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Do New Kite Designs Make Kiteboarding Easier To Learn?
Almost every brand of kite manufacturer has started to offer newly designed kites that feature almost 100% depower, super easy relaunch and various other features. The traditional kites we used from the beginning, called c-kites, u-kites, or classic kites, worked well. In fact, many professional riders prefer to ride. However, learning about a kite that probably depowers 25-35% means that if you make a mistake on the control bar, you will suffer the consequences. With the newer style kites, pull the bar away and the kite won’t launch you. Does this make learning easier? It’s better to believe! However…..
…..anyone who learns to kitesurf / kitesurf with a flat kite or bow kite, will not learn to respect kites like the rest of us. In the c-kite years, most people were thrown by the kite until the subtleties of kite control were mastered. So let this be your warning, if you take your kiteboarding lesson with a new kite you are not necessarily prepared to rent, buy or operate a c-kite.
At first we used two c-kites in line that had 0% depower unless you landed the kite and made the bridle adjustments. So different varieties of four-line and later five-line kites made learning easier and safer by allowing the pilot to adjust power while the kite was in the air, even while riding the board. Changing the power was accomplished by pulling the bar closer for more power, or further away for depower. Also, one could tune the trim strap for how much power was available when the bar was pulled for full power. Almost everyone immediately agreed that being able to depower a kite was a great feature and designers started looking for new ways to design kites that would allow 100% depower.
C-kites generally turn in a wider arc, which means it uses more of the wind window to complete a loop, and they generate a longer duration of power when they are looping, since they have farther to travel. . A no frills 4 line c-kite can be difficult to relaunch, especially the larger one. Many brands offer variations of a leading edge relaunch system in which the rider pulled in a guide line that caused the leading edge to pinch and create lift that caused the kite to flip. This system worked quite well for moderate to high aspect kites (aspect ratio is length/width), and not so well for low aspect kites, again especially for larger kites. The next innovation was the fifth line system that could be used for self-launching, water re-launching, and usually it was also the safety system. The system worked well as long as the kite did not jump from a somersault, the fifth line wrapped around the back of the kite, which was a big problem that sometimes resulted in damage to the kite . Through the years, we can see a definite progression in the safety and ease of use of traditional kites.
The new designs for the kite are based on a bridle system, usually with 2 or more pulleys integrated, this bridle allows the kite to flatten and spill the wind to a much greater extent than ever before. The enormous depower allows riders an incredibly wide range of wind speeds for which one size of kite is usable. For the beginner, being able to get the kite to depower 70-90% means that big mistakes can be made without being thrown from the kite every time. This year I have seen many students progress much faster than in past years. Mostly it is the average Joe who learns faster and the reason is that the old kites were very intimidating which for most people slowed down the learning process. It is understandably difficult to learn if you are intimidated or hesitant.
The flat kite also comes back very tight which can be a plus or a minus depending on riding style. Most intermediate riders like this feature. Another benefit for those who aspire to ride the wave is the depower that allows you to throw away all the power and really surf the wave. Many experienced riders achieved their best wave sessions ever on the new bow kites. The final difference in these two kites is the hang time, and wow, there is a difference. Learning to hang spins, rolls and board offs is much easier when you have more time in the air.
In summary, I can attest that this is the safest and most efficient year to date to get into kiteboarding due to the ease of use with the new flat kites. Having said this, remember that if you have learned on a bow eagle stick only with the bow, until you can get instructions on c-kites. Everyone must take lessons with a certified instructor before attempting solo. Can you buy a hang glider and just figure it out along the way? I hope not!
Captain Jeff Hoxtell
PASA, Kiteboarding Instructor, Level 3
Air Padre Kiteboarding
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