A day in the life: The 34th Annual Rogallo Kite Festival

Written by: Emma Turnbull- 2016 Marketing Intern

It was a beautiful weekend for the 34th Annual Rogallo Kite Festival! Typical with any kite festival, the wind was not completely cooperative (too light on Friday and too strong on Saturday and Sunday), but it was good enough to get the kites up and give everybody an awesome scene to admire atop Jockey’s Ridge.


Rogallo Fest ran on Dunkin’

This was my first kite festival as a Kitty Hawk Kites marketing intern, and I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when the weekend began. I obviously knew we’d be flying some kites, but I didn’t realize just how massive and impressive they’d be. For instance, our octopus, affectionately dubbed Squiggs, is 100 feet long! As you can imagine, trying to launch and take down Squiggs in strong wind was a bit of a challenge. There were even a couple times it took 5 people to wrangle him. Once he got under control though, he was quite a sight to see, with his huge yellow body and his tentacles flapping around in the clear blue sky. A couple other personal favorites of mine were our giant purple eel and the rainbow koi fish, which both slithered around in the air to the point where they looked like they were swimming against the blue sky. It’s amazing how much of a show can be put on by a bit of cloth, so strong line, and a few poles.


Squiggs, the 100ft Octopus- a personal favorite.

Now, I’m by no means an expert yet, but this weekend taught me a lot and gave me a sneak peek into the world of kite flying. There’s a lot that goes into flying such huge kites. You don’t just need the kite and a line; you need the kite, bridle, line set, carabiner, and sand anchor, and a bit of expert know-how. I learned about the safety when flying large kites, how to tie a larks head, and daisy chain just to name a few of my new skills. Basically, there’s a lot more that goes into flying show kites than I could have ever imagined.


Not a bad view

As an event crew member, my weekend consisted of a combination of physical labor, interacting with children, and teaching people about kites. To be fair, I didn’t shoulder a huge portion of the physical labor given my small size and utter lack of muscles, but that’s not to say I didn’t pitch in whenever and however I could. One of the highlights for me was set up Saturday morning, when I was helping John Harris, owner and founder of Kitty Hawk Kites, prepare and launch numerous large kites. It was surreal to be able to learn so much from a man who is such an expert in the field.

RevSpinIn addition to the eye catching show kites, visible from across the sound in Manteo, the Rogallo Kite Festival included free stunt kite lessons, and a Revolution Kite Competition. I spent much of my time tending to the larger kites and unfortunately didn’t get to take a lesson, but I did get to talk to many stunt kite flyers, from visitors trying it out for the first time to experienced flyers who travel the country showing of their skills. Watching the performances from afar, the twirls, spins, dives, and other tricks executed but the Revolutions and other stunt kites were every bit as impressive and transfixing as Squiggs’ tentacles in their own way. I look forward to trying it out for myself at the next festival in July!


Revolution Invitation Winners with Rev Rep, Lolly Hadziki, and John Harris

Between digging holes for anchors, talking to curious vacationers on Jockey’s Ridge, and relaunching kites that the wind took down, the days actually sped by. There’s no denying it was hard work, and being out in the sun for 3 full days certainly took its toll. (I have the awkward suntan/burn lines to prove it). There were moments I just wanted to stop what I was doing, lie down, and fall asleep on the spot. But for every funk, there was also a moment equally as funny or inspiring or beautiful to break me out of it. Like the moment a huge kite would get launched and I would just watch it float upward so peacefully into the bright blue sky. Or seeing a kid’s face light up as they watched the koi fish “swimming” through the air. Or honestly just taking a step back and taking in the whole panorama: a beautiful sunny day on the sand dunes with a bunch of colorful kites floating overhead and the ocean in the distance. I now understand peoples’ fascination with kites a whole lot better.

If you missed the Rogallo Festival, don’t fret… The Wright Kite Festival hosted at The Wright Brothers’ National Memorial July 16-17 will feature many of the same show kites (possibly even a few more), free stunt kite lessons, and kite making workshops for the kids. You may also check out this awesome Rogallo Festival recap video below:

Sandboarding Fun at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

sandboarding-jockeys-ridge-state-parkA lesser-known activity that’s available at Jockey’s Ridge State Park during certain times of the year is sandboarding. The dunes are recognized as being one of the best spots to fly a kite on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and considered by many to be the number one place to learn how to dune hang glide in the country.

Although the Wright brothers chose to fly their homemade gliders off Kill Devil Hill to the north, Jockey’s Ridge’s soft sand and smooth winds make the dune system a premier location for aviation recreation.

Apart from the incredibly ideal kite flying and hang gliding conditions, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is considered to be the very best spot for sandboarding on the East Coast – a designation that is rarely touted by the park. The area doesn’t receive much snow – maybe 1 to 2 inches a year – so board riding locals have gravitated to the dune for sandboarding fun for decades.


Sandboarding is essentially the same thing as snowboarding, except you’re riding on sand instead of snow. One of the best advantages of choosing sandboarding is that all you need is a good board and enough endurance to scale up and down the dunes after riding down because unlike snowboarding, there are no ski lifts!

In addition to sandboarding, the younger audience typically enjoys sand dune sledding, which is a casual affair here on the Outer Banks… which fits into the laid-back lifestyle you’ll find elsewhere on the thin strip of barrier islands. On any given day, you’ll be able to easily spot kids of all ages sliding down the dunes on cardboard boxes and body boards. Sand sledding does not require a permit, however sandboarding does and is only permitted on the dunes from October through March.

Permits must be obtained from the park office and parents will be required to sign for anyone under 18. Please visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park’s website for additional information about the park and other recreational activities available.

Consider Renting a Sandboard

We do rent sandboards out of the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School, located at 302 Carolista Drive in Nags Head, NC. The cost is $20 for four hours, and $40 for the entire day. You will not need a permit if you rent a sandboard from Kitty Hawk Kites, however you will be required to sign a waiver.

If you have any questions regarding our sandboard rentals, please contact our Hang Gliding School directly at (252) 441-2426.

A Great Day for Rogallo Festival

Flying a nine-stack of stunt kites at the 33rd Annual Rogallo Kite Festival.

Flying a nine-stack of stunt kites at the 33rd Annual Rogallo Kite Festival.

Friday was the first day of the 33rd Annual Francis Rogallo Kite Festival and the weather was a little bit iffy. Gusty winds, a little bit over cast . . . kite were still flying above the dunes, but the stunt kite demos from Prism Kites and the quad line flying were put on hold.

Then came Saturday and all was right in the world again. With sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70s it was comfortable on the Jockey’s Ridge State Park dunes, and a nice 8-10 mph north wind created just about perfect flying conditions for the stunt kites.

Life-sized blue whale kite in flight.

Life-sized blue whale kite in flight.

The sky was filled with every imaginable kite, and it looked as though the flyers from Kitty Hawk Kites emptied the storage room, bringing out kites that boggled the imagination in size and shape. The most spectacular had to be the full-sized blue whale that stretched for 70’ or 80’ along the dune’s ridge.

Prism Quantum in flight with long, long tail.

Prism Quantum in flight with long, long tail.

The stunt kite flying was superb. Prism Kites was flying their Quantum with what looked to be a 100’ tail. Easy to fly, responsive, it would be a great kite for a beginner right on to more experienced flyers.

Bob Lauder from Wings Over Washington (DC) was on hand with the quad line kites he makes himself. Excellent instruction. Patient and thorough, for anyone who has ever wondered what flying a kite with four lines would be like, he’s the guy to see.

Sunday will wrap up the festival and the weather is looking pretty good for Sunday as well.

A great day on the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge and something to put on the to do list for next year.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park Turns 40 This May

save-our-sand-dunes-tshirt-jockeys-ridge-nags-headIt’s likely that few North Carolinians can recall the circumstances that lead to Jockey’s Ridge becoming a state park on May 31, 1975.

The rolling sand dunes – spotted with vegetation – were on the verge of becoming a residential development until a woman by the name of Carolista Baum stopped the dismantlement of the dune system. In a daring attempt to halt progress on the new development, she stood in front of a bulldozer that was in the process of flattening Jockey’s Ridge.

Word of her courageous act quickly traveled, and an organization known as The People to Preserve Jockey’s Ridge was established. After two years of efforts by the group, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation was asked to study the feasibility of making Jockey’s Ridge a state park… and the rest is history.

The tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, Jockey’s Ridge will celebrate its 40th anniversary since officially becoming a state park this May.

Bruce Weaver, Vice President of Recreation at Kitty Hawk Kites had this to say about the state park: “Jockey’s Ridge is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places on the Outer Banks. People come from all over to visit the park, fly a kite, and learn to fly off the dunes on a hang glider.”

The park was the center for hang gliding on the East Coast in the 70s in 80s. The sport of hang gliding has grown substantially since then, however Jockey’s Ridge’s soft sand and smooth winds continue to make it an ideal place to learn how to hang glide in the United States.

“We [Kitty Hawk Kites] have a great relationship with the state park administration, and we certainly enjoy flying hang gliders off the dunes,” says John Harris, Founder of Kitty Hawk Kites. “There’s no reason to believe that Jockey’s Ridge won’t still be here on the Outer Banks for at least another 40 years.”

To commemorate the fourth decade of the area being managed by NC’s Division of Parks and Recreation, the public is invited to come enjoy live music by Mojo Collins, free Rita’s ice and hot dogs, a video of the 1975 dedication ceremony, and a children’s sand art class.

There will be limited edition t-shirts commemorating the event available for purchase at the celebration. The event takes place from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Sunday, May 31 at the Jockey’s Ridge State Park Visitors Center (300 W Carolista Drive in Nags Head, NC). Admission is free!

For more information about the event, please visit the Friend’s of Jockey’s Ridge Facebook page.