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Flying Together - The Basics

OK, you should all know the basics of flying a kite, and if not then the best way to learn is to get out there and try it with an experienced flier there to coach you. However, that doesn't mean you know how to fly WITH someone else, it takes discipline and effective communication.

Where to stand

The first thing to do is to decide who is the leader, and who is the follower. Each has a role, and specific tasks, within the pair. The leader provides the flying direction, where to go, when to turn. The follower has to match the moves of the leader, and maintain relative position. Neither is necessarily harder than the other, it depends on your strengths. For new pairings it is useful to try out both positions, and see if one clicks better than the other. If you are both followers, find a third flier and do team, if you are both leaders, fly individual.

On the field, the follower stands about 1 pace back and, by convention, 1 pace to the left of the leader. This slight stagger prevents the following kite getting buffeted in the dirty air of the lead kite. It's amazing how bad that can be with some kite designs. As a follower, if you cannot see the back of the leader's head you are probably standing in the wrong place.

Equipment

Obvious, but to make life as easy as possible you should have matched kites. That means more than just the same model, but ones that fly the same. Some manufacturers have a habit of making subtle alterations to kite designs over time which means that for two kites purchased years apart they never fly at the same speed. Check the position of fittings, the bridle lengths and then test fly them to ensure they work together. If the follower is constantly having to alter their flying to compensate for inconsistencies it'll make things that much harder.

The same goes for lines, firstly each of the two lines in a set should be the same length to within ½ cm or better. The only way to do this is to use a line equaliser. Then make sure that your partner's set is also within 5cm in length to yours. Check the equalisation regularly, as it is possible for one line to stretch more than the other, or for the sleeving to slip. When you fly individual, especially if you are looking at trick flying the lines can be relatively short, 30m or even 20m; for pairs and team it is better to use long lines, 40 - 45m. There is a reason line is sold on 90m reels.

Calls

It is going to be necessary for the leader to tell the follower what to do, in as quick and clear way as possible. STACK has a number of call conventions which make it easy for anyone with experience to fly together:

FIRE DRILL / SAFETY.
Fly your kite immediately to the top of the window, something is wrong.
FOLLOW ME / FALL IN.
Just that, play follow the leader.
BREAK.
Turn at the same time, usually a sharp turn.
TURN.
Large sweeping turn (not used by everyone ,some use BREAK for all turns).
FLANK.
A 90 degree turn - eg Flank Up.
FOLLOW.
Everyone turn at the same point in space (often redundant)
GROUND PASS.
A low horizontal pass, usually left to right, often used as a prelude to something more interesting.
TO ME / TO YOU.
Which direction to turn, much better than left or right, you can guarantee someone will get that wrong.
INFINITY.
Figure 8 on it's side, the most basic move.
BOX.
Square turns, describing a rectangle.
IN.
Start of a figure or routine in competition.
OUT.
End of a figure or routine in competition.

Synchronised Turns

This is tough to learn, how do you, as the follower, know when the leader is going to turn? That is what the calls are for. For a synchronised turn, ie both kites turning together, the leader will, ahead of time, call FLANK perhaps along with a direction if it isn't obvious, which sets you up to be ready for the execution call, which will be BREAK.

But BREAK is a long word, do you start your turn at the B, or wait until the K, or something else? Given that the follower will have to hear then mentally process the word, convention says that you actually initiate the turn on the imagined next word, ie BREAK - pause - GO. Practice this together by clapping at the imagined GO call, and you should be able to set up a rhythm BREAK - clap – BREAK - clap which will teach both of you how long to leave. If you get it right then when you finally get into the sky the turns will be crisp and together. It's worth learning because slightly off turns really show, and with a noisy kite, like the Fury, you can hear it too.

The Infinity for Pairs

You know how to fly an infinity as an individual, what is so different to do it as pat of a pair or a team? For the leader nothing much, just keep it smooth and steady, all the work is done by the following kites. For the straight diagonals in the middle of the window everything is simple, just point your kite along the spine of the lead kite, about 2 or 3 spine lengths apart, and fly a straight line. However, when you come to the curve at the edge of the window, things get a little harder. If you follow the spine now you will end up cutting the corner and catching up with the lead kite. What you have to do is follow the outside wingtip. It allows you to keep the size better.

Boxes

This is where synchronised turns first come in useful. You can start this move from an infinity; As the leader comes around the left side curve, call and go into a GROUND PASS. When the leader passes the centre of the window, call BREAK, and by the time you both turn the kites should be symmetrical about the centre. The obvious way to go is UP. As the kites travel up the window the leader will call either TO ME (right) or TO YOU (left) or SPLIT (each go your own way). Then comes the BREAK call and the kites turn. From now on all the turns are obvious and only the BREAK calls are needed.

(from the infinity)

  1. GROUND PASS (setup call)
  2. BOX (what we are going to do)
  3. BREAK (going up the middle)
  4. TO ME (direction for next turn)
  5. BREAK (going left)
  6. BREAK (now flying straight down)
  7. BREAK (now flying right to left towards the middle close to the ground)
  8. BREAK (now flying up the middle again)
  9. BREAK (now going left at the top of the window)
  10. BREAK (now flying straight down)
  11. BREAK (now flying left to right towards the middle close to the ground)
  12. BREAK (now flying up the middle again)
  13. FOLLOW ME
  14. BREAK (now flying the infinity again)

Sticks

These may make you look silly in public, but are worth their weight in gold. Take a length of dowel or a carbon stick and attach a cut-out kite to the end (about 8 cm wingtip to wingtip). Treat this like your kite on it's lines and practice your moves and turns together.

You can pause mid figure, reverse, and fly at half speed, all really useful for learning something new. It is said that one hour on the sticks is equal to 3 or 4 with the kites, and that is certainly correct at the beginning. It is also true that the mistakes you make on the sticks will also happen in the sky, so getting it right here is well worth it. Treat it like a real kite, move at constant speed, don't zip from one turn to the other, it'll help you to find the problems in your choreography.

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