Stunt Kite Maneuvers

Your choice of flying field is the single most important ingredient for success with your kite, and most troubles come from picking a spot where the wind is turbulent and gusty from obstacles in its path. Like whitewater in a river, wind that flows past trees, buildings and hills becomes gusty and choppy and can make controlling your kite difficult or dangerous.

The best possible place to fly is a beach or field with wind blowing from off the water. If you have such a place available, it's worth the extra travel because you'll learn to fly in literally a fraction of the time. If you have to fly inland, look for wide open fields with no trees, buildings, or hills for at least a half mile upwind.

horiztonal rule
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The Wind Window

The Wind Window is the area of the sky in front and to the sides of you where the kite will fly. In the Power Zone the kite will fly fastest and pull the most. At the edges of the Window, the kite will slow down and then hover when it reaches equilibrium with the wind. At the edges of the Wind Window you need slower and more gentle control motions to turn the kite.

Axel

Launching

With the kite tilted backwards to stop it from lifting off prematurely, extend your arms in front of you and take a step or two backwards to take up tension on the lines. Now tip the kite up until the nose is pointed straight up. Sweep your arms down and backwards and the kite should leap into the air. Keep your hands low and close together as the kite flies upwards until you're a safe distance from the ground.

Backspin

Pull Turns

The Pull Turn is the most basic way to turn a sport kite. Simply pull with your right hand and the kite will turn right (clockwise), or pull with your left and the kite will turn left (counter-clockwise). The farther back you pull, the tighter and quicker the kite will turn. To stop turning, even out your hands. The kite will continue forward in the direction it's pointed. If you pull one line and hold it, the kite will fly in a complete loop. Don't worry about putting twists in your lines as you fly loops; you can untwist them by simply doing a few loops in the other direction.

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Push Turns

When you can comfortably steer by pulling on the lines, learn the Push Turn. This move allows sharper and quicker turns so you can make accurate square corners and angles in the sky. The Push Turn is the key to precision flying. Do a push turn by releasing one line rather than pulling. Keep your hands in close to your body and turn by quickly jabbing one hand forward. To turn right, jab with your left hand. To turn left, jab with your right. With practice you'll be able to cut perfect squares in the sky.

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Twisted Lines

When the kite turns in a loop it will twist the lines around each other. This is no problem, because slippery Spectra lines simply slide past each other, allowing you complete control even with a dozen twists in the line. To unwrap the lines just turn the kite in the opposite direction until the twists have been cleared.

If you're getting ready to launch, it's not necessary to untwist your lines on the ground. It's quicker and easier to untwist them in flight!

Axel

Combination Turn

When you've learned both the Push and the Pull Turn, try turning using a combination of both - make your turns by pulling on one line while simultaneously releasing the other.

The Combination Turn gives you the most control over how the kite turns because you can vary the amount of push vs. pull depending on how you want the kite to move. Experienced pilots use combination turns almost exclusively.

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Basic Landing

This is the easiest way to land your kite in a position that will let you easily re-launch. The basic landing uses the reduced power at the edge of the wind window to help you slow the kite down and settle it to the ground. For an exercise that will prepare you for more advanced stall maneuvers and teach you excellent control, practice backing down to a landing from higher and higher up in the sky. You'll have to learn to control the kite and keep it level as it settles backwards in a stall.

Backspin

Leading Edge Landing

The Leading Edge Landing is the second easiest landing to perform (after the popular move we call the Pile Driver). To land on the leading edge simply fly to the side of the wind window and as the kite starts to drop due to lack of wind, ease it down onto its leading edge. This is a good way to set the kite down on a windy day when you don't want it to blow away.

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Spin Landing

The Spin Landing is a flashier way to land, and it lets you land just about anywhere in the window. It works because the tight spin before the landing disrupts the wind over the sail and helps it to stall. Once the kite is stalled, the lift is reduced and you can settle it to the ground by moving forwards to take wind pressure off the sail. Pull a line (in this animation the left line is pulled) to initiate the spin, then as the kite becomes level to the ground, move forward to allow the kite to settle back and land.

Axel

Cartwheel (crash recovery)

The Cartwheel lets you re-launch from a crash without walking to the kite. But it does take a bit of practice to learn. To avoid damaging, be gentle with the kite on the ground as you learn the maneuver. The cartwheel should be a gentle rolling motion where you let the wind do most of the work. But done wrong, it's a hard yank that can easily break a wingtip spar. Important: After any hard crash, you should always walk to your kite to check that everything is still properly connected. If you don't, a spar could slip out during flight and rip your sail. Most kite damage happens when people dislodge something in a crash and then re-launch without a pre-flight check.

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Wing Tip Stand

The Tip Stand teaches you control and balance in the wind. It will teach you to position the kite exactly the way you want for later advanced maneuvers.

Practice tip stands in smooth, moderate winds (not too strong) to avoid breaking a wingtip. Like many other ground maneuvers, the tip stand is easiest to learn by practicing on super-short (15-20 foot) lines.

Backspin

Side-Slide (float)

The Side Slide is the single most important move to learn before more advanced maneuvers. Every hour you spend practicing the slide will save you many as you try to learn more advanced tricks. The slide teaches you precise control of the kite when it is hovering in a stall, letting you put the kite in the exact position you need to initiate different tricks. Practice the Slide in light winds at first so you don't have to run forwards. In stronger winds you'll find that you have to walk or run forwards to hold the kite in the stall.

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Snap Stall

The dramatic Snap Stall is another fundamental move that should be mastered before moving on to advanced tricks like the Axel.

The key to a snap stall is lightning-fast wrist motion to cause a stall, followed by walking or running forward to keep the kite in a stall. The wrist motion feels a lot like cracking a whip. It is a very similar motion to a speeded-up combination turn. Cocking your wrists inwards before you start will help you snap quickly enough.

Axel

The Axel

The key to the axel is getting the kite in exactly the right stalled position before you tug. With practice, you'll learn to see when the time is right, but at first it'll be a little mysterious. Some tips: Make sure the kite is completely stalled and starting to sink backwards before you tug. Let the wing you're going to tug fall back a little bit before you pull. As soon as you tug, walk or run forwards to keep plenty of slack in the line as the kite rotates flat on its belly. The flatter the rotation, the better the axel will look.

View Video (7.8 mb)

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Pancake to Fade

The easiest way to learn the Fade is by flying downwards at the edge of the wind window, giving slack to let the nose flare away into a ‘pancake' position, then pulling with both lines to swing the nose under and into the fade position. The kite will then float on its back with the nose towards you and the lines draped over the leading edge. Control the fade by gently adjusting tension on the lines to change the angle of the nose to the wind. Fades are generally easiest to learn when the winds are light and smooth.

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Axel to Fade

This is another way to get into a fade, and some people find it easier than from a pancake. Do a nice flat axle, then as it turns about 1/3 of the way around pull the opposite hand which will swing the nose under and into a fade. Take up slack as the nose swings under and hold gentle tension on both lines. Notice the subtle hand movements in the animated hands. They take up slack, then as the nose rises they give a little slack to stop the nose from bouncing down and out of the fade.

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540 Flat-spin

The 540 Flat Spin is a dramatic move that requires perfect timing. Practice it in light winds at first so the kite doesn't move too fast. Cheat a little at first by cocking the kite slightly sideways before you initiate the flat spin. Pay attention to your body position, and start the move with your hands far behind you so you can give slack quickly enough. Be sure to move forwards once the kite starts to rotate so that there's enough slack in the lines to keep your wingtips from tangling.

Axel

Lazy Susan

Do a Lazy Susan by putting the kite into a backflip and then spinning it around on its back with a tug of one line. The key to the Lazy Susan is Starting with a deep enough backflip. As you throw slack up to the kite, you need to see the nose way back (so you're actually looking at the back side of the sail) before you tug. Give slack and move forwards as the kite spins then take up the tension as the kite finishes its rotation.

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Leading Edge Launch

The leading edge launch is a smooth way to avoid the 'Walk of Shame' as well. It's easiest to learn in moderate to strong winds, though it can be done in any winds with a little practice. A smooth grass or sand surface without anything to snag your lines is key for this maneuver.