With a site like ours, we would have been silly not to take a digital camera and capture all the highlights!
The photo below features a self-launching Diamond kite arch. Most of the other kites are inflatables, but there's a Cody Box kite aloft as well. Plus a black and white keel-less Delta, another Delta with duck feet trailing behind (!) and a seagull flying downwind.
I count at least 6 different kinds of kites in the photo. How many can you spot? For example: inflatable, box, diamond, sled...
Diamond arch in a kite-cloud
Diamond arch in a kite-cloud
Further down this page are close-ups of a fantastically varied collection of wonderful, colorful kites...
When the weather's good and you have the time, it's great to get out with a kite or 3. But what about on bad weather days? Then it's time to pull out...
"Kites Up!" - my downloadable kite-flying board game! Apart from towing indoor kites, doing a spot of imaginary flying is the next best thing :-)
Different Kinds Of Kites: Pics & Facts
These kite categories are listed in roughly the order you
might expect to notice them at a typical big kite festival. However, I'm
a little biased towards single-line designs, so the multi-line kites
are shuffled down to the bottom ;-)
Invariably, when approaching a kite festival, the first thing you
spot is a giant inflatable! They really make an impression,
and it's not just the size.
Ingeniously crafted from large numbers of nylon or polyester
panels, these kites are most often inspired by sea creatures. However, we thought that a giant frog was eye-catching!
This kind of kite inflates from the front,
via air intakes that are carefully designed to blend with the overall
With the 100s of man-hours put into these creations, it's not surprising that they can cost quite a bit. Think in the thousands
of dollars! Kite festival organizers are well aware of the
crowd-pleasing qualities of these huge kites. Inflatables are probably
the most spectacular things in the air at most modern Western kite
festivals. Not to mention an increasing number of similar festivals
across Asia, which mix large traditional kites with more modern designs
from East and West.
These are single-line parafoils, not the multi-line kind flown as stunt or traction kites. See further down this page for those!
The largest of these parafoils are great for lifting other things
into the air. Like wind socks, spinners and banners. At a kite
festival, the very biggest kites in any given category are likely to be
on show, and these single-liners are no exception.
Parafoils are characterized by an upper and lower surface,
divided into cells by vertical ribs. The cells have openings facing the
breeze to keep the large kite pressurized and semi-rigid.
Sometimes many bridle lines and keels are necessary to help keep
the shape flat and rectangular in the air. In fact, parafoils are really
a category all on their own, with many different kinds of kites of this
general type visible at a typical festival.
The reason these kites are so often used to hoist other things
attached to their flying lines is their higher line tensions compared to
other kinds of kites of similar size. Particularly when the wind
strength gets up a bit! A heavy-duty parafoil will still be up there
long after more delicate kites have been taken down by their worried
Not every work-horse parafoil is plain looking. All that sail
area still lends itself to some nice graphics! We've seen plenty of
quite attractive parafoils at the local kite festival. Like the one in
the picture up there.
Ah, Deltas! Who hasn't seen one of these, floating gracefully in
light winds, at ridiculously high line angles.
Is it a bird? Is it a
plane? No, it's a large Delta, most likely constructed from fiberglass
rods or tubes and light-but-strong rip-stop nylon cloth.
The most basic Delta configuration is a plain triangular shape, with a simple triangular keel and no tail.
There are plenty of different kinds of kites in the Delta
category. Ranging in size from small children's toys right through to
quite large and artistically-decorated designs which can be spotted in
the higher reaches of the kite cloud at a festival.
The photo up there shows a mid-sized design with some clever
variations on the basic Delta planform. A 'Fire-bird' is incorporated,
via both the graphics and the trailing edge outline of the kite sail.
The larger Deltas rarely need tails to fly properly, but of course they look more spectacular with a well-designed matching tail flowing out the back!
In terms of flying performance, these kites can give the Deltas a run
for their money. On top of that, they do tend to be more stable and
reliable than Deltas! This becomes more noticeable as the wind strength
approaches the maximum for the kite.
Like any decent Delta, a good Rokkaku doesn't need any tail. In
fact, tails just make these kites fly at slightly lower line angles.
Roks, as they are commonly known, originated in Japan but have
been enthusiastically taken up in the West as well. The symmetrical sail
is wonderfully suited to playing the role of artist's canvas. Check out
the fake-3D pattern painted onto the large Rokkaku in the photo!
On one occasion we were fortunate enough to see a bunch of
genuine large Japanese Rokkakus at the festival. The bold artistic
designs were stunning, and we got some great photos. For some reason,
owners of large Roks are less inclined to attach long tails to their
Down the bottom of this page is a movie of a Rok battle, between a
number of small white Roks. Last kite in the air wins, with pilots
trying to saw through each others lines! Each Rok was identified by a
painted Japanese numeral. As you can tell by the background, the contest
was part of a major kite festival.
Now, I've chosen to show a fine example of a modern Cody kite here,
which is basically a double box kite with wings. It's origins actually
go back to the late 1800s as an observation platform for military use.
All kinds of Box kites are technically Cellulars, since there is
usually one or more closed cells at the front of the kite and a similar
arrangement at the back. For example, take the simple traditional Box kite...
The traditional Box has a
single cell of rectangular panels at the front, and another identical
one at the back. Most people can imagine what this kite looks
like, because they have been used in illustrations almost as much as the
very well-known Diamond!
In addition to kites which are clearly based on the traditional
Box design, there are others which are .... well ... just plain weird
and wonderful! Some designers have gone to great lengths to construct amazing, complex designs which utilize individual flying cells of some kind.
Sometimes the cells aren't even straight-sided. The variations
are so great that you can't actually post a picture of a 'typical
cellular kite'. There are just too many different kinds of kites in this
category. The Cody up there doesn't even hint at what some of
these cellular kites look like! If you're curious, just look up the
pages on Box Kites on this site. See the link in the side-bar, up there
on the left.
This, of course, is the most recognizable kite shape in the
Western world. This example stood out from the crowd due to its bright
yellow color and fun design!
Diamonds are easy to make. They are very
reliable when flown with an appropriate length of tail, and perform
well. Not spectacularly well like an expensive large Delta, but well
enough for your average week-end kite-fancier or child flier.
The popularity of Diamond kites has had some ups and downs
(sorry!) over the centuries. Currently, it's dominance is challenged by
the huge variety of easy-to-fly alternatives which are pushed out
by the modern multi-million-kite industry.
But, the humble Diamond
doesn't look like dying just yet. A great variety of good-looking
designs are available at retail outlets both on and off-line.
Sizes range from tiny through to mid-sized. I have never seen a truly large
Diamond at the kite festival. Maybe I should change that and take my
new KAP Diamond there one year! At 2.4 meters (8 feet) across, I'm sure
it is larger than 98% of Diamonds that are flown anywhere. Perhaps most
'serious' kite fliers disdain the common Diamond! They do seem to prefer
different kinds of kites such as big Deltas and Rokkakus.
This style of kite has always been of modest size, and mainly for
To sum up the basic concept, these kites are
single-surface with 2 and sometimes more vertical spars which help to
keep the kite's shape in the air.
These days, the spars are often the inflatable variety instead of rigid sticks.
See the photo, where the kite has its 2 spars inflated by the
wind. One on each side. This has the advantage of letting you squash the
kite up into a very small space for transport. In fact, one small design was called the Pocket Kite for this reason!
Sleds are very convenient to fly, having almost zero set-up time.
Just unroll or unwrap, let the air fill it and away it goes! We have
seen many different kinds of kites that are basically Sleds at the kite
festivals we have attended. At the top end of the size range, Sleds can
be attractive and reliable fliers which can cope with a rather large
range of wind speeds. Now that's handy at times, for avoiding disappointment!
Like the Cellular kites discussed earlier, it's impossible to select a 'typical' Novelty kite that represents them all.
Novelty kites are often rather small, often humorous in concept
and are generally designed to catch the eye of the very youngest
kite-fliers out there!
The ship kite pictured seemed to fly quite stable in a moderate
breeze. I've seen a few different kinds of kites that are even funnier.
But this little ship was definitely an attempt at humor. After all,
ships aren't supposed to fly!
If a novelty kite flies at all, that's good enough. Most of the
ones we saw flew at very modest line angles, but I doubt that was of
much concern to their owners! A funny kite bobbing about several meters
off the ground makes the kid happy, and this tends to make the parent
These kites are based on just about any common object, creature
or machine imaginable. The more ridiculous the idea of one of these
things flying in the air, the better! On the other hand, sometimes it's
the motion of the kite that tickles your funny bone. Like the little red bat kite we once saw. It flapped as it flew, and the thing was just pathetic as a kite - but it sure made me smile at the time.
Come to think of it, it's probably just as well that there is
such variety available in the different kinds of kites in the Novelty
category. As with cartoons, different people can have very different
Another very broad category, due to the fact it includes any kite made from natural materials from a non-Western culture.
We saw just a few examples of different kinds of kites made in a way that hasn't changed in many decades and possibly centuries.
A rather special one was the Wau Bulan from Indonesia. This kite was an
impressive size, and I was pleased to capture several close-up images
of it in flight. The decoration, as you can see in the photo, was truly
eye-catching and intricate. Not only did it look great, but this
kite flew at very high line angles too. Not to be outdone by all the
hi-tech Deltas and Roks flying on that same day!
Of course, dozens of different kinds of kites in
traditional styles are to be seen at festivals across Asia and
Australasia. To name just a very few regions that have interesting kite
cultures, there is Bali, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China and New
Stunt kites occupy a whole world of their own that is distinct from single-liners, in that 2 or more lines allow very direct steering control of the kite.
These kites go just where you tell them to - at least, when you've become a good enough pilot!
Despite flying much lower than most of the single-liners
at a kite festival, the stunters are certainly very eye-catching due to
their constant swirling motion. Not to mention the modern trend towards
super-bright and bold color schemes!
The photo shows a typical large Delta stunt kite. Although more
complex than a single-line Delta, these steerable kites do share some
similarities in appearance. As is obvious from a quick glance. The long
tails on these kites are purely for effect, tracing out the kite's every
move through the air.
Also carving up the air on the day were a number of flexible
stunters, which are rather different kinds of kites to the 2-line
Deltas. These look a little like those rectangular sport parachutes that
sky divers use. These 'soft' kites are controlled with 2 lines just
like the Delta stunters but have somewhat different flying
characteristics. For example, you have to move your arms more to get the
kite to turn tight, and the pull on the lines is greater than for a
similar sized Delta.
I guess there are a lot of big kite festivals that are held a long
way from the nearest ocean. However, here in Adelaide, the Southern
Ocean is lapping the beach while the kite festival is in progress.
Hence, kite surfing is a feature.
The further down the jetty you go, the better the view is of
these surfer dudes skimming across the water and often launching
themselves into the air. Their kites are big and powerful, requiring
considerable skill to stay in control with fresh winds blowing. It all
gets a bit sedate if the winds aren't strong enough. The day that photo over there was taken, conditions were reasonable for these guys.
The design of these surfing kites has changed quite a bit, with
several different kinds of kites appearing on the market over a decade
or 2. A good traction kite for use over water must of course be easily
re-launchable from water.
Some designs can fly in a very wide range of wind speeds, obviating the need to own several kites to suit all conditions.
Although kite surfing on the ocean is the most common and
well-known use for traction kites, kite-boarding on land is popular too.
All-terrain boards or 3-wheel buggies are popular choices for getting
around on sand, dirt or grass under kite power.
My wife took the photo below, which captures the ever-ascending spectacle of a long kite 'train' quite nicely. From a distance, the individual kites looked so realistic.
Close-up, the construction method of crossed bamboo slivers over tissue was revealed.
Interestingly, the flying line was not the usual Nylon or Dacron. Instead, it was quite thick and formed from more traditional natural material.
There were a couple of these long trains on the day, both from Taiwan.
A traditional train of Taiwanese leaf kites
A traditional train of Taiwanese leaf kites
At the festival, I shot some video of a Rok battle. Some contestants took it quite seriously, racing around and tripping over in the sand - while attempting to snap their opponents' flying lines! In the background, many different kinds of kites are holding steady in the breeze. Turn up the audio too, since the commentator calls the entire bout...
As mentioned earlier, there's another alternative to towing indoor kites if it's just not possible to fly outdoors...
"Kites Up!" is my downloadable board game. It's a PDF file which has all the documentation for the game plus images for all the components. Tokens, cards, the board itself and so on. Anyway, just click that link to see more info :-)