News

California Resident Brings Joy to the Community and Beyond With Giant Colorful Kites

California Resident Brings Joy to the Community and Beyond With Giant Colorful Kites

Large aquatic-themed kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Helen Billings

Helen Billings

4/1/2024

Updated: 4/3/2024

Tony Jetland, a professional kite pilot from Martinez, California, is known as “The Kiteman of Martinez.” He was given the name by a member of the local community because he likes to fly his huge, colorful kites at the local marina, bringing a lot of fun and enjoyment to his community.
Through his passion for kite flying, he has also traveled to kite festivals around the world to share his world-class, one-of-a-kind kites.
Tony Jetland, “The Kiteman of Martinez,” speaks to NTD in Martinez, Calif., on March 21, 2024. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

Tony Jetland, “The Kiteman of Martinez,” speaks to NTD in Martinez, Calif., on March 21, 2024. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

He has around 350 kites, mostly aquatic animals, inspired by 35 years of experience as a scuba diver during which he fell in love with marine wildlife.
“So when I fly my kites, it’s like I’m making a giant aquarium in the sky,” Mr. Jetland told The Epoch Times. “What’s fun is, a lot of the newer ones I have are with LED lights in them, so you see a 50-foot-wide by 100-foot-long jellyfish all lit up in the sky at night; it’s really cool.”
An LED octopus kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED octopus kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED jellyfish kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED jellyfish kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

He said he has octopus kites ranging from 10 to 15 feet long and up to 172 feet long with LED lights inside that flash different colors and patterns. He said he also has an incredibly large jellyfish, whales, a trilobite, a hammerhead shark, a tiger shark, koi fish, manta rays, and stingrays.
Some of his kites, such as his giant dragon kite, are so big he has to tie them to a stake in the ground.
“You can’t hold on to her; she will lift you up and she’ll set you down,” he said.
The “Kiteman of Martinez” kite and a dragon kite at the marina in Martinez, Calif. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

The “Kiteman of Martinez” kite and a dragon kite at the marina in Martinez, Calif. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

The “Kiteman of Martinez” kite and a dragon kite tethered to a stake at the marina in Martinez, Calif. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

The “Kiteman of Martinez” kite and a dragon kite tethered to a stake at the marina in Martinez, Calif. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

But his giant manta ray is designed in such a way that if the winds are right, he can put it on a leash and walk around in a crowd, and people will laugh, he said.
For him, he said, there’s nothing better than seeing little kids laugh and giggle, enjoying the kites.
LED kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

LED kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Tony Jetland’s manta ray kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Tony Jetland’s manta ray kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Mr. Jetland first flew kites as a child in the late 1960s and 1970s in Minnesota with his sister. Back then they didn’t have cell phones or free TV channels, and his parents told him to go outside and play, he said.
Then, about 25 years ago when he moved to California, he got into flying kites again.
He said flying kites is calming and relaxing for him; it’s called kite therapy.
“If you have a rough day at work and a lot on your mind … it just kind of goes up the kite line, evaporates, just blows away,” he said.
Skydiver kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Skydiver kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Aquatic-themed kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Aquatic-themed kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

In January 2024, he traveled to Ahmedabad, India for an International Kite Festival. He was honored to be chosen to fly for the United States. He brought his friend from Texas who also flies giant kites, and he received an all-expenses-paid trip.
“Almost 60 different nations were there. There [were] about 160 international kite flyers flying on this massive arena, this area to fly, and there were people from the Soviet Union; I was right next to my friends from the Ukraine; just down from the Israelis; up from the Chinese; Japanese; Koreans; my friends from Colombia; Johannesburg, South Africa; England; Germany, all these different nations. And we flew for 12 days on the same field,” Mr. Jetland said. “All these people from all these different countries laughing and smiling and having fun playing with kites in the sky, and there was more than once comments were made, why can’t the world leaders learn how to fly a kite?”
He said he was proud to represent the United States and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to fly with all these other kite pilots from every corner of the world.
A circular kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

A circular kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

A screenshot of a large kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

A screenshot of a large kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

He also traveled to India on a prior occasion because he was hired for a commercial that was being filmed for the Ford EcoSport SUV, which featured one of his giant dragon kites.
Mr. Jetland said he flies his kites for his own enjoyment, and it has attracted many people to come out and enjoy the kites too. With this, he has received a lot of support from his community.
“About three or four years ago, I hurt myself while I was working, a hernia, threw out my back. I was laid up for three months, and I had people sending me messages through Facebook, through the local media, saying, hey, do you need anything, do you need groceries, do you need rides to the doctor, do you need whatever; we’re here for you because you’re always here for us.”
Aquatic-themed kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Aquatic-themed kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Some of Tony Jetland’s kites. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Some of Tony Jetland’s kites. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

He has flown kites in California at the Berkeley Kite Festival, at the Art and Wind Festival in San Ramon, in Morro Bay, in Huntington Beach, in Galt, in San Mateo, and in Vallejo at the Mad Hatter parade for the Fourth of July.
He has also been around the country to Lincoln City, Oregon; Seaside, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Texas; Treasure Island, Florida; Wildwood, New Jersey; Long Beach Island, New Jersey; and Liberty State Park in New York. He flew kites with the beautiful scene of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the background. He said that if the winds shift just right at Liberty Park, the scene switches to the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
Tony Jetland, “The Kiteman of Martinez,” prepares to fly his large manta ray kite in Martinez, Calif., on March 21, 2024. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

Tony Jetland, “The Kiteman of Martinez,” prepares to fly his large manta ray kite in Martinez, Calif., on March 21, 2024. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

The “Kiteman of Martinez” (KMOM) kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

The “Kiteman of Martinez” (KMOM) kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Internationally, he’s been to Denmark; Portsmouth, England; Ahmedabad, India; four different International Kite Festivals in China (Daishan Island, Weifang, Xi’an, and Shanghai); and Doha Qatar. He also flew kites for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
He said that at the event in Doha Qatar, when the sun went down, the emcee of the kite festival got onstage and they did a massive countdown with thousands of people in the crowd participating. When the countdown ended, they flipped the LED lights on in the 11 giant kites, and the crowd went nuts. He said 10 of the kites were his, and one of his kites was a 100-foot cobra.
An LED cat kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED cat kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

An LED kite. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

LED ice cream cone kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

LED ice cream cone kites. (Courtesy of Tony Jetland)

Of all the places Mr. Jetland has flown kites, his favorite place is at home at the Martinez marina.
He said he was asked to fly his kites locally at the marina for the Fourth of July during COVID because they didn’t have the fireworks show.
“I had almost over 1,000 people circumventing this field, because the community loves the kites; it supports me, and it’s the least I can do to give back to this community that has so loved and supported me,” he said.
Tony Jetland’s twirling rainbow kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Tony Jetland’s twirling rainbow kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Tony Jetland’s winged pig kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Tony Jetland’s winged pig kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Mr. Jetland said he has met a lot of good people through flying his kites. He said he just celebrated his birthday, and his social media lit up with people wishing him a happy birthday in many different languages. He felt overjoyed with all the love that came from all over the world.
“Why can’t we all just get along and go fly a kite? The world would be a happier, happier place,” he said.
Mr. Jetland’s advice is to be old school, put down the electronics, go outside, and fly a kite.
Tony Jetland’s American flag kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Tony Jetland’s American flag kite. (Courtesy of Mike Miller)

Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Helen Billings

Helen Billings

Author

Helen Billings is a Certified Western Herbalist, and has studied Holistic Nutrition and Homeopathy. She is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she covers California news.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.