Small STACK Logo Image STACK-UK Competitive Kite Flying in the United Kingdom

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Sport Kiting

Kites which can be actively controlled by the flyer to manoeuvre in the air are often referred to as stunt kites or sport kites. These may have two or even four control lines.

Modern sport kite flying is diverse and rewarding with many different aspects.

There are often competitions associated with these sport kites, such as buggy races, or precision competitions for individuals, pairs or teams.

Wind

Sport kites can be designed to fly in a wide range of wind speeds. Most standard kites fly best in winds from 4 to 9 miles per hour. High wind kites can be flown in very strong winds of 30 mph or more. There are kites made from the lightest materials that can be flown in the slightest breeze.

Novice fliers will find it easiest to learn in a smooth and steady breeze, unobstructed by trees, buildings, hills, or other tall objects which may block the wind and cause turbulence. More experienced flyers can fly in anything from 2.5 mph to over 30 mph.

Using a very light specialist kite it is even possible to fly indoors, walking slowly backward to generate the necessary air flow.

Types of Sport Kite

There are four broad classes of controllable kites: diamonds, deltas, quad-lined, and foils.

Diamonds

These look like the traditional single line kite, but have two lines, which allow the kite to be steered. Most examples have a tail to gain stability. Perhaps the most famous example is the Peter Powell stunter, designed in 1972, which kick-started the interest in stunt kites in the UK. Although deltas and foils are now more popular, diamonds are sometimes seen, especially as stacks.

Deltas

The most common sport kite design is the delta, a triangular, framed, two lined kite. This design became popular from the 1990s. Sails are typically nylon or polyester, and frames may be glass fibre or carbon fibre, either narrow diameter solid rods, or carbon fibre tubes. Sizes vary from about 2 foot to about 8 foot between the tips.

- Competition Kites

The larger (6 to 8 feet) delta sport kites using high tech materials can be very precise. They can be used to fly complex shapes, and since the mid-90s have often been used for kite competitions. They are also used by many kite teams of 2, 3, 4 or more flying together in tight synchronization.

- Trick Kites

Trick or freestyle kites became popular from the mid-2000s. Derived from the competition kites, they sacrifice some precision but add the ability to perform many stalled, 3D, acrobatic manoeuvres. These kites have spawned a new style of flying where the flyer strings together sequences of tricks - these can be so fast and radical that to the uninitiated it may seem that the flyer struggling to fly, but when in the hands of an expert the skill and control is very evident.

Quad-line

Quad line kites first hit the kiting scene in 1988 with the invention of the "Neos Omega", which was later renamed the "Revolution 1". Revolution kites have evolved this design with models such as the Revolution 2 and Revolution 1.5. Although not the only 4 line kite, Revolution kites have largely dominated the quad-line scene. Quad line kites are noticeable by the way that they can be flown in any direction, forward, backward or sideways, and they can hover in the sky, unlike any other sport kite. This means they can be flown very precisely.

Foils

These kites have a twin skin aerofoil shape - a bit like a flying mattress - and have much in common with the design of ram-air ("square") parachutes. Some designs have a spar to hold the kite at its full width, and some are totally soft, inflated purely by air pressure. The early designs were rectangular - the Flexifoil Stacker is probably the best know example. Newer designs tend to be ellipsoid, and may have either two or four lines. These kites pull a lot, and their design has evolved into the modern power kite.

Others

Of course there are some exceptions to this classification, there are controllable kites such as the Nasa-Wing which is a soft single skin delta power kite, and there is even a three line kite in existence.

Competition

Developments in dual line delta and quad line kites since the mid 1990s has allowed forms of kite flying to develop into a sport. Kite competitions have much in common with figure skating, with competitors being judged on their performance in compulsory figures, executing complex defined shapes as neatly and precisely as possible, as well as a "ballet", which involves using the kite to give an artistic interpretation of music. Performances are done as individuals, a pair of pilots, or as a team.

Team flying is perhaps the most spectacular, with from 3 to 6 pilots, their kites flying within inches of each other and (hopefully) narrowly missing each other averting disaster, while performing all manner of figures and formations in the air.

Competitions are held nationally and internationally under the auspices of Sport Team and Competitive Kiting (STACK).

Since 1996 the STACK, the American Kite Association (AKA) and the All-Japanese Sport Kite Association (AJSKA) have formed the International Rule Book Committee (IRBC) to standardize rules and processes for competitions, and have run a World Championship for Sport Kite Teams.

Kite Montage Picture