from San DiegoJose Sainz lives in San Diego with his wife, Carol, and three children. He is a customer Project Planner with San Diego Gas and Electric.
Jose took up kiteflying in the late 1980’s and in 1992 won the difficult "triple" at the AKA’s annual festival-only the second person ever to have done so. The "triple" is first prize in class, the grand championship and the people's choice award. It was a doubly sweet victory. The man he matched, Randy Tom, is his mentor and one of the world's premier kite makers.
As a boy Sainz immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and earned a university degree in San Diego, where he now lives. His degree was in drafting, but his love has been the sketching and photography. Working his way upward in the local utilities company, he took a training course in 1989 and discovered stunt kites from a colleague. After buying a hot stunt kite, he practiced and became so adept he was invited to join Randy Tom's Hyperkites Elite precision flying team. The West Coasters flew successfully for a period, but are not now competing, partly because Tom and Sainz branched out from the two-line stunters to single-liners.
Helped by having watched his seamstress mother create bridal gowns during his childhood, Sainz practiced sewing circles and squares under Randy Tom's watchful eye. Then he made his first kite, a small Japanese hata fighter with an appliquéd bird on the sail; he named it "Ave" (Spanish for "bird"). It won first place in category in the first competition Sainz entered, the 1991 Berkeley kite festival. Not bad for a beginner. Living close to the Mexican border, and of Mexican heritage, Sainz hit upon using bold, brightly colored Aztec Indian motifs for his kites. He made a rokkaku honoring the Aztec god of fertility, "Quetzalcoatl." With it, he took first place in category at the AKA's festival in Jacksonville in 1991. Realizing he had to find his own motifs to make his mark, Sainz continued to look to his heritage and decided to recreate the Aztec calendar for his 1992 AKA kite. Because the design is complex, he needed to make a large kite. "Azteca," as he called his creation, ended up as a ten-by-ten-foot hexagon with fifty-foot tail. The image came from a twenty-six-ton stone monolith dug up in Mexico City in 1790 and now on exhibit at the anthropology museum there. Sainz found the image in a book, traced it, projected the drawing onto his garage wall to scale it up. He then set to work cutting and sewing forty yards of ripstop, spending 250 hours all told. (A precise man, Sainz keeps a daily log of his activities.) Since the stone itself is monochrome, Sainz had to create the color pattern for the kite. Sainz used green as a predominant color. "It's a color not much used in kites," he says, "but it was a predominant color for the Aztecs." There were reds, yellows, and oranges too, plus purple "which gives the kite a cooling effect," says Sainz, "and ties all the colors together." Finished just in time for the AKA's autumn festival in Lubbock, Texas, in 1992, Sainz entered "Azteca" in the flat and bowed kite class, which he won. The kite was also awarded the grand championship by the judges and received the people's choice award as well. It was the "triple" Randy Tom had won two years before, and only the second time this had ever been accomplished. Other kite makers praise the combination of his intricate detail, lovely color and dramatic size. "My biggest reward," says Sainz, "was in being able to explain to people the beliefs of the Aztecs."
In 1994, Sainz took his second Grand National Championship with a twelve-foot-tall Shirone-style kite. Featuring Chuactemoc, a legendary warrior from Mexico's Aztec civilization, he called his kite the "Aztec Warrior." A third kite took the Championship in 2002. The "New Zealand Star" is an eight-point star with a fifty-five-foot tail. Sainz has continued to build show-stopping kites and has established himself as a master kite builder.
Over the years, he has conducted kite making workshops around the nation and is on the board of directors of the Drachen Foundation. Gracious and well spoken, Sainz sums up simply: "I just want to be recognized as someone who likes to build kites."