man flying I2K stunt kite on the beach

Once Upon A Time

How a crazy idea took flight

Sunrise setup at the Washington State International Kite Festival, 1995.

It started 30 years ago 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.

Urban kiting with the Vapor, 1996.

Soon they were escaping to the beach to fly at sunrise, 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

The sport was young in 1988, and so was sport 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.

As designers, sailors, and aviators Mark and Scobie had learned a thing or two about wings. They were fascinated by 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.

Micron 5-Stacks ready for action, 2003. Photo: Daniel 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, no business plan and a maxed-out credit card they launched Prism Designs from a Seattle basement in 1992.

Tom E. and his SUL Eclipse enjoying a quiet evening on Lake Union, 1996. Photo: Tim Rounds

The industry was young and few had ever heard of sport kites. Fax machines ruled and social media was still decades away. But the extraordinary kites they built spoke for themselves and the word got around.
Prism began to thrive.

Water play with the E2, San Juan Islands, 2002. Photo: Daniel Beltra

No wind and an empty beach, 1998. Photo: Daniel Beltra

It’s been an amazing ride since those early days, through countless challenges and unprecedented changes in our world. We never imagined that three decades later we’d still be at it, still fascinated by kites, and still somehow avoiding those “real jobs” we were all supposed to get.

Showing off with the Adrenaline 5-stack, 2002. Photo: Daniel Beltra

So we’ve got some fun things planned for this special 30th year. It’s time to celebrate how far we’ve come and thank all of you who helped make it possible. Stay tuned for more in the months to come!