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Tony Jetland said that after he was injured on the job in early August, suffering a back injury and a double hernia simultaneously while working on an outside deck, “for three months, I literally laid around and stared at the ceiling.”

The Martinez resident not only couldn’t work, but also was grounded in his pursuit of his passion — flying kites. This was painful, according to the man who has come to be known as the “Kite Man of Martinez” and flies large, expensive, elaborate kites everywhere from Europe to China to the Martinez marina.

He resumed his work as a general contractor in mid-November. But it wasn’t until Dec. 27 that Jetland got a few of his kites out and brought them to the marina along the Carquinez Strait for what he calls “kite therapy.” He said it took a few minutes for the outing to become therapeutic.

“I had all this nervous energy, like ‘show time’ — I was shaking with nerves,” Jetland said. “But when the first kite went up and caught air, it was like … I can still do this! And your confidence starts coming back.”

A dazzling display of big kites fills the sky at the Martinez marina in this August 2019 file image. Tony Jetland has been entertaining audiences with his frequent weekend shows for the past two decades.

Jetland, 59, has become famous in Martinez and environs, having flown his kites at the marina, generally about twice a month, for the past two decades. In addition to his contractor business, he is a “global ambassador” with Seattle-based Prism Kite Technology, traveling the region and the world flying company kites in non-COVID-19 times.

When Jetland was injured, many of those who enjoyed his kites (and perhaps some who appreciated his repair and remodeling work) offered sincere condolences, and more.

“Once the word drifted out to the community that I was laid up and would be for the foreseeable future … I had many, many offers from people to bring me food, cooked dinners, offers to grocery shop or run errands for me, take me to doctors’ appointments and so on,” Jetland said. “That’s another reason I love this community.”

“I had all this nervous energy, like ‘show time’ — I was shaking with nerves. But when the first kite went up and caught air, it was like … I can still do this! And your confidence starts coming back.”

Tony Jetland

He was hoping to fly again on New Year’s Day, but weather conditions weren’t right, he said.

He is excited about an upcoming trip in March to Saudi Arabia, where he will be only one of three Americans among a flight team 200 strong from around the world to fly at a nine-day kite festival in Riyadh. Anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 people attend this festival each year, he said.

“It’s an amazing honor, and I don’t take it lightly,” Jetland said of the Saudi Arabia trip.

While he says he flies his kites largely for his own edification, he also knows how much other people love watching them. When he and his “crew” of whomever he gets to help him man the big kites at the Martinez marina, word generally gets around; whereas a couple dozen folks may be at Ferry Point on a typical Sunday afternoon, a hundred or more could be there when the kites are up. Jetland estimates about 100 were there for his Dec. 27 flights.

Jetland’s August 2019 wedding was held at the marina, attended by about 200 people and perhaps 10 flying kites.

“So now when I fly, it’s not just for me,” he said. “I owe it to the community.”