Your basic itinerary will be as follows:
- Learn how to set up, launch, control and land your kite. (Learning how to fly a sports kite first is a good idea.)
- Learn to scud. Allow the kite to pull you forward so that you skid (hopefully in a controlled manner) on your feet. Keep your feet apart and your arms low.
- Learn to use the type of kite and control system suited to your sport of choice, in the right environment. You will use either a bar and harness or handles (with or without a harness). The two systems are very different and need to be mastered independently. You will need to fly your kite in the water if you are to kitesurf (body dragging).
- Learn to kitesurf, snowkite, kitebuggy and landboard!
Thankfully the learning curve for kiting and kite sports is relatively steep in comparison with many other sports; most beginners will be able to control a two- or four-line delta kite within a couple of hours. Becoming a vaguely proficient sports kite flyer takes anything from three hours to a month of constant flying, but learning every manoeuvre is a lifetime’s endeavour.
The addition of power to the equation means that learning to control a traction kite takes slightly longer than learning to control a sports kite. An instructor is not just an added bonus in speeding along your learning process with power kites, she is a necessity as your simple mistakes could cause serious injury. As a rough guide, it will take the average beginner around three hours of flying with an instructor before he is anywhere near ready to try any traction sports.
Although traction kite sports skills vary considerably, there are constants. Firstly, you will need to either ‘tack’ or ‘gybe’ once you start moving. Just as in sailing, tacking and gybing are turning back and forth across the wind. Tacking is when the vessel points downwind through the turn (when the tail of the vessel passes through the eye of the wind), and gybing when it turns upwind (when the nose of the vessel passes through the eye of the wind). You will need to tack or gybe so that you can travel back and forth across the wind and end up in the same place that you started.
Ideally, you want to travel at 90 degrees to the direction of the wind so that you don’t travel too far downwind and have to spend a lot of effort getting upwind again. Trying to get upwind can be a bit of a labour of love; keep the kite high and keep your vessel pointed as far upwind as possible. Bear in mind that you cannot travel directly up or downwind.
Although it is possible to travel directly up or downwind, you will quickly gain a lot of speed until you almost catch your kite up, meaning that it loses tension and stops generating power.
Secondly, to move in a regular direction you want to try to ‘lock’ your kite in position, usually at about a 45 degree angle from the ground. This gives a smooth and constant pull which makes life a lot easier for you. If the wind is stronger you may need to fly the kite higher, or if it is weaker a little lower.
However, neither a very high kite nor a very low kite are ideal for they will create too much lateral/vertical pull respectively.
Finally, with all kite sports, when you are moving, you must only fly your kite on one side of the wind window, until you turn and change direction. If you imagine that directly above you is 12 o’clock, you cannot fly your kite across the window from say 10 to 2 o’clock while travelling in one direction, otherwise the kite will fly behind you and you will lose power and control. The kite must always stay the same side of 12 o’clock to keep you travelling in the same direction. Only when you decide to tack or gybe, you will take the kite from say 10 o’clock up to 12 o’clock and on to say 2 o’clock.