Useful Stuff For Newbies
Table of Contents
Kite Choices ~ Line Choices ~ Handles & Straps ~ Knots
Adjusting a 2 line kite ~ Air Turbulence ~ Wind Speed
Tails ~ Stakes ~ Safety & CAA Regs ~ Odds & ends

kite kite
Choose Your Kite   --  Back To Top Of Page

This is purely one opinion about choosing a kite. There are more opinions on this topic than any other!
Feel free to disagree with everything that follows here!
Even if you have pots of money, it makes little sense to buy a top-of-the-range megabucks kite if you never flew one before.

Chances are you'll crash it big time and break something.
So what? You can afford to buy another, and not even ask the price? (I wish)....
So you're a zillionaire, right? Never learned to drive, and you want a Ferrari?
"Daddy, Daddy - I want a Ferrari - a nice fast, shiny red one!"
"OK, son - just give the Ferrari chappie a ring, and he'll bring some along to try."
(later) ..... "Daddy, I've had a bit of an accident - Ferrari's a write-off and I'm in hospital .... Daddy? ... Daddy!"

HELLO - Wake up and smell the coffee! WORD IS - Learn to drive a Ford, then move up to a Ferrari (sob).
Seriously - do you see what I mean? There are plenty of kites out there, good enough to learn on.

If we are talking about 2 line "stunt kites", there are a few simple guidelines...

1. Beginners are advised to opt for a fibreglass frame - this is much more forgiving than a carbon fibre frame if/when you crash heavily.

2. Small kites may be cheaper, but they need more wind and move faster.
If it's always blowing a hoolie where you plan to fly, then a 4 foot wingspan kite will work well, but it will be very fast!
- so if you can afford a 6 foot or even an 8 foot wingspan kite, it will fly in lighter winds, will be a bit slower and a lot easier to control.

3. Most "shop bought" kites come with "FREE" flying lines, which are very unlikely to be of good quality (read about lines below)

4. Most "shop bought" kites do not have proper handles or wrist straps (read more below)

You may find you hate kites and kite flyers (a weird bunch, according to my wife - and she should know).
You may find a preference and aptitude for a particular type of kite - single line, two line, three line or four line...
altitude, artistic, fighter (Indian, Japanese or Indonesian), trick, ballet or power...
There is a mind-blowing list to choose from - or you could design and make your own...

Or - you could try a bunch of different kites BEFORE you buy one! ...
How? - Easy - find out where your local kite nuts gather to fly (check my website for kite clubs and known kite-flying sites), and pay them a visit.
I am proud to belong to Poole Kite Fliers who are always friendly & helpful to Newbies & Oldies alike!
Most kite flyers are pretty friendly, and in spite of weird appearances (thanks, Darling) are usually pleased to show you what they fly,
and if you ask nicely, will usually let you "have a go" - it's as easy as that
- and the same bunch of happy kiters will be there to offer help if you need it (and sometimes if you don't), when you come to fly your own kite.
Also - this way, you will find out which kites are suitable for local conditions, which are available in local shops,
AND what spares can be bought locally. Local knowledge can save you a load of grief (and money).

Also - from a safety angle....
- if you go out "solo" to fly a kite (big or small) that you may not be able to control safely
- you could have a serious accident.....
Is this sensible? Nope - so don't be a prat, get some old git (or a young, talented one) to show you how - OK?
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kite kite
Choose Your Lines  --  Back To Top Of Page

Another topic about which a lot has been said and written - most of it very confusing to a Newbie.
Fact - All lines are not the same.
There are differences in many factors, such as:- Length, Strength, Stretch, Thickness & Durability

I will try not to over-burden you with technical stuff - you will pick that up as you go along.
Try not to let people confuse you with jargon and trade-names, like Dyneema, Spectra, Shanti, Kevlar.
If you want some techy stuff now, check out my website on the Climax Line System - here is some basic stuff.

Length (2-liners only) - Newbies should usually unwind their lines fully before launching.
There are several reasons for this:-
1. Unwinding lines while airborne is a major no-no - you simply cannot control the kite safely.
2. By unwinding all your line, you can check that the ends are securely tied to the handles!!!
3. Longer lines give you more time to avoid hitting the ground - because you can fly higher.
4. Longer lines act as air brakes, and slow down a kite so you have more time to think what you are doing.

Then there are bound to be reasons not to use long lines....
1. The longer the line, the more it can stretch, especially if it was "free" - (see section on Stretch)
2. The longer the line, the more chance you have of tangling with another kite (or tree).
3. Longer lines can cause so much drag that the kite will not fly in light wind.
4. In confined spaces, you may not have room to use the whole length of line.

You may see more experienced flyers doing tricks on extremely short lines, maybe 50 feet, or right down to 25 feet!
As a Newbie, please do not try this - you need lightning reflexes, and a lot of practice at the Newbie stuff first.

 Tip Secure one end of the line set (with a ground spike) unwind them fully, and pull hard to take out any stretch & to make sure they are EXACTLY EQUAL IN LENGTH
Adjust line (shorten) at one handle/strap end if needed, and knot securely.

Strength - Most good kite lines are marked with a strength in pounds (lbs) - there is also a metric system which uses the daN rating:- 1 daN = 1 Kilogram of pull (2.2lbs)
Lines which may not be marked with a Strength rating are usually "free" with a shop-bought kite.
Like the old saying goes "There is no such thing as a free lunch" - in other words, "You get what you pay for."

Rough Guide - I don't know a lot about single line kites, but here is what I have learned about 2-line delta wings:-
4ft wingspan - 50lbs lines in light wind, 90lbs in strong.
6ft wingspan - 50 - 90lbs in light wind, 90 - 150lbs in strong.
8ft wingspan - 90lbs in light wind, 150lbs in strong.

Stretch - Not usually marked on any lines, but can be very important.
Single liners - You don't really care if the line is stretchy - it does not matter! (as far as I know)
Two liners - Now it matters - "free" lines (as before) may be very stretchy and seriously affect the amount of control you have.
The best idea is to borrow a set of good lines from a friendly kiter (ask first) and try them on your kite. Decent lines can transform the way that even a cheap kite flies.
You can measure the stretch of your lines - lay them out, pegged securely at one end, mark on the ground where the loose end of the line reaches, apply your usual amount of pull to the lines and mark the ground again.
Measure between the two marks. Measure the lines. The stretch is the first figure divided by the second.
Good quality lines should be from 4% to 7% stretch. You can get better, but they are very expensive.

Thickness - also known as Cross-Section or Diameter - The thicker your lines, the more wind resistance or drag they will cause. This can be a serious problem if the wind is very light, when you will see most kiters changing to their thinnest lines.
Thickness is proportional to strength - you cannot avoid that - but high quality lines will be much thinner for a given strength.
Your "free" lines will probably be stretchy and pretty thick, but now you know there is a choice!

Durability (not the same as Strength) - This refers to the line's ability to withstand friction or abrasion.
Sad Fact - most cheaper lines are made of materials which can easily cut through better (expensive) ones.
The most lethal kite I've ever seen (in this respect) is a "UFO Sam" which has a rough nylon line, and flies with a constant "jigsaw" action, which will cut most others in a jiffy.
Most decent lines (thin + low stretch) need to be protected with Dacron sleeving, where the ends are knotted into loops.
This also protects the line from chafing with flying handles, or wrist-straps.
With 2 line, and 4 line kites, whenever the lines are crossed there will be friction between the lines at the point of crossover.
For this reason 2 and 4 line flyers tend toward the better quality lines, with some in-built resistance to abrasion.
The new Climax lines are great in this respect, I have managed to do 8 Axels in a row, all in the same direction, without the lines binding together. In fact, I have only managed to do the famous "Axel" since switching to Climax lines!

 Tip Remember to change your 2-line or 4-line sets "end-for-end" occasionally.
The crossover point where they chafe is not in the middle of the lines.
Moving your handles/straps to the other end will move the crossover point
& prolong the life of your lines.

A Word About Kevlar...  There are doubless good reasons for some people to use Kevlar flying lines, but for "normal" kite flying they are not necessary - worse than that, they can be anti-social and DANGEROUS.
If you see anybody using lines with an unusual orange colour, then go and ask if they are Kevlar (Climax Protec lines are orange, and quite safe).
If they are Kevlar, then either wait until that person has packed up, or else fly your kite as far away from them as possible. If they touch your lines or skin, while under tension, they can cut like a hacksaw blade.
The only good reason to use them is for extremely large or powerful kites, but the user is under an extreme "duty of care" and had better have the very best liability insurance.

There are other things about lines which worry advanced flyers, such as UV-protection, water absorption and shape of cross-section, but like they say, "Life's too short to stuff a mushroom."
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kite kite
Handles & Straps  --  Back To Top Of Page

I suppose there has been a great deal written about this as well, but I've not seen it myself!
Most Newbie kites come with the sort of handle where the line is wound around the handle when not in use - (small picture)
The worst are nothing more than a glorified line winder, and so flimsy they bend or break under load.
These handles can vary enormously in strength and quality. The best ones are well made in heavy-duty nylon(?) and are comfortable under heavy load. They are called "Peter Powell" or "Stronghold" type handles - (small picture)

So you want to get serious about your handles? Let's take a look at your options -
1. Single liners only - invest in a HALO (small pic) or YOYO reel (quite cheap)
2. Four liners only - your handles are specially designed for the job and should already be high quality.
3. Two liners - keep your original "free" handles - just remember they may have limitations (small pic)
- Oh, if you have a 2 line kite with 2 Halo reels - PLEASE CHANGE TO HANDLES OR STRAPS SOONEST!
4. Upgrade to "Peter Powell" or "Stronghold" handles - they should last a life-time! (small picture)
5. If you like handles, but find "Peter Powell" type too hard or slippery, look out for "Sky Claws" (small picture)
6. If you are looking for more control + sensitivity, rather than strength, try wrist straps or finger straps (small picture)
7. If you are into power or traction kites, you should only look at heavy duty, padded wrist straps (small picture)
   P.S. You may also need safety harness, helmet and body armour for this!

NOTE - Using straps also means you MUST use the whole length of the lines.
With handles, you have the option to use partial length if you need to (just watch out for line chafe).
So, if you are a "strapper" you may end up with several sets of lines, of different lengths and strengths
(I have about 6 sets) - with thanks to Manni Kluge (Kites & More)
Also, using any sort of flying straps will mean you need something to wind your lines onto, when not in use.
There are many types of simple (and cheap) flat winder (small pic) for short lines (or make one),
but you may need a halo or yoyo reel for long lines (small pic)
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kite kite
Get Knotted  --  Back To Top Of Page

The only advice I can give is to think about the knot best suited for what you are trying to do. Every knot has factors for and against it. Some are very secure, but difficult to undo for adjustments. Others are easy to undo, but less secure.
You must also think about how the knot will affect the strength of the line. Many lines are of soft material which can be damaged if the knot cuts into itself under strain.
For this reason, I cannot recommend a bowline knot for making loops in the ends of flying lines. I have tried it, and seen for myself how the sleeving can be nearly cut through (at the knot) after a year's heavy flying.
The two favourite knots for this are the overhand knot, and the figure of eight knot.
If you prefer the overhand knot, then I recommend allowing enough sleeving and line to permit two knots for extra security, as a sleeved single overhand knot can slip under heavy load.
Alternatively, you can use a double overhand knot.
The figure of eight knot has the same grip as 2 overhand knots, or one double-overhand.
There are some excellent websites with pictures of all these knots, which help to understand all the above verbiage.
Simo Salanne, Knot Gallery  +   42nd Brighton (Saltdean) Scouts  +   Crest Capital  +   Dan Leigh
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kite kite
Standard 2-line Kite Bridle  --  Back To Top Of Page

If you bought your kite from a shop, you may not have been shown how to adjust it.
This can cause a load of grief - you may think your kite is rubbish, or that you are super clumsy or stupid or both!
Fear not - nearly every kite can be made to fly!

If you are unsure of the anatomy of a 2-line kite & the names of its parts, check out this drawing
- just click the "BACK" button when you've seen enough, or print it if you need to!

Look closely at one side of your bridle, where the line from the end of the top spreader comes down to a small metal ring or swivel (usually) - this same line usually forms a larks-head knot at the ring, then continues on to the end of the lower spreader.

Go back to the metal ring - look at the larks-head knot formed by the line I just described - this is what you need to loosen, in order to adjust your bridle - it may be waxed, to help it "stick".

NOTE - if the bridle line is knotted onto the ring and cannot be moved,
or there is NO RING OR SWIVEL, try Plan B
- click here

There is usually a mark on the bridle line, close to the larks-head knot - and a similar mark on the other side of the bridle.

This mark is very important - if it fades or rubs off use a "paint pen" (xylene free) to restore it.
Always check that the position of each mark is the same (relative to the metal ring) on each of the two bridle lines - otherwise the kite will be unbalanced. Measure carefully first if unsure.

In normal winds, the mark is usually close to (sometimes in the middle of) the larks-head knot.
If the kite launches easily, and turns smartly then do not adjust the bridle.

Shorten the top "leg" of the bridle line (lengthens the lower leg and pulls the nose down) only if :-
1. The kite is always stalling, over-steering or falling suddenly and uncontrollably to one side or the other.
2. You are flying in lighter winds than normal, and have to keep pulling on the lines, or walking backwards to keep the kite in the air (do check the wind rating for the kite).

Shorten the lower "leg" of the bridle line (lengthens the top leg, raises the nose) only if:-
1. When you try a sharp turn, the kite either turns very slowly, or it falls out of the air.
2. You are flying in notably stronger winds than normal.
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kite kite
Plan B   --  Back To Top Of Page

For kites with bridle that cannot be adjusted as detailed above, do not lose hope, there is still a way to go!
The principle is still the same as above - shorten the top lines of the bridle or the bottom lines as required
- just the method is different.
You will need two identical spacers:- match-sticks, or small split rings, or small nylon curtain rings - go fetch!
OK - you have worked out which way to adjust the bridle? Nose up or down?
Nose up (more tricky+high winds)- locate the LOWER bridle line on each side and knot a spacer into each line.
Nose down (less tricky+low winds)- locate the UPPER bridle line on each side and knot a spacer into each line.
Easy! ... ummm - you did know what a Larks Head Knot is? ... yes - same as Rams Head or Slip Knot.
To recap - what you just did (hopefully) is to SHORTEN either both upper halves of the bridle and bring the nose down or you shortened both lower halves of the bridle, raising the nose.

If you need help with knots, there are some useful pictures at The Virtual Kite Zoo and 42nd Brighton Scout Group
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kite kite
Air Turbulence  --  Back To Top Of Page

Fact - you will find it hard (if not impossible) to fly a kite in turbulent airflow - also known as "dirty air".
Fact - Dirty air is found down-wind of any obstruction to airflow - not to be confused with gusty wind.
Instead of moving horizontally across the ground, dirty air can be moving up or down, or even rolling.
You can prove this yourself by blowing smoke across the top of a vertical sheet of paper.
There is a simple rule which should allow you to find "clean air" or judge if a site is unflyable.
Clean Air Formula:-  x = 5y

Where x = horizontal distance downwind from any obstruction (tree, building etc)
  and   y = vertical height of obstruction.
So - if something upwind is 30 feet high - your kite (not you) should be at least 150 feet away from it - OK?

There are purists who say your kite should be 7 times the height (or more) downwind! Try it and see!
Murphy's Law 1:- Clean Air Formula says you need 150ft lines, and you only have 50ft.
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kite kite
Wind Speed  --  Back To Top Of Page

Fact - if you try to fly your kite when there is not enough wind (or too much) you won't enjoy it very much.
Fact - Small kites need more wind than big kites - unless they are very special.
Regular kiters soon become attuned to the wind - it can change speed and direction at any moment.
You should check wind speed & direction before getting your kite rigged - it may not be worth the effort!

"Green" Wind Gauge ... (assuming you fly on grassland)

Pick a tuft of grass, stand with your back to the wind, hold the tuft over your head at arms length and let go.
Remember -
Even with the best sleeving and knots in the world, your kite line is only good for 80% of its rated strength AT BEST.
This only applies for the double overhand knot, or figure of 8 - see Website. If in doubt - use your strongest lines!

There are many wonderful gadgets to tell wind speed, hand-held anemometers and allsorts...
But the best idea is to become aware of the wind while your kite is out there - lulls & gusts, shifts of direction...
If you sense them & act on them, and the other guy doesn't ... you will stay in the air ... Top Gun!

 Tip Make your own wind gauge!
Click HERE for a drawing of it - print it, and fix it to a piece of stiff card.
Fix this to a 6ft x 1" x 1" wooden pole - insert pin at centre of scale,
attach a thread at least 12" long (not critical) with a pin-pong ball at the end.
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kite kite
Tails  --  Back To Top Of Page

Tails are great if you need to stabilise a single line kite.
Tails are spectacular if you put them (50-100ft) on a 2 line kite.
Tails are what the 4-line SKYDANCER was made for - WOW - a real crowd-pleaser!
BUT - don't put them on a stunt kite and expect to keep any degree of "trickability".

If you want a tail, short & thick DOES NOT DO THE TRICK.... LOOOOONG tails work best.
Flat material tails are OK - Flat tails with material tied in cross-wise (increase drag) are better.
What I like best are TUBULAR tails - can be made multi-coloured and SOOO LOOOONG - Wow!

PS - Are you old enough to remember making kite tails out of string and bits of newspaper? I am :-(
Ground Stakes  --  Back To Top Of Page
Now that I have taken up the noble sport of parachuting teddy-bears, I have had to take a fresh look at some of my kiting equipment. When there is no reliable, steady wind for a "sky hook" (very large SL kite) then I use a 30 foot high tubular steel "jump tower". For safety's sake, this needs serious guy ropes and ground stakes, as well as the help of 2 or 3 adults to get it up or down.
Up to very recently I was happy to use the giant steel corkscrews available from pet shops, described as "dog stakes". I had a nasty shock when two of these sheared off when I was trying to get them into some hard ground. It was probably all my fault, as the ground was bone dry, hard-packed (school playing field) and full of stones - and I was using a very large lever...
But it left me wondering about things like metal fatigue - I had used those same dog stakes a number of times, and I have no way of knowing if they had been weakened at all.
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Safety & CAA Regs  --  Back To Top Of Page
Kite Safety Website:- Midlands Kite Fliers   CAA Regs Website:- Midlands Kite Fliers
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Odds & Ends  --  Back To Top Of Page

Where to start? ... There is so much stuff I could put here ...

Important Stuff To Take Kite Flying ... just trust me, eh?
Ground Stakes - Do not be tempted to skimp on size and strength - it is better and safer to "go large"
than save a few quid and risk disaster. I have seen the skin ripped off somebody's hands because of an act of stupidity
(used a short section of square channel off a shopping trolley)
that led to several visits to hospital and weeks of pain.

If the ground is hard or stony, you need something strong enough to take being bashed in with a large lump hammer
If you have a branch of Wickes nearby, it is worth getting a few of their SAFETY FENCING STAKES - as seen on building sites - 1300mm long with a hook on top, and 10mm diameter alreadt painted black. If you hacksaw or grind off the top 300mm or so, you now have 2 useful bits of iron mongery. The top bit can have a new point ground onto it, and becomes a decent ground stake - the bottom bit becomes a stake for banner poles (roach poles) up to about 4 metres long - just smoothe off the cut end, and put a couple of turns of gaffer tape there to stop it chafing the inside of the roach pole.
If you want something stronger, look for the same product at B & Q - but a nominal 12mm diameter.

Important Stuff To Take Home Again ... ALL OF THE ABOVE

Velcro - There are loads of useful things you can do with Velcro...
1. Make yourself a Kite Tidy (full size pic) to strap up your pride & joy before putting it away - I find it helps keep loose bits like spreaders & standoffs tidy, so they don't catch on the kite bag and break.
2. If you have long lines on halo reels, you can make an extra long version of the Kite Tidy to put right round the reel - this not only keeps the line tidy, it also protects it against damage while knocking around in your kite bag.
3. If you have small children who must fly a single line kite, guard against them letting go of it, by a bit of Velcro around the wrist, (fuzzy side in) with a safety line to the handle just in case.
4. If you want to try night flying - use self-adhesive Velcro to attach the lights - it pulls off if you change your mind, or you can sew it on for a permanent light fixture.

kite kite Now - Go Fly A Kite!

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