Reach for the sky 

Wayne Hosking sees something spiritual in kites. "They're really very uplifting," he says, not intending the obvious. He notes that in Japan, kite festivals lasting several days swiftly become raucous outlets for collective frustration. But reverence returns, and at the festivals' end, the kites are destroyed, "so their spirit can be reborn in next year's kites."

The manager of Kitty Hawk Kites in the Florida Mall, Hosking owns some 500 kites. Tampa hobbyist and kite salesman Tom Felmly has half as many but lays claim to what he says is the biggest kite in Florida: 35 feet long by 28 feet wide, with a spinning wind sock affixed to the back that spirals red, yellow, orange and black. "Just wantin' to be showy," he confesses.

"What's really made kite flying easier -- and I really hate to use the word easier, because kite flying's always been easy -- is the material," says Philip Castillo, a professional kite flyer whose Kite Shop of St. Augustine sells models that run from about $3 to $300. Though breezy beaches remain a popular launch pad, "Nowadays it's gotten so incredibly efficient, you don't really need much wind," he says.

"By the way," adds the Kite Shop's Bill Butler, "with the kites built today, you do not need a tail."

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