By Paula Detwiller
Today it’s the 90-foot squid — swaying, nodding, riding the breeze above Delray’s public beach. Tomorrow it might be the 150-foot cobra, snaking through the summer sky. Or the giant cat, pouncing high in the air.
“I love kites, but this is the first time I’ve seen one that big,” says beachgoer Richard Olmedo of Coral Springs. “That’s amazing.”
The collection belongs to Randy “the Kite Man” Lowe of Delray Beach, a retired math teacher and kite-flying hobbyist.
He owns about 50 of these gigantic kites, purchased from manufacturers around the world at sky-high prices: about $5,000 each for the largest models. He keeps them in a storage container on his property.
“They crush down into the size of a shopping bag, and I have ’em all labeled and organized so I can find the ones I want very easily,” Lowe says.
When the weather is clear and the sea breeze is right (between 10 and 15 miles per hour), Lowe hauls his kites down to the beach and puts on a show. You’ll find him at the south end, near the Casuarina Road entrance.
The first thing he does is screw a metal stake deep into the sand and attach a line connected to his pilot kite, which looks like a floating orange mattress. Once the pilot kite is up and flying, Lowe carefully lays out the “show kite,” holds it aloft to catch air, and then clips it to the pilot line. This gives him his “anchor in the sky,” keeping the enormous kite where he wants it.
“Most of the kites I have are one-of-a-kind,” he says. A crowd favorite is called the Top Half. It’s the torso, arms and head of an enormous volleyball player reaching for the ball. The ball is a separate kite, flying just beyond Top Half’s reach. Together, these kites get the most second looks. (Is that a flying torso?)
“To me it’s art, you know? I don’t just float kites up there, I always have a theme,” Lowe says. “If I’m flying a whale, I certainly want to have a couple of lobsters on the side, and a crab or a jellyfish or a seahorse. It’s an arrangement.”
Lowe says he’s been flying kites for the last 20 years. During his math-teaching years in Boston public schools, Lowe used his hobby to bring to life math principles, such as the Pythagorean theorem.
During field trips, he would have students figure out the length of the kite line — the hypotenuse in the imaginary right triangle — after giving them the measurements of the other two sides. “So when we got back into class, they understood what I was talking about: A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared.”
Comfortably retired now at 60, married but with no children of his own, Lowe likes to see children react to his colorful, whimsical kites.
“I’ve had kids run all the way down the beach saying, ‘Mom, look at that!’ They are fascinated, and that’s what we need more of. Get the kids off the phones, away from the televisions, and out breathing fresh air.”
In fact, he’d like to take his kite demonstrations to local schools, either to celebrate special occasions (graduations, football games) or to use them for hands-on learning.
Since moving to Delray Beach a year ago, Lowe has been hired to entertain at occasional private parties (like the one on Memorial Day at the Delray Beach Club) and has signed a contract with the Boca Raton Resort and Club to fly his kites at their private beach club on weekends.
He is licensed and insured through the American Kitefliers Association, and promotes his services on his website (www.randythekiteman.com).
“It’s something to do and I enjoy it,” he says. “I’m just living life, having fun. And I’ve earned every minute of it.” Ú