Tied to the Sky / how to fly a stunt kite
Choosing an appropriate flying location for your kites is often given little thought. For many, they look at the trees or a flag flapping in the breeze and decide to head to their local green space to fly kites. But did you know that the landscape (topography) of the flying locations has a huge impact on your kite performance?
Trees, hills, and buildings affect the quality of the wind you have in the typical flying zone and can thwart the successful launch of even some of the best kites. On the prairies, I often describe the wind as "trashy" and by this mean it is not smooth, rather it is gusty or rolling and choppy.
There is another term to describe this phenomenon - Wind Shadow. Wind Shadow is the term used to describe the disturbed airflow downwind of obstructions like trees, hills and buildings.
Think of it this way; have you ever stood behind a tree or a building to escape a cold wind? The obstacle blocks the wind forcing the airflow to go around, under or over the obstacle. It is this air movement that creates disturbed (flakey, choppy, trashy) air flow. This wind is often swirling and rotating which can sometimes create down drafts that can keep your kite from taking flight.
Flying field selection is key and this means being aware of what's around you. The rule of thumb is a wind shadow is approximately 7 times the height of the obstacle. So, if a building is 20ft tall, it is a good idea to launch your kite 140ft down wind of the building.
Careful flying field selection and paying attention to recommended kite wind ranges becomes even more important when we fly performance stunt kites - where we are looking for smooth steady airflow. It becomes a significant safety consideration when flying large traction kites. Being aware of the impact of the Wind Shadow can go a long way to making your kite flying successful!
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Well it's official. The summer of 2012 has officially ended giving way to autumn. The leaves are changing color and falling from their soon-to-be sleeping hosts, and the smooth gentle winds blow them all into my yard!
I like autumn because with the crops all harvested the flying fields become abundant. The winds tend to come gently from the west and the south and have been 6 - 20 kph (between 4 and 12 mph) and on the lighter side I really enjoy a light wind kite - typically an UL or an SUL and away I go. I like the way that even with a breath of the winds the sails load up and giddy - up. I am no expert pilot - I was told once that you have a choice, you can be an amazing kite flyer or you can sell kites and though I fly a fair bit, selling them along with other things in my life has stunted my learning curve. Well ... not to mention that I am just not all that co-ordinate either! :) Regardless, I am so enjoying the art of flying well-made kites in the soft autumn breeze and for me that's the bottom line - kites are supposed to be fun!
Of late, I have found myself playing with The Echo. The Echo is a Paul DeBakker design and is manufactured by Into the Wind Kites. I am having so much fun with this kite in next-to-nothing winds as it float for what seems like forever and still has a very real presence in the lines. I have enjoyed the liveliness of the kite, but it is quite precise. I like its balance, it's quite comfortable on its back. Wiith a gentle backwards step it is all too ready to go.
I am also impressed with the build quality. Nicely stitched and finished, and I like its size, again for the presence and the generous square centimetre's of sail. I have also come to appreciate that for a zero wind / indoor kite she is pretty durable which is good for my more spazzy moments. I am finding I am referring this kite more and more to folks who are looking for a solid low wind kite. I think its geometry, sail to weight ratio, bridle and some of the little extras like some tail ballast make this an easier kite for those looking for a thrilling, positive low wind kite flying experience.
Here's the Scoop:
Wing Span: 182 cm
Sail: 0.6 oz. Icarex
Frame: 3mm carbon tubes
Lines: 50lb (Indoors:12-14ft) (Outdoors: 25-35ft) I've been using 25ft 90lb LPG.
Wind Range: 0 - 10 kph
To me it seems like a value packed, solid performing kite for only $130. I will have to figure out how I can take good video and fly at the same time but in the meantime, here is a video of The Echo in the hands of an amazing flyer - Paul DeBakker
Here are a few online, Stunt Kite trick tutorials from a few different sources. Whether you are taking to the sky for the first time or have lots of flight time, these resources are great to help you learn to nail an assortment of some of the coolest tricks. They will demonstrate and explain step-by-step how to do some of the coolest kite maneuvers.
I find these tutorials help break down a stunt in such a way that you can get a sense of what's actually happening - with your body and with the kite. Like most everything, this will take some practice, some perseverance and maybe a few spare parts but learning to do the tricks and combine them is a real hoot!
Kitelife.com - is a fantastic resource for Kite flyers regardless of taste. Kitelife.com , in my honest opinion is the best place on all the web for quality kite information, tutorials, reviews, and news in the kite world. Not only does it draw on the experience of many in the kite world, they are are friendly, down to earth folks. Kitelife.com is worth the subscription! Check them Out
Reed Designs: A UK site, the animations will be added to as they have the time. The numbers after the links are the degree of difficulty according to the Tricks Party rules. Some tricks have different names in Tricks Party from those often used in the UK. For those that do, the Trick Party name is in brackets.
Revolution Quadline Kites Tutorial: Learn how to do the very cool tricks that the pros do with the Quad line sensation Revolution Kites. Informative videos with great explanations.
Learnkites.com - Great for the Rev Fliers.
DPMAMA74 -These youtube vids are great. Keeps the pilot and the kite in the frame so you can see cause and effect. Lots to choose from.
Prism Kites: "Whether you’re a first-time flier or a hot-shot competition pilot, you’ll never run out of new moves to master with your sport kite. Below are some of the basic maneuvers and tricks in an animated format. Don’t expect to learn them all in one session, or even in one season; many will take some serious practice to master. But if you enjoy the challenge of honing your mind and your reflexes, these maneuvers are the building blocks for a whole repertoire of tricks that will give you a lifetime of joy in the sky." Use arrows at the bottom of the illustration to progress to new manuevers.
The wind window is an important thing to understand. To become familiar with the wind and being able to determine where it is strongest and where it is lighter. Obviously, as you fly your kite through the window the flight speed and characteristics can change. With the wind at your back (yep, have to say it - n'uff said ;)) you will find the power zone directly in front of you. You will find your kite is fast and pulls the hardest in this area.
As the kite approaches the zenith or the top of the window the kite will slow down and generate less power.
As you fly to the outer edges of the window, left and right sides, the speed and power will diminish also.
In higher wind days, I will often launch and land towards the outer edge of the window. This allows for a slower, more controlled launch or landing. I also tend to trick there on the higher wind days - I try and find the sweet spot where I can get enough wind at the right speed to play.
Be aware of what is up wind from you. Trees and buildings can have a dramatic impact on the wind quality. The air moving through trees or around building can make for some trashy wind as opposed to smooth and steady. Trashy wind buffets the sail and doesn't fill or stay filled properly and this affects flight. Hills and valleys can also produce some interesting wind that rolls. Personally, my favorite wind is ocean wind - smooooooth - but as a land-locked prairie boy you learn to take what you can get!
While we are talking about being aware, check for overhead power lines - flying into power lines is a recipe for a really bad day! It can kill ya and vaporize your kite in short order. Ben Franklin flying his kite with a key makes for a cute story but flying kites in a lightning storm is a special kind of stupid! Seriously though, please fly safe, we want kites to be a fun healthy activity for you!
Two last things. Watch out for people. Stunt kites and foils can get going pretty fast and sometimes people don't see or think about the lines. Kite lines under load with speed can really hurt someone. Be aware other others using the space.
Last thing... DOGS. I have had several flyers share stories of how a dog playfully attacked their kite and caused significant damage. I know... dogs are supposed to be on a leash and the owners are responsible for them but I have yet to see a dog owner compensate a flyer for a DDK (Dog Destroyed Kite).
Fly safe, have fun and smooth winds!