Trick kites have been around for a long time now, although they have
changed and improved over the years. So what actually is a 'trick'?
Tricks tend to be done in one spot, in the air or close to the ground as
part of a landing or take-off maneuver. Sometimes they are referred to
as 'slack-line tricks'. Now there's a real clue!
A 'trickable' kite design
A 'trickable' kite design
By throwing both hands forward, the kite can be 'stalled' so it
hovers and floats down on its face. Or it can even be flipped over onto
its back, where it can hover while there is no tension in the lines.
A tug on one line will then send it spinning around on the spot.
Beginners find these kites uhhm trickier to fly, compared
to just about any other type of kite. On your first attempts to fly one,
be prepared for a few unplanned landings! Some harder than others.
Hence, it would pay not to learn trick flying on the most expensive model available.
Most 'tricks' can be performed on any good Delta stunt kite, but of course a special trickable kite is best. A skilled flier can do a lot of fancy tricks based on a basic set of moves. These fliers are sometimes referred to as pilots!
Trick fliers also combine landings and take-offs with fancy
moves, and refer to this as 'groundwork'. Neatly landing a kite on one
wingtip after a low-level trick is an example of this.
Kinds Of Trick Kites
There are dozens of good trickable kites available in the shops,
including on-line stores. Many of the old ones still perform well and
find their way onto eBay at much reduced prices. The technology keeps
advancing, making it harder and harder for anyone to just whip something
up at home from a set of kite plans and expect similar results to a
shop bought one. An example of a very good trick kite is the Benson
The Prism Alien
The Tattoo Zero Plus
These kites are now available in designs that suit a wide range of
wind conditions. Do you live in a very windy location? A kite such as
the Prism Alien is built for high wind conditions.
There's an Alien in the first photo. Mind you, it's not a beginners' kite. A new one used to cost more than US$200!
Right down at the other and of the wind speed range, the
Tattoo Zero Plus needs so little air that it can be flown indoors! The Zero Plus is designed as a very capable light-wind trick kite for beginners and up.
Apparently it's good in those gusty but light conditions that can be so frustrating with a lot of other kites! I mean any other kites.
Curious about prices? I just mentioned an expensive one, the
Alien, but the kite manufacturers know that lots of people can't afford
that kind of money. Some kites go for over US$300! However, some
beginners models are available around the $20 mark or less. That's new.
Of course, you can always find stuff much cheaper on the second hand
Comparing With Precision Kites
So how is a trick kite different from the stunters that you see doing
precision figures in the sky, during a team display for example? Apart
from the sheer ability to do all the 'radical' maneuvers from the
officially recognized list of tricks, plus maybe a few more. Well, the
first trick kites were considerably less precise than the stunt kites that inspired their design. In other words, you could try to fly a straight line with one, but it would be a lot harder to do that successfully, compared to a precision stunt kite!
Another difference is that trickable kites usually have a higher aspect ratio than precision kites. Put simply, that just means thinner, more pointy wingtips.
There can also be differences in the way bridles are designed and
various other adjustments. You won't find a 'trick line' on any other
kind of kite. Some trick kites are actually quite complex to set up, out
of the box.
Just like all aircraft, there is a general principle that more
stability means less maneuverability. And more maneuverability usually
comes with less stability and control. And so it is with stunt kites and
I had a think about how trick flying might have started. It's not
hard to imagine really. A stunt kite suddenly stalls in gusty
conditions. The flier just happens to scratch his ear at the same
moment, causing the hovering kite to spin through more than 360 degrees.
'Hey, how cool was that!' he thinks, and trick flying was born. Well, I
guess we'll never track down the very first trick.
Somehow, somewhere, people discovered that delta stunt kites were
capable of all kinds of radical maneuvers, when deliberately flown in
and out of the stalled condition in various ways. There are so many
possibilities, new tricks are being perfected all the time. A few of
them become well known and popular enough to make it onto the 'official'
Which brings me to the 'official' side to trick kite flying. By
1999, the trick flying community was really recognized by a certain kite
manufacturer, R-Sky, in France. They came up with a competition format
which was named
The competition flourished in Europe, and by 2005, a global competition
was held. By this time, trick flying had been pushed to new levels. Old
tricks were dropped, new ones were added and rules were refined.
All this did not go unnoticed in the U.S. Sure enough,
Tricks Party U.S.A
was later formed to cater for the growing interest among American kite
fliers. These 2 organizations keep in touch and try to stay compatible
so U.S. fliers can participate in world events.
Trick Kites In The Future
Some trends can be seen, and are sure to continue for many years.
- There is a growing emphasis on Freestyle, where individual tricks
are connected together into a routine. Sort of like a precision kite
display, but the important thing is the tricks rather than accurate
shapes carved in the sky.
- Trick kites are being designed with better and better precision.
This makes Freestyle flying more attractive to watch. And possibly more
satisfying for the pilot too!
- Precision kites are becoming more 'trickable' too. I wonder if this
might mean that a few tricks might eventually creep into official
figure-flying. Don't be surprised.