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Go fly a kite
FORT FLAGLER — He plays in the most picturesque sports arena possible.
In a light summer breeze on a vast field against a back drop of the Puget Sound, Bill Rogers is a master kite puppeteer and a national sport kite flying champion.
With a few rapid movements of his hands and some quickly placed steps, Rogers’ kite somersaults, dives forward and back, launches on a dizzying spiral to the ground, hoovers and with graceful ease flies upwards to rejoin the bluebird skies. When it’s time to take a break, Rogers performs a few wrist flicks and the kite lands on its two wing spokes, nose pointing up, striking a Madonna-like pose.
“I just really enjoy it, it lets you forget about everything,” said Rogers, a Poulsbo native, who’s spent approximately $8,000 on his collection of 70 kites. “It’s a lot of fun. It can be addictive.”
Sport kite flying is an obscure sport. There’s very little information on the web and very few teams or organizations.
However, 13 years ago Rogers saw a team flying at Ocean Shores and that spiked his interest. A little while later he was wandering through Port Townsend and saw a kite store. It was his birthday so he bought himself a present: a $45 kite. That same day he went out to Fort Worden to give it a spin. He’s been hooked ever since.
He won his first national tournament in the novice precision division in 1998. A few years later, Rogers joined two friends and formed the team 6th Sense. The name was selected because it’s the only one all could agree on.
“We joke that you have to have a sixth sense to fly on the team, but it doesn’t mean anything. It just sounded cool at the time,” said Rogers, wearing a Windless Kite Festival T-shirt.
Nowadays, 6th Sense is comprised of Rogers, Dan Haigh from Oak Harbor and Wayne Turner from Tacoma. The team is the second-longest running in the U.S. and has 14 national championship titles to its name and a few impressive world championship finishes. The most recent was a third place finish at the World Sport Kite Championships in France last April.
While to most kite flying is a fun day for the kids at the beach, competitive flying is filled with rules, regulations and routines which require months of practice. But it’s still fun.
Competitive team flying consists of each member flying their own kite, and is similar to synchronized swimming or dancing. Each kite much simultaneously complete the same move and routine without crashing.
They perform precision routines, in which the kite puppeteers must master three specific figures. The figures are selected from a set of 20 and announced a month in advance so the teams have ample preparation time.
Rogers favorite routine is ballet, where like the ballet, their kites dance to music. So far 6th Sense has danced to the Transyberian Orchestra and to the overture to Rush’s 2112.
Each routine is two to five minutes in length.
Rogers is the team’s designated ballet routine choreographer. He sits at the table wearing headphones and begins to sketch the moves on a piece of paper. Each sheet is about 10 seconds of music.
“I pull out the next sheet and start where I left off,” said Rogers, a self-described wind chaser. “I’ll watch gymnastics dance routines because I can see how they’re dancing to the different types of music and it’s (kite choreographing) a lot the same.”
Once the routine’s blueprint is finished the trio head up to Fort Flagler and spend six to seven hours going over and over the same section until they’ve got it.
Rogers said to reach a point where they don’t have to think and can perform the routine on autopilot takes at least a few months.
To date 6th Sense has performed two pairs and three team routines, all of which have won a national championship.
They’ll fly in any wind, two to 30 miles per hour. Rogers said five to six mph is ideal, but when white caps start to form on the water that’s too much. They have a fleet of kites for the varying wind strengths.
The team is currently taking a two-year sabbatical from competing, and have their sights set on the West Coast Nationals in 2010.
In the meantime, Rogers who works for Boeing, has Fridays off, which he spends at Fort Flagler flying his kite.