Without delving into too much detail about specific large kites, here's a few notes about the very biggest such creations in the world.
An update: Since this page was written, a few astonishingly humungous designs have been displayed in Dubai. The photos on this page show kites that are tiny in comparison. 8-| (Do you like my goggle-eyed emoticon?)
So, this page will need a re-write soon.
(And if DIY is your thing, then have a look at the e-book Making Dowel Kites which covers several really big bowed single-liners. Print off the instructions for whichever one you want.)
Big kite festivals almost always feature impressively sized inflatable kites which are popular with the crowds. The most common theme seems to be sea
creatures. This has a lot to do with the intriguingly realistic movement
these kites exhibit as they gracefully distort and sway in the air. The
impression is like swimming.
Although not a real creature, my favorite
was an extremely detailed and long Dragon inflatable which I saw at the Adelaide International Kite festival in March 2009.
More recently, in 2016 at the same event, we saw a gorgeous Squid inflatable floating over the dunes. See the video at the bottom of this page!
Several Asian cultures have been flying truly enormous kites for centuries. For example, in Japan, rectangular giant kites are flown on special occasions. Each kite has dozens of lines attached all over its face. A large team of men is required to hold the lines as the kite soars up in a fresh breeze. These are not light-wind kites!
Peter Lynn the well-known kite designer has created several very large 'soft' kites that compare in size to an entire football field! These have been flown at various International Kite Festivals around the world. In contrast to the Japanese giants, these kites require relatively light, smooth winds.
Here's a photo of the biggest kite my family has seen so far, a Blue Whale inflatable!
Biggest thing we've ever seen - life size Blue Whale inflatable
Biggest thing we've seen - Blue Whale inflatable
Costs Of Large Kites
Size alone doesn't determine price. However, for a given kind of
kite, this is true since the costs of materials goes up with increasing
size. If the wing span is doubled, the total sail area is 4 times
greater. Complexity is another factor. Some of the single-line parafoils
require huge numbers of stitches, and have complex bridles. Hence the
labor costs push up the prices of these big kites.
A few general categories regarding cost...
- For just a few dollars, you can put together your very own
impressively sized single-line kites from widely available materials.
For example, the largest of our own MBK designs, some of which have already been introduced near the top of this page. This approach is probably more about the fun of building rather than saving money. It's satisfying to see your own large kites up there!
- For around the $10 - $20 dollar mark, kite shops will sell you some reasonably big mass-produced kites.
Obviously, for this price, great build quality and performance cannot
be guaranteed! It's not much to pay for an introduction to the hobby
- Quality kites from shops, whether single-line or multi-line,
can cost a lot more. Talk to the sellers to find out the strengths and
flying characteristics of a particular kite. The inflatables stand out
as the most impressive and expensive kinds of kites. Don't try
hand-flying one of these on its 500lb line!
- Finally, there are a fairly small number of dedicated craftsmen
out there who produce and sell their own specialized designs. These
guys tend to be known for just one kind of kite. For example, Codys,
Roks or Deltas. While these large kites are small enough to be
hand-flown by an adult, prices can still be in the 100s of dollars. In
some cases you are paying for dozens of hours of skilled art-work. In
other cases, top-quality materials and superbly accurate construction
explains the cost.
Here's a photo of one of those inflatables mentioned earlier.
It's a Maxi Ray by Peter Lynn. The size isn't evident from the photo, so
here are the figures - spans 9.8 meters (32 feet) and is 29 meters (96
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Burka
Owning Large Kites
Let's consider what owning large kites might mean. Four things came to my mind ...
- You won't be able to fit it in your car when fully rigged. Hence, it
should break down to a manageable package. Parafoils just stuff into a
bag. Easy Peasy.
- The kite will pull strongly in moderate breezes and become a real
handful in fresh winds. Of course, if you are into flying big stunt
kites, this might be half the fun!
- The impressive size and perhaps colorful design will be sure to draw
attention. Particularly if you are flying an inflatable creature kite
of some kind. I wonder if these are some kind of kiting status symbol -
they sure cost a bit.
- It might cost quite a bit, but some sizeable single-liners are surprisingly cheap...
That list at the top also touches on 4 common types of large kites...
- Single-line parafoils or flow-forms. Li-lo's (inflatable mattresses) in the sky!
- Single line Deltas or other flat and bowed types such as Rokkakus.
- Dual-line Delta stunt kites. Very popular!
- Those incredible inflatable creatures you see at kite festivals.
Actually, many of these are made in smaller sizes too, bringing the
costs down a lot.
It's worth mentioning that almost anyone can put together quite impressively sized kites. All it takes is some lengths of dowel, painters' drop-sheet plastic, packing tape and some decent instructions.
Dowel, plastic and tape can be found at many hardware stores.
This website started out describing kite-making using bamboo skewers but then moved on to larger kites in oak dowel. Tasmanian oak over here in South Australia but red or white oak would be similar, over in the U.S. Oak of various types is in use all around the world in fact.
After a whole series of 1.2 meter (4 feet) span Dowel kites were designed, flown and documented here, I once again took things up a notch...
To 2.4m (8 feet) span Multi-Dowel Monsters! But still within the capabilities of any sensible adult builder.
My personal favorite out of the 5 Multi-Dowel designs would have to be the Barn-Door. It is just a super-reliable and high-performing beast. Useful for Kite Aerial Photography but also for simple fun flying over the Light to Moderate wind range.
The e-book Making Dowel Kites covers all the big Multi-Dowel designs. That's a PDF file download, which means it's easy to print off whatever pages you want.