In most parts of the world, kite flying is seen as a medium of entertainment, a hobby, or, at best, a cultural practice, most often used in festivals. However, the term “kite flying” can get pretty competitive in some parts of the world. These three countries are where kite flying is considered a professional sport.
STACK is a multinational organization for competitive kiting where it set its roots in the United Kingdom. The American Kitefliers Association is another competitive kiting organization based in the USA. For Thailand, kiting has been seen as a sport since the 17th century.
The kiteflying competitive scene within these three countries varies greatly. It would be best to look at these three countries in great detail. This article will go over these three competitive spaces and discover how each regard kite flying as a sport.
There is absolutely no reason for kite flying not to be a sport. Although there is no one and grand definition for “sport,” and there are points for contention as to what is and what is not a sport, we can confidently say that kite flying is indeed a sport, and there are many reasons for that.
According to Clearinghouse for Sport, an organization by the Australian government, a sport is an activity that exemplifies the involvement of physical exertion and skill, making these the primary focus of said activity.
And although we can play with the loose definition of sport and include exceptions (chess, for example, is not a physically excessive sport but involves mental fortitude and the display of prowess in strategic skills), kite flying does involve a lot of physical activity. It requires a lot of practice to retain and learn the skills. (source)
From an outsider’s point of view, kite flying may be a simple form of leisure and is in no way competitively viable. However, we can say the same thing for chess, but look closer. You will soon realize the complexities of chess and the various strategies employed in each move.
For a more explicit example, let us look at these places where kite flying is a professional sport.
Around the world, there are many differing views and cultures around kite flying. In these three countries, kite flying is seen as a sport.
These Places Consider Kite Flying A Sport:
- United States of America
- United Kingdom (and most of Europe)
The American Kitefliers Association may not be the pioneer for kite flying competitions in the United States, but it certainly gave it life. Initially founded in 1964 by the late Robert M. Ingraham in New Mexico, the American Kitefliers Association soon ballooned into the largest kite flying association in the world, with thousands of members coming from 25 different countries. (source)
The American Kitefliers Association has scheduled its 43rd National Convention for October 2022 (initially planned to be held on October 2021 Ocean City, Maryland, but postponed due to COVID). To check more of their scheduled activities, click this link.
The American Kitefliers Association holds many competitions with different events, each showcasing an additional skill of kite flying. Currently, these are the competitions that are still being practiced.
Kite Flying Competitions By The American Kitefliers Association
- Sport kites to music – this competition is akin to ice skating and gymnastics. As hinted by its name, this competition is mainly judged through a pilot’s (a kite flyer) ability to manipulate their kites according to music.
- Sport, team, and power kiting competitions are competitive events based on what type of kite is used and how many are participating. Sport kiting competitions use sport kites, power kiting, on the other hand, uses power kites, and the team competitions need a group to compete.
- Fighter and Rokkaku Kite Competitions – these are competitions based on fighting and taking each kite down. The last kite standing wins!
- Kitemaker competitions- a sport wherein a panel of judges judge a kitemaker’s ability to make kites.
- Kite Aerial Photography competition – this is a competition that is based on how aesthetically pleasing a kite is viewed from an eagle’s point of view– this most often uses a drone. This competition involves photographers, and the best photo takes home the bacon!
Although one cannot pinpoint the origins of kite flying, many historians point to East and Southeast Asia as its primal origins. Many kite flying traditions stem from these regions, and for Thailand in particular, kite flying is a professional sport.
Kite flying can be unanimously be classified as a sport in Thailand as its presence in the competitive scene has stretched to ancient Thailand. Records show that Thai kite flying sports activities started during King Rama 11, a ruler that ruled over Thailand during 1908-1824.
Thai kite flying is done similarly to how modern kite fighting competitions are. However, Thai kite flying competitions use the Chula (male kite) and the Pakpao (female kite).
Kite fighting is often called a “kite mating” ritual involving these two types of kites. The Chula is the larger variant and is much stronger. However, the Pakpao is easily maneuverable due to its petite form and has a loop of string hanging beneath its flying line to take down the male kites. (source)
The sport involves the two sides fighting together, a male versus female rumble, and the sides are divided by a long rope. The goal of the Chula is to take as much Pakpao as possible with them to the other side. Meanwhile, the objective of the Pakpao kites is to bring as many Chula kites down as possible.
While kite flying as a sport is alive and well in the United States and Thailand, one of the most prominent organizations in the United Kingdom for competitive kite flying has sadly faded away. Although kite flying is still alive and well in the UK, sadly, sports competitions are few and far between. For Europe and the United Kingdom, although kite flying is indeed a professional sport, its presence is barely felt at this point.
STACK (Sports, Team, And Competitive Kiting) has started way back in the 1980s, originating in the United Kingdom. It has provided outlets for competitions for pilots Europe-wide, offering competitive events such as the Eurocup. However, around the 2010s, the activity of STACK has dwindled to the bare minimum. By February 2012, STACK has officially ended, in a letter by Hans Jansen op de Haar, one of the head organizers of STACK. In a letter by him, he stated that “The way the ‘Euro Cup’ in Cervia (Eurocup 2011) was initiated and run showed clearly -again- that STACK International was no longer of importance or even alive.” (source)
There are three main hotspots where kite flying is considered a sport: The United States, The United Kingdom (and Europe), and The Kingdom of Thailand. While the United States’ kite flying professional sporting events are alive and well, following conventional and novel competitive mediums, kite flying as a sport in Europe is dwindling in popularity. However, in Thailand, kite flying is a historical sport that involves a massive dance of kites fluttering in the wind.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When Are Kite Flying Sports Events Conducted In Thailand?
Most of them are conducted during the winter and the summer seasons. The “kite wind” occurs during the winter, from November to February. Meanwhile, summer kite flying has a lesser scale and occurs from February to May. (source)
2. What Other Kites Are Flown In Thailand?
Although the Chula and Pakpao are the most well-known, the Aeg kite is flown in the northeast. Meanwhile, the buffalo and the crescent moon kite is flown in the south. (source)
3. What Are The Awards Handed Out By The American Kitefliers Association?
The American Kitefliers Association releases two types of awards: the national champion award and the people’s choice award.
1. May C., “What is Sport?”, Clearinghouse for Sport Australia, July 8, 2021. https://www.clearinghouseforsport.gov.au/kb/what-is-sport2. “Competitions,” American Kitefliers Association, last accessed January 13, 2022. https://www.kite.org/about-aka/3. Spaulding J., Solasachinda S., Hoskin J., “Thailand’s Chula and Pakpao Kites male versus female,” Dancing Frog, last accessed January 13, 2022. http://www.dancingfrog.net/thailand2002/spaulding.html4. Haar, H., “SIEC News,” STACK, January 1, 2014. http://stack.kitesonlines.org/5. “Kite Flying In Thailand,” Thailand Breeze, last accessed January 13, 2022. http://www.thailandbreeze.com/kite-flying-in-thailand-1.html