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The Great Outdoors

By Meghan Godby

The year is 1827. George Pocock, an English schoolteacher, invents the Charvolant - a carriage powered not by horses, but by a kite. Just 75 years before that, Ben Franklin uses kites in his electricity experiments. And now, nearly 200 years later, kites are being used not only for casual flights in the park but also for more adventurous pursuits like kiteboarding.

While it may seem like an easy and effortless pastime, flying a kite requires work. Sudden gusts of wind can be powerful, requiring stabilization in your arms, legs and core.

Leon Wieczorek, Jr., a local kite enthusiast, agrees it’s a great workout. He’s new to the sport but passionate about the hobby.

“Years ago, I heard about using a kite with a snowboard,” he explained. “Then, I was watching a documentary about a guy who used a kite and skis to travel to the South Pole in Antarctica.”

The expedition inspired him to research kiteboarding, which is, not surprisingly, quite popular in Colorado.

But it’s not just about stunt kites. Traditional kites have come a long way from the rudimentary diamond shapes that grace the pages of children’s books.

Want to learn more? Head to YouTube - the site is full of tutorials for both the beginner and experienced kite flyer. Although it has not been updated in a few years, kitelife.com is another terrific resource, with free tutorial videos and back issues of kite publications.

Colorado Kite Force (coloradokiteforce.com) in Dillon is a great resource if you’re interested in any type of snowkiting. Not only can they help you purchase the right equipment, but they also offer lessons to help you hone your skills.

Ready to make a purchase? Options abound online. You could also pay a visit to Abner’s Garden Center (12280 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge, for traditional kites) or Larson’s Ski and Sport (4715 Kipling St., Wheat Ridge, for stunt kites).

The ideal wind speed for kite flying is 10 to 25 miles per hour, depending on your style of kite. Any large, open space will work, just make sure to avoid trees, power lines and large buildings. Not only can these structures tangle with your kite, but they can also interfere with the way the wind blows.

Anderson Park (4355 Field St., Wheat Ridge) is a great local spot to get started, as well as the north side of Sloan’s Lake (Vrain Street and West 26th Avenue) and the south end of Panorama Park (Fenton Street and West 33rd Avenue).

While it’s certainly fun and a great workout, that’s not the only benefit that kite flying has to offer.

“It’s a great de-stressor,” Leon shares. “You’re completely focused on flying and controlling the kite, so you don’t get distracted by other things.”

But the most important thing of all?

“It connects you with an experience of youth,” he said.