For hundreds of years people have been fascinated by flying kites. In China the tradition of kite flying goes back thousands of years and their craftsmanship and elaborate designs are world renown. Flying kites, like badminton is for other asians, has been used for more than just recreational purposes; they have been used extensively in battles as signals and as weapons. The ability of lifting weight through the use of material flying on the wind is in essence the route that allowed humans to take flight in aeroplanes.
A simple triangular kite is utilizing many of the same physical properties that a sail on a boat does, which are similar principles to those of a wing on a plane. All sails use a wing concept which is to have the wind passing more quickly over one edge to create lift through a vacuum. A kite uses this principle in addition to catching the wind full on and stabilising itself with its tail. A kite without a tail, such as the triangular shaped stunt kites, are in effect just a wing which allows for the control and dynamic aerobatics that can be formed.
In addition to the principle of the wing that creates lift, the parachute effect of allowing for a controlled soft (or should we say softer) landing is combined within kite boarding or kite surfing. Very much like a paraglider wing the kite for boarding is an envelope that is filled with the air. This allows it to be shaped into a wing – the principle of which creates lift – and controlled by the guidelines that can shape the wing for turns and collapse the envelope to create descent. The difference between the kites for boarding and surfing is in the material and the construction. For surfing as the kite needs to be able to get wet the material is water resistant, but more importantly the envelope shape is kept through fixed structures within the two pieces and pre-pumped air. Unlike the boarding kite which requires it to be naturally filled with air through manipulation on the ground of the kite.
If you have never felt the true power of the wind, then hold onto a boarding kite – without being on the board – and try to fly one with your feet on the ground. Even with a relatively soft wind, not much more than a breeze, one will soon find that once the kite is up they are holding on at an acute angle and will possibly be able to do small lifts. Avoid large winds when a novice. Once you have mastered the control of the kite, can walk it down a field turn and walk it back again you are ready to get onto the board.
Boarding – remember the brake is in the air! The kite is your engine and braking system, it requires great control to turn without falling off the board and more importantly knowing how to stall the kite to stop the board’s forwards momentum. A nice wide open space is highly recommended. Once you have the basics of control jump on board and feel the exhilaration of hacking along a wide open space on a slighter bigger than average skate board controlling it all with a rather large pillow case that is flying about 30 feet above you!