April 2004

April 2004
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April 2004

April was a funny month for a number of reasons. Work, the weather, and various other distractions conspired to keep me out of the park for much of the month. However I did have a couple of nice days when I got some decent footage to work from. Tricks of the month are the Multi-Axel Corkscrew and the Backspin Cascade. I also go into some detail about how to master the multi-pop axel technique and why it is so important to many advanced tricks.


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The first section is shot from behind the kite and is particulary useful in illustrating the multi-pop axel technique (originally developed in ages past by yours truly). This is the cornerstone of many advanced tricks and I cannot stress enough the importance of exploring and mastering this technique if you want to take your trick flying to the upper levels.

The easiest way to begin is with an axel cascade, and of course, this requires you to have the basic technique for regular single-pop axels and half-axels nailed with both hands, smoothly and reliably. The cascade is a series of alternating single-pop axels with the kite falling down through the wind window. As you practice this, start to gently take up the slack in each line just before you pop it. So if you start with a right hand axel, you then take up the slack in the left line and then pop the left line. Then take up the slack in the right line, and pop the right, and so on.

Practice a few times to get into the rhythm and then start to build up the tension when you take up the slack in the line. The purpose of this is to lift up the wing of the kite that you're about to pop, but the timing is crucial. You must wait until the kite has rotated at least half way around the axel before you apply line pressure to lift the wing. If you think of each part of the cascade as having four beats in a bar of music, you pop the right hand on beat one, do nothing for the count of two, then take up the slack on the left line on three, smoothly building up the pressure to lift the left wing on four, ready to pop it to start the sequence again on beat one of the next bar. Say it with me now: "POP and lift UP, POP and lift UP, POP and lift UP..."

The overall effect this should have is to slow the descent of the kite. Rather than waiting for the kite to finish rotating by itself, losing height as it does so, you're helping it to complete the spin faster by applying gentle pressure to the opposite line to the one you've just popped. Furthermore, you're also lifting the wing up into position for the next axel instead of waiting for it to drop down. With a little practice you should be able to keep the kite dancing on the spot in a static cascade (or "puddle"), and flare it out close to the ground and lift it up again, both of which are shown in the first section of the video. With a fair bit more practice, you can make the kite rise up the window in a fountain, as seen in the January video.

When you have the timing right, you can start to get more aggressive on the "off-beat" (i.e. the taking-up-the-slack phase) until it becomes more of an axel-like pop in itself. This then gives you an easy progression onto a whole range of multiple-axel tricks like the Corkscrew which features prominently in this month's video. Start at the top of the window with a down turn into an axel and then apply the same off-beat pull with the opposite hand. So if you pull a left turn, you would pop a right hand axel and then take up the slack and pull through with the left hand. However, in contrast to the cascade where you would then switch to a left hand axel, the original downward trajectory of the kite combined with a more aggressive pull through with the left hand should bring the kite around ready for another right hand axel. So the corkscrew is a series of same-handed axels but it also uses the opposite hand off-beat in the same way as for the cascade. And just like the cascade, the harder, faster and more accurately you string the beats together, the less height you lose and the more rotations you can fit in. Ultimately you end up with a trick like the comet where the kite is multi-axelling on the spot without losing any significant height.

With a kite like the Gemini, you can usually get a pure double axel coming into the corkscrew (i.e. two complete rotations with just one pop), and sometimes a triple, before you need to start applying extra line work to get further axels into the sequence. There are several examples of this in the video for you to check out. In most cases, I'm getting a pure double axel and then adding the third axel with an additional pop and/or pulling through. By controlling the strength and timing of the pops, you can also get the kite to roll over and spin on it's back for the second and subsequent spins (a trick known as the mobius).

The other prominent trick featured this month is the Backspin Cascade - a sequence of backspins alternating left and right. The secret here is to let the kite over-rotate slightly and let the wing that you're about to pop drop a little. Take it easy, bringing the line pressure in smoothly, but then following up with a solid and sustained pop and pull through. A variation of the multi-pop technique can also help here, too. If you pop a right hand backspin, then you can take up the slack on the same right line towards the end of the rotation, just as the nose of the kite is facing you again. This helps to slow the kite's rotation and also causes it to tilt slightly, allowing the wing attached to the left line to drop slightly, reading for the left-handed backspin.

So hopefully the lesson here is that the basic approach and in particular, the timing of the multi-pop axel technique, can be applied in various different ways to perform all kinds of advanced tricks and combinations. But the underlying principle is the same - it is the progression from pure "slack line" tricks where you pop the kite, let it do it's thing and then pick up the slack and fly away, to a state of "semi-slack line" where you provide additional input, and therefore have further influence over the kite, while it is still spinning, or performing whatever trick is at hand. So if you want to progress from single tricks to multiples and eventually, continuous sequences (where it's not just a case of two, three or four, but you can effectively go on doing a trick forever), then this important technique is definately something to concentrate on.

The music for this month is a piece that I've been working on throughout April and May (which is why I've used it in the movies for both months). It's called "Fly Me to the Sun" and is very loosely based on the first few bars of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. This is a shorter and less complete mix that I had prepared at the time I was ready to start editing the video. I did some more work on it to produce a longer mix for May. The track was created using Reason, an utterly incredible piece of software (and that's not something I say lightly about software).


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00.00 Opening credits
00.09 The move that I'm doing as the video fades in is something I call a "drop launch". I'm holding the lines about 15 feet or so away from the kite, launching it, and then gently releasing the lines when the kite is near the top of the window to let it drop back into a turtle and float away.
00.12 Cross-fade to an axel off a wingtip. Fly up and turn over into a triple corkscrew, ending up with a small pop into a fade and half barrel roll to exit. Fly up and over the other way (to the left as we look at it) into a gentle slot machine, followed by an axel the opposite way to belly flare the kite just above the ground. Lift the other wing and then pop it to belly flare the kite again, and then bring up the nose into a headspin finishing in a slightly sub-optimal noseplant. The headspin is similar to a backspin (or more acccurately a shove-it) but with the nose pointing down towards the ground. The lines pass over the top of the kite rather than locking under the leading edge (which is what differentiates a shove-it from a backspin by my reckoning).
00.30 Axel take-off, then pop again for another axel fractured into a fade, half barrel roll and acid drop to tips. Axel take-off and fly up to begin the cascade sequence, coming down a little and then dancing around my head for a while before popping up into a fade and a gentle half backspin. Then a bit more of the same: some axels, a fade, some gentle rolling around.
00.59 Fly in from the right, carving up and over into an axel one way then the other. Pop up into a fade and then flic-flac into backspin and flic-flac into backspin again (that's the backspin mutex).
01.09 Ground pass from right to left.
01.11 Right-handed double corkscrew repeated several times because it looks nice and fits the music. There are actually two different corkscrews edited together here, with the second ending in a tip stab.
01.20 Here's the obligatory mirror-effect doubled-up kite bit that I can't resist. We see a double axel corkscrew with a little extra pop on the end to lift the kite up into a fade for a backspin conveyer across the window and out of shot.
01.28 Then we get arty with a wash-out to a blurry black-and-white sequence where I'm spinning the kite (no doubt to unwrap my lines), coming out with an axel, and then flying up to a double axel corkscrew to wingtips, followed by a double axel take-off and fly out.
01.38 Kite enters from left into a fade, then flares out to a 360 flat spin and back up into a fade (this flic-flac and flat spin combo is the original mutex or flat-spin mutex as it should probably more accurately be called now). Then another flare out to a 180 flat spin, a brief stall and then axel and fly up and out.
01.45 Side slide in from the right, axel over into a stall, a minor height adjustment, and then a side slide back out to the right.
01.53 Take off into two triple corkscrews, both of which start with pure double axels and then have an extra axel tagged on the end. The first two are left handed, then we carve up and around for a right handed triple corkscrew to a landing on the tips. A right handed double axel take off is followed by a left handed double axel, and then fly out to the right.
02.10 Fly down to snap stall, left handed axel and fly up and out.
02.14 Fly down to snap stall, right handed axel and fly up and out.
02.18 Ground pass from left to right, snap stall, toe loop (an axel with wingtip ground contact), then ground pass right to left, snap stall, axel, and fly up and out to right.
02.25 Enter from top, flare out and up into a fade. Then the backspin cascade, starting with left hand, then right, repeating three times in all, with an extra half barrel roll at the end and flying out into a right handed triple corkscrew. Then we repeat the same sequence, with another three-way backspin cascade followed this time by a left handled triple corkscrew to a wingtip landing. Axel off the wingtip and fly up into a fade, then a double backspin with the left hand followed by a hard pop with the right for a shove-it down to a landing.
03.05 The "Fly Me to the Sun" shot. I pop the kite into a fade with a little extra pressure on the right line and allow it to rotate 180 degrees. Then I pop both lines hard to back flip the kite into a tailspin, then fly up and out.
03.13 In the final sunset shot, I fly up and pop the kite into a fade to start a left/right backspin sequence to fade out.
03.23 Closing credits.