A couple of weeks ago, I got to the beach for a dawn-patrol surf check, and there was a tatter-winged black kite swaying ominously above the Great Highway like a manta ray on a chain. The kite trailed lengths of yellow and black "Police Line - Do Not Cross" ribbon from its tail and wingtips. Its line ran down to a 6-foot-high staff, wrapped with more police tape and held by a hooded man. The Grim Reaper, out taking in the morning onshores before getting down to the day's business, I thought.
Today I went down again, and it was a similar morning - dark grey, onshore winds, surf not fit for man or beast. The Reaper was perched in the top of the Lincoln St. sand berm, and he had not one but 4 huge kites – black, blue, and two white – with their lines staked into the sand, meandering around the chilly ocean beach airspace.
If there had been a soundtrack, it would have been a Celtic war horn ensemble, like this:
(carnyx war horn clip from Carnyx & Co.)
With no surf in the offing, I approached him, asked a few questions about the kites, and ended up flying one for a half hour. What a blast. I forgot how much kites can feel like living things, thanks to the unpredictability of the winds, seeming to make their own decisions. The kite I was flying was a swallow-winged white one that flexed a lot when the wind gusted, which made its wings flap.
Before I left, I introduced myself and asked his name. He goes by The Kitemaster. He makes the kites of cast-off plastic, wood, duct tape, and whatever else works and achieves the look he's going for. He referred to his creations as "stealth bats". A glow-skull dangled from a small hoop through his left ear. He offered to sell me one of the kites. I declined. If i see him again, I might take him up on the offer - what a great option to have on a nasty onshore morning.