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Single-line Kite Flying

Be sure to review the Kite Flying Basics and Be Safe! sections for important information on picking a safe place to fly your kite, and for help on selecting the right kite for you!

Also see Flying Kites with Kids and Best Kites for Kids

Setting up Your Single-line Kite

It's usually best to read the instructions and set up your new kite inside before heading out to the kite field so that you are familiar with all of the parts and how everything goes together. Some kite designs such as complex box kites may have several small spars that are easily lost in high grass, so it can be helpful to know what they are and what they do before trying to set up on a windy day. Every kite is set up a little differently depending on its design, but here are a few tips on the most common kite designs

Delta Kites

When you receive your delta kite, the wing spars are often pushed toward the nose of the kite to make storage easy. Slide these spars all the way to the wing tips for flying. If the keel on your kite has multiple attachment points, you will attach your line the lower point for light winds, and the upper one for stronger winds using a Larkshead Knot or a Fishermans Clinch Knot and swivel.

Kite Tails are very useful to accessories for delta kites, especially with gusty winds by providing additional drag which helps the kite fly more steadily. The rule of thumb is to use short kite tails for light winds, and longer kite tails for stronger winds. See the diagram below to identify the different parts of your delta kite.

Diamonds Kites, Dragon Kites & Box Kites

These kites have a length of chord called a bridle attached to one or more points on the kite. The knotted loop in this line is where you attach your kite line using a Larkshead Knot or a Fishermans Clinch Knot and a swivel. Bridles can be adjusted to suit the wind conditions, but take care to mark the factory location with a pen or marker before making changes. If the wind is strong, you adjust the knotted loop upward and if the wind is light, you adjust the knot downward. Usually, a 1/4" to 1/2" adjustment in either direction is all that is required. Diamond kites and Dragon Kites are light to moderate wind kites, but Box Kites require a strong and steady breeze to fly properly. Though some Diamond Kites do not "require" a Kite Tail, you will find most will fly much better with one.

Sled Kites & Parafoils

Kite line attachment for Sled Kites and Parafoil Kites is the same as used on Diamond Kites, Dragon Kites and Box Kites, however it's usually not recommended to adjust the bridle on a Sled or Parafoil kite. Attachment points for tails are usually provided, and you can adjust your kite's flying characteristics by adding a longer tail for stronger winds, and a shorter one for light winds.

About Kite String (kite line) & Winders

Hoop winders are a one of the most useful accessories you can buy for your new kite. Many kites come packaged with 150' to 300' of twisted kite line on a plastic handle, and while this works fine if you only plan to fly your kite once in a while, you'll quickly find that letting kite line is a bit cumbersome and winding line back in can be even less fun. Hoop winders are very comfortable in your hand, and make letting line out and winding line back in a breeze! Stock kite line may also be too short, as the better winds are usually higher up. 500' of line is a good rule of thumb. If you plan to use your kite regularly, you also might want to consider upgrading to tangle-resistant braided kite line. Kite lines inventively get tangled, and cheaper line can be nearly impossible to untangle at times. Braided kite line will make this frustrating task much easier and won't break as easily when two kite's lines cross. Higher quality line can easily last you for years, long after the twisted line found it's way to the trash.

Launching Your Single-line Kite

Although almost everyone is familiar with the idea of running to launch a kite, in truth it is nearly impossible to do this effectively, and you'll find your kite diving to the ground more often than not.

If the winds are good, launching your kite is a simple task. Stand with your back to the wind and simply hold the kite up until it catches enough wind to go aloft. Let out line slowly as the kite goes higher, and pull in a little if the wind slacks off. As the kite gains altitude you'll be able to let line out more quickly.

If the winds are light or gusty, it us helpful to have a friend give you some help launching your kite. Have your helper hold the kite about 100 feet downwind from you and stretch the line tight. When your helper feels a gentle gust of wind, they should release the kite and you should quickly pull in some line to help the kite gain altitude and hopefully find steadier breezes. It's often necessary to try this a few times on light wind days, but wind above the treetops is usually stronger than the wind at the ground, and you can often have a great kite flying day when you barely feel the breeze yourself.

Kite Handling

The amount of control you have over your kite depends a lot on what kind of kite you are flying, but most single-line kites aren't highly maneuverable. However you do have more control than you might think. If your kite is loosing altitude, the wind has lulled and you can gain altitude and find better winds by reeling line in. If your kite is pulling strongly and flying erratically, the wind has picked up and you can gain altitude and often find more favorable winds by letting line out. If your kite is going in a direction you don't want it to go, letting line out will help it correct itself. If you want your kite to continue in the direction it's going, then reeling line in will increase it's momentum in that direction. Experiment with line handling, single-line kite flying doesn't have to be a passive activity!

Crossed Lines - It happens. You and a friend are flying and the wind causes your kite lines to cross, possibly even causing one kite to loop around another. This is easy to fix by simply walking toward each other - the tangle in your kite lines will move down towards you where you can easily untangle it.

Retrieving Your Single Line Kite

In light or moderate breezes, simply reel in your kite line a little at a time to retrieve your kite. You will need to pause once in awhile because reeling line in may cause the kite to climb or loop. However, in stronger winds or with a harder pulling kite, it is sometimes necessary to "walk the kite down". This is done by having a friend hold your kite line winder while you walk towards the kite, taking line in hand over hand. It is important to use gloves when walking a heavy pulling kite down, as a strong gust of wind could cause kite line to burn or even cut your hands. Keep in mind that while you want to keep some tension on your kite line while winding, too much tension will eventually cause a kite line winder to deform or break
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