Types Of Kites

8 Popular Single Liners

We build and fly many different types of kites that are known in the West, as you probably know by now. Not all of them originated in the West though...

Types of kites - MBK Dowel Sode kiteMBK Dowel Sode - plane-like!

On this page, the focus is definitely on single-liners, and 'flat' kites in particular. However, I like to include designs with bowed spars or dihedral in the 'flat' category. Not to mention Deltas, despite the small amount of billow in their sails which helps to keep them stable.

A couple of these types, the Diamond and the Delta, are almost 'household names' now. Particularly during April in the USA, when it is officially 'kite month' over there!

Even in China, where kites have been popular for many centuries, the Diamond and Delta from the West are catching on and being absorbed into the local kite culture.

Apart from those 2 types, we hope you enjoy getting educated about some others that are not quite as well known. Like another Japanese design, the Rokkaku. Or the Sode, which you can see in the photo up there.

The Sled Kite

Small soft Sled kiteSmall 'soft' Sled

In terms of popularity and sheer numbers, the Sled kite is up there in the Big Three - Sleds, Diamonds and Deltas.

I've never seen a truly large Sled of the 2-stick variety, but have often seen smaller ones flying here and there. Usually with inflatable spars, as in the photo. In parks, down at the beach, even at Kite Festivals.

This entire web site started out by featuring a humble little $5 all-plastic Sled we bought for our toddler! It's still out there in the back shed...

A bit of research on these types of kites turned up an amazing variety of configurations for such a seemingly simple design. Extra spars, vents, cutouts, you name it. Whatever its exact form, the attractive thing about these kites is the built-in transportability and instant setup. Pure convenience.

The flying performance of store-bought Sled kites tends to be modest, but that doesn't bother the people who fly them!

The Diamond Kite

Colorful Diamond kiteSmall retail Diamond

I can't help noticing how often we are bombarded with images of this design in daily life. These types of kites are everywhere.

It seems every second kid's show on T.V. and every second children's book has an image or 3 of this extremely well-known kite shape. It seems that, in the West at least, the word 'kite' is almost synonymous with the shape 'diamond'.

Hear 'kite', see a 'diamond'!

As a family we have often seen a Diamond kite of some description floating on the breeze. Usually, the person taking an opportunity to fly a kite is hidden by the houses and trees of suburbia here in Adelaide.

Interestingly, all our building and flying of simple Diamonds has underscored the basic reliability and idiot-proof nature of these types of kites! Many other designs can have their quirks and give trouble when built from scratch by inexperienced fliers. No wonder the Diamond is so popular. The larger ones which break down for transport are very quick to set up too.

With accurately made modern materials, Diamond kites can have quite a good wind range, although they don't necessarily fly at very steep line angles.

In some corners of the world, you might hear a Diamond referred to as an Eddy kite. There are a number of similarities!

The Barn Door Kite

Large home-made Barn-Door kiteLarge custom Barn Door

With so many visitors from the U.S. passing through this site, it's appropriate to include a design that apparently originated in that country.

The 3-spar Barn Door doesn't make it into my top 3 types of kites. However, a little browsing around the Web reveals that a number of keen kite people take pride in making and flying large examples of these types of kites.

I have to admit, I've never seen a Barn Door kite flying here in Australia! Apart from our own MBK versions of course. There must be a few around though, since the term '3-sticker' has been in use for many years.

Both our own Skewer designs are very much at home in fresh breezes, although we fly them both with tails. Larger Barn Doors are able to fly tail-less, at least in light to moderate winds.

Our largest Barn Door, at 2.4 meters (8 feet) span, has been our best all-round lifter kite for KAP (Kite Aerial Photography).

The Rokkaku Kite

Large Tassie Devil Rokkaku kiteLarge custom Rokkaku

The Rokkaku kite, often abbreviated to just 'Rok', has to be the most copied Japanese kite in the West.

These types of kites are everywhere, from small ones turned out from children's kite-making workshops right through to large expensive air-brushed versions for sale in kite shops. There's always a few big Roks floating around at our local kite festival each year.

Like the Diamond and Delta, flying characteristics have a lot to do with their considerable popularity! In my humble opinion. However, they don't quite make the Big Three.

I've seen a Rok Battle at a kite festival, and have to say it's not a bad spectator sport! The competitors try to force all the other kites to the ground, any way they can. Well, not quite, I'm sure firearms would be against the rules ;-) Personally, I'm not so much into kite fighting, and prefer to fly my Rokkakus up to 400 feet in light wind and thermal conditions.

Rokkaku kites are quite forgiving to construct and fly. They are very stable and a tail is needed only for some of the tiniest versions. Like the 29cm (12") MBK 1-Skewer Rok. The larger Roks can be built for light conditions only, like mine, or for more testing conditions like those used for modern Rok Battles.

Wind Speed Handy Reference

Light Air
1-5 kph
1-3 mph
1-3 knts
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 kph
4–7 mph
4–6 knts
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 kph
8–12 mph
7–10 knts
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 kph
13–18 mph
11–16 knts
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 kph
19–24 mph
17–21 knts
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 kph
25–31 mph
22–27 knts
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 kph
32-38 mph
28-33 knts
Beaufort 7

62-74 kph
39-46 mph
34-40 knts
Beaufort 8

The Sode Kite

Artistic Sode kiteArtistic Sode

The Sode kite, otherwise known as the Kimono kite due to its resemblance to that Japanese garment, has often been copied in the West. It's not unknown for a large Sode to be spotted at a kite festival. The rectangular areas of sail make a good canvas for artistic expression!

Our MBK Sodes are great light wind fliers, and gain height easily in thermals just like Deltas.

The Japanese originals fly without tails, and use Washi paper for the sails. Apparently, some tragically keen Japanese fliers still make their own Washi paper from mulberry bushes. Beat that for 'building from scratch'!

Sodes can seem quite flimsy when being handled on the ground, but these types of kites fly very steadily up high.

The Delta Kite

Windjam Delta kiteA mass-produced Delta

The Delta kite is Number 3 of The Big Three! Of all the different types of kites, this type is most commonly recommended to beginners by shops and festival commentators, for good reason.

The Delta is easy to launch, flies on the lightest of breezes, and almost always sits at a good steep line angle. These characteristics have pushed along the popularity of this design to huge levels, despite having only a fraction of the history of the Diamond and perhaps even the Sled kite.

The vast majority of Delta kites are bought from a shop, since they are not nearly as straight-forward to construct as the Diamond or Sled. However, building Delta kites can be very rewarding, as I can attest!

Our experience of Deltas has uncovered a tendency for them to get unpredictable in gusty or fresh winds. However, in light winds or stronger smooth breezes they are truly wonderful fliers.

Dan Leigh has been designing light wind kites since 1974, and specializes in the Delta configuration. Customers rave about the quality and performance of Dan's Delta kites. Mind you, they don't come cheap!

The Roller Kite

Home-made Roller kiteHome-made Roller

Not a super-popular design now, but there are people out there who really love their Rollers!

The Roller kite has its roots in pre-War Germany. It's an efficient light wind kite that can be adjusted for flying in stronger winds.

With its tail-less design and steep flying angles, this kite is handy for flying in confined areas.

Our MBK Rollers are reliable fliers, based on the Pearson Roller, with the 2-Skewer one quite capable of going overhead on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. Despite its very modest size. The even smaller 1-Skewer design once caught the eye of a German blogger who marveled at how a Roller could be so cheap!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Roller kites are more liked and well known in Germany and other parts of Europe than elsewhere on the planet. After all, that's where the basic concept originated.

The Dopero Kite

Large Dopero kitePatriotic Dopero (Scottish)

Hardly a common design, the Dopero kite is however much appreciated with the Kite Aerial Photography crowd. This design is capable of hoisting camera gear aloft in light winds better than other designs of similar sail area.

The original kite was actually inspired by the idea of overlapping 2 Pearson Rollers. Hence DOuble PEarson ROller or 'Dopero'.

Our Doperos are rather loosely based on the original! These types of kites generally have drag-pockets under the trailing edge, but ours have twin keels. Also, ours have much lower aspect ratios. To put that in entirely non-technical language, ours are 'stumpy' compared to the more 'graceful' types of kites that were originally made. I have my reasons for this, and it doesn't stop the 2-Skewer version going directly overhead on 120 meters (400 feet) of line...

The very best shop-bought Dopero kites are wonderful hi-tech pieces of gear. Hence they are expensive, with dollar prices in 3 digits!

Another Type Of Kite...

I hope you enjoyed that quick tour of the types of kites you are likely to see in the West, floating in the wind on the end of a single string.

Although it doesn't belong in my grouping of 8, I might just throw in a mention of another popular type right here.

The single-string parafoil or flowform...

Large Flowform kiteFlowform and twin Sleds at a festival

These types of kites are everywhere, and you are certain to see a variety of them if you ever attend a kite festival. Like the multi-line parafoils that pull surfers across the water at beaches, the single-liner has an upper and lower surface, divided into a number of cells that are open at the front. Flowforms also let air out the back. Air pressure keeps the kite's shape pumped up as it flies. Just see big the photo down there, which shows a Flowform in the foreground and a couple of ram-air Sleds behind it....

But here's the point - you are not going to slap one of these together in an hour or 2 on your kitchen table, from plastic bags! Also, with no spars, bamboo doesn't come into it either. Perhaps I could give it a shot, and call it the 'MBK Zero-Skewer Parafoil' ;-)

When this page was originally written, a fair amount of background info was collated on these specific kite types. Along the way, many other different kinds of kites altogether were discovered.

Finally, might you be interested in some fascinating in-depth kite history? At this site, click on KITE HISTORY on the right hand side to browse time-lines of kite development, and peek into the activities of some early kite pioneers. The web-master is a historian by profession, and has done a ton of research on various types of kites, and the individuals behind them.

You Might Like These