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Ray's World Adventures 1996

West Coast Kite Championships
10th Berkeley Kite Festival

Am I dreaming or am I in beautiful California for the second time in less then a month. I arrive at Oakland Airport, where a very lovely lady is waiting to drive me to Caesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, which is about a 30 minute drive. It really is about an hour run but the California drivers drive so fast it only takes half the time to get anywhere. Some of my friends were waiting for me at the park with a cold beer and food. This was setup day! It is a very big park, kind of hilly in parts but plenty of room. Once again I was given my own field to perform in. I walked to the top of the hill and was amazed at the view. There in front of me was a panoramic view of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. What a magnificent sight!

Berkeley is known for it's strong winds, some times very gusty. It was a super festival and the competition ran very smoothly. Some of the best fliers in California were participating and were thrilling the crowds with their ballet routines. Especially the California WASP Gang. What they can do with the wasp is unreal. Masters Pairs 'Dos Avispas' [Miguel Rodriguez & Kobi Eshun] mesmerized the spectators with their dynamite performance. Wherever they perform every flyer at the competition will stop whatever they are doing to what their Ballet performance.

Their moves are faster then the speed of light and when hey both tip land from opposite directions within inches of each other, - I mean like "right now!" -, one thinks that every spar in the kite must be broken for sure. But no way! They are like bats out of hell. No one flies like the Dos Avispas!

Masters Ballet flyer Michael Weingand did a super performance with his California WASP kite. The California WASP, by the way, was designed and made by Michael Rodriguez, a legend in the kiting world. The word WASP comes from When Anticipating Superior Performance. Miguel made three especially for me. They are like the Blue Angels in my hands. I hope to show them off at Bristol in September if all goes well.

Audiences were also awed by the beauty and spectacular performance by the Bay Area Sundowners. They are a six man team flying a stack of 12 Hyperkites with 40 ft long tails. They fill the sky. It is very moving and beautiful to watch. They are the longest running team in the world. All of them are super guys and great ambassadors for kiting. Wherever we perform in the kiting world they are always there to help me set up and pack up. We have become great friends.

They have given up competing and as a "Professional" team they are going all out to entertain the spectators which will not be a problem for them as they do that every time they fly.

The festival was indeed a great success. Beautiful weather and hundreds and hundreds of spectators. As this was Berkeley's 10th Anniversary I thought I would try and do another "FIRST" with the help and permission of the Bay Area Sundowners to use their kites.

I officially flew 3 stacks of 12 Hypers, 36 in all, all with 40 ft tails simultaneously to the music of Rita McNeil's 'Flying on your Own' in 20+mph winds and was filmed and photographed and recorded by Sports Illustrated Magazine. They were very impressed with my performances throughout the weekend and interviewed me at length. This is a great way to put kiting up there along with other sports. "Good Stuff".

After 3 days of flying we were all looking forward to the Awards Banquet which was held aboard the "Empress Hornblower" yacht for a magical dinner cruise on the San Francisco Bay. Man, what a way to finish a super week and it was indeed a very magical setting to share with so many old friends and new sharing the laughter, joy and disappointments of the weekend. En route we saw Sausalito, Angel Island, Alcatraz the San Francisco Water front - what a sight-, the Bay Bridge and the bridge if bridges "The Golden Gate". Everyone was having such a great time we just about ran out of time to give out the awards for the competition.

I managed to pick up a gold with a score of 97.89 in Free Style. I was also honored with a special award. I did not have to hear the speech made by Brian Champie and Tom McAlister for the reaction of everyone at the dinner was overwhelming.

I would like to thank each and everyone that supported "Bring Ray to the Bay". I am so very lucky to have so many wonderful people as friends. When you loose something like I have lost my hearing some new senses take over. I don't have to hear as I can feel the warmth and love but never have I felt it stronger then from my California friends.

Thank you for your patience, understanding but most of all your genuine friendship, plus many thanks to Tom McAlister of High Line Kites and organizer of the Berkeley festival for inviting me to your 1997 Berkeley festival, and last but not least many thanks to a very special friend, Brian Champie, the big Daddy of the WASP gang a big wonderful man who is loved by everyone.

Thank you Brian for sharing your home with me and taking me back and forth to Berkeley each day. Plus the super day on Monday you showed me the sights of San Francisco. Finishing off with a couple of hours of Flying the WASPS within view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island.

Thank you Big Daddy!

Brian and three others of the WASP gang are on a full sponsorship to Colombia in South America for 10 days. Then we all meet again at the International Kite festival at Long Beach Washington, US.

Thank you for listening.

Ray.




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