Promoting kites and kite-flying – a failure by AKA and kite companies

Unfortunately, it’s true that those who should be promoting kite-flying make little effort to do so.

Foremost among these is the American Kitefliers Association, which (despite its title) claims to promote kiting worldwide. I was a member for several years and left in disgust at its ineffectiveness. 

Soon after I joined, I made a few contributions to their on-line forum, which seemed to have very little activity, and was shocked to receive a couple of abusive replies from another member. I had said nothing to provoke this, but was later told by another member that he regularly did this to everyone, and that’s why the forum had almost no contributors. No-one had thought to deal with him, apparently, so everyone suffered.

The association’s website was awful, and in fact was two separate sites for a long while, neither of which was organised properly or carried much information of use to anyone. It’s not much better now, having almost nothing on it to attract would-be kite-fliers and stimulate their interest.

The last straw for me was when the AKA introduced a new editor for the magazine.  The first edition he produced was full of arty kites and stories about “elite” members of the association, but contained absolutely nothing for the ordinary member interested in flying, and certainly nothing to attract new people – rather it would put them off by giving the impression that kites were all big, expensive items that were created by “artists” and spent most of their time hung in exhibitions.  One article, for instance, was an interview by George Peters (well-known designer of expensive kites) of his partner, Melanie Walker, talking about the “art” kites that she makes.  It extended to no less than eight pages, with many photos of her work.  It’s nice to see those things, but they should not dominate to the exclusion of all else, and the item looked like more of a promotional piece than an article of general interest.

The same edition had a five-page article about the regional director of region 13, which covers the whole world outside America.  She has a banner-making business in Australia, and the article was really just a big advertisement for that. It would have been, like the rest of the magazine, of no interest to the ordinary kite-flier.

Another edition of the magazine had eight photos of the same person.  In none of them was she flying a kite, rather just grinning inanely at the camera.  Who, apart from her, would have been interested?

Other articles are usually about the “important people” in the organisation, with very little about the down-to-earth aspects of kite-flying which would encourage new recruits and help beginners learn more about it.

In other words, I think the organization is largely run by self-serving people out to promote themselves and each other. That’s unfair, of course, as I’m sure there are some with better motives, but the general feeling is that it is elitist and out of touch with what the average kite-flier is interested in, and does nothing to promote the interest of potential new fliers or even of its “ordinary” current members.  It does, apparently, have a growing membership at present, but I wonder how many of them will stay.  A new president of the association recently took office – maybe she’ll make a difference, but I won’t hold my breath waiting. (Update: She was able to effect very little change, and eventually resigned.) 

Attempts to help the association see the light are, in my experience, rebuffed, as they know best.  When I left, my regional director didn’t inquire why, and when she visited Christchurch soon after, she didn’t even bother to call me, telling someone who had suggested she do so (without my knowledge) “Oh, he’s not an AKA member now.”

The AKA has a YouTube channel.  It has 32 videos. (Wow!)  The latest was uploaded 8 months ago. (Wow again!)  All the most recent ones are of interviews with some of their elite members or other “important” people.  None of those videos has more than a few viewings, and one at least has none!!!  Even the interview subject didn’t watch it.  The channel has only 83 subscribers, which includes me, so only a tiny fraction of even the AKA membership is interested.  And although it has links to two “featured channels,” the Drachen Foundation and, it naturally has no link to my channel, (which is, of course, only of interest to ordinary kite-fliers, and has only 1,100 videos, only 1,700 subscribers and only 1.3 million views, so clearly isn’t important,) or to other channels where information and entertainment is presented for the ordinary kite-flier.

Kite manufacturers and retailers are just as bad, on the whole, although there are exceptions.  Into The Wind, of course, have always been good at promoting kites to their customers, with their annual catalog stretching right back to the ’80s, and in “modern” times with a first-rate website.  They now have something like 77 videos on their YouTube channel, all but one of which I made for them.  Picture Pretty Kites, a leading retailer, also has a YouTube channel, again with videos all made by me.  

Manufacturers other than Into The Wind are far less advanced.  Premier Kites has a very inadequate YouTube channel, with some poorly-produced videos mainly of ground spinners and suchlike, and very few subscribers.  (Premier don’t even have proper photos of many of their kites on their website, often relying on artwork instead.)  Other companies have offerings that are equally poor, or none at all.  But surely they all have someone within the company or that they could find who would make videos for them to an acceptable standard?  It’s not difficult, or I wouldn’t be doing it.  Of course, these companies all reap the benefit of my videos anyway at no cost, but show no appreciation for this. 

Sorry for the ramble, but the point is that I DON”T enjoy being the main source of kite videos on the internet, as I feel the manufacturers and the AKA should be taking the lead in promoting what seems to be a dying business and pastime.  There’s a lot of competition for people’s time and dollars in the present age, and while kites may seem old-fashioned, they are still a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors, and kite-flying should be encouraged among young and old alike.  The AKA is failing in what should be its main objective, and that is why I was no longer willing to be part of it. The manufacturers, too, are failing to effectively promote their products, and then wonder why sales of kites are falling.