How to Fly, Jump and Have Fun With a Power Kite
See you guys, I'm off home!
What is a power kite then?
This article is all about power kiting. It will help you to understand what it is all about, tell you how to fly and also explain the techniques behind jumping your kite, getting serious air and having a massive amount of fun!
Several years ago, I got into power kiting. I had never really considered doing it before as I always thought kite flying was quite boring, but when I found out about kites that could lift you off the ground and let you fly, then I was intrigued.
A couple of weekends later my friend bought one, a small little tiddler of a power kite and we went out for a go. One sprained ankle and a body slam later and we were hooked!
Power kites are considerably larger than the sort of kites you see kids playing with down at the park. They have the potential to kill you if you don't respect them, but they are absolutely awesome fun to fly as well.
Check out the video below, this is a fairly small kite as fas as power kites go, at 4 metres, but you can see the result of a bit of wind.
Small power kite, big jump!
That's someone who probably doesn't really know what he's doing as he messes up the landing but it gives you an idea of what even a small kite can do if the wind is right.
The size of power kites is measured in square meters. Usually if you are starting out, you start off with something small like a 3 or 4. They won't lift you off the ground too much, unless the wind is just right. If you don't weigh a lot though, then you can potentially be doing what the guy in the video above is doing!
Different sizes of power kites are good for different conditions, if it's windy, then you use a small kite, if it's fairly calm then you use a large kite. If you don't have the money to have multiple kites, then you need to choose your kite carefully. One of the best kites out there as an all round kite is the Flexifoil Blade. It's now at time of writing in its fifth incarnation, although I own the 4th edition. There are plenty out there to choose from, but you really do get what you pay for, if you pay more then they are generally easier to control.
A popular size for general all round flying is approx 5 metres. If it's very windy, then you probably won't fly it as you will just fly off above the houses, if it's mild you might not even get it in the air, but it's a good all round size for normal conditions with a man of average weight.
What if your kite is too big for the conditions?
The following video is a bit of a one off, it must have been a little bit windier than this guy realised, maybe his kite was a bit too big for the conditions, or a combination of both. Either way, he is lifted 150 feet into the air by his kite. He isn't strapped to it, he just has to hold on. It looks totally terrifying but and is an absolutely awesome video, a must watch.
150 feet in the air high enough for you?
Respect the kite
This is the number one thing that I tell people when they start power kiting. If you treat it like a toy, then it will punish you. Unfortunately most people don't listen, then they start to realise that I wasn't joking once they've been bodyslammed.
One of the most important things to remember if you're power kiting, is that you can let go. If you're flying a normal 4 line power kite, it has handles like these:
The top lines are the control lines, the bottom ones are the brake lines. The straps around the wrists are known as kite killers. They're for when it goes wrong! The way you fly is that you pull back on the handles and steer the kite left and right, by either pulling with your right or left hand. Simple as that really. Most people when they start try to turn the handles, like they're steering a car but that won't help.
If you need to bring the kite down, or release some of the power from the kite, then you pull on the brake lines, by tipping the handles forward. If you tip one side forward, then it will brake that side only which twists the kite, so you can turn it quicker by doing this. If it all goes wrong, let go! The kite killers around the wrists then pull the brake lines on for you and bring the kite down. It is best not to do this when you're high in the air as you will lose all uplift from the kite and will come crashing down.
You can't just fly your power kite anywhere in the sky, you have to fly it into the wind. It's pretty easy to tell which way the wind is blowing, if unsure then a piece of grass or a small stone thrown into the air will quickly tell you. You need to make sure you don't take it out of what is known as the wind window.
The wind window
This is a representation of the wind window, it is based on the direction of the wind, as you bring the kite to the edges of the window it will start to lose power. Overshoot the window and it will fall from the sky. The window can move as the wind changes direction. Directly in front of you is where the kite is most powerful. Ideally you want to get it high as quickly as possible when you first launch, so you don't get pulled forwards into the superman position. If there is a strong wind, then launching at the 10 or 2 o clock position, so you're not flying directly into the direction of the wind also helps to keep your teeth where they should be.
Imagine this position but moving at 50mph across a field
Once you've launched the kite, then you can bring it slowly down into the powerzone as you gauge the wind power. If you bring it too low, it can pull you forwards very powerfully so don't go crazy. My friend when we first started did this on a day with very strong wind, he ended up getting pulled across the length of a field in seconds at a very high speed. He forgot to let go!
How do I jump then?
To jump with a power kite takes a bit of practice if you don't want to break your ankles. What you need to do first of all is get used to handling the kite before you even think about jumping. This means you can put it wherever you want in the wind window and hold it there. This takes practice and is not worth rushing. Ideally you should jump on a beach as sand or shingle are perfect surfaces in case you fall or have a rough landing. If you can't get to a beach, then fields also work, but beaches are best especially when learning.
There are different ways to jump, but one of the most straightforward is to take the kite to either the 10 o clock or 2 o clock position in the sky, so it is at the side of the window. Hold it there til the wind feels strong. Bring it across the sky horizontally either left or right, by pulling one of the handles in to you. Start running upwind and in the opposite direction to the kite. Basically if you steer the kite left, then run back and right. If you steer the kite right, then run back and left.
As it gets directly in front of you, then quickly pull the other handle back so the kite changes direction and starts going straight up. This is when you get full power and this should lift you into the air. This is known as pendulum jumping. Something to help you visualise it is imagine the motion of drawing a tick in the sky backwards. It's not exactly that, but almost.
When you're in the air, don't dive the kite. This will make you fall.
Once you have had a flight, then instead of just letting go, then take the kite across to the edge of the window again, which will start to bring you down. Ideally you want to land smoothly and softly, with a nod to your applauding friends, not plummet from the sky while screaming and then landing in a pile of broken teeth.
This is the sort of landing you're aiming for
That wasn't the biggest jump, but he obviously controlled the kite well.
This is how not to do it.. Don't worry, it's not gory.
Once you get into power kiting, then you can take it the next level by either riding kite buggies, kiteboards, or taking it onto the water with kitesurfing.
Buggying doesn't really allow for jumping, while kiteboarding does let you get good air, if you know what you're doing.
The kites for kitesurfing are a bit different to the kites used on land as you can adjust the power the kite gives you, they have inflatable edges and are powered with a bar rather than handles, but they are large controllable kites so the idea is the same.
Some of the jumps the kitesurfing guys get are awesome and one of those is underneath. It's a pretty cool sport, but there is a lot more kit and practice needed than normal power kiting.
This is kitesurfing, so it's not exactly power kiting, but it's such an awesome video I had to put it here!
I like the simplicity of going to a field or beach and just flying and jumping though personally. You don't need any other equpment than your kite and some mates and as well as being fun, it's great exercise.
I hope I have at least piqued some people's interest in power kiting, if you haven't tried it before and are interested, then definitely give it a go! There are courses out there if you want to learn to fly, although as long as you're prepared to take a few spills, you can just learn in a field with your kite.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to power kiting, if you have any comments, please leave them below.