KL: When did you start getting serious about your pairs routine? Obviously, with the
disbandment of Airkraft, you were left with some time on your hands.
James: We flew pairs last year, which was the last year of the team. We came a very
close second, so we thought there is something in it, that we could possibly do well. The
same day that we called an end to the team, Carl and I were very much into doing pairs
again, since there was no team commitment there, so there was a lot more time to work on
the pairs and also to develop a lot of the stuff that we started up with the team, working
in a lot more tricks and exciting stuff.
KL: If we can ask, what led to Airkrafts breakup?
Carl: In 96, we had a really heavy year, doing a lot of demonstrations and
festivals, being the reigning world champions we were taken everywhere. Every weekend, and
whole weeks were taken up with travel and performing.
It is very draining, really. In
97, we decided to take it a lot calmer, in World Cup we took second, that took the
pressure off us and gave it to Skydance. They were doing all of the mad stuff that we were
doing the year before. Five years at the top, it meant a lot of commitment, for a long
period of time, to spend that much time together.
The way that the team broke, our
philosophy was very black and white, it was all or nothing. It was full-on, or we
dont do it. It means no kind of half-ass stuff, if you are going to do it, you are
going to do it right, and you are going to do it to the best of your ability.
thinking at the end of 97 of where I wanted to be. I had left college and had done
nothing work-wise, so I decided to make a go of making kite accessories and single-line
kites for commission. I was thinking of when the best time to do it would be, and it was
as we were at the airport after World Cup. Nic and his girlfriend were getting ready to
have a baby, we knew that 98 would be very difficult if we were to be together as a
team, we knew we would not be able to spend as much time as we should on the team. We
later found that Jeremy and his girlfriend were having a baby as well, that worked out
quite well in a way.
I was ready to kick off my career, James had a new job, we all had
these big changes happening in our lives, so, I said, "its been a brilliant
five years, but next year Im not going to be able to team fly because its an
all-or-nothing type of thing." I told them that Im going to call it
quits. There was silence for awhile, and James said "You still want to fly
pairs?" "Yup," came the answer from me. Jeremy and Nic said "Yes, it
has been a brilliant five years".
Then we all went away, not wondering too much, no
bad feelings or anything. We have had a few meetings after that, and it has turned out to
be the best for everybody. We all agreed that we would not have been able to go through
the year like that. Weve all made the decision in the end, no one has said,
"Well, maybe we should have tried this or that." Everyone came away thinking
that weve had a crack at it for five years, weve really done well, and now we
can go away. We can pursue what we want to pursue now, free of any trouble or
interpersonal problems that may have been created had we gone ahead with the team. We left
on a really good note. Its worked out very well, it was very special, we started and
BANG, nine months later we were second at World Cup, every year its been great, at
the top of the pile.
KL: There are two teams that I feel have truly changed sportkite team flying.
Team Top of the Line, and Airkraft. TOTL was the first wave, and then Airkraft came along,
utilizing technology to its fullest. You opened a lot of eyes to the possibilities in team
Carl: In 92 at World Cup, it was all Top of the Line, Flight Squadron, and High
Performance. Lots of hype, lots of competition. You really wanted to watch, it was a
showdown. You got really hooked up in it, it was exciting to watch. We came out of that,
and took things kind of sideways. You had Flight Squadron, High Performance
KL: Do you see another team in your future?
James: It would be wrong for me to say there wont be. For now, we will be working
on pairs and individual stuff. Definitely no team this year or next, but, never say never! If it happens, it happens.
KL: What did you think of these two US events that you have just attended?
James: The first event was at Grand Haven, the Great Lakes event, and everything went
amazingly well there. Perfect wind, perfect weather all weekend. Really nice people, nice
place. We won pairs by quite a nice margin, nice to fly competition in that kind of wind,
something rare. The whole thing was organized well. The situation here at Wildwood is
slightly different, there are a large group of fliers on the East coast that have been
flying together for a long time, kind of clubby, perhaps. The scores were different, some
of them I wouldnt agree with, but that happens at every event, I think. It went OK,
though, we came second, which is nothing to be sniffed at, you know, and we had a really
good time as well. We got to do our ballet in perfect wind in two demos today, got to show
it off, it felt good.
Carl: A lot of people have been really appreciating what we are doing, coming up and
shaking our hand and going, "Excellent". We came here to see what the Americans
are doing, to show them what we are doing, and to build on the contacts that we have had
over the last six months, with Guadaloupe, and World Cup. Thanks to Flexifoil for making
it possible for us to come here.
KL: Carl, James, thanks for your time, and your great performances the last two
weeks. Hope to see you again soon.
KL: Paul, tell us what you think of the US scene, perhaps compare and contrast
this event with European festivals.
First of all, I am very pleased to be over here, I was over here last year at Wildwood, it
is just a super festival, even by European standards it is a huge festival and I was
delighted to be asked back. Im here in a double role; first of all I was very
involved in the International Rule Book Committee, which is a committee of representatives
from the AKA, STACK, and AJSKA. This was a super chance to meet with the American
representatives and talk some things through. There is a new rule book which is incredibly
dynamic, we think and hope that it will take the sport forward. As far as Wildwood is
concerned, it is a super festival, its lovely to see so many kitefliers, so many
sportkiters, having such a good time.
There is a big difference between the US and
European festivals Ive been to, apart from Wildwood, Ive been to several of
the AKA Conventions. One of the differences that you notice is the number of spectators. A
festival such as Bristol, which is the first weekend in September, can attract over the
weekend over 100,000 spectators. It is not unusual to have people 5 deep around the arena.
Most of these festivals will have only two or three arenas, one arena will have constant
demonstrations for the public of all the different facets of kiting. I think Roger
Chewning has taken some of the ideas from Europe to attract more and more spectators. I
think for the first time, there are food trailers here on the beach..that may sound like a
small thing, but if you are going to attract spectators, then you actually have to give
them a full day of fun. Youve got to concentrate on giving that full day of
running the festivals for the public.
Ive never run across a kiteflier who
isnt proud of what they do. Maybe you could go a step further and say, at heart, we
are all showoffs. Theres nothing wrong with that, you spend hundreds of hours
working on your sportkite routine, or sewing a beautiful kite, you want other people to
appreciate it. Its lovely not just to have other kitefliers appreciate it, but have
some of the public appreciate it as well.
The other reason why spectators are good, we saw
today in the single-line arena we had people running the bols, we had people learning
.these are people who may go out and buy a kite, and then buy another
kite..these are the people that we are trying to attract into this super thing that we
call kiting, this many-faceted creature. We have to run these festivals, not just for
ourselves, but for everybody else. All that said, I dont mean to detract from American festivals. Ive always had great times when Ive been over here, and
met some fantastic people. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the chance to
come over, see old friends, make new friends, do something I enjoy with people that I
enjoy, and at the same time actually provide entertainment.
My best memory of the whole
week, last night when everyone was packing up, I had my 16 pair of legs. I used to
be on a sportkite team called the "Blast". We had black and white checkerboard
kites and shorts; I still have them. My wife, Natalie, who used to work for Martin Lester,
was the inspiration for "Natalies Legs". She commissioned Martin to make a
16 pair of legs. It is a super kite to have, it is very visual with its black and
white checkerboard. People can see me and the kite, and the similarities when Im
wearing the shorts. I was really playing with the crowd, about a dozen children up on the
boardwalk, I was kicking them, and making people on the boardwalk stop and smile. To see
those smiles, it doesnt get much better.
KL: Paul, thanks for coming to the US. We really enjoy your commentating, and
the pleasure you bring to any event that you come to. Thanks for your time today.
PR: I think what you are doing with Kitelife is important. We now have a global
magazine, that really adds to the cross-fertilization, people in Europe, America, and
other places, learning more and more of what goes on in other areas, and that can only be
a good thing. So, well done for you and your team.