March 19, 2010
Traditional Thai Kite Fighting

One of the most interesting things on the fighting field in Thailand was that the combatants didn't show up until late in the day. The international contingent had been there since ten in the morning and suffered through the heat and bumpy winds. But mid afternoon, the breeze became more steady and the temperature dropped ten degrees. Clearly these local guys knew what they were doing.

Traditional Thai kite fighting is an intricate battle of the sexes. The 'female' Pacpao is smaller, faster, and uses a long tail for stability. The 'male' Chula is larger, heavier, and less stable.

Kites are launched from a divided field. The Chula is equipped with bamboo hooks in the line called jam pa. The kites engage and lines tangle. Then the match is decided by which field the opponent is dragged to. Sorta like when I was younger and dating.

Chula & Pakpao
Two chulas and two pakpaos,
waiting to fight.
Combat Field
Once the kites are tangled, its all about
which field they are pulled to.
Jam Pa hooks
Bamboo hooks are attached to the line.

I stood back and watched the Chula team in action. The Master Flier handled the line to make initial contact. His depth perception impressed me.With kites out several hundred meters, it isn't easy to tell when you have made contact. But once a line is caught, the entire team springs into action.

With the Chula upwind, the 'male' team has a lot more line to pull in. First, the block crew step in and loop the flying line over a wooden pully anchor. One man holds the block and several others wrap a sash around his waist. Then the entire group move forcefully upwind. Since the line is still anchored by the flier, the pulley block takes in two lengths of line for each length they move back.

Master Flier
Master flier snags the opponent.
Block Pulley
Line is pulled back.
Line Runners
Runners retreive line.

At the same time, the flier hands the line off to a pulling team. They drop a metal stool over the line as a guide to keep it from running dangerously across the field. Then the young running teams starts to move in a circle. They approach the line, take hold, sprint downwind for 20 meters, and then circle back for another handful.

Between these two systems, a thousand feet of line comes in very quickly! And so does the big Chula with a Pak Pao firmly caught in the hooks.

Kites Up Close
Kite detail and taped hands.
Line Handling
Mobile line handler.
Big Kite
Kites are 3 meters tall.

These are large, intricate kites. The Chula is fashioned from paper and bamboo. The sail is strengthened with a checkerboard of lines attached to the back with gold foil dots. Notice the fliers hands taped for better line handling and fewer injuries.

Line is handed in open baskets that can move around the field with the team. These are large kites flown in strong winds. It is a physical and highly skilled contest.

Susie and I spent three days on the flying field in Cha Am for the 11th Thailand International Festival. It was hot and the winds were hard.

We thought the local kites were the most interesting. But the local fliers liked what the tourists brought along.

Next week, we'll tell you about the visiting fliers and you can decide for yourself.

DG & Friends

What's our best performance Delta? I'd have to say the Zenith. Wide wind range, high angle, and easy to assemble. Nice sized kite too at 7 by 5 feet.

Design features include an abbreviated "pocket" keel and adjustable bridle line. The keel will slightly inflate to keep the kite from over-flying.

Check our a Zenith between now and the end of March, and we'll take 20% off the $75 price.

Zenith Delta

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