I bought a practice kite to learn to kiteboard. It’s a smaller version of the kites used for real kiteboarding. It comes with a dvd that covers how to attach the kite to the line, where to practice flying (wide open spaces), how to launch and steer the kite, and how to pack the kite. It also talks about the “power zone” which is roughly sixty degrees to either side of the wind.
What it doesn’t say is how the kite flies.
That may seem obvious. If you’ve ever flown a kite, you know how a kite flies, of course — and you’d be wrong about this kite. A kiteboarding kite is not designed to fly like the traditional diamond-shaped kite I used to buy at the 7-11 when I was nine. I tried that yesterday with this kite. I launched it, ran a bit to get it up in the wind, and then watched as it gently fell to the ground. I was frustrated because it seemed there just wasn’t enough wind.
I tried several times. As I was walking up the beach in search of better wind, a woman encouraged me not to give up. I smiled, but it wasn’t looking good. Then I stumbled onto the secret.
The kite has two lines, which come down to a bar about two feet across. Angling the bar turns the kite: pull in the right line and the kite steers to the right; pull in the left line and the kite steers to the left. That much is straightforward. What isn’t immediately obvious is that the kite is much more wing-like than old-fashioned kites: it develops far more lift when it is moving across the wind than when it is steady.
The first time I noticed this, it changed the way I was flying the kite. With no change in wind I went from repeatedly watching the kite limply settle to the ground to muscling it across the wind, working against at least five or ten pounds of tension on the lines. As long as I was working the kite back and forth, it was pulling on me hard. As soon as I let it stand still, it was limp again.
So for anyone who’s just starting, here’s my one hour’s worth of experience for you: in light winds, work the kite through the wind.