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Skating in the sky
Penny Lingenfelter travels the world wherever the wind takes her.
And along the way, the Port Orchard resident offers free kite-flying lessons to anyone who wants to learn.
“I could charge for lessons,” she said. “A lot of people charge.”
But “it’s not about that,” she said.
She just likes it when an adult walks up to her and thanks her for the kite flying lessons she gave years ago.
One of Lingenfelter’s students, Connor Doran, competed on the “America’s Got Talent” TV show during a season that aired in the summer of 2010, when Doran was 17 years old.
Making it to the competition had been Doran’s goal, since the first time Lingenfelter met him, about a year before the show.
“He was about chest high and couldn’t look me in the face,” Lingenfelter said. “He couldn’t look anyone in the face.”
“At age 4, I was diagnosed with epilepsy,” Doran explained during the first round of the competition, “(Flying kites has) given me self-confidence and taken away my stress.”
Doran didn’t win the competition, but made it to the top 24 and was brought back for the “wild card” round.
“It’s been a wonderful experience for him and the kiting community,” Lingenfelter said.
She considers Doran to be part of a small, international kiting “family.”
“Kiting has a great community,” she said. “Quite the family. You get to know genuine and sharing people.”
Lingenfelter said some of her best friends live in different states and countries around the world because she’s met them through her travels with kiting.
She plans to go with one of her colleges on her next trip, to the Seventh Borneo International Kite Festival, in Malaysia.
While visiting Malaysia, they plan to do stop at the cities of Quala Lumpur and Bintulu, for sightseeing.
Lingenfelter found sponsors willing to cover her flight and hotel expenses, and she got her kite through a sponsorship from Revolution Kites.
Revolution Kites, a family-run business based in San Diego, has given kites to Lingenfelter for 20 years, starting about two years after the business started.
Sponsors choose her, she said, for her credentials.
She’s the top kite flyer, internationally, in three events — open freestyle, open indoor and master’s multi-line.
Her routines typically involve “telling a story” through dancing, acting and flying the kite in specific shapes, typically to music.
“It’s very much like ice skating on the sky,” she said.
Her routines typically last between seven and 12 minutes, with about 40 to 45 minutes of set-up.
Sometimes, cities will pay to fly her in for a show, and she’s also done several shows for schools.
She’d love to bring indoor kite flying to schools in states with cold weather, since it’s a fun sport that kids can practice indoors by pulling the kite’s strings to create air resistance and lift it off the ground.
Washington, though, has a climate and many locations suitable for outdoor kite flying.
Lingfelter offered several tips for choosing a good kiting location.
“Safety first,” she said.
Never fly a kite “with people underneath or near safety lines,” she said. Also, she recommends using extreme caution when flying a kite near a cliff, since kiters have been known to walk backwards right off of them.
“The beaches have the cleanest wind with the least obstruction,” she said.
“Once you try it, you can very easily get hooked immediately,” Lingfelter said. “It’s physically and mentally challenging. It’s a great outlet. You should try it, and you’ll find out why.”