After 15 years of working for a local broadcasting station behind cameras, Danny Lau decided it was time to free himself from the shackles of a full-time job, and pursue a life-long passion. Lau decided to go fly a kite instead. And he has continued doing so for the last 13 years.
Fondly called “Danny Kiteman” by friends and the kite-flying fraternity, 52-year-old Lau decided to make his hobby much more a part of his life because it brought him so much joy.
“I was working with TV3 before and it was during the Barcelona Olympics, I remember, in 1992, that I came across people flying kites on the beach. They were flying stunt kites using both hands and I was fascinated. I bought one from a sports store, and came home and tried to fly it!” Lau related.
The kite didn’t fly at first because wind conditions here were very different. But Lau kept trying until he got the moves down pat, and now, he is proud to say he can fly anything.
“Big, small, round, box-shape, strong winds, light winds, no wind – I can handle anything,” he said during a recent interview at KL Gateway Mall, which houses a newly-opened branch of his Windancer store (www.mywindancer.com). Lau operates two other outlets – at 1 Utama in Petaling Jaya and Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur. There, you’ll find a slew of kites and wind spinners.
Lau’s love for kite-flying began as a little boy growing up in Pantai Tanah Merah in Melaka.
“Everyone in the kampung – Chinese, Malay, Indian – all played with kites together,” the father-of-two remembers fondly, saying that after finishing secondary school, his love for the outdoor hobby waned.
Lau feels it is a pity that this happens – kids growing out of the habit of kite-flying as they grow up – because it is, in fact, a great activity.
“You are always looking up to the skies, you get a lot of sunshine (Vitamin D), you are outdoors breathing in fresh air, you are spending time with family and friends, exercising your body, training your focus and concentration skills,” he rattled on, joyously advocating his favoured activity.
Lau says that newer and more efficient methods of building and flying kites have been developed over the years, which is why many adults remain interested in the pastime. Examples of these newer types of kites would notably be the very light ones, such as zerowind kites, which can be flown in little, or no wind at all.
One of the things you notice first about Lau is his dimpled smile – he celebrates the fact that he is always happy and relaxed, and attributes this to his decision to make kite-flying his life’s work.
But Lau is also quick to add that, while his head may be up in the clouds, his feet remain firmly planted on the ground.
“You’re not going to make a lot of money in this business,” he revealed, sharing that it has been an uphill task meeting his financial targets. Luckily, Lau is also a skilled cameramen with a tonne of experience, and continues to freelance for foreign news agencies, including AFP and CCTV.
There are other hurdles when it comes to promoting kite-flying in this country. “Parents,” he said, “are afraid of letting their children go out to play, citing the escalating crime rate, snatch thefts, kidnapping and also the hot weather, or heavy rains … there are many, many obstacles!”
But Lau continues to persevere. He has diversified his efforts, and sells not just kites, but toys and party items at his stores, and actively conducts demonstrations and workshops, both locally and abroad. He is also available for team building sessions, family day and corporate events.
Lau says his children – now 18 and 20 – do go out to fly kites with him sometimes. “My daughter, Jazmine, not only follows me on kite flying outings, but also helps me conduct kite-making workshops,” he said.
Taking it to the limit
Lau makes it a point to take part in kite festivals around the world. He has joined festivals in Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Australia, Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand, Weifang in China, and in Singapore. Locally, he makes it a point to go for the Pasir Gudang and Bintulu international festivals.
In mid April, he was flying high down under for The Adelaide International Kite Festival held at Semaphore Beach. Lau participated along with Leong Chee Wan, a kite enthusiast who is often Lau’s partner in events and festivals. Going for these festivals allows the kiteflyers a chance to network with like-minded folk, designers and kite makers.
“We had a great time there with our kites and wind garden,” he said. “We had three rugby balls, a giant 10m diameter spike bol and a troupe of ladybirds.”
A bol is a large, circular “bowl” type parachute, which has been modified so it spins in one direction. Lau says it is quite the spectacle to behold, especially since its size and cleverly-coloured panels give it a hypnotic effect.
“The bols are usually anchored to the ground and they spin or bounce about in the air. Sometimes we use a car or truck as an anchor, depending on the size of the kite, and wind conditions.”
Lau reckons he has about 50 kites in total – including a kitty, flying pig, stingray, squid, kinetic caterpillar, teddy bear, rugby balls and bols – which he keeps in a store room at home, some of which are designer kites, some custom-made from China and New Zealand, and some just bought off the shelves.
There are avid kite flyers in Malaysia, Lau said, sharing that every state has its own group or club of kite flyers who meet every now and then. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, you can find people flying kites at the Metropolitan Park in Kepong on the weekends.
To start flying a kite, all one really needs is two bamboo sticks and some paper … along with a healthy dose of patience, stability and balance.
“The only real skills one needs are probably enthusiasm and an inquisitive mind,” he added. “It’s really not difficult to hold a line … and then you let the experience take you from there. What’s more is that most kite flyers are a friendly bunch – talk to them, buy them a drink and you will get more kite stories than you bargained for!”
How high can one fly a kite? Lau says his son, Justin, once flew a delta (a triangular-shaped kite which resembles the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet) about 45m (150ft) high!
Prices of kites can range from RM10 to RM10,000. But at the end of the day, what you get in return is an excellent pastime that will keep you happy for decades. Just take a look at the kiteman.