Kite flying is a proven means of stress relief. But kite flying is no mere hobby with therapeutic benefits. It is also a bridge between the past and the present.

Here is a point to ponder. Some historians that specialize in Asian culture are of the belief that kite flying predates recorded history. Fast forward to the modern era.

The general consensus is that kites originated in Asia and Polynesia. The legendary explorer Marco Polo is credited for introducing Europe to the kite. On his heels came sailors who brought kites back China, Malaysia and the Polynesian islands in the 16th century.

Outside of the box thinkers of the 21st century are using the concept of the kite in innovative ways. Rather than dancing kites on the breeze they are operating them under water. Using a tether, a lightweight turbine, and a generator these kites harness waves and tides to generate electricity.

These are other somewhat unusual uses for kites. In the 1980’s, Peter Lynn of New Zealand developed a stainless steel kite that powered a small cart. A decade later kite powered racers over dry lake beds, on water, and on frozen lakes became a rage for racing enthusiasts. And in 1999, a scientific team used kite power to pull sleds to the North Pole.

In the late 19th century many leading scientists turned to kites to push the envelope of knowledge. The Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir George Caley and other scientists employed kites to study aeronautics, communications, meteorology and photography.

Their predecessors in Europe and the American colonies In the 18th century also used kites for scientific research. There is a grain of truth in the story that Benjamin Franklin used a kite in lightening storm to study electricity. The truth in the story is that in 1750 Franklin proposed an experiment to prove that lightning is electricity. In 1752 French scientist Thomas Francois Dalibard performed Franklin’s experiment with a tall iron rod, not a kite, and attracted electric sparks from a cloud.

Kites had a military application during WWI and WWII. In WWI, for the first time, aircraft began to dominate the skies over battlefields. Still, the Russian, British, and French armies all used kites in their signal units. They were also used to observe and document enemy positions.

Throughout the entire war the German navy employed large box kites to lift observers into the air. The goal was to expand the viewing range needed to spot submarines cruising on the surface.  

In WWII. the United States Navy used kites and balloons to prevent airplanes from low flight over targets. They were also used to hinder observation flights. Barrage kites and balloons were used to over London, cities on the Pacific coast of the United States, and other locations to hinder bombers.

As part of their survival kit, Navy pilots used the Gibson-Girl Box kite to mark their position to expedite rescue. Kites were also used for target practice to teach gunners the art of air to air combat. They were also used to teach aircraft recognition.

Kite flying is more than a mere hobby. It is living history. It just so happens that the near constant breezes in the Colorado River Valley makes it an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of kite flying. And that makes Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas in Bullhead City the perfect place for purchasing all of your kite supplies.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America