Flying Basics for Sport Kites

 


Sport or stunt kites can do things no other kites can do. In he hands of a skilled flier, your kite can amaze onlookers as it loops, dives and dances its way across the sky under complete control.

With a little information and a bit of practice, you can become that skilled flier.

PICKING A FLYING SITE

Your first flying experience will be much more successful if you find a site with smooth wind and little turbulence. On a field bounded both upwind and downwind by obstructions, you're better off flying as close as you safely can to the downwind end of the field.

Directly downwind of where you are standing is called the center of the window. Your kite will fly faster and pull harder in the "center".

When you leave the center, you begin to move toward the "edge". The kite's speed and pull will lessen as you approach this area. Eventually, the kite will stop moving forward and hover.

To discover the kite's flying limits, take it up as high as it will go. Then steer off to the extreme right and left. Remember that the size of the wind window will change with the strength of the wind.

Wind Window

LAYOUT AND LAUNCHING

For beginners, your flying line should be about 100 feet long. Shorter lines reduce response time and make the kite move too fast for most inexperienced fliers. Longer lines make maneuvers harder to complete. After you unroll the lines, make sure they're exactly the same length and securely fastened to your handles and kite.

Have your helper pick up the kite from behind, and hold it by the base and center struts. Keep a little tension between the two of you so that the flylines are off the ground.

OK, now its time to talk about safety. Experienced fliers use something called the "Prelaunch Checklist". It's becomes so natural that they don't even think about it.

PRE-LAUNCH CHECKLIST

  • Check the area under where your kite will be flying for possible hazards - mainly people.
  • Look behind you to make sure you have a clear path if you need to back up.
  • Make sure your flylines have equal tension so that the kite will launch straight.
  • Check the sky for other fliers.

If the winds are strong enough, all your helper needs to do is let go, and the kite will soar off into the air. And if the winds are lighter, give the kite a slight boost by stepping backward as the kite is released. And guess what? YOU'RE FLYING!

Self LaunchingTo launch by yourself, anchor or "stake" your handles down. Then walk back to the kite and stand it up using the flylines as a tension against the wind. Be sure the kite isn't standing straight up when you're done. Unless it leans away from the handles a little, it will try to take off and fly by itself!

Launch

Now go back to the handles and carefully pick them up. Try not to let the kite move and keep equal tension on both lines. Remember your Prelaunch Checklist! Now pull your hands quickly down to your sides. In lighter winds, take three or four quick steps backwards to give the kite an extra boost.

After a launch, it's important to get going in a straight line away from the ground, so don't start steering immediately. Don't jerk your hands around or make any sudden move. Don't get over excited and let go or start to run. And please, don't lift your hands up over your head, thinking it will make the kite go up. It does absolutely nothing to help.

Great! Now we're ready to go somewhere. So pickup your kite from wherever it crashed after that first launch, untangle the lines, and let's learn how to steer.

STEERING

There are three and only three basic steering movements. Any maneuver you do, from simple to the most complex, will just be a combination of Left Turns, Right Turns, and Straight Lines. That's all there is to it!

Remember that "straight" can mean flying straight in any direction, not just up.

Keep turning to the right and you will eventually complete a loop. The fact that the lines have twisted has absolutely no effect on the way the kite flies. Right is still right and left is still left. To get rid of the twists, just turn in the other direction.

Steering

Pulling back on your handles will make the kite fly faster. Your normal reaction in a crash will be to hold the handles tighter and to pull back on them to try and save the situation. That is exactly the wrong thing to do. You'll just make the kite accelerate and hit the ground harder

If you think you're going to crash, try moving toward the kite to slow it down or letting go of the handles.

While you're flying, keep your arms at your sides. Holding them higher doesn't make the kite go up and holding them farther apart only makes you tire more quickly. Let the kite do the flying while you just steer. .

Steering

ADVANCED STEERING

Advanced Steering

Here's another kiteflier's secret. Instead of pulling with your left hand to turn left, try pushing with your right hand. The result will be roughly the same although the turn will be a bit sharper. Study the differences between these "push-turns" and "pull-turns".

Advanced pilots use the difference to improve and perfect various types of maneuvers

TUNING BRIDLE SETTINGS

Most manufacturers mark their bridles lines with a tow-point setting. The mark is for reference, to let you know where the flying line should be attached.

By moving your tow-point up and down, relative to the mark, you can adjust your kite's performance. The important thing is to keep both brides set the same or your kite won't perform properly.

Strong Wind: In general, when the wind gets stronger, you'll need to move the clips away from the nose. This increases performance, allows sharper turns, and provides more sensitive control, while decreasing the lift of the kite. More wind will be needed to fly out to the sides.

Light Wind: When the wind gets lighter, you'll need to move the clips toward the nose. This provides more lift and improves light wind handling. The kite will make wider turns, climb higher, and fly farther to the sides of the wind, but control will be less sensitive.

Advanced Steering

If you are interested in flying tricks and stunts, bridle adjustments will make these maneuvers much easier. Experiment and see which setting works best for you. Keep all of your adjustments very small. A quarter of an inch will make a big change in performance.

And remember, each kite design is a little different. Experiment to see what works best for you and your kite.

INTRODUCTORY MANEUVERS

As a beginner flier, your first goal should be to move the kite in a big, lazy figure-eight across the sky.

If you get excited and pull too hard, the kite will jerk around fast and probably crash. But if you ease into it, the kite will gracefully curve around. Then, when you bring your hands back even, the kite will straighten out.

Figure Eight

If you keep turning, the kite will fly all the way around into a circle.

If you decided to fly a complete circle, or maybe did one by accident, you'll notice that your flying lines have twisted around each other. This is nothing to panic about. You can easily put as many as a dozen twists like this in a good set of lines before control of the kite is effected. Just remember which way you turned, catch your breath, and then go back the other way until all of the twists have come out.

If your kite crashed with twists in the line, simply wind the handles around each other until the twists disappear. This is much easier than having your helper pick up the kite and try to "un-rotate" it. Looks more professional too.

Straight Flight

Once you have gotten good enough to perform a figure eight, you're ready to experiment with a few more advanced maneuvers.

Fly all the way to the left and right. Experiment with how far "out" your kite will go. And notice that it slows down, and then stops when it reaches the "edge".

Try flying big smooth circles, and then flying squares. Spin the kite into tighter and tighter circles, and then reverse direction to untwist the line. Dive toward the ground, and then turn up at the last moment. Or try to skim along the surface, perfectly parallel to the ground.

As you get better, try flying while listening to your favorite music. Try and fly to the music. We call what you are doing "kite ballet".

LANDINGS

A planned landing takes advantage of the fact that, as the kite flies farther out toward the edge, it loses speed. A landing is simply flying the kite to the point where it runs out of forward drive at the same time it reaches the ground. Once you get there, all you need to do is gently nose in.

Try stepping forward just as the kite nears the ground. This forward motion will slow the kite even more.

Landings

For a really polished, professional landing, turn the nose of the kite up, just as you reach the edge. The kite will be moving slowly so you don't have to turn hard. Then, as the kite comes around, take several steps forward. The kite should settle down to the ground on its base, ready to be relaunched again whenever you are ready.

KITE WON'T FLY?

Not every flight goes well. If your kite isn't flying right, maybe you have one of these problems:

Fly Safe!

SAFETY AND COURTESEY

A maneuverable kite is a PROJECTILE -- capable of doing injury and property damage.

Even in a moderate wind, a typical sport kite can be moving at over 40 miles per hour. If someone gets hit by anything moving that fast, it's going to hurt. So please be careful.

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Compiled by David Gomberg.
Copyright © 2008 Gomberg Kite Productions International Inc. All rights reserved.