Kite Shapes

by Cheryl Hsu
(Houston, TX, USA)

Q:

Why do kites have different shapes? I wonder whether it is anything related to the history.

A:

What a huge question :-) I guess the simplest answer is... 'because every human being is different' That includes every kite designer of course.

But, for a more satisfying answer, let's have a look at some factors that affect kite shape.

1) Tradition.

Yes, this is close to your idea about 'history'. Various cultures have discovered, over hundreds of years, shapes that worked as kites. The most successful of these tended to stay much the same, getting passed on through the generations. The Sode Dako, or Kimono kite from Japan is an example.

So, some kite shapes are tied closely with a particular culture of the world.

2) Purpose.

Parafoils, and other types that look like a big 'C' generate lots of pulling power. So they are used for extreme sports like snowboarding and kite-surfing.

Simple flat kites such as the Diamond. Their purpose is to be quick to construct and reliable in the air for a beginner to fly. Another example that suits this purpose well is the simple 2-stick Sled.

Complex art kites, where the shape (and color usually) comes first. The purpose is purely for the kite to be a thing of visual beauty. Then, the designer has the challenge of tweaking the design so it actually flies properly!

3) Human Creativity.

This gets back to my initial point about all kite designers being human, and thus unique! Some people create a kite of a particular shape simply to do 'something different'. It's a challenge to make it fly stable. It's satisying to create something new!

Never has this factor been more evident than now. Just go to a big kite festival and check out the immense variety of kite shapes! So many designers, so many different shapes. Or clever variations inspired by more traditional shapes.

--------------------------------------------

Well Cheryl, I hope that gives you something to think about. It was a simple question, but quite a wide one really.

If anyone wants to comment, perhaps to add another category or 2 to my answer, please go ahead!

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