Parafoil Kites

3 Kinds Seen At Kite Festivals

The parafoil kites you see in the air at kite festivals can be of the single, dual or quad-line variety. These are soft kites, meaning there are no rigid spars in their construction.

Air-filled pockets, no sticks

Most commonly, the quad-line kites you see down at a beach or at a festival will be surfing kites, as they tow surfers through the waves and even into the air from time to time. Most parafoils are not easy to re-launch from water, so are not used for surfing.

Single-line and dual line parafoils are flown over the sand and we have seen too many of these at the local festival to remember them all! There's one in the photo over there.

Smaller kites like this Prism Stowaway Parafoil are becoming a more common sight too. The long tails are mainly for looks!

Here's a summary of the 3 types, which all feature a double-surface sail containing many cells which are open to the airflow at the front...

  • Single-line. Relatively flat kites, often with multiple small keels to which the bridle lines are attached. These can look a bit like a flying inflatable mattress! Also, there are novelty kites that are technically parafoils, but come in all sorts of creature shapes and sizes.
  • Dual-line. Fast, highly maneuverable stunt kites which pull hard and are flown from a stationary position. Although soft in construction, you still wouldn't want to be hit by one of these, in windy weather!
  • Quad-line. Traction kites, meaning designed for pulling buggies, mountain boards, or even a pair of in-line skates! Two lines are used for steering, while the other 2 are brake lines.

See if you can identify some of the above types in the listing below!

Photos Of Parafoil Kites & Comments

Two colorful single-line parafoils, with twin tails. The flat-looking design with multiple small triangular keels is only seen in single-line kites. We've seen a variety of these at our local kite festival. Some can be quite large, requiring a large bag of sand as an anchor or even the tow-bar of a vehicle. Simple and bold graphic designs suit these kites best, since the 'canvas' is not exactly table-top flat when you get up close!

Some small soft stunt kites can be flown in a single-line configuration, like this one. See how the 2 main bridle lines are attached near the wing-tips with shorter lines, like a 2-line stunter. However, both bridle lines come together at a single flying line attachment point. These parafoil kites are efficient and durable, with a solid amount of pull for their size. Very little space is taken up when they are rolled up and put away.

A great close-up of a 2 line power kite in flight. It looks a little like a paraglider, not only in shape but also in color-scheme. You can clearly see the individual cells running from front to back. The multiple bridle lines on each side, and even a few meters of the 2 flying lines can be seen against the dark gray cloudy background.

This kite could probably be used to pull something along on wheels, such as a mountain board, or just flown as an over-grown stunt kite. Plenty of fun to be had either way!

Nice photo of 4-line traction kites pulling two 3-wheeler kite buggies on a sandy beach. The guy on the right seems to have a little tension on the brake lines of his kite. Look closely at the trailing edge, near the small white logo at the top end of the kite. See how the blue material is sloping down like an aircraft flap... I guess these parafoil kites are 'flying in formation'!

What a great photo this is! It really captures the feel of harnessing wind power while traveling along on a 4-wheeler land board. Sometimes called a mountain board since they can also be used for skating down steep terrain like snow-boarders do.

See how most of the work is done with those top 2 lines. The bottom 2 are used from time to time to brake the kite, or for finer steering control.

That's about it for this photographic overview of parafoil kites. Maybe you will recognize some of these types next time you attend a kite festival or similar event. The smaller ones are mass-produced and can be quite cheap.

For the Prism Stowaway Parafoil you pay a little more, since it is a quality kite that stays up over quite a large range of wind speeds.

E-book special of the month...

Barn Door is a traditional American design, and this MBK version has delighted many of this site's visitors over the years.

If you have made Diamonds before, this kite is only a small step up in difficulty.

Get the e-book for making the MBK Barn Door kite. Down to a mere $2.95 for this month.

The MBK Barn Door is a reliable flyer over the Light to Moderate wind range. Tail(s) are entirely optional, if the kite is made according to the instructions.

The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.

What's New!

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    I was looking for slightly stronger smooth winds today, but instead learned another lesson from the Parachute kite...

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Wind Speeds

Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7