November 13, 2015

Mike Appel Named 2015 Spark Winner

mike-appel-kitty-hawk-kites

In February of 2013, we lost one of the most beloved members of the crew. Zack Marzec started his career with the company as a dune instructor and worked his way up to a instructor. Zack's positive attitude and passion for impacted many of the instructors and the students he taught during his time at .

In memory of Zack, one individual from Kites is awarded the Zack Marzec Spark each year. The winner is chosen through an internal voting process, allowing members of the Kitty Hawk Kites crew to choose who they think most embodies the spirit of Zack.

Hang gliding instructor extraordinaire Alex Brewer was the recipient in 2013, and Dino Colao, manager of our flagship store in Nags Head, was presented the award in 2014.

This year, hang gliding and instructor Mike Appel was chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Spark Award.

Mike has been a member of the Kitty Hawk Kites crew since 2007, and is responsible for teaching over 3,000 people fly during his tenure. He knew Zack quite well, as they were both dune hang gliding instructors at Jockey's Ridge State Park for a significant amount of time.

Once Mike found out that he'd won the award, here's what he had to say:


Words fail to express the gratitude I feel upon receiving this years spark award. There are far more deserving people who pull together every day to make this company what it is. 

Zack had an indelible quality about him; almost a physical force. Being around him made you want to do better, to be better. He carried with him a constant energy. You could walk in having the worst day, spend 5 minutes with the guy and leave with a smile on your face. He was a social catalyst. Always the first to greet a stranger, to crack a smile or tell a joke. His laugh was infectious.

That ability to inspire happiness in others was a huge part of who Zack was. He left a lasting impact on hundreds if not thousands. Kitty Hawk Kites embodies those ideals. It is a company that inspires others daily. It pushes the boundaries of what people thought themselves capable of. At its heart it is a company that inspires the world to fly. 

To me this award represents that legacy, it is one that I hope to live up to.


Seeking a new adventure, Mike moved to New Hampshire at the beginning of this last summer so that he could begin working at Morningside Flight Park, an operation that has been an important part of the hang gliding and community for nearly 40 years.

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