton thread. In the early 1980s, however, nylon cord and elastic kite string were introduced.
No one knows exactly who, how, or when the first invention of the kite was. Studies show from various sources that the earliest use of kites was among the Chinese, approximately 2,800 years ago (source).
In the 5th Century BC, Chinese philosophers may have been the original inventors of kites, where paper kites were flown and documented. During that time, paper kites were used as message carriers for rescue missions.
Ancient Chinese sources place it in line with other uses of kites for military communication, testing the wind, giving out signals, and measuring distances (source).
People fly kites in different parts of the globe. Some countries take kite flying as a mere activity, while some countries consider this activity an extreme sport.
Fishers in New Zealand would fly kites in order to catch their fish, and farmers in Asia would use it to scare off birds. Also, the Japanese would pilot kites as it symbolized good luck to them.
Kite flying is particularly popular in Thailand, where the sky is filled with several kites during the spring months. In Thailand, kite fighting is a major league sport. In fact, the all-Thailand championships are held in Bangkok every spring.
Thailand also sees its fair share of kite fighting. In this sport, each competing team seeks to bring the other team’s Kite to Earth. Kites are also popular in China. It is why the Weifang International Kite Festival is one of the best and re-known kite festivals globally.
Is Kite Flying A Professional Sport?
Just like any other professional sport, kite-flying involves competitions, point standings, and champions. Players usually go for training, and some tournaments take place. Salaries are also distributed as they have their organizations formed. All these facts add up to the notion that Kite flying is a professional sport.
Also, kite flying is a professional sport in Thailand, and many believe that kites were brought into the country by Chinese travelers. In Indonesia, China and Vietnam, kite flying is both a sport and a hobby. Kite flying as a hobby was later transformed into a sport when advanced kites became developed.
These kites included multiple lines, which allowed for higher control of kites.
Kite flying is under different organizations in different parts of the world. These include the American Kite fliers Association, STACK-Italia, FLD ev Germany, STACK-UK, and FFVL, France. The American Kite Fliers Association, in particular, has 3,270 members. It is a decrease from a high of 4,951 in 1994.
To ensure rules and processes of kite flying were standardized, an International Rule Book Committee was founded. The formation took place in 1996 and involved the All-Japanese Sport Kite Association and the American Kite Fliers Association.
In April 2018, the kite flying world championships were held in France. Another event was to be held in 2020, but it had to be canceled with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Is Kite Flying An Olympic Sport?
Kite surfing and snow kiting are two of the current and trendiest disciplines in outdoor sports that have gained considerable popularity in the past years. Experts and the industry estimate that more than 500,000 people are practicing these extreme sports. Unfortunately, detailed demographic data about these popular sports are lacking (source).
Kite flying appeared on the Summer Olympic Games program in 1900. However, the events have never been classified as official, although they have never decided which events were Olympic and which were not (source).
As mentioned earlier, there are various sizes of kites. Initially, during the Olympic games, only two categories in the kite competition were planned. However, since many competitors showed up with a range of kites, the match organizing committee split the competition into the categories of small, medium, and large kites.
In order to fly kites in a competition, certain weather conditions are needed. One will need to pick a kite-flying day with good but not too much wind. Days with consistent light to medium winds, for example, are great for kite flying.
Are There Professional Kite Flyers?
People who fly kites are referred to as pilots. The professional kite flying sport includes various participants who are well-known and have won championships from several countries. It includes Ray Bethel.
The sports professional won several world records, but he also had a short documentary film based on him produced. A commemorative bench was also erected in his hometown in his honor (source).
He was a professional kite flyer who resided in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He held multiple endurance world records related to flying three stunt kites simultaneously, one from each hand and one from his hips.
Using the same technique, the kite flying professionally could fly various stacks of kites (up to 39 kites). Bethell got the chance to travel for more than 20 years, showcasing his prowess at various International Kite Festivals.
At the international competition, ten groups of professional kite flyers are brought in from worldwide to show off their kite choreography. It involves dual-line and single-line kites controlled by teams of several individuals who perform routines set to rhythms, with the kites whirling around in sync.
As the name suggests, fighter kites are technically used for kite fighting. Line tension is used for control, while glass-coated cotton strands are used to cut down other participants’ lines. Generally, these kites are single-line flat kites.
Kite fighting is contested in many countries, particularly in Afghanistan, Chile, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, and Brazil. In most traditional fighter kite manufacture, the outer layer of kites is made from paper that is thin and lightweight. Also, the spars are made from a block of light and flexible wood (with bamboo commonly used).
In modern American fighters, the kite skins are made from various synthetic materials – mylar, aircraft insulation, nylon, and polyester sheet. The spine may still be bamboo; however, often along with the bow is constructed of carbon fiber or fiberglass.
As seen above, kite flying is a sport that requires the proper technique to succeed in competitions. It is safe to say that kite flying is an art, just like figure skating and ballet. All these performances require the participants to perform formations and figures in the air.
As much as kite flying is not a well-known sporting game, it is known by quite a number to reach the Olympics. The game’s knowledge should be spread and brought back to the fields by both the old and younger generation. This way, many can transform their hobby into a professional career.
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- Nadir Mehmood, Kite-Flying Associated Injuries in Rawalpindi, https://apims.net/apims_old/Volumes/Vol6-2/Kite-Flying%20Associated%20Injuries%20in%20Rawapindi.pdf, Accessed 19th November 2021
- Kite Flying at the 1900 Summer Olympics, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kite_flying_at_the_1900_Summer_Olympics., Accessed 19th November 2021
- Ray Bethel, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Bethell., Accessed 19th November 2021
- Fighter Kite, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighter_kite., Accessed 19th November 2021