ANTELOPE ISLAND -- John Barresi, member of IQuad kite team, decided to do a little warm-up drill for the crowd.
A severe lack of wind kept the team from performing on schedule at the Antelope Island Stampede Festival Saturday morning. The team was doing several shows Saturday, and will do two more today, but rather than let people get bored waiting for wind, he decided to show off.
Barresi's team uses ultra-light, carbon fiber frame kites that look like bat wings without the bat. They are so agile they fly with the slightest tug, turn on a dime and can even fly backwards. Picking one up is like picking up slightly stiff air.
Barresi, a slender man with two earrings, a two-day beard and intense eyes, took his kite to the bandstand, set it on its tail, walked about 20 feet away, tugged on the four strings attached to it and the kite leapt into the air.
He swiveled. The kite whirled, swooped, dived, turned and wheeled. To keep it moving, Barresi had to continually back up in a tight circle, pulling and swinging the kite, but he could, and several times did, steer that kite to within an inch of someone's nose.
IQuad (the name comes from the four strings that control each kite) is a team of friends from the Washington/Oregon/Victoria area. They travel the world doing anywhere from 18 to 35 shows a year and that's how some of them make their living. Barresi even publishes an on-line magazine for kite flying (www.kitelife.com).
While Barresi worked up a sweat, other kite flyers looked on, grounded.
Kevin Reynolds, Rochester, N.Y., stood at the bandstand watching Barresi's work, wishing he had enough wind for his kite.
Toy kites that use regular kite string are still sold, he said, but the hobby has grown to include highly skilled performers using deft performing kites or giant kites that just overwhelm. Reynolds' is the latter. He flies a giant ram air foil kite, 200 square feet with a 105-foot-long tail. The kite looks a bit like a modern square parachute and can even be used to pull a skateboarder.
These kites are not cheap. Revolution brand 4-string stunt kites, used by the IQuad team, start at $200. Reynolds said shows like Saturday's are playing a big part in reviving the hobby.
"These teams, what they do, they've really invigorated the sport," he said. "They go entertain and they give lessons and it makes a big difference."
IQuad member Bazzer Poulter, 42, is originally from England and lives in Lakewood, Wash. He's been on IQuad for three years, and "I tell you, I have one of the best jobs in the world. I spend the week making them, and then the weekend showing what they can do."
Stunt kites like theirs use four separate strings attached to four points on the kite, he said. That gives him complete control of how air flows around and over the kite.
"You can change all the planes. When you can do that with a kite it means you can go forward, back, stop, hover, any orientation."
When the wind finally came up, the six-member team put on a show that did all that and more. The kites formed a conga-line, chased each other in circles, performed star-bursts and interweaving maneuvers with three going this way, three going that way, then all coming together and somehow the lines never got tangled.
Barresi said such controlled flying takes an individual level of concentration that can reach a Zen-like state.
"I've heard it called soul flying, or kite-chi. It's where you transition from operating an object to combined action," being one with the kite.
His own style, he admitted, is more aggressive, like in his beginning show. When not performing he dodges the kite around objects, stands it on the ground, makes it jump and uses it to bop his teammates' heads when they aren't looking.
"I'm a dog," he grinned. "I just like to run."