Kite engineer’s Filipino-styled kites are a high-flying distraction from the pandemic

Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 5:08 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a large empty park in Salt Lake, Kelvin Chun can be found showing off his high-flying skills. The 61-year-old retired teacher is an avid kite builder and flyer.

“All the different aerodynamic concepts are built into this kite,” he said of one of his creations.

Decades ago, Chun learned the art of building Filipino-styled kites from a master kite builder, who took him under his wing.

“I grew up in the area where my mentor, Patricio Gongob, was flying these Filipino kites. They call it Sarangolla or Guryon,” said Chun. “It flew almost perpendicular to the ground. I thought, ‘Wow! What a feat of engineering. I gotta learn that.’”

Gongob was known for building kites of all sizes. His largest was as tall as a two-story house.

Filipino-style kites are shaped like a manta ray and made of rice paper, plastic, mylar or fiberglass. The tail is part of the body, and the bracing is shaved bamboo.

“When the wind blows, it pushes against this,” he said, pointing to a corner of one of his colorful kites. “Just like the bird’s wing or our elbow, this bends. So the bamboo bends with the wind.”

Chun won awards as an educator. His specialty was teaching STEM subjects, so kites fit right in.

“It has aerodynamics. It has symmetry and balance. So a lot of science and math concepts,” he said.

Chun thinks his pastime is perfect for people during the pandemic. It gets you outdoors while maintaining physical distance.

If you want to learn how he builds his kites, check out the Kelvin Chun YouTube channel, where he’s posted a bunch of how-to videos.

“Rather than just my classroom or a community workshop, I can catch the whole world through YouTube,” he said. “The object is to make the kite as light as possible.”

Chun hopes to revive interest in his art so more people can experience the joy of sailing the wind.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.