A giant, patriotic octopus floated above the sands of Morro Bay on Saturday, the wind violently whipping its red and white tentacles behind its blue head.
Hundreds of nylon companions – fish, butterflies, airplanes, dragons and sharks – soared with it, showing off a myriad of shapes and colors.
The eighth annual Morro Bay Kite Festival had begun.
Symphonic music boomed from speakers at the beach’s edge, occasionally interrupted by announcements that wind speeds had increased yet again. Visitors shielded their faces from gusts of sand, waiting for the next professional kite flyer's performance.
Kite-flying virtuoso Ron Despojado stood facing away from the ocean, gripping a rod attached to a long stretch of line. At its end was a simple, arched kite.
Despojado pulled back on the rod and his kite lifted effortlessly, dancing to the melodramatic music. The kite climbed, fell and paused in perfect sync with the symphony.
Its obedience was miraculous considering the wind, speeding along at 22 mph – almost twice the ideal rate for kite flying, he said.
Even with 20-plus years of flying experience under his belt, Despojado said he found Morro Bay’s weather conditions extreme.
“With the challenges, we did as best as we could,” he said. And overall, he was satisfied with his performance.
The self-taught San Diego native discovered the sport decades ago after watching others play it.
“I just noticed kites flying one day and walked into a store and bought one,” he said. He helped found his current flying team, called Too Much Fun, in 2001. The three-member group travels the world, attending kite-flying competitions and showcasing at festivals.
“It’s one of those sports where everybody’s got different backgrounds, but a common interest in flying,” Despojado said.
Although kite-flying seems random to others, the sport makes perfect sense to him, he said. “I’m outside and it doesn’t pollute,” he said. “You can fly without leaving the ground. Kite flying is an extension of myself in the sky.”
Festival director Shaun Farmer, who founded the Morro Bay Kite Festival, said the event attracts between 3,000 and 5,000 spectators every year, as well as dozens of professional kite flyers.
“There are all kinds of kites, all shapes and sizes,” Farmer said.
Utah resident Mary Petik traveled to Cayucos to visit a friend, and they both decided to check out the kite festival.
“I’m very impressed,” Petik said. “Even with the wind, they can still manage to do everything so precisely, and it’s neat to hear the music.”