Recently, I was visiting the Hawaiian island of Molokai with my family and came across Uncle Johnathan, as he’s affectionately known, founder of Big Wind Kite Factory in the town of Maunaloa. Where most of the town of Maunaloa has essentially become a ghost town, Big Wind Kite Factory, with its brightly painted sign and tidy exterior, brings a ray of light and sunshine. Jonathan and his wife Daphne started Big Wind Kite Factory in 1980, after falling in love with kiting as they followed the Hippie Trail through Afghanistan. “The kites they talk about in the book The Kite Runner, those were our kites!” Jonathan told me.
Eventually they settled in Molokai to follow their dream of making custom kites. The factory consists of a back room workshop surrounded by big windows and brightly colored rolls of nylon. Each kite is individually handmade using a wood-burning tool to sear the edges of the nylon to prevent fraying. Johnathan is quick to give a tour of the factory and will build a simple kite with you as well.
My son and I bought a tiny diamond kite from Jonathan and headed out to the beach. Being a hacker from birth and not satisfied with the 100 feet of string included, my son found a roll of light fishing line in the closet of our rental beach house. Before I knew it, the kite was so high it was a pinhead in the bright blue Hawaiian sky.
Being a public school teacher, I’m always on the lookout for easy and cheap projects to do with my students. Jonathan showed me an awesome kite that can be easily made from a sheet of construction paper, survey tape, a plastic coffee stirrer, masking tape, and some string. The kite is incredibly stable and can be built and enjoyed by preschoolers to adults alike. Jonathan calls it “20 Kids * 20 Kites * 20 Minutes“! If you’re ever in Molokai, stop by and say hi to Jonathan. But even if you don’t, get out there and make and fly a kite!