Once Upon a Time…

How a crazy idea took flight

Design Matters

Sunrise setup at the Washington State International Kite Festival, 1995

It started with a couple of friends who loved the wind. Our founders Mark and Scobie spent their childhoods messing around with sailboats and anything that flew. When a friend brought an early dual-line kite to college it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen. They were hooked.

The kite that started it all- the Prism Radian.

The kite that started it all – the Prism Radian.

Urban kiting with the Vapor, 1996

Urban kiting with the Vapor, 1996.

Soon they were escaping to the beach before class, between classes, at 2am in a snowstorm. Looping and diving at 50 mph, dragging across the sand on breezy days, soaring gracefully on the quiet ones. Kites weren’t just for kids any more.

John Welden with the Ozone, 1999. Photo: Daniel Beltra

John Welden with the Ozone, 1999. Photo: Daniel Beltra

The sport was young in 1988, and so was kite design. With heavy fiberglass frames and floppy nylon sails those early kites tore through the sky with a roar as the wind came up. But without plenty of wind it was a struggle to stay aloft, and after a crash you needed a helper to re-launch.

The Illusion 2000 Photo: Ron Kramer

The Illusion 2000 Photo: Ron Kramer.

Frederick Jr. and Frederick Sr., last light on Lake Union Photo: Tim Rounds

Frederick Jr. and Frederick Sr., last light on Lake Union Photo: Tim Rounds

Kiting on the rooftops with the 3-D, 1997 Photo: Daniel Beltra

Kiting on the rooftops with the 3-D, 1997 Photo: Daniel Beltra.

As designers, sailors, and aviators Mark and Scobie had learned a thing or two about wings. They drooled over high performance aircraft, hang gliders, and the latest windsurfing equipment that was transforming sailing and aviation. Aerospace materials like carbon fiber composites, Spectra fiber and Kevlar weren’t just for the military any more- they were revolutionizing sporting equipment with lighter, stronger and stiffer materials that allowed eye-popping leaps in performance. They imagined kites that could fly in no wind, relaunch themselves, perform aerobatics with a twitch of the lines.

So light it could fly indoors, the Vapor became an icon

So light it could fly indoors, the Vapor became an icon

Micron 5-stacks ready for action, 2003. Photo: Daniel Beltra

Micron 5-Stacks ready for action, 2003. Photo: Daniel Beltra

The E3 at Ocean Shores, 2003. Photo: Daiel Beltra

The E2 at Ocean Shores, 2003. Photo: Daniel Beltra

They say you’re supposed to find a “real job” after college, but Mark and Scobie missed the memo. With a couple of friends and a maxed-out credit card they founded Prism Designs in a Seattle basement in 1992. The industry was young, few had ever heard of sport kites, and the hundred-hour work weeks felt like play in those days.

Dean catches the sunrise in Baja while the wind wakes up. Los Barilles, Mexico

Dean catches the sunrise in Baja while the wind wakes up. Los Barilles, Mexico

The word spread fast. Prism kites turned heads wherever they flew. Unmistakable in the sky and exquisitely built, they did tricks nobody had even imagined. Our passion connected with a worldwide excitement for a new kind of kiting, and Prism took flight.

That was 25 years ago. We’re a bigger company now, with Mark at the helm and business around the world. Kites are still our passion and kites are all we do. It’s not our job, it’s who we are.