Kite Informational Videos
- Kite Classifications
- All Around Kites
- Surf/Wave Kites
- Light Wind Kites
- Pulleys vs No Pulleys
- How to Properly Inflate your Kite
- What and How to Inspect your Kite
- How to Inspect your Kite
- What Makes a Kite Jump Better Than Other Kites
- Double Your Quiver, Double Your Fun
- Max Kite Depower
- Grunt and Low End Power
- How to Pack your Kite
- How to Pack a Bag for Your Next Trip
- How to Prolong Kite Life
Leading Edge Inflatable Kites
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI, or tube kites, are typically made from Dacron, ripstop nylon, and inflatable polyurethane bladders. The bladders inflate much like a bicycle tire to give the kite its shape and also allow the kite to float if it is dropped in the water. Inflatable kites are the most popular choice among most kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs and easy relaunchability once crashed into the water. If an LEI kite hits the water/ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, the sail can be torn or bladders can burst.
Inflatable kites also have bridle lines that attach to the leading edge and wingtips where you connect the lines from the control system. The bridles allow the kite's angle of attack to be altered, adjusting the amount of power delivered by the kite and increasing the range of wind the kite can be comfortably flown in. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes kites easier to re-launch from the water.
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (cells) to provide it with lift and a bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. A foil kite can either be a fixed-bridle design or depowerable. With a fixed-bridle design, there is no way to adjust the angle of attack of the kite while it's flying, so it relies on the skill and experience of the pilot to fly the kite in the area of the wind window that provides the optimal power. Because of this reason fixed bridle kites have a smaller wind range and more sizes are needed to cover a broad spectrum of wind. With a depowerable foil, there are either pulleys located in the bridle of the kite or on the control bar that allow the front and back lines to adjust relative to each other and change the angle of attack, increasing the wind range or the kite.
Foil kites are also designed with either an open or closed cell configuration. Open cell foils rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated, but are generally impossible to relaunch if they hit the water, since they have no means of avoiding deflation, and quickly become soaked. Closed cell foils are almost identical to open cell foils except they are equipped with inlet valves to hold air in the cells, keeping the kite inflated (or at least making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water relaunches with closed cell foil kites are simpler; a steady tug on the power lines or if it landed leading edge down pulling on the brake strap for a reverse relaunch typically allows them to take off again.
Foil kites are more popular for land or snow, where getting the kite wet is not a factor, but recently the closed cell foils are becoming more common for riding on water with new light wind and race designs. A depowerable foil kite is typically more powerful compared to a same-size inflatable kite so the rider can use a smaller kite during their session, or fly the same-sized kite in lighter winds. Foil kites also have the advantage of not needing to have bladders to inflate during setup or burst due to crashing, but the trade-off is a more complex bridle system to manage during setup, launching, and landing.
Kites come in various sizes typically ranging from .7 square meters to to 21 square meters. Trainer kites range roughly from .7 to 3m, land/snow kites from 4 to 13m, and water kites from 4 to 18m. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has, although kite power is also directly linked to how fast the kite flies: some kites can be turned faster to generate power or designed with a certain wing shape to fly faster for more power. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kites flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. High-aspect kites (long and skinny) have less drag and develop more power by flying through the window, but tend to be slower turning. Lower-aspect kites (short and fat) handle gusty conditions better and tend to hang further back in the wind window for a gruntier feeling/power delivery.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels. Smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions. Larger and smaller kiteboards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites, though many end up with more boards and more kites to cover more wind ranges and different styles of riding.