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.

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

2 matching single-line parafoil kites at a festival.

Photo courtesy of Paul Schultz.

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!



Colorful single-line parafoil seen from directly below.

Photo courtesy of Todd Edmands.

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 2-line power kite in flight, with bridle lines visible.

Photo courtesy of Roy.

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!



4-line traction kites pulling two 3-wheeler kite buggies.

Photo courtesy of "Myyorgda".

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'!



Power kite pulling a land board rider over grass.

Photo courtesy of Caspar Kleijne.

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.

You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...

For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!

So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.

And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    KAP Mystery Solved

    Aug 25, 14 03:57 AM

    Last week I came home from a KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) session down at Brighton beach, here in Adelaide, South Australia. The photos were a disaster, being totally washed out. Over-exposed, to be a little more technical. At the time I thought the problem was purely the position of the sun, relative to the direction of the camera...

    Well guess what. Down at the same beach today, the photos had the same problem - and this time it definitely wasn't the sun. Camera damage seemed a small possibility since the rig had hit the sand at some speed last time, during a white-knuckle experience with the kite in rough air! Which turned out OK, but that's another story.

    Anyway, once back home today, I did a little investigating with the camera, taking some test pictures from the back yard. It was a great relief to find the explanation for the bad images...

    It seems that setting a fixed ISO is not a good idea for this camera in very bright lighting conditions. It can cause the camera to run out of adjustment room for other parameters, like shutter speed or aperture. When the camera was allowed to set ISO automatically, the exposure problem disappeared. Whew!

    The Tyvek-sailed Carbon Diamond performed wonderfully today. It was, for the first time, hoisting the KAP rig into the air. Never has the rig been so steady for so long. Sway was almost non-existent. But whenever I handled the line the camera twisted back and forth due to the rather steep line angle from the rig to the kite. Without enough horizontal separation, the suspension lines do not provide the maximum resistance to twisting. It might be an idea to separate the attachment points even further, on the flying line.

    The 2 meter (7 ft) Diamond was struggling to lift the camera in the fairly light winds coming off the ocean. At times, people on the beach had to duck under the line from me to the camera! The camera was behaving as a sort of aerial tether point, with the kite flying at a steep line angle from there.

    Measured at shoulder height, the on-shore breeze was about 4.5kph gusting to just under 7kph. More of a day for the Multi-Dowel Sled really, which hardly feels a 280g weight on the line!

    "Simplest Dowel Kites": A free but very useful kite-making e-book. Make a super-simple Sled, Diamond and Delta - step-by-step with photos. Sign up for the e-book and get an emailed series of messages called "MBK Tips'n'Ideas". If you don't need the e-book, consider signing up anyway... You won't believe what's on offer in that message series!

    Read More





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