30 YEARS AND STILL FLYING 1980-2010: SAN FRANCISCO, BAY AREA SUNDOWNERS
With their signature stacks of thirteen Hyperkites pulling 40’ long tails, The Bay Area Sundowners have the distinction of being one of the oldest and most entertaining kite flying teams in the world today.
In 1980, Mix McGraw put together a four- person team, flying stacks of twelve Rainbow kites at the Marina Green in San Francisco, California. He named the team The Bay Area Sundowners. I met Mix in 1984 when I moved from England. At that time there were just two people on the team, Mix and Ray Wong. I joined the team that same year, and the team started flying stacks of twelve Hyperkites, designed and built by Randy Tom of San Diego, CA.
The team has gone through many personnel changes since I joined. Twenty years ago, a two-person team going by the name of The Osterlund Brothers joined the Sundowners just after the first California Open in San Diego. From that point the team members were Ray, Barry, Gordon, and Ken.
We had dreams about being “the best.” We practiced 40 hours per week, in addition to us all having full-time jobs. We were flying our stacks of Hyperkites somewhere in the country or world every other weekend. Back then there was not a “train” category in competition. The team had to compete against single wing flying teams, while flying our stacks. None of us knows how many times we’ve flown around the world in our time with the Sundowners. We have flown in several countries multiple times: Canada, England, France, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Borneo. We have flown in 28 of the United States of America, including Alaska.
After the 1994 World Cup in Le Torque, France, the team officially retired from competition. Craig Wong from Team Tsunami joined the Sundowners. Randy Tom also joined us as an alternate flier, so that as long as the team had four available guys, we were always able and ready to fly. The team continued to travel doing shows, mostly internationally.
In 1996, we were invited to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia to do a show. But upon arrival, we found out that it was really a competition – the Malaysian Grand Prix! We closed the event flying an eight-man routine, with the Sundowners and team Sky Dance all flying stacks of thirteen Hyperkites. This was when we found out that Mark and Jeanette Lummas from Sky Dance were moving to the U.S. Not long after this we asked them to join the Sundowners team, so now we had seven fliers to pull from to make the team.
Now that Mark and Jeanette were on the team, we flew a greater variety of kites: from the traditional stacks of thirteen Hyperkites, to our own logo wings made by Level One, to Revolutions. We set up a six person Rev routine which we first flew at the North Carolina kite festival, then the next year in Bristol, England, and then in Dieppe, France in 2000. Mark and Jeanette left the team in 2004.
Some of the most memorable things the team has done over the years are flying a number of times for the King of Thailand (and two of the princesses), and flying for the Asian Games where we flew in front of 450,000 people on one day. Also we have flown for three out of the seven sultans of Malaysia and MTV Asia. We also fly at air shows, flying on the same program as the Blue Angels, the Thunderbirds, and Northern Lights – the list goes on and on.
The Bay Area Sundowners currently has five members: Randy Tom, Craig Wong, Gordon Osterlund, Ken Osterlund, and Barry Nash. Check us out on YouTube.
It’s been an amazing ride, and I hope the team has many more years of flying ahead of us.
Thanks for good winds.
Barry Nash, Team Captain Bay Area Sundowners