With our consistent coastal winds, it would be difficult to find a better place to fly a kite than the Outer Banks. From the tall sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head to our award winning beaches, kite enthusiasts can expect high flying adventures on the Outer Banks.
If you’re a novice, walking into a kite store to make a purchase may seem confusing or downright overwhelming. But, the good news is that there are four basic types of kites with a unique fifth variety that falls into one of two existing categories. The types are: (1) single line, (2) fighter kites, (3) dual line stunt kites and (4) quad line stunt kites. The fifth type, power kites, uses either a two line or four line control system.
Single Line Kites
A single line is the basic kite that parents most often choose to purchase for children. There are three basic types that fall into this category—diamond shape, delta and parafoil. Box kites are more uncommon yet also fall into this category.
Deltas and parafoils are the easiest kites to fly. Diamond shaped kites are the classic, but they tend to take more wind and are less stable during flight. Parafoils have no frame—they get their shape when the wind fills baffles in the kite. Because they have no sticks or frame to break, they are an excellent choice for younger kids.
A hybrid kite that appears to have originated in either the Orient or the Indian subcontinent, fighter kites are a steerable single line kite. This is not a kite for the novice—they are designed to be unstable in flight and to respond to variations in tension from the line.
Originally fighter kites were flown with glass embedded in the line with the intention of cutting the opponent’s line. While kite fighting is not done in the U.S. anymore, some countries still host fighter kite competitions. A variety of fighter kite styles are produced, and some of these kites are truly works of art.
Dual Line Stunt Kites
A dual line is the basic stunt kite design, and bears a striking resemblance to a hang glider. Both owe their existence to Francis Rogallo, the inventor of the wing that gave rise to both stunt kites and hang gliding.
The kite is controlled by changing the tension on the lines attached to the bridle. Pull back on the right hand, and the kite will start making loops to the right and continue to do so until both hands are evenly spaced and parallel to the body. The kite will go in the direction of the nose, so if your hands are even and parallel to your body and the nose is pointed to the ground, a correction will be needed!
It generally takes about an hour to get past the frustration stage of learning to maneuver a stunt kite, but it’s definitely time very well spent! Once you hone these skills, stunt kites provide hours of entertainment and are suitable for those ages 10 and up.
Quad Line Stunt Kites
Introduced by Revolution Kites in the 1990s, quad line kites transformed what people thought a stunt kite could do. The same principle applies as to how dual line and quad line kites are controlled, but the manner in which the tension on the flight surface is changed is radically different.
A quad line kite is controlled by rolling the wrists forward or backwards or bringing the flyer’s thumbs toward the body or moving them away. The responsiveness of the kite is extraordinary, and it is possible to do stunts with a quad line kite that are not possible with a two line kite.
A Historic Note: Proving once again that they were ahead of their time, design sketches of the Wright Brothers experimental 1899 kite clearly show a quad line control system.
Power kites, sometimes called traction kites, are generally dual line or quad line parafoils that generate a tremendous amount of lift when flown. They vary in size from 4 feet and up, but any kite larger than 8 feet (2.5 meters) is capable of dragging an adult around in consistent winds.
Often used with kite buggies on the sand, they are extremely fun to fly; however it’s important to know the potential risks. Although children can fly these kites, they should always be closely supervised.
As a general rule, the larger the kite, the less wind it will need to fly. The surface area that gathers wind to lift the kite is larger, and therefore, is able to gather more energy.
Single line kite flyers—remember, what goes up, must come down, and it’s much easier, faster and more fun to let out 1000’ of line than it is to wind it back.
Kite lines are under tension when a kite is in the air. Stunt kite line is a specialized line called Spectra that has almost no stretch, and getting hit by that kind of line is painful and dangerous. For that reason, please walk around the area where a kite is being flown.