Photos and Story by Neil Farrell

Morro Strand was awash in color as hundreds of people turned out for the annual Morro Bay Kite Festival on April 28-29.

With foggy skies and just a slight breeze, kite flyers of all ages and skill levels descended on the beach to, well, go fly a kite.

Professional kite wranglers dazzled the crowd with aerial feats of maneuverability using 2-string and 4-string stunt kites, including one exhibition debuting a new flyer — the Condor — which has the profile of a California condor in flight and nearly as big a wingspan.

Kites have been a part of Morro Bay’s fabric since the latter-1980s when the late Len Shockey opened the Kites Galore store at the corner of Beach and Front streets.

Shockey is credited with bringing kite flying to the Central Coast, as he opened a string of kite stores stretching from San Simeon to Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and southward into Santa Barbara County.

The Kite Festival started in the 2000s when the Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Shaun Farmer, who bought the kite store after Shockey died and renamed it Farmer’s Kites & Surreys (Surrey bikes, or pedal cars, were also introduced to Morro Bay by Shockey).

Now, many years later, the Kite Festival is sponsored by the Visit Morro Bay tourism organization and Farmer is back organizing the event. It’s become a beloved annual event and celebrates the wind, the ocean, the beach, and beauty, as kites today come in all shapes, sizes, styles, and colors.

They range in size from simple air foils and small diamond shapes to geometric boxes and circles, to giant animal-shaped nylon figures. 

At this year’s festival there was a giant yellow and green sea turtle, a humpback whale (nearly life-size), giant manta rays, octopi, and more.

Kites were made of paper, rip-stop nylon, and cellophane, with wooden and carbon-fiber spars and airfoil styles with no rigid spars at all that fly when air fills the sewn pockets within the kite. And they fly on special, no stretch, string that can be well over 100-pound test in strength.