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Discover the many shapes, sizes and types of kites, from single to multi-line.

Flying kites can be relaxing, fun and educational. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Flying kites can be relaxing, fun and educational.

Along with warmer weather and sprouting daffodils, kites in the sky are a sign that spring has arrived. Amazingly enough, kites have appeal as both works of art and as aerodynamic flying objects. A kite can be a fun toy for a child, a learning tool in a high school physics class, or a prized item for competitive kite enthusiasts.

Kites have been around for centuries. The American Kite Flyers Association reports that the earliest record of kite flying is in China around 200 B.C. From there, the practice spread across Asia and eventually around the world.

Kites have been used as tools for scientific research, as a means for propelling a carriage, and for enemy observation and signaling during military conflict. In the last half century, there has been renewed interest in kiting for recreation.

Most kites have either single or multiple lines. Single line kites have one line that the flyer uses to control the kite, while multi-line kites have two or more lines for controlling the kite.

Single Line Kites

Single line kites take several forms, including the basic flat or bowed kite. Both the flat and the bowed kite have a single surface and a simple shape, such as a diamond or hexagon. The surface may be curved or bowed slightly for greater stability.

A cellular kite has a rigid three-dimensional shape through which the wind flows. A cellular kite is usually formed with the help of sails and bracing. Another type of three-dimensional kite is the soft and flexible kite, which has no frame or rigid supports but instead depends on the force of the wind to provide its shape. Flowforms are one kind of soft and flexible kite.

Delta kites, typically with triangular wings, have spars for support that can pivot on the edge of the wings. They also have longitudinal spars that help the kite maintain its shape.

Rokkaku kites are six-sided and framed Japanese-style kites. They are slightly taller than they are wide and have bowed cross spars for support. The rokkaku has a fairly large surface that often has an illustration on it. The kite is relatively stable when in flight.

Fighter kites are also single line kites. They lack a tail and tend to be rather unstable. They are often used in kite competitions since they require a fair amount of skill to fly successfully.

Multi-line Kites

Multi-line kites include dual and quad kites, with two or four controlling flying lines, respectively. Multi-line kites, also called stunt kites, are made for high-performance movements and tend to require a skilled pilot. Sport kites are one type of multi-line kites. They can be flown in a variety of patterns and are often used in kite-flying competitions.

Traction kites, another type of multi-line kite, are designed to propel the pilot. Traction kites include kitesurfing, buggy and snowboarding kites.

Launching a Kite

To get a kite flying, individuals should stand with their back to the wind, hold the kite up and let the line out. If there is enough wind, the kite should go right up. If there is a lighter wind, it may be necessary to hold the kite and run into the wind or prop the kite against a post, wall or bush, release some of the line, and pull the kite to get it flying.

Kites for Different Experience Levels

An experienced kite flyer can be a great resource for learning how to fly a kite. One way to meet kite enthusiasts is to join a local kite club, where there may be several individuals willing to give some pointers to a beginner.

A larger-sized delta kite is a good option for a beginner. Peter's Kite Site recommends flying a kite in a 10 to 15 mph wind, since this will eliminate the frustration factor that comes from trying to get a kite up with less wind. Generally, a smaller kite is easier to fly, as it is slower and has less pull. Speed depends on the type and length of the line used, as well as the bridle adjustments. .

Sport kites with wingspans of between 6 and 8 feet have a moderate to strong pull and are more easily handled by individuals with some kite experience. Once the basics of piloting a kite have been mastered, it may be time to venture into stunt kiting with multi-line kites.

National Kite Month

April is National Kite Month, a celebration of kites' offerings to people of every age and level of physical ability. Kite enthusiasts and kite clubs often organize activities or events during April that promote kite flying. Whether or not the local community has an organized kite event, April is a great time to get outdoors and fly a kite.

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