While other college students are slinging burgers or pushing papers this summer, Anthony Rebamontan can be found most weekdays working in the sunshine and cool breezes at Shoreline Aquatic Park in Long Beach.
Rebamontan flies kites for a living.
He usually flies from eight to 11 at a time, strung together one behind the other. These "stunt kites"--colorful bat-shaped airfoils guided by two lines, one held in each hand--require the flyer's constant attention. With a pull of his left hand, Rebamontan can make the kites turn left. If he pulls hard enough, the kites plunge downward in circles.
Dance Above the Water
As he speaks, Rebamontan never takes his eye off the stack of kites in the sky about 100 feet away. He pulls the kites low over an adjoining canal that leads to the Shoreline Village Marina. The kites dance inches above the water before Rebamontan gives a hard tug, propelling them back into the sky. He said he sometimes flies the kites near people passing by in boats.
The kite-flying demonstrations are crowd-pleasers and a prime source of new customers of all ages for Rebamontan's employer, the Ultimate High kite shop in Shoreline Village. The shop's owner, Steve Klinger, estimates that the kite-flying demonstrations generate half of his business.
But there is no sales spiel or hard sell. When someone asks, which is fairly often, Rebamontan simply mentions where the kites are for sale. He also wears a sport shirt bearing the shop's name.
Until about a year ago, Rebamontan was one of the interested onlookers. Then he went to the kite shop and bought two kites. His hobby literally took off.
He said he went on to buy a stack of 30 kites, which pulled so hard in the wind that he once fell flat on his back trying to fly them all at the same time. Rebamontan has since cut back to more manageable stacks.
He believes kite flying can help relieve the stresses of life. "Sometimes when I feel depressed or feel angry, I come and fly," he said.
It also provides a welcome relief from the rigors of a school year of studies at Cal State Long Beach, where the 24-year-old Rebamontan is a year away from earning his master's degree in social work. He acknowledges, however, that kites do not figure into his career plans.
"I'm sort of like in limbo before I start to get a real job," he said.
Rebamontan said he earns about $4 an hour to fly kites and work behind the counter of the kite store. He said he generally flies kites three afternoons a week.
The kites are a far cry from the basic paper-and-balsa-wood models that sold for less than a quarter in the 1960s and could be tied to a tree to fly unattended for hours.
The new, high-tech kites are more likely to be made of nylon, fiberglass or other plastics. They also have high-tech prices to match: the stackable variety sells for about $20 a kite.
Klinger, who became so interested in flying kites in the park that he bought the store from a previous owner, said that Rebamontan's interest in the hobby made him the perfect candidate for the summertime kite flying job.
"It's the best of both worlds when you can make a living out of what you enjoy," he said.