Glenn Davison, 52, a former software trainer from Chelmsford, is retired. That leaves more time for an avocation he’s enjoyed since he was 8 — flying kites.
“I’ve always liked everything that flies,” said Davison. “I built 21 model rockets, and a few model airplanes as well. I used to buy plastic kites at the drug store, and fly them across the street with my dad.
“I got hooked when I struggled with flying a dual-line kite,” he said. “I finally got it to fly in strong wind, and it was fast and fun. Then I bought a larger kite that could be flown in light wind. From there I met the local club and started building kites.”
Flying kites has held Davison’s imagination for more than four decades.
“Kites are an art, a craft,” he said. “Kite design requires engineering. Their aerodynamics is serious science. And they’re fun. Kites are deceptively simple, and have evolved greatly in the past 10 years.”
Gary Quinton, a computer support expert from Lynn who declined to give his age, said he welcomes those recent advances.
“Since the early 1990s, new fabric and other materials like carbon rods made stunt kites more responsive, allowing for greater control and a wider variety of tricks,” he said. “Of course, it took me all of 30 seconds to crash my new $200 kite into the frozen beach and shatter the kite’s spine. I learned that not all kites are designed to fly in 20-mile-an-hour February winds.”
A stunt kite gave Archie Stewart a new lease on life.
“As an adult, I was reintroduced to kiting by my brother, who gave me a stunt kite as a gift,” said Stewart, 71, of Chestnut Hill. “That kite proved to be my lifesaver. I was working for Verizon as a manager. After a number of visits to the ER for stress-related chest pains, the doctor recommended that I find a way to relieve that stress. Kites became the vehicle to do just that. I would go over to the Charles River and fly that kite for an hour and return a new person.”
Stewart and Davison keep current with new kiting developments through workshops they host throughout Massachusetts. Davison’s workshops have literally taken him around the country and world, including a class with 200 children in Taiwan.
“People seem to smile when they see a kite flying, and I really enjoy the act of sharing the enjoyment with others,” he said. “They often find it surprising. Some find it soothing to fly a kite. . . . And different people enjoy different aspects of kiting.”
Erin Gannon, an art instructor at Excel Academy in East Boston, invited Davison to teach the finer points of kite building.
“I was interested in kite making with my students because it was an opportunity for them to combine art, engineering, and getting outside,” said Gannon. “I had 20 kids who chose to spend the spring making and flying kites.
“I think kites are beautiful. And I was looking for an activity we could do on Constitution Beach,” she said.
That beach, in Eastie’s Orient Heights, is one of many great area locations to fly kites. Davison lists others on the Kites Over New England website, including Castle Island and Pleasure Bay in South Boston, Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Nahant Beach, Millennium Park in West Roxbury, Danehy Park at Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Malibu Beach in Dorchester, Squantum Point Park in Quincy, Nantasket Beach in Hull, Revere Beach, Salisbury Beach, and Sagamore Beach on the Cape Cod Canal .
The variety of kites and locations matches the variety of people drawn to kite flying, said Quinton.
“There is no typical kite flyer,” said Quinton. “Kites Over New England has members from 8 to 80. We have at least one member in a wheelchair who flies sport kites, and several older folks who only fly single-line kites. We have singles, young couples, and entire families.”
There are also a number of misconceptions about flying kites.
“It’s sad that many people say, ‘I can’t fly a kite,’ or think they have to run in order to launch a kite,” said Stewart. “Keep the wind to your back and allow it to push the kite away from you. Fly with a friend, so that person can walk the kite away about 75 to 100 feet from you to perform a long launch.”
“Those who enjoyed flying kites when they were young often return to flying kites later in life,’’ said Davison. “There’s so much more to explore.”
Davison said he prefers a hands-on approach to educate.
“I try to dispel those misconceptions by giving others the chance to try the kite I’m flying,” he said. “I was in Canada at a festival this summer, and during the Night Fly, my kite had lights on it and lights on the line. One by one, I passed my kite line to about 500 people so they could enjoy the feeling of flying a kite steadily on a warm summer breeze.