Power Kite Skills & Flying Tips

Set-up

Having gone through the manufacturer’s instructions at home, and checked that your kite is in good working condition, that all the parts are there, and that they all fit together as they should, you are now ready to take to the great outdoors.

Get your kite out

  • Point your kite downwind so that it can flap away as you are getting it ready or inflating it. If you battle with the wind, you will always lose, so work with it, rather than against it!
  • Pin down your kite to prevent it blowing away – fold over 15-20cm (5-10in) of the upwind tip and place sand/dirt/snow on the exposed back side of the kite.
  • If you have an inflatable kite, blow up the bladders first, then the leading edge. When you have finished, place the kite leading-edge down with its back to the wind pinning it down again just inside the leading edge.
  • If you have a land kite, lay it out on its back with the trailing edge closest to the flyer, weighting the upwind wing tip.

Lay out your lines upwind of your kite

  • Place the ends of the lines next to the appropriate attachment points on your kite.
  • Walk all the way up the lines, gently separating them.
  • If you have a four-line kite, place the power lines either both on the outside or both on the inside of the main lines. Whichever you choose, do the same every time you set up your kite to avoid mistakes.

Attach your lines to the kite

  • If your lines are not attached to your kite, you will need to attach them. You may decide to leave your lines attached when you pack up, often making unwinding your lines easier.
  • Most kite lines are attached using a lark’s-head knot and are colour-coded to ensure each line attaches to the right place on the kite.
  • Remember that your inflatable kite is upside down, so you need to attach your bar (it you are using one) upside down too!
  • Walk back down your lines to check that they are not tangled, have no snags in them, and are of equal length.

Launch

This is the point at which you really should have a friend present if you are flying a LEI; launching with someone to help you is incomparably easier than launching alone. There are a variety of different ways to launch your kite that are worth playing around with in weak winds. However, the methods below are the most safety-conscious when the main aim is to minimize the impact of a strong and unpredictable wind on a low-flying kite.

First get yourself into position

  • Make sure you are clear of any obstacles, and that there is sufficient space downwind of you in case you get dragged.
  • For normal wind conditions, you will launch from the edge of the wind window. This means walking with your kite controls until you reach a position where the wind is not directly behind you but coming from your left or right and slightly behind you.

Assisted launching of an inflatable kite

  1. Your helpful partner should hold the kite in front of him or her by its leading edge. Your partner should keep the leading edge pointing to the outside of the wind window.
  2. Move backwards until there is tension in the flying lines. They should keep still as you move into position.
  3. When you give the command your partner should gently let go of the kite. They shouldn’t throw the kite in the air, just release it at head height.
  4. Steer the kite gradually upwards to the zenith. Keep the kite at the outside of the window.

Solo launching of an inflatable kite

  1. Only solo launch an inflatable if you absolutely have to. Assisted launching is easier and considerably safer.
  2. Put the kite on its side. Face it always to the outside of the wind window so that the leading edge faces into the wind.
  3. Fold over the lower tip and weight it with sand or dirt. Make sure that there is sufficient weight to keep the kite in place until you are ready to launch it.
  4. Move into position to create tension in the line. Be prepared to brace yourself for the pull of the kite as you begin to create tension.
  5. As the weight slides off, fly the kite gradually up to the safety of the zenith. The weight should slide off as you create tension and the kite begins to lift. Steer the kite gradually upwards, keeping it at the edge of the wind window if the wind is average to strong, until it reaches the zenith.

Launching a ram-air kite

You do not need assistance when launching a foil. in fact, having someone hold your kite for you can often be a hindrance.

  1. Place the kite in position depending on the wind strength. If the wind is strong, you need to place your kite on its back with its leading edge facing towards the outside of the wind window (so the kite lies lengthways in line with the direction of the wind). Fold over a small section of the upwind tip and pin it down with sand/dirt. (Folding over the edge before piling sand on it means that the abrasive sand/dirt does not damage the more delicate underside of the kite.) If the wind is weak, place it on its back with the leading edge facing downwind and weight it on both tips. NB if you are using a stake, or someone is holding on to the brake lines, the kite does not need to be pinned down.
  2. Walk backwards to take up the slack of the lines.
  3. Pull gently on both lines attached to the leading edge if your kite is in position for weak wind, or on the downwind tip it your kite is weighted on the upwind tip, ready to fly to the outside of the wind window.
  4. Step back slightly until the kite is fully inflated and sitting upright, then pull equally with both hands to lift the kite.
  5. Steer the kite gradually upwards to the zenith at the edge of the wind window if the wind is strong.

NB If your kite has a spar, you may need to place it so that you can easily pull it around to face its leading edge into the wind. This may mean placing it on its back in stronger wind so that you can flip it over when you are ready, or simply at an angle to the wind on its front so that you can pull it to face more into the wind when you are ready.

Relaunching

Relaunching your toll on land is pretty straightforward as you can walk the lines into position so that you can go through the launching procedure again, as outlined above. Relaunching your foil in water is not easy, however, and your chances of success are vastly reduced by the length of time it takes you to try, as your kite will quickly become water-logged. The best advice is not to bother using a ram-air on water at all. Whichever kite you are relaunching, whether on land or water, make sure you never switch around your handles or the bar to try to untwist a line which has become twisted from kite loops. The kite will perform in just the same way whether or not it is upside down or has twists in the line from spinning (you can untwist it by flying some loops).

Relaunching a ram-air

If your kite has landed facing upwards, relaunch just as if you were launching for the first time, taking care to avoid flying your kite directly downwind of you if the wind is strong as you are likely to get dragged off your feet. if your kite has landed upside down, you can reverse launch your kite if you are using handles (using a bar is possible but not recommended). it you crash your LEI whilst out on the water. you Will have to relaunch on water. This is straightforward if your kite lands on its trailing edge; simply make sure the lines aren’t tangled and that the kite is not right in the centre of the wind window (swim sideways if it is) and pull back on the control bar to lift the kite. if your kite lands on its side, front or back, it takes a bit more effort to relaunch.

Relaunching an inflatable on water

  • Make sure the lines aren’t tangled or around you or your board.
  • Position the kite on its side, facing towards the edge of the wind window.
  • If the kite has landed on its leading edge, with its belly facing you, you need to swim at it hard so that it folds over onto its back. From this position you can pull on one side of the bar so that the kite flips up onto its side.
  • lf the kite has landed leading edge down, facing you, you need to turn it round so that the belly is facing you. This is not easy and you may have to haul the kite in to you to sort it out. Once you have achieved this, you can fold it onto its back by swimming at it, as above, and then pull on one side of the bar to put it on its side.
  • If the kite has landed on its side facing into the centre of the wind window, swim into a position that faces the kite to the outside of the window. You can also slowly steer the kite into position even when it is in the water.
  • Pull the line attached to the upper wing tip to slowly lift the kite.
  • Pulling on the upper line too hard will send the kite straight into the power zone and you straight into the air so go tentatively.

Manoeuvres

Firstly. make sure you position your body well. You want to keep everything low so that you are ready to absorb any pull from the kite, rather than letting it drag you off your feet. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, flex your knees and keep your weight on your heels. Keep your arms low, in the position where you would hold handlebars on a bike. Whilst you are learning, keep your eyes trained on your kite.

Your first aim is to keep the kite hovering directly above you, in the zenith. This is achieved by using the smallest of steering movements to correct any attempt the kite makes to fly to one side or the other. Think of playing the piano rather than the drums.

Steering is achieved in the same way for all dual and quad-line kites; to turn the kite left, pull down and towards you on the left line, to turn the kite right pull the right line. if you have a four-line kite with handles, pull on the left handle to go left, if you have a bar, pull on the left side. When flying more powerful kites you will naturally push with the opposite hand to balance your body, which further assists in turning the kite. This is also a useful technique for more advanced flyers who wish to make a quicker turn. The pushing motion stalls one side of the kite and allows the other side to pivot around it, executing a faster turn. Make sure you use a push pull motion as using an up-down motion will achieve nothing! Keep your movements smooth and slow. Large kites will often have a delay In their response to your actions, meaning that you will end up oversteering and losing control if your movements are hurried or jerky. Finally, keep your shoulders parallel rather than using your whole body to steer.

Remember to keep the kite within the wind window. Although five-line kites extend the size of your wind window by allowing you to fly your kite slightly past your head (essentially upwind), most kites will drop if they are pushed that little bit too far.

Once you can turn left and right, try some figures of eight across the top of the window, near the zenith. As you gain confidence, try flying the kite closer to the power zone whilst shaping figures of eight. Feel the points at which the kite’s pull is the strongest when it is closest to the centre of the wind window. It is these figures of eight which you will use to build up power in traction-kite sports, timing your movements to coincide with your kite flying through the strongest and weakest points of the window.

Flying a four-line kite with handles

You have the greatest control of your kite when using four lines and handles. The main lines are attached to the top of the handles, where your thumbs are. The rear lines are attached to the bottom of the handles. To make a sharper turn you can use the rear lines to help stall one side of the kite and pivot the rest of the kite around it. For example, to turn sharply left, pull on the left handle with extra pull to the rear line. This is achieved by pointing the top of the handle (where your thumb is) towards the kite. ln strong winds it is pretty tricky trying to pomt your thumbs towards a powerful kite and twist the lower half of your hand towards you, whilst hanging on for all you’re worth. but it does become more natural with practise.

Flying a four-line kite with a bar

Using a bar can make life easier as the kite is more stable (depending on whether the kite is a fixed-power or a de-power), and you can hold on with only one hand when you need to, and you can hook into a harness with a safety system. The flip side of this is that you will often have less control of your kite so your movements take longer to correct, resulting in a magnification of the effects of slightly dodgy steering.

Using a bar to steer is as straightforward as using two handles; pulling towards with your left hand whilst pushing with your right will turn the kite left, and vice versa. if you are flying a depowerable kite (where the kite’s angle of attack can be changed while in flight), once you are hooked into your harness with a safety system, you can pull the whole bar towards you to increase the power of the kite (as the harness will hold steady the rear lines). Pushing the bar away from you will effectively apply the rear lines which spill some of the wind’s power.

Landing

There are a variety of ways of landing small, manoeuvrable kites using stalls which are completely impractical for larger inflatable kites. Although brake lines assist in the landing of four line kites, both two- and four-line power kites are pretty tricky to land competently, even more so when using a bar rather than handles.

Landing an inflatable is more difficult than landing a ram air kite for the simple reason that the fixed form inflatable is always itching to jump up and fly away. The ram air kite, without the wind in its cells, will sit deflated and lifeless once you put it in a safe position. This means that it’s a good idea to find a friend to help you land your inflatable even if you managed the launch solo. Luckily, kite flyers are a generous subsection of society and win all help one another to land kites whether they know each other or not.

Assisted landing of your power kite

  • If your helper is a non-flyer, remember to brief him or her to stay back behind the kite until it is within catching distance.
  • Bring the kite to the edge of the wind window. it is possible to land it in the middle of the window if winds are very light.
  • Gently steer it down for your helpful buddy to catch it. Once he/she has hold of the kite, take a few steps forward to release the tension on the lines. He should hold the kite lightly by its leading edge and let it flap downwind of himself.
  • Leave your control system on the ground as you quickly go to secure your kite. Just as you secured it before launching, weight your kite with non-sharp objects (place your inflatable kite upside down, leading edge facing upwind).

Solo landing of a ram-air kite

  • There are a few different ways to solo-land a kite, the most popular being reverse landing for four-line kites Simply apply the ‘brake’ lines to reverse the kite until it comes to rest on the ground (impossible for kites with only two lines). The following guide offers the most straightforward method for all types of kite.
  • Fly the kite in a low horizontal pass. lithe wind is strong, use only the edge of the wind window.
  • The kite will lose power at the edge of the Window and will come to rest. The kite will probably land on its back.
  • Loosen off any tension in the lines by taking a step forward. Make sure you give extra slack to whichever edge is further away from you.
  • Retrieve your kite as quickly as possible. if you have a stake, use it to stop the kite blowing away; pin down any other equipment you may have, such as harness loops, rear (brake) lines or one line of a two-line kite.

Packing up

When you pack up your kite, treat it with love. Folded material becomes weaker over time, so roll the kite up rather than folding it. If your kite has sand or dirt on it, brush off as much as you can on site as both are abrasive. if your kite is still wet, hang it out to dry when you get home to avoid mildew and smelliness. brushing off any dried sand or dirt before packing it up again. Kite lines should be wound up with care as even little knots cause considerable weakness to the line.

Washing your line in fresh water it you have been flying in the sea will prevent salt erosion. It you decide to wash your kite, use a soil cloth and make sure it is dry before packing it away.

Solo landing of an inflatable kite

It is extremely difficult and risky to solo land an inflatable kite and you are strongly advised not to attempt it. if your kite has a solo-landing device, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, making sure you are fully practised in light winds before attempting the landing in higher winds.

Remember to unhook from your harness before landing your kite!