ASK JOHNNY > CHOOSING A KITE

Ready to blast off into the incredible sport of kiteboarding? Whether you want to fly to the moon or explore the beautiful coastlines of the world, first you’ll need a source of power. Enter…The Kite!
Kites have been around for almost 3000 years. Ben Franklin wrote about gliding over a pond using the power of a kite. Since then, kites have become a major source of power on land and water.


Kiteboarding Pioneers: Ben Franklin, Bruno & Dominique Legaignoux, and Cory Roeseler

Choosing the right kite is probably the hardest choice to make when buying kiteboarding equipment. There are so many kites out there, they can be expensive, and you want to make the right choice!
Today’s kites are highly controllable and continuously evolving into safer and more efficient wind tools. As the kite technologies have been developed over the years, kiteboarding has become more and more accessible to the masses because of ease of use and safety systems. All kiteboarding kites can be broken into 2 major categories: Foil kites, and Leading Edge inflatable kites.

FOIL KITES:

Foil kites (also know as ram air kites) are designed like a parachute. Foils are made of lightweight material supported by a complex bridle system. Foil kites are extremely efficient for kiteboarding. They have excellent upwind and jumping capabilities.

Unfortunately, they don’t relaunch in the water as well as LEI (leading edge inflatable) kites. Luckily, many modern foil kites are equipped with one-way valves allowing air in but not water which helps with relaunch-ability.

If you’ve never flown a kite before, a great place to start is a trainer kite. These kites are small and take most of the power out of the equation. This allows you to focus on flying the kite in the wind window and getting to know how the kite reacts. (Trainer kites are typically foil kites.)

LEADING EDGE INFLATEABLE (LEI) KITES:

LEI kites were designed to be more reliable when relaunching after landing in the water. Constructed with an internal bladder system, they float (a huge advantage, trust me).

The first LEI kite was known as the C-kite. Named because of the C-shaped curve, the control lines were connected directly to the wingtips of the kites and had no bridle.

Around 2005, the introduction of the bridle came along and the modern bow kite was born. The bridle system (or supported leading edge, known as SLE) increased the range of the kite and made the sport safer and more approachable to the masses.

Since this invention, kites have continued to evolve, such as the Delta shapes (which are more rounded and easier to relaunch) and hybrid kites (which are a mix of styles that provide better “drifting” on the waves as well as better wakestyle jumping).

The majority of SLE kites these days are 4-line, however some kites have 5 lines for added performance and safety. (In my opinion, the 5th line is a design that can cause more trouble than it’s worth.)

Building your Quiver

You will need multiple kites to excel in various conditions. Luckily, kitesurfing kites has tremendous range, meaning even one will work in multiple wind speeds. This is due to the evolution SLE kites. The technology of the bridle attached to the canopy allows for the kite to depower. That way, the user can manage an increase of wind by shortening the front lines.

However, to be properly powered, you need multiple kites to kite in multiple wind ranges. It’s important to determine what categories of wind you wish to kiteboard in before selecting the kiting equipment you’ll need.

Fact: a kite’s size is based on the total canopy space and is measured in square meters.

If you wish to kite in as many wind conditions as possible, you’ll need 4 - 5 kites. Because of the kites effective range and depowering ability, you can stretch the use of your kites and kite 80 - 90% of kiteable wind with only 3 kites.

If you just wish to kiteboard in a particular wind range, you can select a size appropriate to your weight, skill level and board size. (The most common kite size is a 12m kite, so that’s a good place to start if you can only afford one kite.)

WIND SPEED WIND CATEGORY KITE SIZE RANGE
8-11 mph (7- 10 knts) Gentle breeze 17m-20m+
12-18 mph (11- 16 knts) Moderate breeze 12m-17m
19-24 mph (17- 21 knts) Fresh breeze 9m-12m
25-31 mph (22- 27 knts) Gentle breeze 7m-9m
32-38 mph (28- 33 knts) Strong breeze 5m- 7m

KITE BARS:

The kite bar is what connects you to the kite. Get a good bar with a reliable safety system, preferably “front line flagging.” Kite bars come in different sizes and some are now expandable making them ideal for multiple kite sizes. Typically the bigger the kite the bigger the bar, to provide greater leverage when steering. Bar size however does become personal preference and can relate to your riding style.

It is generally recommended to use the same brand bar as kite, but many bars are interchangeable. There are 2 main categories of bars: 4 line and 5 line bars. The other difference between bar setups is high vs low “V”. This is in reference to where the front lines split, near the kite or near the bar. Any 4 line kite can be flown on any four line bar, however the position of the “V” will affect the flying performance.

Here are some of the top kite bars on the market:

My Kite story

I started flying 2-line stunt kites around 1999. (I enjoyed connecting with nature and ripping those little kites around!) In San Francisco, I went to a kite shop where I saw a video of someone being pulled on the water by a kite…I was instantly enamored with the idea that a kite could actually lift a man off the ground!

I started buying power kites like the NASA Para wing and the Flexifoil Blade 4.9. Soon I was jumping on the beach as well as using a mountain board.

For my first experiences on the water, I used the Peter Lynn Arc and Fone Shadow. Then I met Enzo Merluzzi, my friend who introduced me to my first Wipika inflatable kites. There was no turning back after that.

Throughout the years, I have flown hundreds of kites and lived through the exciting evolution of the sport. I understand kites. One of the best parts of being a kiteboard shop owner is testing as many kites as possible. This gives me a unique advantage; I can share firsthand, detailed information about kites with my kite friends and customers.

Today some of my favorite kites are:North Evo, Cabrinha Switchblade, Slingshot RPM and the North Rebel, Cabrinha Contra, and North Juice for light winds

The North Evo is an excellent all-around kite. It’s a hybrid SLE kite based on a Delta shape with C-kite characteristics. This kite features light bar pressure with an overall smooth feel. 

The Cabrinha switchblade has been one of our top selling kites for years so that’s always a solid go-to kite. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the Switchblade until 2016. The 2016 model has lighter bar pressure and now provides smooth powerful turns without backstalling. 

The Slingshot RPM is amazing for kite loops so I have to say, what a fun kite! 

The North Rebel is at a high performance pinnacle. It has a sharp, direct feel that slices through the sky. Huge boosts and quick maneuverability make it shine brightly if you can get past the 5th line!  For Lightwind, I love the Cabrinha Contra and the North Juice, amazing light wind machines!

I could go on…I’ve got a ton more information to share. Just reach out to me and ask away!.