ray bethells’ wondrous self-taught kite ballet

(Video link here.) A friend sent us this beautiful video of Ray Bethell, a multi sport-kite flyer from Canada of unknown age (we hear he’s in his 80’s):

His skin is like leather as he normally flies with his shirt off. He is deaf, so when he flies people hold their hands up and wave them for applause. He flies 2 with his hands and the 3rd one is attached to his waist. He performs at the Washington State International Kite Festival every year.

We had to know more.The bio on Bethell’s website tells the story of a self-taught man who figured out what he needed to know and broke new ground in kite-flying: 

Ray always was an innovator and began flying two kites around 1984. It was a long road to success since there was no one to copy or learn manoeuvres from let alone find the required accessories. Slowly but surely Ray developed and refined a kite flying technique that is now copied by many multiple kite flyers in the world. Being a craftsmen by profession it also didn’t take him long to develop and manufacture special handles, kites suitable for his style of flying and find the proper lines required to achieve the perfection he is so well known for…

…Ray first taught himself to fly two sport kites simultaneously, one Kite from the hip and the other steered with his hands.

Ray Bethell kite flyer

...But what is the underlying factor that has him firmly planted in kite arenas around the world on a near-daily basis? Is it the technical challenge, the athletic demands, the creative potential, the showmanship, the competitions? Certainly they all play a part, but according to Ray, the primary drive to fly is to see the delight and happiness in the spectator’s faces, as he shares with them his love for kiting. he loves what he does and does what he loves.

He considers his sport to be age less.

There’s an illuminating interview with Bethell here, about his process of building and innovating,  how kite flying broke the solitude he felt when he lost his hearing, and the key to his success:

Today, every time I fly I am still practicing to be better than I was 5 minutes ago. My philosophy has always been ‘Practice does not make Perfect, Perfect Practice makes Perfect‘.

Second image via Power Kite Forum
Thanks Tom and Maggie!

Related posts: chuck close’s ‘note to self’ (eight perfect rules for living)
‘self-taught’ lessons about learning and creativity
hermeto pascoal: music via lagoon, bottles, flutes, imagination
practice makes!

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