The age-old kite-flying tradition, once popular, has seen a drop in interest in the past decades.
Despite this, a small group of enthusiasts still maintain the tradition of flying homemade kites at locations with favourable winds.
A popular kite-flying venue is Kampong Sungai Teraban which played host to the three-in-one Pesta Sungai Teraban recently.
The event comprised a cleaning campaign, a festive market and a kite tournament. The latter saw kite-flying groups gather at the venue drawing onlookers to appreciate the crafting and flying of kites.
Organiser and competitor Sabli bin Haji Yussof heading Black Star Kite Fighter (BAKF) told the Bulletin that the small yet dedicated kite-flying groups have formed a tight-knit community.
For many, kite-flying may look like a calm activity but Sabli said it can be competitive with players going head-to-head against each other in an all-out battle in the skies above.
“In a tournament, two players will attempt to cut each other’s strings and those with a cut string is considered the loser. If both players are unable to do it within two and a half minutes, a draw will be held to determine the winner.”
With 20 years in competitive kite-flying, Sabli said he had been making and flying kites since his youth.
With his extensive experience, he had seen his fair share of challenges and grew to appreciate the game.
“A suitable location is a necessity, not only for prevailing winds, but also for retrieval of kites that got their strings cut,” said Sabli.
He noted that some challenges are tackled with ingenious use of modern technology. “In the past, it can take over 30 minutes to reel in a kite. Now, we use cordless drills to speed up the process.”
Sabli said the small kite-flying community keeps close ties with groups abroad not only because they share the passion but also to acquire parts such as strings that are essential to fly kites.
With kite-flying being an ancient tradition, Sabli hopes the game will remain popular. Sabli said, “Kite-flying is not only a traditional game but it is also an avenue to relieve stress and the sight of kites flying high can bring happiness.”
Even though some kites’ strings are cut in the competition – and some even irretrievable – it is all in good fun and the competitors appreciate the game and share the same passion.
“For kite-flying to remain popular, it is important to ensure the safety of not only the players but also the surrounding community.
“Playing in an open and safe environment is all that it takes. At the end of the day, we want everyone to be happy,” said Sabli.