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Spirit of the Wind

A Biography of Ray Bethell

"Many poems and stories have been written about you, But like pieces of a broken mirror they only reflect fragments of the emotions you awaken in people when they watch you fly. Put the pieces together and you will see a true reflection of Love, Grace, Strength, Life and Beauty - You!"

- A friend

This Biography of Ray Bethell is written in an attempt to highlight one of Ray's greatest passions: The art of Multiple Kite flying. It was also written to show Ray's love of people and his wish to bring everybody a little enjoyment through his mesmerizing performances.

Ray resides in Vancouver, BC Canada, and is without a doubt the world's premier multiple kite flyer.

Ray started sport kite flying in 1980 and for many years he flew in team competitions with his team “The Vancouver High Flyers”, often placing first, second or third in North American competitions. Individually Ray always was an innovator and began flying two kites around 1984. It was a long road to success since there was no one to copy or learn manoeuvres from let alone find the required accessories. Slowly but surely Ray developed and refined a kite flying technique that is now copied by many multiple kite flyers in the world. Being a craftsmen by profession it also didn't take him long to develop and manufacture special handles, kites suitable for his style of flying and find the proper lines required to achieve the perfection he is so well known for. He has built hundreds of different kites. Some his own design, others copied but modified to suit his needs.

Ray first taught himself to fly two sport kites simultaneously, one Kite from the hip and the other steered with his hands. Adding special handles to his kites was later able to add a third Kite to his routine: One Kite attached to his waist, One Kite in the left hand and the last Kite in his right hand. While competing with his team, organizers started to ask him to give demonstrations during the festivals. It wasn’t long before Ray began competing with his three kites in events like Freestyle, ballet, and mystery ballet at kiting competitions. With his team, Ray was a competitor in the first Sport Kite World Cup held in the U.S.A. during 1990. They also qualified to represent Canada again at the 2nd World Cup at Bristol UK in 1991.

His success in competitions, combined with the popularity of his multiple Kite demonstrations soon attracted the attention of kite manufactures and event organizers. Slowly but surely sponsorships to events came knocking at Ray's door. His first international sponsorship was to the to World Kite festival in Napier, New Zealand, followed by the Australian Nationals in Melbourne, Australia in 1990, During these events Ray gave many demonstrations and was also present as a judge. This was the beginning of Ray, the multiple Kite and frequent flyer. From small, local kite festivals to international and World Cup events Ray was sponsored to the US, Europe (UK, Germany, France Italy), Asia (Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan,) South America (Columbia) Australia and New Zealand. During the past 2 years alone Ray’s sponsorships have taken him on over 50 trips throughout 12 different countries. Ray takes his sponsorships very seriously and flies his demonstrations even in less then adequate conditions.

Ray has continued to compete in the Freestyle event during national and international events. As the list of 1st places proves he was and is the Worlds Number 1 multiple Kite flyer. He even received a perfect “10” score during international competitions in Australia in 1995. This has never before been achieved and many believe it will never be repeated. But at the South Padre Sport Kite Competitions in February 2004 Ray scored another perfect 100.

But what makes watching Ray fly so incredible is the fact that you can see himself in his Kites. They are no longer pieces of nylon and graphite, but have come alive. He moves like his Kites graceful and in harmony, and his strength is reflected in the slow and precise movements of his kites no matter how strong the winds are. He has the technical sophistication of an aerodynamics engineer, he has the poise and precision of a ballet dancer, and he has the endurance of a professional athlete as proven again and again by his World records.

Another reason for watching Ray is that as a spectator you are always sure that he is performing only for you. And he will do anything to make sure you won’t walk away disappointed and will always remember kiting as a unique experience. He is never to busy to invite schools to watch him practice or make a detour on a trip to let everybody enjoy kiting as much as he does. His demonstrations are known and sought after worldwide and on several occasions he has been asked not to fly, so that the attention was focused on competitions and not his performances. It is estimated that this year alone over 3 million people has watched him perform his magic. Many kite festivals now add another flying arena just for Ray to perform his all day multiple kite demonstration in.

Ray has also had many occasions to star in film and TV productions on both local and Canadian national Television programs, including Canada AM and Midday, as well as many international film and newspaper documentaries covering the amazing art of multiple kite flying plus being interviewed on radio stations in France, UK, Germany, New Zealand, Australia. Thailand, US, and Canada.

He was filmed by TSN, which covered his world endurance record, flying a total of 12 Kites in Belmont Shores, CA. Another record, flying 3 stacks of 12 Hyper kites, for a total of 36 Kites, was photographed and videotaped by American Sports Illustrated Magazine during the 1996 West Coast Kite Championships in Berkeley, CA. During his second sponsored trip in 1995 to New Zealand, Ray was photographed and later featured in the New Zealand National Geographic Magazine. Articles have been written about him in Active Living, Today's Grand Parents, Summer Adventures Vancouver, Horizon Air in flight magazine, plus numerous news paper and kite magazines, This type of international media coverage has brought a great deal of respect not only to Ray but to the sport of Sport Kite flying which made him even more desirable to all event organizer.

To draw even more attention to his sport, Ray began in 1991 to set world record marks for multiple kite flying. His first attempt at an endurance record in Long Beach Washington saw him fly his two kites simultaneously for 4 hours 19 min. In 1992, at the same event in Long Beach, WA, he established a New World record, flying three kites simultaneously for 5 hours 42 minutes. Not content with that he continued to break his own records in 1993 flying three kites simultaneously for 8 hours and 42 minutes and again in 1994 setting the current official World Record of flying three Kites simultaneously for 12 hours and 12 minutes. He has been asked many times" how do you go to the bath room" his reply brings a smile to his face, "Just like every one else, I am not made any different"

In 1997 Ray set the record for flying 3 stacks of 4 kites each - a total of 12 kites - at 2 hours 41 min. “Ordinary flyers wouldn’t be able to keep one of those stacks in the air for more then 10 minutes”, said one of the record attempt organizers. And to top this remarkable feat Ray flew three stacks of 7 sport kites a total of 21 Prism kites in August 2000 at Long Beach International Kite festival Washington and again at this festival in 2002 Ray flew 13 full – size 8 foot kites custom Pizzazz sport kites 4 from each hand and 5 from his waist. Then in August 2003 Ray flew 3 stacks of 13 Dina kites 13 from each hand and 13 from his waist a total of 39 kites.

Ray keeps amazing spectators by attempting what he calls his fist timers. In his own words “I try to do things with my kites that have never been done before in front of an audience”. At a festival in Salisbury, UK, in 1996 he flew his three kites, while standing on the back footrests of a motorcycle, which was driving around the flying field. At another occasion, Ray stopped traffic at high noon when escorted by police cars he flew his three kites from the back of a red convertible down the main street in Long Beach, Washington. At other times he proves his skill by flying kites from his feet, shoulders knees and hands, or even flying blindfolded. “It is more juggling then flying, but the spectators love it” says Ray.

He always judges the success of a festival by the feedback he gets from the spectators. At the 21st Long Beach International Kite Festival WA USA He won the Peoples choice award for the 12th year in a row, for which he is very proud. But to Ray one of the most memorable events occurred in 1996 at the World Wide Kite Rendezvous in Verdun, Quebec. After demonstrating a flawless three kite routine, choreographed to Rita McNeil’s "Flying on my own", the International flying community, led by Dave Britain, Corey Jensen and the famous Team Bay City Sundowners were so impressed by Ray's performance they hoisted Ray up and proudly paraded him around the arena with over 10,000 spectators cheering and clapping. It also happened again in July of 2000 and 2001 in Norborne France “It is the highest honour an athlete can obtain; recognition from ones peers.” Perhaps the Mayor of Narbonne-Plage sums it up best after his speech about Ray with the words, "You are now part of the echoes of the wind in this country of the Wind."

Ray's year 2001 sponsored kite festivals has come to a close, having just returned from Taiwan, Brunei, Australia and his last festival of the season Fergus in the South of France, after the festival the sponsors and event organizers to show there appreciation arranged for the second year in a row a 3 day personal tour of the French Rivera including the country of Monaco what a perfect way to once again close off a perfect year of full sponsored trips, he has many invitations already for the year 2002. Kicking it off with "Kites on Ice" event in February 2002 in Wisconsin. This will be Ray's 4th year being sponsored to this World-class kite festival. " An up date at this point Ray has all been invited to some of the Worlds best International Kite Festivals this year of 2004, Berck, Dieppe, Fergus, France, Cervia Italy, Alberta &Edmonton Canada, Berkeley, Sacramento California, Ocean Shores WA, Long Beach WA, Grand Haven Michigan US. And to add to all this at the Long Beach International kite festival he was inducted in to the Kite Flyers Hall of Fame and is the very first and only Sport Kite Flyer ever to receive this honour also at the same event after winning the Peoples Choice Award for the 12th consecutive year in a row the name has been changed to The Ray Bethell Peoples Choice Award, in November Ray won the first ever given The Spirit of Kiting award this is yet another great honour bestowed to Ray. And in Dec 2005 Ray’s Video “GOODSTUFF “ Won The Best Short Film Award at the Tribeca Film Festival Competition held in New York City .

Triggerstreet is an online film form founded by Kevin Spacey where film makers can submit their work and get feed back from other film makers. Top films are rated and then narrowed down to 12 Nominees, This nominees are judged by a panel of celebrities and industry professionals , The twelve short films are then shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and judged by Directors, Producers , and film Stars, Ultimately one film is chosen as the best short film of 2005 Ray’s Video “GOODSTUFF” took that Honour.

In 2005 & 2006 Ray was fully sponsored to perform on the beautiful Island of Guam, again also in Berck France, Cervia Italy, Dieppe Canada & Dieppe France, Long Beach WA, Ocean Shores WA, Edmonton & Pincher Creek Canada plus flying in his home town of Vancouver B.C.

On Oct the 8th 2006 Ray had another great honour bestowed on him he was given his own Park Bench placed in Ray's home flying field is Vainer Park in Vancouver, B.C. Vanier Park is a beautiful ‘flying’ park, in close proximity to both the ocean and the mountains. "Ray's spot", as local kiters call it, lies on the edge of an ocean walkway. Thousands of people have stopped along this walkway, mesmerized by Ray’s beautiful sky ballets. Ray Bethell. Ray is undoubtedly the greatest kite flier in Canada, and the only living Canadian inducted into the World Kite Museum Hall of Fame. We are proud of his accomplishments and grateful for his efforts as an international kite ambassador. This bench was made possible by donations from kite flyers from around the world To honour Ray's contributions and accomplishments, it has been installed in close proximity to where Ray usually flies. this will enable people to watch Ray and other kite fliers in Vanier Park.

So far in 2007 he has been invited to perform again in Guam, Australia for the whole month of March ,3 times to France, Italy, Toronto , Niagara Falls, Pincher Creek Alberta Berkeley California. and is fully sponsored to Perth Australia to perform at the Red Bull Aerobatic flying event , it is estimated that one million spectators will attend this two day event.

Another great hit for Ray in just one month of July 2007 Ray’s Romancing the Wind DVD was viewed by 247,000 viewers on Kitlife.com plus had raving reviews on You Tube. Ray’s rewards was the huge amount of testimonials from people from all walks of life from around the world .

2008 Ray has been fully sponsored to perform at International Kite Festivals again on the beautiful Island of Guam, Queensland Australia, England, Berck, Montague’s Murielle, Dieppe France, Italy, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Alberta, Berkeley California., Ocean Shores, Long Beach WA .

2009 was another great year for Ray he was fully sponsored to perform at International Kite Festivals in Berck France, Cervia Italy , San Vito Sicily, Ocean Shores WA and Long Beach WA. Ray was also invited to many other international kite festivals around the World but just could not fit them all in.

2010 looks like another very busy year for Ray , and to note due to the World Wide economy problems Kite festivals are having a tough time finding sponsors to help support International Kite Flyers.

When Ray is not away in far off places he can be found practicing in Vanier Park in Vancouver where he delights hundreds of locals as well as visitors from around the world with his multiple kite demonstrations. Ray has become one of the most photographed and videotaped attractions in Vancouver. Tourists, who have visited Vancouver, often return to the city on future vacations, and always come back to Vanier Park to say 'Hi', and to watch him do his kite magic once again. Ray has indeed made many friends from all over the world and is a true ambassador for the kite-flying world.

And to note since Ray developed his grace and beauty style of Multiple kite flying in 1986 it took many years to perfect his style, now there are well over a 1000 multiple kite flyers around the World that was inspired after seeing Ray perform his magic , and his Romancing The Wind DVD has to date has been viewed over a million times around the world , there are not many days that pass with out some one e-mails Ray to thank him for touching that secret place in there hearts, check out Ray’s guest book entrees , but better still write him a little message he would love to hear from you, Ray has devoted well over 24 years of his life to kite flying and has helped countless people to enjoy Sport Kite flying personally, via e-mails and letters to people around the World.

There is only one question remaining: Ray is not in his youth, or is he? He is a picture of health; He considers his sport to be age less. If any one is addicted to kite flying, Ray is. But what is the underlying factor that has him firmly planted in kite arenas around the world on a near-daily basis? Is it the technical challenge, the athletic demands, the creative potential, the showmanship, the competitions? Certainly they all play a part, but according to Ray, the primary drive to fly is to see the delight and happiness in the spectator’s faces, as he shares with them his love for kiting. he loves what he does and does what he loves . Check his guest book entrée and you will read for your self the testimonials that people have written after seeing Ray perform his remarkable Multiple kite Ballets.


Top Corner Photo
Copyright © 1999
Sam Eaton

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