Kite Control & Basic Flying Skills

Kite Control & Basic Flying Skills

In the first video, we will cover the basics of kite control. After watching this video, you will have a good understanding of how the kite flies, how it pulls you and how to control its power.

In the second video, you will be shown all the basic flying skills. We will cover common mistakes students make and give you advice on how you can quickly improve your flying skills to the next level.

Kite Control & Basic Flying skills : Video Transcripts

KITE CONTROL

In a separate KiteBud video, we cover the setup and control of a Foil Trainer Kite. This video will focus only on the control of inflatable kites.

WARNING (ALWAYS LEARN TO FLY INFLATABLE KITES WITH A QUALIFIED INSTRUCTOR)

WARNING (FLYING KITES ON LAND IS ALWAYS MORE DANGEROUS THAN FLYING KITES IN THE WATER)

WARNING (WHEN FLYING ON LAND, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR INSTRUCTOR IS USING EQUIPMENT THAT IS SAFELY ADAPTED TO YOU AND THE CONDITIONS.

Here is an example of underpowered equipment that is safely adapted for learning on land. In winds of about 15 to 18 knots this 50-kg student is learning to fly on very short 5m Lines with a small 3m Kite.  It would be very dangerous to put this same student on a 9m kite in the same conditions.

Whether you fly a foil trainer kite or an inflatable kite, the way you steer the kite is similar.

Pulling on the left hand will tension the left wing tip of the kite and make the kite turn left

Pulling on the right hand will tension the right wing tip of the kite and make the kite turn right

The big difference between flying a foil trainer kite and an inflatable kite is you cannot adjust the power of the foil trainer kite and all the kite’s power is held through your hands. On an inflatable kite, the vast majority of the power of the kite goes through your front lines and then held from your harness, therefore there is very little power held by your arms. This is why, contrary to popular belief, kitesurfing doesn’t require lots of upper body strength.

The power of an inflatable kite is adjustable, simply by pushing and pulling the bar along the bar throw. Pushing the bar away from you reduces the power and pulling the bar towards you increases the power.

To understand how it all works, let’s have a more detailed look and learn how the kite flies and how the kite pulls you.

Multiple FORCES are involved in making a kite fly, such as Thrust, Lift, Drag, Line Tension and Gravity

For simplicity purposes will focus Only on the most important force called LIFT so you can have a better understanding of how the kite pulls you.

When the wind arrives towards the Leading Edge of your kite it splits into two layers. One layer of wind that goes Below the kite and another layer that goes Over the kite.

Both wind layers will take the same TIME to travel from the Leading edge to the Trailing Edge However, due to Angle of the Kite the TOP wind Layer will have to accelerate to reach the trailing edge at the same time as the bottom layer.

This wind acceleration over the kite is what creates the LIFT. In other words, this is why the kite pulls you.

Of course, smaller kite sizes will generate less lift, whereas larger kite sizes will generate more lift.

The stronger the wind speed is the more lift your kite will generate.  Did you know that based on principles of physics, doubling the wind speed quadruples the amount of LIFT. In others words, in 20 knots of wind, the same kite will generate 4x the power it would in 10 knots.

Adjusting the power of the kite

Kite Control & Basic Flying skills

By Pushing and pulling the bar you create a change in the length of your lines which then changes the Angle of Attack of the kite

Pushing the bar away from you Depowers the kite. This will lengthen the back lines of your kite which then reduces the angle of attack. A low angle of attack means less wind acceleration over the kite, therefore less Lift.

Pulling the bar towards you Gives the kite More power. This will shorten the back lines of your kite which then increases the angle of attack. A high angle of attacks means more wind acceleration over the kite, therefore More Lift.

A stationary or slow-moving kite does not generate a lot of power. However, you will soon notice that a faster moving kite can generate a lot more power than you think. Especially when learning to fly inflatable kites on land, you should always avoid aggressive steering movements. The faster the kite accelerates the MORE lift it will generate. A fast-moving kite passing through the power zones will easily drag you off your feet and can cause injuries.

When learning to fly on land, always focus on moving the kite slowly

Fast kite movements through the power zone are only SAFE when done in deep water when performing body drags or when learning to get up on the board, which we will cover in later videos.

When a kite is Overpowered, the angle of attack increases to the point where the wind layer which passes over the kite can no longer reach the trailing edge, due to turbulence. This will cause the kite to lose its Lift and fly backwards into the power zone.

Kites will typically back stall when flown in lower winds as the force of gravity and the weight of the kite become greater than the force of the lift.  Contrary to popular belief, beginners should avoid learning in very low winds. In winds below 15 knots, it becomes significantly more difficult to launch the kite and you may also struggle to fly the kite. The lighter the wind, the more difficult it will be to ride and the more difficult it will be to relaunch your kite from the water.

Very light winds require more SKILLS to master, only experienced kiters with adapted equipment can really enjoy those conditions. A steady breeze that is blowing between 15 and 25 knots is ideal for learning but also ideal for any skill level. Below 15 knots things will gradually start to get more difficult…. the lower the wind is the more skills you will require along with light wind specific equipment. It is possible to learn in winds above 25 knots, however winds above 30 knots can get very dangerous, therefore they are not recommended for learning.

If your kite ever back stalls in strong winds this is due to your lines being de-tuned, in this case the back lines are much shorter than the front lines, which can be dangerous. This is a common problem which often develops gradually over time. We cover this topic in details and explain how to fix de-tuned lines in the Line Tuning Video.

SWEET SPOT (TITLE)

The sweet spot is the optimal position between too much power and too much depower on the bar throw. If you chose an appropriate size of kite for the conditions, your sweet spot should be around the central third of the bar throw. This will allow enough room to and power and depower the kite on demand.  The location of the sweet spot on the bar throw will vary depending on the size of the kite, the wind speed and variations in the wind speed, and also your body weight.

If you push the bar too far away from the sweet spot, you will often notice the canopy of the kite starts flapping, which is a sign that your kite is underpowered. Your kite will become very difficult to steer because there is very little tension in your back lines. At the opposite, if you pull the bar too far in after the sweet spot, you may notice the kite is overpowered and behaving aggressively. Holding the bar pulled in all the way is a dangerous bad habit you must avoid.

If you ever notice the sweet spot is too far away from you, this is most likely because you chose a kite size that is too big for the current wind condition, which can be dangerous.

As a beginner, it will take you some time to find the sweet spot and to be able to adapt to the variations in the wind speed.

TRIM STRAP (TITLE)

The location of the sweet spot on the bar throw can be adjusted using the trim strap. Pulling the trim strap in will bring the sweet spot closer to you. Although there are other types of trimming systems, this is the most common one used on kitesurfing bars.

The trim strap allows you to change the length of the front lines. By default, as on this image, your trim strap is set at full power, which means the front lines are at their longest.

When you pull down on the trim strap you shorten the front lines, which is decreasing the angle of attack of the kite, therefore depowering the kite.

If you pull the trim strap all the way down, you may depower the kite so much that your sweet spot becomes too low which will give the kite very little response.

The trim strap is especially useful in stronger winds when you are starting to push the limits of your kite and becoming slightly overpowered.  Trimming it will allow you to bring the sweet spot closer to you for better comfort and easier reach.

Keep in mind that the trim strap is NOT a safety system and if you have to pull the trim strap all the way down, you probably chose a kite that is too big for the wind conditions.

In the next video, we will learn about basic flying skills

Kite Control & Basic Flying skills

BASIC FLYING SKILLS

As we saw in the previous Kite Control video, it is important that you learn to fly inflatable kites under professional instruction and that you use smaller, underpowered equipment especially if you are learning to fly on LAND.

When learning to fly an inflatable kite for the first time your first two goals should be to try to keep the kite as steady as possible and to be as relaxed as possible.

You should first focus on flying the kite steadily at 45’s on either side of the wind window, this means 1:30 on the right side and 10:30 on the left side. These are the most common and the most functional positions for your kite to fly so this is where you should spend the most time flying it.

Many beginners spend a lot of time flying a kite directly over their heads at 12’Oclock. You won’t learn much from flying a kite over your head for long periods of time and it’s also where you’re most likely to get lofted if a strong wind gust comes along.

When flying a kite for the first time, many beginners will hold onto the bar using a heavy hammer-style grip. This is the most common and also the most dangerous habit as it will often overpower and oversteer the kite. This can quickly send your kite through the power zone, drag you off your feet and cause injuries.

Remember that overpowering the kite can also lead to back stalling; which means you stop having any control on the kite as it drops into the power zones. If this happens immediately push the bar out or simply let it go. As we will learn in the Safety Systems video, letting go of the bar is the most important reflex to develop in kitesurfing

Getting rid of your heavy bar grip can be a difficult habit to break, especially if you’ve been using this grip while flying a Foil trainer kite through the power zone constantly with all the kite’s power held through your hands and arms.

To fly your kite safely and keep it stable, you need to learn to relax your grip as much as possible.  A light grip on the bar will help you adjust your sweet spot smoothly and naturally according to the variations in the wind speed.  Flying a kite doesn’t require strength, it requires finesse.

Your natural reflex while flying a kite for the first time will be to use a wide grip on the bar.

The key is to put both hands near the center of the bar. A wide grip will only encourage the kite to turn faster, therefore it won’t help you to keep it stable.  With both hands close to the middle of the bar, Grip the bar as lightly as possible using only your fingertips without wrapping your thumbs around the bar

You will soon notice that bigger kites turn slower and that smaller kites turn faster, so that’s another good reason to keep your hands close to the center of the bar.

Another tip to improve your flying skills is to lean back against the pull of the kite and start using your body weight against the pull of the kite.

Once you become more comfortable, you can also fly with only one hand on the bar, keeping your upper hand on the bar and letting go of the lower hand. Place your thumb close to center of the bar so you can use it for more leverage.

Kite Control & Basic Flying skills

Flying with one hand is an essential skill to master as a kitesurfer, so you can use your other hand for trimming your kite, for doing hand signals or simply for carrying your board.

Flying with one hand will help you relax the rest of your body, this way you can smoothly adapt to any variations in the wind. A relaxed body will help you develop finesse in your flying skills.

Another tip to improve your flying skills is to try and keep you bar roughly parallel to the leading edge of the kite. This is the natural alignment for the bar and will help you steer the kite correctly.

A bar that isn’t parallel to the leading edge will encourage you to use it as a steering wheel. As you can see, this will prevent you from having any control on the kite.

Another bad habit is to hoist the bar sideways or towards you in an effort to control the kite. This will only have a negative impact on your kite control as it will prevent you from sliding the bar up and down freely.

Once you become more comfortable at flying the kite, you can start to challenge your skills by practicing those simple exercises.

1-           Try flying the kite steadily, stopping at each clock position for a minute or so.

2-           Looking away from the kite for a few seconds while keeping it stable

3-           Practice flying with one hand only and switching from one side of the wind window to the other, make sure you put both hands on the bar when the kite is at 12, then change hand. Repeat this process each time you change sides.

4-           Walking upwind while keeping the kite steady, you can also try walking downwind.

It is normal to lose control of the kite from time to time. For some students, flying kites can be quite unnatural and intimidating.

Take your time to improve your flying skills, practice until flying feels natural and you become more confident

Many students are rushed too quickly to further steps like getting up on the board, which often lead to poor success, so spend some time building a strong foundation with solid kite control first.

Remember that light winds can make learning much harder, and that gusty wind conditions can be much more challenging. It is always easier to learn in more stable winds.

Keep in mind that your kite control will continuously improve over time and you will adapt to various wind conditions and kite sizes. To find out more, check out or blog entitled: how good is your kite control?

In the next video, we will talk about safety systems.

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