Advanced Sport Kite Skills

 


If you are a good sport kite flier, we can help you be a better one.

There are certain basic skills that are used in all types of flying. Whether you are interested in competition, impressing your friends, learning a few tricks, or just feeling a bit more confident with that new high performance kite, practicing these techniques will help.

As you practice, remember, this is not a sport where brute strength wins. Pulling hard doesn't make the kite fly better. You can be vigorous. You can be extreme. You can be snappy. But don't be forceful. Fly with your head.

The best flying techniques are finesse, precision, and delicacy of control.

Technique 1: Leading Edge Launch

The Leading Edge Launch is actually a fairly advanced maneuver. But it is one you should learn early. When you go out to the field, you want to spend your time flying, not walking back and forth from the kite to set up after a landing or a crash. Instead, you should learn to relaunch, nose down, from almost anywhere on the field.

The key to a leading edge launch is to lean the exposed wing slightly forward, so that enough wind can get under the kite to lift it back into the air. This will take some practice, so keep trying.

The kite should be toward the edge of the wind with its nose pointing toward the "outside" of your flying area - or away from the center. One wing should be on the ground and the other pointing toward the sky.

Leading Edge Launch

Gently draw back on the upper line so that the wing which is not on the ground begins to lean toward you. At the same time, it is important to keep some tension on the lower or ground line.

Don't pull too hard - or the kite will "waddle" over onto the other wing and point back toward the center.

Pull gently, and just hard enough for the wind to get under the wing and the kite. When the kite is leaning about thirty degrees, pull back sharply on both lines. At the same time, take a few quick steps backwards to increase the force of the wind on the sail.

The nose should swing around into the air, and the kite should lift off. Congratulations!

Problems are easy to fix.

If the kite has landed with the nose pointing toward the wind's center, just tug on the upper line and "flop" it back the other way. If the kite is too close to the center of the wind, you may need to walk left or right to create a better launch angle.

Leading edge launches are easier if you move the tow-point on your bridle slightly toward the nose of the kite. Tune as if you were preparing for slightly lighter wind.

At first, you may find the wingtip dragging as you work to turn the kite back into the wind. But with practice, you'll find just the right touch and be able to flip the kite skyward with no problems or unintended ground-touches. So practice!

Technique 2: Straight Flight

There is a big difference between flying fairly straight, and flying really straight. That difference translates into points if you are a competitor, and into personal satisfaction if you are not. Besides, if you want to go anywhere with your sport kite, the quickest way to get there is a straight line.

In practicing controlled straight flight, you have three goals. First, fly vertically. This means straight up, and straight down.

Second, learn perfect long horizontal passes. Start in the middle of the wind and work your way lower and lower until you are practically dragging a wingtip.

And finally, practice flying diagonally across the wind at a forty-five degree angle.

If your kite and lines are set up properly, then all you need to do to fly fairly straight is keep your hands locked in place. Don't steer once you have established your line.

Once you learn to fly "fairly" straight, you need to learn to fly "perfectly" straight. The difference is that your hands won't always be exactly even. In fact, about the only time your hands are even is in a vertical line directly in the center of the wind.

Horizontal Flight: When you are flying horizontal, you need to offset the force of gravity. This means maintaining a very slight additional tension on the upper line. If you are flying to the left, you will need to pull back, almost imperceptibly, on the right line.

Leading Edge Launch

Leading Edge Launch

Vertical Flight: When you are flying vertically, you may not necessarily be in the center of the wind. Wind pressure will try to push you toward the center, so you need to compensate by steering slightly in the other direction. And the farther you are from center, the more you will need to adjust.

Finally, no matter what direction you are flying across the sky, remember to turn or rotate your body to keep your hands parallel with your kite lines. If you are facing left, and the kite is to your right, the kite is going to think you are pulling back on one line and will begin to move off that straight line. Facing the kite eliminates this problem.

Little things like these make straight lines really straight. Now, go straight out and practice!

Technique 3: Mastering Turns

Most fliers learn to steer by pulling on one line. It's basic: pull-right to turn right - pull left to turn left. When you are ready to straighten out, you push back with the same hand. But the fact is, that pulling on the flyline is only one of the ways you can turn your kite. And the more ways you can make those turns, the more things you can do.

Let's take a look at four different turning options.

Pull-Push: The "pull turn" is the most natural and basic of turns. As we said before, a pull to turn, and a push with the same hand to recover is the way most fliers learn.

The pull-push will result in smooth curves and strong, broad maneuvers. Pulling on the line increases power and speeds the kite into the maneuver. Pushing back slows the kite as it recovers. This makes the pull turn useful for curves and circles.

To increase the tightness of the turn, you can push forward with your opposite arm as you pull back on the turning side - much like steering a bicycle.

Pull Turn

Pull-Pull: The pull-pull results in the same, round type of turn as the pull-push. The difference is that you recover by bringing your opposite hand back, even with the turning hand, to finish the maneuver and return to straight flight.

Pull with your right, then pull with your left.

Pulling powers you into the turn. Pulling again powers you out of it. This makes the pull-pull useful for quick curves where you may need that extra power - like hairpins near the ground. You can then return to the normal flying position by bringing both hands in front of you simultaneously.

Push-Pull Turn

Push-Pull: If you want to turn to the right, try pushing on the left. Recover by pulling the same hand back in. This may seem a bit unnatural at first, but the results are dramatic corners.

Remember that pushing decreases power on one side of the sail. Pulling to recover increases your thrust as you come out of the maneuver.

Think of a "push" turn more like a "punch" turn. Jab your fist out there and pull it back in just as fast. The kite will snap quickly in the opposite direction.

The quickest, sharpest, and most angular turns are created by pushing on one line.

Push-Push: A push-push reduces thrust going in, and reduces it even more coming out to really slow down your turns.

In smaller, tighter maneuvers, the corners may come so quickly that your hands and brain can't keep up. "Dumping" wind out of the sail makes the turns manageable and minimizes oversteering.

Once you learn the secret of using push and pull combinations to create smoother curves and sharper angles, you are ready to use the same techniques to create all kinds of stalls and tricks in the sky.

Technique 4: Speed Control

Now that you have learned how to maneuver, you need to learn to control how fast - or slow - you fly, too. Controlling speed has a lot to do with the grace and beauty of your flight performance.

You can change kite speed by moving your arms. Swinging your arms forward will slow the kite, and pulling them back will speed it up. But there is a limit to how far you can swing your arms. So for real and sustained speed control, use your feet.

Move forward to go slower. Essentially, you are subtracting your own movement from the force of the wind. When you backup, it's the same as increasing the force of the wind. Save your hand movements for smaller adjustments and quick stops or bursts.

Another trick is to move laterally - or opposite to the direction of your flight. If the kite is moving to the right, side-step to the left. Moving from side to side will not only affect pace in a horizontal pass, it will also increase the distance that you can fly out to the edge of the wind.

Remember that steering and speed are two different things. Steering means changing the tension between your two lines, while speed control results from changing the tension on both lines together.

Technique 5: Mid-Air Stalls

Draining the wind out of your sails with a push-push motion opens up a whole range of tricks and stalling maneuvers. The mid-air stall, or "snap stall" is just the beginning.

Start in a horizontal pass and plan to complete a quick, sharp, push-turn up. With both hands close to your body, punch one hand forward, and then just as quickly, pull that hand back in. The kite will jerk, nose up.

Now just as your hand is coming back in and the nose of the kite starts to turn, push both hands forward, hard. The kite should stop dead in the air.

In a lighter breeze, the stall should hold. But if the kite is giving you problems, try one of these "stalling" techniques.

If the kite starts to rise, move forward. If it starts to sink, move back. If one wing starts to rise, push gently on that line. Pushing will reduce just enough lift to lower the kite back into position.

Stalls will hold more easily if you move the tow-point on your bridle slightly toward the base of the kite.

Stall

The object of these snap maneuvers is to create turbulence in the air around the kite. Turbulence causes the kite to hang unstable in the sky. Then all you need to do is balance it.

Practice holding the stall as long as you can. And then practice popping out by either pulling on both lines to continue the vertical climb, or pulling on one side to turn back into the horizontal pass. Remember, push into a stall, pull out of one.

Technique 6: Axels

So how would you describe a flat-spin Axel to someone who has never seen one? Easy. You just stop the kite in midair, lay it forward on its face, and then spin it around. Well, at least it sounds easy.

Axel

Axel

Let's take a look at each of these three elements and see if we can dissect the Axel into something you can easily do.

Stop: You have already learned how to do a stall. Push and Hold. The same stall is a preparatory step for the axel. Just be ready to hold that stall a little longer - and make sure the base of the kite stays parallel to the ground.

Lay Flat: Next you want to position the stalled kite flat in the sky face down so the base and nose are almost level. To do this, ease back on one line about six inches. It doesn't matter which line. The point is to ease, not push the line so the kite falls forward into position. This is the tricky part. You want to pull on one line to spin the kite. Make it a short, sharp pull - like a tug or a "pop". This will get

Rotate: This is the tricky part. You want to pull on one line to spin the kite. Make it a short, sharp pull - like a tug or a "pop". This will get one wing moving. At the same time, you need to give the other wing a little slack line so it can follow on around. Remember, pop with one hand and push slack with the other.

Resume: The kite should flat-spin around and then swing nose-up. All you need to resume normal flight is to pull on both lines.

You are going to have to do all of this lightening fast. Practice the combination of maneuvers in your head before trying them with a kite. Actually move your hands. Push to stall; ease to lay flat; pop and slack to rotate. When you can do it without straining your brain, then try it in the air.

Axels will take practice at first - and just the right touch. But after you get the first, each one you do afterwards will get easier.

Technique 7: Three Point Landings

Now that you know everything about the basics of advanced flying, you need to spend a little time on an advanced landing. Our goal is to set the kite down gently on its base so it is in position and ready to relaunch.

Approach the extreme left or right edge in a low, horizontal pass. You want to reach your landing zone at an altitude of three feet or less. As you move further and further to the outside, the power of the wind will decrease and the kite will slow. You know you can slow it even more by moving forward.

Landing

When you reach the point where you want to land, turn the nose of the kite up, as if you were going to stall. As the kite pivots, push and step forward. The kite should settle backwards into a perfect "Three Point" landing. Keep some tension on the line, and you can relaunch whenever you are ready.

After you perfect the Three-Point Landing, try adding a loop just before you set down, or a single wing-tip stand. All kinds of ground maneuvers and tricks are possible once you learn to control your kite as part of a landing.

Kite Guy

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