Do you need a hand with knowing how to fly a kite? We've seen plenty of struggling kite flyers from time to time—on the beach, at the park, or near a kite festival in full swing!
Any child capable of grasping a string can fly a one-string or single line kite, once it has enough height in the air.
To start with, it's hard to go wrong with a store-bought small parafoil, like the one in the photo up there. They all have an upper and lower surface, with air intakes at the front. The smallest parafoils can be stuffed into a trouser pocket. Some are sold with the flying line already attached!
The wind inflates the kite into shape for flying.
These kites are so simple to store, transport and use, it's ridiculous :-)
If you'd prefer to fly a sticked single-surface kite, try a store-bought delta kite, like the one in the other photo up there. They all have that basic triangle shape, and the small to medium sized products have a fairly light pull, so any member of the family can hang on.
Here are two nice things about deltas, from a beginner's point of view:
What about tails? For most parafoils or deltas, no tail is necessary. However, these kites are often sold with tails already attached. This is mainly for looks, but also helps to settle the kite down in fresher wind.
For the parafoil, once the flying line is attached to the bridle:
It's much the same with the delta:
What if the kite just won't stay up?
Don't despair, you can always try a long line launch with any kite:
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy :-)
What if the kite just loops around continuously?
I've done a whole page on how to make kites fly straight!
It can be said in two words: the beach.
OK, that's not the only place, but it's the best for your first try with any kite.
You see, particularly when the wind is coming straight off the ocean, the sandy expanse usually results in smoother and more consistent airflow than anywhere else. That's perfect for kites!
But what if you're two day's drive from the nearest coastline? Don't worry; just head for the biggest, most open space you can find.
When flying single liners inland, you will notice two things:
There's a few other different names you might come across with respect to these steerable kites. For example, dual line kites, two-liners, stunt kites, trick kites, foils, sport kites, multi-liners.
Yes, that's the point of having more than one flying line. You can steer the kite anywhere from way left to way right to nearly overhead. Fun fun fun! Just don't fly too close to people or power lines.
I'm going to recommend trying a dual-line parafoil first; these are often referred to as soft stunt kites.
Just like the small single-line parafoils, soft stunt kites pack down very conveniently and are simple to set up. These kites also have that double surface but contain many more inflatable cells than tiny single liners.
The wind inflates the kite into shape for flying. As the kite picks up speed, you will feel the pull increase quite a lot! For this reason, steerable parafoils are not for the very smallest kids. You need to give it a go first, before deciding whether your 5, 8, or 12-year-old child can handle it.
A really good thing about soft stunt kites is that there's nothing to break if it hits the ground hard!
Dual-line deltas, like the one in the other photo up there, take a little more finesse to fly. The beginner models are a heap of fun once you are able to keep them in the air. Although the rigid spars can break in a really bad crash, they are more likely to just pop out of their sockets, which is easily fixed.
For the youngest flyers, the limiting factor is skill rather than strength, since dual-line deltas pull much less than similarly sized parafoils.
What about tails? All steerable kites are more maneuverable without tails so a long light tail is just for looks. But they can look pretty good, tracing out every move of the kite as it swishes through the air!
It's possible to fly two-line kites on your own. But it's far easier to get a kite in the air with a helper—particularly when you're just starting out!
How to prepare to launch a soft stunt kite:
Here's the launch procedure:
Doing all this with a dual-line delta is very similar. Of course the delta doesn't have to inflate, which makes things a little simpler for your helper. Also, you will probably find that less control movement is required to turn the delta, once it's flying.
In my opinion, having flown inland a few times with my Peter Powell steerable diamond and also a dual-line delta, it's just not worth it most of the time. Steerable kites are the most fun low down and that's where the air is most messed up, unfortunately. The lines keep going slack as the breeze drops out from time to time. Even in a fresh breeze, the response from the kite can be chaotic due to turbulence.
Feel free to ignore this advice if you find a truly exceptional flying location. For example, a gentle hill in the middle of a massive square field with hardly a tree or building in sight!
Anyway, you get the picture; for stunt kites of any kind, a smooth onshore breeze down at the beach is the way to go!
Plus there are some links in here to other pages which expand on related topics. If the weather's bad outside, why not settle in and read here for a while. At least it's all about kites and flying them!
Here's a note about flying shop-bought kites:
If the weather and location are good, and the kite is a simple, proven design like a diamond or delta, there shouldn't be much problem. The manufacturer should have set the bridle or keel to give success in most weather conditions.
These kites are generally quite accurately made. Most have a good wind range, meaning they fly in fairly light wind right through to fairly fresh wind.
However, be aware that not all those fancy novelty kites are great flyers!
Wind Speed Handy Reference
The principles of how to fly a kite aren't any different if it's homemade. However, a whole bunch of things can go wrong if the kite is not made carefully. Also, the smaller the kite, the more accurate you have to be!
Having said that, homemade kites can provide a lot of fun and
reward. Heck, most of this website is all about making your own kite!
The beginning of any flight is the launch. This can be a little tricky when you are on your own, inland, in a gusty variable breeze. I've put together a few tips for this hand launching situation. Since there are some large fields quite close to home, we don't often fly our single liners down at the beach where winds are smoother.
good conditions, once you have your kite up high, there really isn't
much to it. Just watch it do its thing. Anchor the line somewhere and
keep an eye on things from time to time, while you do something else.
Often, it gets more interesting than just turning up somewhere and holding a string. So, I've written more on the various situations that can arise when kite flying with single liners.
But, supposing there are problems, for whatever reason. Then it's time to check out a few tips. Maybe someone has fiddled with that bridle adjustment.
Like to see a video clip? Just scroll down to near the end of this page.
Some, maybe most, people just enjoy the relaxing aspects of flying a single line kite—just watching it fly, perhaps enjoying the subtle artistry of color and movement. Maybe they even enjoy the feel of controlling an almost-living creature on the end of the line.
However, if you would like to get a little more out of your kite, why not try the following ideas. No special equipment is needed! OK, maybe you need a stopwatch if you want to get more serious:
Of course, with money, extra gear and more experience you can eventually try a range of even cooler things! Like:
That's about it for my somewhat long winded spiel on how to fly a kite.
Talking about being long winded, here's some more ideas on why you might want to go fly a kite. It's quite a long page!
And just in case you want to know how a kite flies, I've done a piece on that too.
That's our homemade MBK Dowel Delta in the video up there. It's on a very short line so you can see a bit of detail.