By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Funny thing about kites: writing about them is, I'd imagine, just about as much fun as reading about them. First paragraph: they go up! Second paragraph: they go down! Conclusion: wheeeeee! Again! Again, daddy! Again! But walk into Seal Beach's Up Up & Away Kites and ask the guy behind the register—Greg Kutzbach—about kites, and you'll get a fascinating lecture on all things float-y. About sport kites and trick kites and kiddie kites; parafoil kites you can stuff into a bag—no crummy sticks!; kites for kite boarding, and kite accessories such as tails and poppers. But maybe the best thing Greg will tell you is how to tell if it's a good day to fly a kite: "Take a handful of sand and let it go," he said. "If it floats two feet in front of you, you've got a 10-mile-an-hour wind—perfect for flying."
Fantastic. Now, to find a store that sells sand.
TOP FIVE MOST POPULAR KITES AT UP UP & AWAY:
SPORT KITES: Feel like showing off? The Premiere Vision ($47.99) and Prism E-2 ($160) are both two-string (or trick) kites that are perfect for the budding kite nerd. And it turns out it's easier than you think to fly one: "It takes about 20 minutes of practice," Kutzbach says. "Pull right, it goes right. Pull left, it goes left. Simple." Sure, guy. Everything's fun until you knock a toddler unconscious while practicing with your sport kite.
REALLY SPORTY KITES:Think that sounds a little too easy? Try your hand at the Micron ($42.99). This super-tiny flyer can be controlled with just the flick of your pointer finger and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour. "We call it a bumblebee on amphetamines," jokes Kutzbach. Except that's not so funny: a bumblebee on drugs? Hi, worst nightmare ever.
KIDDIE KITES: Up Up & Away's got kites aplenty for kids, including the Butterfly kite ($19.99), which has four separate wings that move in the wind, and the Premier Shark kite ($19.99), a black, five-foot killer guaranteed to entertain little Johnny for the 10 or so minutes it takes you to get him another corndog. Or snow cone. Or PSP.
NO-HASSLE KITES: If lugging a big, clunky kite around in your trunk gets you down—believe me, I've got two in my trunk right now; it's not fun—then you might try a parafoil kite, which has no sticks and can be stuffed into a bag. Choose either the Stylus ($80), a pretty fancy dual-line sport kite, or one of the animal-shaped parafoils, featuring dogs and teddy bears ($47.99-$149.99). But if there are no sticks, how do they fly? "There are pockets that trap the wind, puff up the kite and give it lift," explains Kutzbach. At least that's what I think he said. It was sorta confusing. Wind always is.
ACCESSORIES AND OTHER NEAT STUFF: Didn't think kite flying could get any more fun? Wrong! There's a whole bunch of stuff you can add on to your kite, like tube tails ($14.99), which attach to the string—"Let your kite fly up a bit and then attach the tail," recommends Kutzbach. "It'll look like it's flying by itself"—and kite poppers ($24.99), umbrella-shaped contraptions that sail up the string to the kite, then collapse and slide back down. And if you want to get real creative, Kutzbach adds, you can always attach a windsock to the string—the store sells about a million of those, too.
Up Up & Away Kites, 139 1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 596-7661; www.upupandawaykites.com. The Seal Beach Kite Festival will be held on Sept. 24.