How To Fly – Part 1 : The Start
Kites are cool. No longer are they limited to young children and have pictures of Disney characters plastered upon them. Kites have become extreme. The following guide will try and explain the concepts involved in learning how to fly safely and responsibly. By using this guide, you will hopefully increase your learning curve, develop your skills and increase your enjoyment of the sport.
The kites and activities discussed here are potentially dangerous. Respect them or they will hurt you.
There is no substitute to gain experience than to actually spending time stood under a kite. If you are able to join a club or fly with other people, you will learn much faster. Alternatively, taking a few lessons will also speed your learning. If you do choose lessons, make sure that your instructor holds a suitable qualification from either the PKA or BBC.
Site Evaluation :
Before you even think about getting out your kite, you need to be sure that you have selected the right location at which to fly. The more space you have available, the more fun it will be. Stay as far away from buildings, roads, trees and electrical power lines as possible. They will either create turbulence and/or eat your kite. No matter how far away that tree is, you can guarantee that your kite will land in it at some point! Getting your kite wrapped around electrical power cables is also not a good idea.
Try and choose a location which has few people. Power kiting has the potential to be dangerous. The general public typically has no understanding of our sport. Most people will not comprehend the most fundamental point, that your kite is attached to lines. When your kite is on the ground, they will try and walk through them, over them and trip up on them every chance they get.
While flying, people will walk in front of you, they will walk under your kite and they will find it very amusing that their huge Doberman is chasing you as you buggy down the beach in fear of your life as it snaps its teeth inches from the back of your head. Avoid people at all costs.
When someone does trip over your lines, get in your way or let their dog eat your new kite, (it will happen – it’s just a matter of time), don’t get angry, shout, or threaten to beat them up. Explain the potential dangers and that they should be aware of them. This is good kite etiquette.
Buggying and boarding is most fun on long expanses of hard packed sandy beaches. It can also be done on other firm flat surfaces, such as grass or tarmac, although these will hurt more as you scrape across them at 20mph. The best place to both fly and buggy is on a large beach with onshore winds. It is definitely worth travelling to the best location possible. When I fly at the weekends I will typically do a 200 mile round trip to the beach to get the best conditions. I also take all of my kit with me. I’ve found that the kite that best suits the wind conditions is always the one I have left behind.
If you decide to travel to a beach to fly, remember to check the tides. There is nothing worse than spending two hours battling through traffic only to find that the tide is coming in and you are going to have to wait for several hours until you can fly.
Be aware of any restrictions due to bans, nature reserves etc. Whatever you do, please do not fly or buggy when you are not allowed to. It is likely that if a ban is in place, there will be local flyers who are trying to reverse it and regain access. If you decide to fly regardless you are screwing things up for everyone.
If possible, talk to other flyers using the site. Most of them will know much more about the location than you do. They will be able to point out any unseen dangers and where the best places to fly are. They will also have information about the tides and other locations in the area.
General Safety :
The most vital piece of equipment you can have when you decide to take up kiting is usually the cheapest. This is of course insurance. There are no excuses for not having it. Many locations will not allow you to fly or buggy without it. To find out more about insurance and what options may be best, please ask other flyers in our forum.
Remember, there are NO excuses.
When you initially start kiting, the learning curve is steep and usually painful. If you are learning to buggy or mountain board, essential equipment is a helmet, eye wear and boots with good ankle support. Other stuff such as body padding are useful but are down to your own discretion, it may limit your freedom of movement.
During your initial exploits do not use a harness, this will only cause additional problems. Learn how to competently fly your kite first. We will discuss harnesses later.
Your safety and the safety of those around you is your responsibility. If you employ a mild amount of common sense the likelihood of an accident happening will be greatly reduced.
Choosing a Kite :
If you are interested in traction related activities, then I would recommend a four line traction kite. These ram-air foils typically surpass all other types of kites in terms of ease of use, efficiency, power and are virtually indestructible. Ram-air foils are made entirely of material and generally have no spars to break. They consist of a top and bottom surface which are joined by vertical ribs. They have an opening at the leading edge (the front) which allows the kite to inflate and form an aerofoil shape. A bridle system consisting of an intricate arrangement of lines holds the kites shape once inflated.
Modern kites are generally made from Chikara or a similar high grade material. However if you are buying second hand, find out what the kite is made from before you make the purchase. Nylon kites are cheap but will absorb large amounts of water. If it rains or you crash the kite onto a wet beach the kite will become heavy and difficult to fly.
Icarex is a polyester based material so will not absorb water, however is prone to abrasion and will not last as long as you would like. Icarex kites also tend to be expensive due to the high cost of the material. The best one to go for is Chikara. The majority of modern kites currently available are made out of high quality material, so if you are looking at getting one of these, you don’t have to worry.
The four line traction kite has two lines to the bridle at the front (leading edge) and two lines to the bridle at the rear (trailing edge). The front lines or power lines take the majority of the strain and allow the kite to be steered left and right. The lines to the rear bridle are called the brake lines. These can be used to depower the kite or even fly it in reverse if required. By using a combination of inputs to these four lines the kite can be made to turn much quicker and allow much greater precision in the kite’s movements.
These four lines generally attach to two handles (we will ignore bar setups). A power line and brake line from the same side of the kite connect to the same handle. Co-ordination of the handles in relation to the kite’s movements comes with practice.
Kite selection :
The most important decision you need make is which kite is best suited for you and to your chosen activity. It is the kite that provides the traction which will pull you along; there are a large array of makes, types and sizes. Many of the latest kites are reviewed here on this website, www.racekites.com – make sure you read as many as possible. The more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to choose.
A few flyers when starting out unfortunately feel that they have to somehow prove themselves and purchase a kite which is wholly inappropriate. Please don’t let this be you. Advice can be gained from retail outlets, however, be sure that their recommendations goes along with your research and guidance received from fellow kiters.
This guide tries to offer impartial advice from experienced kiters. As you are probably already aware, there are several kite websites which also host message boards. The knowledge base on these sites is usually good; however, an air of caution is always advised.
When you are starting out or moving from stunt kites to traction kites just two simple rules you will help you make the best choice when choosing your new kite.
1. Do not buy a high performance race kite.
2. Do not buy a kite which has an area greater than 4m
There are many companies which now make traction kites and I don’t really want to recommend any particular one. Some are cheap and cheerful while others are expensive with excellent build quality. As always, you get what you pay for. Many stores stock a variety of makes and models. If possible find a store which will let you try before you buy.
Read the reviews on this website, www.racekites.com, these reviews are written by the people who fly the kites, not the people that make them. Then make your own decision based upon your budget.
As a beginner, you can’t go far wrong by getting a kite from either Flexifoil or Ozone. These two companies have excellent build quality,with a substantial range of kites available. For now, avoid high performance kites whilst learning and don’t get anything bigger than 4m in area. Even though high performance kites appear attractive, they are much more difficult to fly.
Next time we’ll look at the wind, lines and handles and how to join everything together : How To Fly – Part 2 : Wind and Lines
How To Fly – Part 1 : The Start,