Friday, May 13, 2011

Kite Thoughts

One of our favorite customers, Jim Nicholls from Christchurch New Zealand passed along his thoughts on kite flying (along with a huge number of pictures from his kite flying adventures) and we thought they deserved to be shared with everyone. Well, everyone who reads our blog anyway.

We always love to hear from our customers. If you have any flying advice, suggestions, tips or general feedback let us know. Sharing what you know helps make kite flying the tops! Who knows, maybe we'll even post your comments on our blog! Now get outside and fly!

Although I am a fairly recent convert to kite-flying, and left it until quite late in life to start (I am 70 years old), I now own a large collection of single line kites, and a couple of two-line ones, and have accumulated many hours of flying experience. I go out every day throughout the year when the weather is even halfway suitable. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and although the winters are cold, I have still managed to fly on average at least three times a week.

Almost all of my many kites have been bought from America, a lot of them from Into the Wind, as it is impossible to buy them here. Although I am no expert, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice that may be of interest to other adults who are just starting out, or considering doing so, in the field of kite-flying.

First of all, I would say: “Buy quality.” Cheap, unbranded kites don’t usually fly well or last long. And certainly there is no back-up service if things go wrong.

Secondly, my advice would be: “Buy big.” If you start with a small kite and get interested, you will soon want a larger one, so why not start with the large one and save money and time? (I learnt this the hard way!) Flying a large kite is usually no harder, and is often easier, than flying a small one. Sure, a big kite pulls more, but even something like the 12ft Highlighter delta is very manageable for any adult or mature teenager.

Thirdly, in order to enjoy this wonderful hobby from the start, I advise: “Choose a simple style to start with.” Some exotic-looking kites can be attractive, but may be difficult to put together and to fly. If you don’t want to get discouraged, the delta is probably the best type of kite to start with, as it is so easy to assemble and flies reliably in a wide wind-range. Don’t go for anything under 7ft unless you want to quickly become bored; the 7ft Levitation is great value, and there is a 9ft version also. The delta conyne, such as ITW’s Rocky Mountain, is another good choice, but there is not the wide selection that there is in deltas.

If you fly in consistently very light or very strong winds, the Triton and the Elevation box, respectively, will probably meet your requirements better, but are not quite as simple. And when you want something a little different, there are great designs like the various rokkaku, the dragons (the Beast is my favourite, and if you can afford it the Twin-Tail is great), cellular kites such as the Star 7, parafoils including the useful Flowform 16, and special kites like the Sun Sea Sky and many others.

My fourth tip would be: “Have a selection of lines.” For example, ITW recommend 200lb line for the Highlighter, and certainly that is needed in the upper part of its wind range. But if you are trying to fly it in very light breezes, don’t be afraid to use line at half that strength, which will make it much more likely that you will achieve lift-off. Keep an eye on the wind, however, and don’t hesitate to bring the kite down and replace the line if conditions change.

My fifth pearl of wisdom is: “Don’t ignore tails and line art.” Delta kites fly well most of the time without tails, but really they are naked without them. Tails can make such a difference to the appearance of the kite, adding color, design, and movement and increasing the sheer size of the spectacle by taking up more sky. The Highlighter, at 12ft wingspan, is a big kite, but when it’s 200 feet up, it is much less impressive. With tails, it is so much better. My favourite combination is 24ft Transition tails at the wingtips and a 15ft Cube Tube tail in the centre, but it’s good to ring the changes. You wouldn’t wear the same clothes every day, so let your kite have some variety, too. Try the fascinating Helix tail, where two 20ft tubes revolve around a third, or the enormous, but easily lifted, 30ft Bubble Tube tail. All of these are on the ITW website.

Line art, or “line laundry,” is equally attractive, and can be used with any kite that produces sufficient lift, whereas there are many kites for which tails are inappropriate. Some line art is just cute, like the Henry Hound and Skippy dogs, which are very easy to attach to the line a few feet off the ground and attract great interest. Other items are simply beautiful, like the 8ft Peacock Wrasse fish (more expensive, unfortunately) or intriguing, like the Cephalopod, Hydroid and Isopod, any of which can be lifted by a medium-sized kite. Some items are a little heavy, like the Sea Pineapple, which needs quite a strong-pulling kite, so match your laundry to your kite. Some of the tails already mentioned, like the Bubble Tube and Cube Tube, also look great attached on the line. Carabiners are the very best way of attaching any of these to your line, and small ones are quite adequate.

My last piece of advice is the most important: “Just have fun!” Here in New Zealand, kites usually mean the big traction kites used for kite-surfing and kite-buggying; almost no-one flies single-line kites. Even children are not very interested, but maybe that is just part of modern life. However, I care not if I am the only kite-flier on the beach, because to me it is a most enjoyable and relaxing pastime and one that I hope to enjoy for a few years yet, and at all seasons.

Jim Nicholls

Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Blogger GrandmaMomsWeb said...

Like Jim, my husband and I are just back into flying kites after our childhood kite experiences. At this stage in our lives, we have been flying for just over a year now. We began with a big kite and quickly became hooked. Our addiction to flying & kites has spread and we are now flying as often as we have wind. We even put lights on our Ghost Deltas and flew at night last week. We have flown in our first kite festival, begun a kite blog, and started a page on FaceBook to share our kite flying experiences.

We totally agree with Jim. Using good line and accessories with kites that are structurally well made is the secret to successful, enjoyable flying. There is nothing like having a kite leap from your hands and soar up to the sky.

May 17, 2011 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger Ron Scheer said...

This near-beginner says thanks for the write-up. I am in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, where there is wind every day from the Banning Pass, sometimes very strong. As I'm a short walk from the desert, there'd seem to be plenty of open space above for big kites. Really curious about giving it a try.

What other equipment needed for flying do you recommend?

June 17, 2011 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger John said...


Different kites require different accessories. However, most kites come with everything you need to fly. The essentials are really just the kite and the proper kite line. You can add tails to pretty your kite up or to add stability in higher winds. You can also add fun things like line climbers or line laundry as long as your kite is capable of lifting them.

If you're looking for a simple beginner kite I would recommend the 7-ft Levitation Delta, . It's easy to fly and a cinch to set up.

If you have more questions please call or email me and I'll be glad to help out. Good luck!

June 21, 2011 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger huy said...

John, loved the article. The advice about to "buy big" when you are starting out definitely resonates with me! I am certainly learning that the hard way now as a beginner -- ah, but just another kite to enjoy.

I'm flying basic single line diamond kites right now -- not sure if I should go towards the direction of fighters or take a more middle of the road approach towards deltas -- or go after line laundry. All are exciting possibilities for me.

Many happy flights.

July 29, 2011 at 12:56 AM  

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