By Paul Beiderwell, 1st Coast Kiting
Now is a great time to kite, not just because warm weather is here but because the evolution of the sport has improved every aspect of kiting over the years. Back in the late 1990s, manufacturers were still offering two line kites that required complicated cross bridle systems which needed constant tweaking and adjustment.
The lines themselves were often different lengths and made from inferior materials that stretched unevenly with every session. Out of the bag, new kites often needed hours of flying time and adjustment. In the early days of four line kites, I remember one student’s new line set having four different line lengths with as much as four feet difference between the longest and the shortest line!
Tuning kites used to be necessary just to keep them in the air, but modern kites come with simple, accurate, and reliable rigging. Because there are so many different brands and each one has its own specific features, we can only deal in general terms when it comes to tuning your kite, but there are a few things that are common to most of them.
Setting up a bar and line set correctly is critical to the performance of your kite. Having said that, it’s good to know that it’s not rocket science. In most cases, your bar and lines are good to go right out of the bag, but here are some things you should check:
- In most cases your lines are (or should be) all the same length. A quick check is as simple as hooking the end of your lines to a fixed hard point like a nail on a tree or post and stretching them to see if they all have the same tension. With the adjustment strap completely relaxed and the chicken loop against the bar, lean back and put some tension on the lines. The bar should be parallel to your shoulders with your arms stretched out in front of you. This gives you a starting point for tuning your kite.
- With the kite flying, extend your arms and push the bar out as far as you can. The back lines should be completely slack. As you pull the bar back toward you the lines should become just tight when your elbows are almost bent 90°.
- As you pull in more on the bar, you increase the kite’s angle of attack. When you have pulled the bar all the way down, the kite and lines should be fully tensioned, but it is important not to have too much tension on the back lines as this will cause the kite to slow down, limit its upwind ability, and cause it to be unstable.
- As I said before each brand is slightly different and you should always use extra caution when you launch an unfamiliar kite for the first time. Most kites have multiple attachment points and variable length pigtails. Use the manufactures recommended setting to start with. Time to hit the beach!
During your first session pay attention to how your kite responds to turning inputs from the bar. If you have to pull your bar all the way down before the kite turns well, land it and shorten the back lines or lengthen the front lines.
If you feel that your bar seems too far away from you to ride comfortably, lengthen the back lines (or shorten the front lines) to move the bar closer to you. After you have found the connection points that work best for you and you are able to ride comfortably, experiment with the adjustment strap a bit.
In most cases you will want to be able to set the kite with the adjustment strap completely relaxed as this allows for the largest range of adjustment while riding. By taking the time to learn how your kite’s adjustments affect it in the air you will have a better session and increased comfort whenever you go out to ride.