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When Charles Gorr was 8 years old, his father taught him how to make kites. He lived on a 15-acre farm in Omaha, Nebraska, so finding a private field where he could fly his creations wasn´t difficult.
Today, Gorr still lives on acreage in Omaha, but he no longer needs to make his kites. He sells the best designs available, buying from suppliers throughout the United States to stock Picture Pretty Kites, an online store that also operates from a mobile shop in a cargo trailer.
On weekends during the warm months, he works at a state park between Omaha and Lincoln, the state capital. Nearby is a 17-acre field where visitors fly the kites he sells. While there, he promotes his business and provides instruction to those who want it.
The Kite Man and His Kites
Gorr has been selling kites for 30 years. He sells at lower prices than his competitors, and his stock is unique. Currently, he carries 780 items. All kites are made of rip-stop nylon fabric, not plastic.
“Different looks, different styles, different shapes,” Gorr says of his merchandise. “If you can put a stick in it and a string on it, it´ll fly. That´s the motto today.”
But if the kite-maker’s motto has simplified, the kite-user’s motto – and the kites themselves – have only become more sophisticated.
One popular kite model, the power kite, has replaced the once popular quadrifoil style, and it is increasing in popularity on land, water, and snow. Prism and Ozone, Gorr’s favorite designer, are the main manufacturers, but there are eight to 10 companies that make them in all. They range in price from $250-$1600.
As sales increase, Gorr expects prices to drop while designs become larger and more intricate. One massive Peter Lynn style is 38 feet in diameter and eight and a half feet deep, and Gorr carries five popular foils made by Invento H.Q. Some designs are so elaborate they come by special order only.
New Kites, New Uses
Kites are being flown in a variety of ways these days, including being used in a growing sport called kite ground boarding. This extreme sport is one of the newer offshoots of power kiting, involving the use of mountain boards to ride on hard-packed surfaces like beaches and grassy parks. Kite buggies, designed to steer with the feet, have been popular for over a decade.
“Snow kiting is the fastest growing winter sport and is opening up new ways to look at skiing and snow boarding,” says Brian Schenck, a kite supplier. Schenck notes that Ozone is pioneering the snow market and was the first company to design a kite specific to the winter environment.
A Family Affair
Gorr has an interest in kite boarding, not only because he retails these kites but because his son, Chad, is an avid kite boarder.
Chad flies on land, using snow skies in winter and a three-wheeled buggy in summer. He owns foils from three to 39 feet wide.
“The buggy is safe, but you should always wear a helmet because you are not strapped in it,” Chad says. “You can reach speeds on flat plains close to 30 to 40 mph if the wind is right. Traveling over land in a buggy at that speed is a big rush. Using my skis is a lot more challenging because you are using your body more to steer and control and also balance.”
Gorr Jr. wears a harness that is similar to a modified repelling harness, and utilizes a safety line attached to both him and the kite. The safety line prevents Chad from going too high. The highest he has been was 20 feet, with rope anchoring him to the ground.
While the kite allows for only minimal steering, the user can de-power the foil to come down at any time.
Chad doesn´t recommend doing either until a person has learned to fly by starting with a small foil and working up to the larger sizes. The inflated Peter Lynn style forms an arc. By pulling on strings the windsurfer can control direction. He says Ozone is user friendly, allowing the flier to activate changes without landing.
Despite the excitement of riding with a power kite, this design is not Gorr’s biggest seller.
Single-line kites take the lead. This year, Gorr will carry more, influenced by his son’s recommendations on which foils to stock. Chad, in turn, says that his father has taught him the in’s and out’s of all aspects of kiting. He flew single-line kites at five, progressed to dual-line stunt kites in his mid-teens, and advanced to quad-line foils.
Where he’ll go and what he’ll find next no one can say – though the sky is the limit.
Picture Pretty Kites can be found online at www.pictureprettykites.com