FAQ – Stunt Kites
What’s the difference between stunt kites and trick kites?
"Stunt Kites" is a generic, umbrella term used to describe all two line controllable kites. "Trick Kites" are one variation of "Stunt Kites." Specifically, they are dual line high performance stunt kites capable of advanced maneuvers or tricks like fades, the turtle, mobius or the full monty, just to name a few.
What are these parts on my stunt kite called?
Most stunt kites are assembled the same and have a simple design. Here are some generic terms you can use when talking about parts of your kite
Spine: A one or two-piece tube that runs up and down the middle of the kite
Upper Spreader: A tube that spreads the top third of the kite horizontally.
Sail: The sail is the surface of the kite and sits on the frame just waiting for you to fly it.
Lower Spreader: A one or two-piece set of tubing that runs horizontally across the bottom of the kite. It connects to the leading edge and the fitting on the spine called the center-t.
Standoffs: Thin rods connected to the lower spreader that push out the sail and give it depth.
Leading Edge: One or two-piece tubing joined together with a ferrule, on the outside edge of the wing. These pieces are in a sleeve of the sail and maintain the kite's shape.
What line should I use for my stunt kite: Spectra, Blended Spectra, Dyneema or Dacron?
It depends on the kite. Most entry and intermediate kites come with line and some even come with Spectra, which has a lot less drag and stretch than other line. Spectra and Dyneema are essentially the same material. If you want to save a buck and just try out the sport then Dacron or Blended Spectra will do, but keep in mind that Dacron line is significantly stretchy, which will definitely impact the kite’s responsiveness.
Why are some beginner stunt kites packaged with Dacron or polyester lines, while the more advanced stunt kites include Spectra or Dyneema lines?
Dacron and polyester are "stretchier" kite lines than Spectra and Dyneema. (Dacron and polyester line are rated at about 15% stretch, whereas Spectra line is listed at 3-5% stretch, and Dyneema 4-7% stretch.) A line with more stretch means it takes longer for hand motions to be "transmitted" via the line to the kite. That's a good thing when you're a beginner because it slows the kite's response. Longer flying lines, also typical with beginner kites, have the same effect. As you become more experienced, you will want the improved response that an upgrade to either Spectra or Dyneema lines will provide.
Can I use more than one test-weight and length of line with my stunt kite?
Certainly! Longer and heavier lines will slow your kite down and reduce the pull in stronger winds. Lighter, shorter line sets will work better in less wind. If the wind changes, you might have to take your kite down and switch to a more appropriate line set.
Why does my Ready to Fly stunt kite come with only one plastic handle with all the line wrapped around it?
Ready to Fly stunt kite line sets often include line wrapped around a plastic winder that can resemble a plastic handle, but it is not. Use the pair of straps included with the kite for flying. When you're finished flying, wrap your lines back onto the winder for storage.
I'm a beginner and I have already accumulated 4 different lines. How do you keep track of the line strength that your kite should use and the strength of the line that you have on your handles?
The easy answer is to mark the winders or hoops with the line strength. Try a permanent ink marker, or stickers with the test-weight. For stunt kite line, you can sleeve the ends with different colored sleeving – don’t forget which color stands for what strength.
Is kite fabric an important consideration? What are the advantages and disadvantages to ripstop sailcloth vs. polyester?
When it comes to ultra-light kites, polyester is definitely better. Most polyester fabrics used for kites are a .60 oz. versus a .75 oz. for the ripstop nylon, which means on a full size sport kite the difference in sail weight is significant. Polyester has a different finish or coating on it, which makes it less porous, so almost no air can go through the material. Polyester is also highly water resistant, unlike nylon, which will absorb water and hence make your kite heavier in damp or wet weather conditions. Polyester retains its color longer and is less prone to stretching than nylon. Polyester is also more expensive. Using ripstop nylon on high wind kites has the advantage of slowing the kite down a bit. A lot of times it depends on the design of the kite whether to use ripstop nylon or polyester. If you are a newbie, there’s no doubt that ripstop nylon is the best choice. Nylon has a good amount of stretch, which helps the fabric avoid tearing in the event of a crash.
What’s a wind tamer? When should I use it? How will it affect the performance of my kite?
A Wind Tamer, or sometimes called a Windshield or Wind Brake, is a specially designed screen that fits between the flying lines of a sport kite where the lines attach to the kite's bridle. Used in high or gusty winds, it slows the kite's forward speed to reduce pull and absorbs gusts to produce smoother flight. At ITW, we market this product as a Windshield.
I have a beginner stunt kite that was flown extensively for several years and then stored away. What maintenance might I need to perform and what should I check to make sure it's in flying condition? Does the line wear out? How can I tell?
Assuming the kite was packed away in decent shape and was stored in its original bag, preparing it for flight should be simple. First, you should check the sail material for rips or tears. Patch rips with sailcloth repair tape and treat small holes with "fray check" (available at fabric stores). More than likely, if something has been damaged it will be the frame. It's easy to check the spreaders and spine for cracks, but the leading edge spars are hidden within the fabric of the kite. In order to check the spars, give them a careful bend. If one is broken, it will either make a cracking sound or bend over completely. Just be careful not to cause a new break - bend slightly and carefully. Next, check to make sure that the spreader connectors (along the leading edge) are healthy. If they were glued in place, check that the glue is still holding. Is the shock cord on the wingtip worn out? If so, replace it. How about the bridle? See any frays? If the bridle is deteriorating, you should replace both sides. An unequal bridle can cause big problems. Check the flying lines by looping the ends onto a stationary object and unrolling them. Give the lines a little stretch to test for strength and replace them if you find any noticeable damage. Old kites may not necessarily fly the way they did when new, so small bridle adjustments may be necessary once you are out on the flying field.
Is there a natural progression or sequence of learning stunt kite tricks? What are the basic tricks/skills that one should learn?
Most experienced pilots will tell you that spending the time to learn basic maneuvers first will help new pilots develop a stronger knowledge base and instinctive feeling for control than jumping right into to axles and other slack line tricks. Everyone eventually gets into these tricks, but those who spend sufficient time drilling the basics will be able to learn them better and faster. Straight, smooth ground passes with even speed control, squares with crisp corners and straight lines, symmetrical circles, clean snap stalls and side slides, tip stands and spin landings are all basic maneuvers as necessary to learning competitive tricks as learning the alphabet is to reading a good book. Also, don’t forget that fun is the first priority!
I'm interested in entering some sport kite competitions. How do I know if I'm good enough and how do I get started?
Everyone is good enough! If you can fly well enough to keep the kite up in the air for three minutes and cut a reasonably sharp corner, you are ready to go. Keep in mind that most events will run three competition levels: novice, experienced and masters. As a new flier, you would usually start in novice, which will be filled with people who are new to competing and eager to learn. Learn to fly a perfect inside circle to pure horizontal line, back to perfect outside circle. You should be able to perform a relatively straight ground pass, smooth symmetrical circles and crisp right-angle turns. Test: If you are able to fly a full-window square and then fly a circle inside it, you are ready to enter a novice class event. For more information about kite flying competitions, check out http://kite.org/.
Which stunt kite would be appropriate for a child to fly?
First, review the Best Stunt Kites for Beginners section. There you can find the best options for someone who has not flown a stunt kite before. When shopping for a stunt kite for a child, it is important to look at the test weight of the line (i.e. 50-lb., 100-lb., etc.). This indicates the "breaking strength" of the line (the amount of force that must be exerted on the line to cause the line to break) but it also correlates to the relative pull the kite will exert on the flier; the higher the line test, the more pull. Stunt kites that use 50-lb. or 80-lb. line would be the best choice for a pre-teen. Coordinated 8 year-olds may be able to fly a beginner stunt kite while a 12 year-old without strong hand-eye coordination may not. Keep in mind, the child's size and weight when making a choice, and always supervise your child while they fly. It can take only a brief, strong gust of wind to pull the kite out of his/her hand.
Which kite is small enough to take on a backpacking or camping trip?
Airfoils are a good choice because they pack down to a small size (as small as 3” x 7”), are completely soft with no sticks to stow or break and are stable in a moderate wind. Stunt and power foils are compact soft kites with the pull and action of a stunt kite. Airfoils are frameless and portable (e.g. the Hot Dog fits in a 7” x 9” soft case).
What's the best kite to fly at the beach?
Almost any kite works great on a beach! Beaches are great for kites because you normally get lots of space and smooth predictable winds. Be ready for changes throughout the day, though, since winds may shift as the sun moves and temperatures over the water change. You also need to be careful about people, dogs, and other safety issues. The "best" kite depends on what you want to do. Steer a maneuverable kite around the sky? Put on a big show? Or just entertain the kids? For single-line kites, you can easily put up a larger delta, a stack of Delta Conynes, or a parafoil. Then load the line up with tubes, tails, and line art. Delta kites are stable and can fly in light to moderate wind with little effort, allowing the pilot to relax and enjoy its flight. You can go to the beach to kitesurf and power up with a big kite for some board action. Other days can be spent burning in new tricks on your stunt kites. When flying stunt kites on the beach, know that it can make folks nervous to hear the kite spinning and diving over their heads, so we don't often recommend that for most (unless you have a lot of open space to yourself).
We are going on a trip and need a kite that is portable that we can take on an airplane. It must be packable (big suitcase), sturdy, easy to put together and durable. What would you suggest?
The best kite to travel with is a small parafoil. Into The Wind offers a variety of smaller parafoils, and soft sleds. You can choose between single-line or the maneuverable dual-line stunt kites. Most foil style kites have no sticks, so they pack easily into a corner of your suitcase. When the time comes to fly, you can stuff one in your backpack.
I have several swept wing stunt kites. Why would I want to get a foil if foils can't do tricks and I'm not into heavy pulling kites? I usually don't break my kites either so durability is not an issue.
Not worried about durability? How about portability? One of the cool things about foils is that you can stuff them in a backpack, suitcase, or even glove compartment and pull them out on a hike, vacation, or lunch break. Try that with an eight-foot rigid wing! Foils inflate, have no frame and since they’re completely soft, can be safer to fly at beaches, parks or other crowded areas. Some pilots like the smooth flight of a foil and fly them for this feature. Some foils are fast and active, but most people fly foils for power and kite traction sports like, kite buggying, skating, surfing, or skiing. Take a high speed kite buggy ride across a desert dry-lake someday to find out what makes flying foils as much fun as framed kites.
I live in an area where the wind is very gusty. I'm trying to learn to do tricks with my 8-ft. stunt kite in these winds, with little luck. Are there any hints that would help me? What kite would be the best choice in these types of winds? Would I have better luck with a foil?
Doing tricks with a big stunt kite isn't easy no matter what kite you have. The best kites for this situation are vented kites. These are sport kites usually custom-built with vented or screened sections in the kite’s main sail. This vent or screen reduces the pull and pressure of the high winds by allowing the air to flow through the sail, but there are still a limited number of tricks you can do. If flying a vented kite isn’t an option, there are a couple other things to look for in a stunt kite. Choose a larger kite (7 to 9-ft. wingspan) with a low aspect ratio (leading edge close to a right angle) and a deep wing (long standoffs). This combination will result in a stable kite that can absorb the gusts. If it's a quality design, such a kite will be efficient enough to handle the lulls that occur between gusts. Next, try experimenting with the length of your flying lines. Lines that are too long will make it difficult to recover when the kite stalls, but lines that are too short will only exaggerate the gusts, causing the kite to behave more erratically. Find a length that improves the kite's performance based on your conditions. Make sure that the kite is not too heavy, a kite with a fiberglass frame is definitely too heavy and/or too soft for tricks in gusty wind. Foils don't like gusts either and they don't do any tricks because slack line maneuvers make them collapse right away.
If anyone could offer me any advice on how to achieve a more consistent snap stall, I would appreciate it. I have great difficulty getting my kite to stall and I really want to be able to do axels and all those other great tricks, the key to which is a good stall.
Complicated question, or rather, complicated answer; a couple of general tips: try to "flick" the kite in the stall not from your shoulders but from your wrists, so you'll generate a faster, snappier move. Use a push and pull motion at the same time, but do it quickly, so the wind is knocked out of the sail and the kite remains in control. The motion is similar to cracking a short whip with each hand. Also, walking is very important, by making one fast step forward as you flick your kite in the stall or running forward in high winds, you might be able to make the difference between a "wobbly," uncontrolled stall and a perfect, "frozen" one - keep on using your feet during the stall. Then a quick pull on both lines and stepping back will put you back into forward flight! There are three possible hurdles to overcome in accomplishing consistent stalls:
1) The kite doesn’t stop, even if you execute all movements correctly: the wind might be too high. You'll have to set the bridle heavier, which means the upper leg has to be a little longer – try adjusting it 1/4" first.
2) The kite stops but soon starts to rotate without a chance to control the rotation: the bridle adjustment has to be a little lighter; the upper leg must be shorter.
3) The kite stops nicely but very soon it starts to speed up again: move your legs! This is a sport! Walk (or run) towards the kite. In strong winds, you may not be fast enough to hold the stall for long, and vented kites are really hard to stall!
What should I consider when moving from a dual-line to a quad-line kite?
It depends on which type of quad you would like to fly. A quad-line foil kite steers like a dual-line kite, but with bottom line brakes. A quad-line kite like the Revolution requires you to learn to use your thumbs during maneuvers. If you point your thumbs straight at the kite it backs up, and with both thumbs back it shoots off the ground. When you have one thumb forward and one back it will spin around. Also, when turning with a quad you rotate your wrists, rather pulling and pushing with your hands.
I have been flying stunt kites for a few years, and am interested in upgrading to four lines. Which kite would be best for me to learn to fly quad-line?
The Revolution EXP and the Freilein Vertigo Standard are great kites for beginning quad-line flyers. These kites, because they are framed, instantly direct the wind across the sail making them responsive. As for foils, they can be great for learning to fly quad-line too, because there is no frame to break. However, they don't have as much precise control as the framed kites.
How do I launch my quad line foil?
If you're flying by yourself, weigh down your kite along its trailing edge with water bottles or old socks filled with sand. Position your weights so they can slide off easily when you pull gently on the flying lines until the kite inflates. When launching, make sure you're holding the handles near the top, and tilting the top of the handles toward your chest. Most of the force of the kite should be felt on the kite's top bridle lines. As you get used to the kite, experiment with pulling on the brake lines. The brake, or reverse hand position, is when the top of your handles are pointed away from you. If you launch the kite with too much tension on the brake lines, it may not launch well. If your kite is flying erratically, spinning in one direction or another, or will not climb to the top of the window, too much brake is being applied.
What is kite buggying?
Kite buggying is a traction sport with large maneuverable foils and a three-wheeled buggy. The buggy is steered with your feet and pulled by a 2 or 4 line foil. A wide range of kite sizes can be used, smaller kites for higher winds and larger kites for lower winds. Tacking "into the wind" (*wink*) will keep you from making long trips by foot back to your starting point.
I am new to power kiting. I weigh 180 lb. Can you give me an idea of what kite to start with and what kind of pull I can expect from it? A good amount of pull is okay, but me flying, is not.
Start with a smaller size first and see if that's enough for you or not. This one will become your high wind kite. If you fly your kite on a beach, we suggest that you start with a foil no bigger than 2 square meters. At your weight, you should be able to fly it in medium to strong wind. You may get dragged but shouldn’t get lifted. But remember, any kite in the right winds can result in too much power. Take your time, progress into flying in higher winds with caution and always wear safety gear. If your goal is buggying or skating, try a 5 or 7-meter quad-line foil. These offer the best control and most efficient power. If you are thinking of kite surfing, start with an 11-meter tube style kite with a good safety and de-power system. What you may expect from these kites depends entirely on which make and model kite you get. Kite performance varies greatly between models and manufacturers. It’s always best to try out a few different models before making a purchase, if possible. Otherwise, do a search for kite reviews to get the opinion of experienced fliers.