Kiteboarding since its invention, the design has evolved very rapidly with a wide range of different kite types and different handling and kite attributes.
The market is the mainstream of SLE Kites. When the wind is small, the larger kite is used. When the wind is big, the small kite is used. With the current kite design, as long as the corresponding size is suitable, it can already play from 8 knots to 40 knots.
Foil kites are soft kites based on the design of the parafoil. They consist of a number of cells running fore to aft, some or all of which are open at the front to allow air to inflate the kite so it takes on an aerofoilsection. Due to the amount of power that these kites can generate, they can be used for a variety of different activities including kitesurfing, kite landboarding, snowkiting, kite buggying, kite-energy systems or airborne wind energy, and recreational kiting.
In order to make them suitable for use on water some foils have limited air inlets in the centre of the leading edge, with valves to keep the air in and (hopefully) the water out. Internal holes in the cell sides allow the whole kite to inflate. These kites are naturally slower to inflate than an open-fronted foil.
Foils are the most efficient of the power kites. The aerofoil section means that they can still provide significant lift when parked overhead, unlike leading edge inflatable kites.
Leading edge inflatable kite (LEI)
Inflatable kites feature plastic bladders within the leading edge that inflate with an air pump. The bladders give the kite its shape and provide flotation when it falls into the water.
1. C Kites.
The C-Kite is the oldest inflatable kite, but it is still used. They are not the best pick for beginners because they generate a lot of power and lift. Nevertheless, they provide a good overall stability when unhooked, which means they can be the weapon of choice of new school, and freestyle enthusiasts. C-Kites don’t have bridles and feature flat square wing tips.
2-1. Bow kites.
Bow kites we will classify simply as any kite with a bridle (a lot of interlinking lines running across the leading edge). Again if you laid a bow kite out un-inflated and looked at it from above it would be more triangular in shape, due to the swept back nature of the wings. The lines do not attach directly to the leading edge but to the bridle which is itself attached to the leading edge.
Bow kites, as a family, offer much more de-power than C kites (principally due to the bridle, and the flatter, more “wing like” profile) so when you let go of the bar the kite loses all, or most of its power and slowly drifts back to earth in a controlled manner. For this reason they are generally considered to be a lot safer than C kites and this is why nearly all schools will now teach on some type of bow kite. Bow kites come in several flavours: pure Bow, Hybrid and Delta style kites. All have the same general characteristics (ie lots of de-power) with a few subtle differences.
Cabrinha Apollo – Bow kites.
2-2. Hybrid kites.
Hybrid kites are somewhere in between bow kites and C kites and generally aim to give the feel of a C kite combined with the safety of a bow kite.
Many old school riders complained when bow kites were first released that they did not turn with enough power. Bow kites tend to turn very fast but they sacrifice power in the turn for agility. C kites tend to turn in massive arcs, which gives you a huge pull, which is great if that what you’re after…for kite loops etc, but not so good if you’re taking your first tentative steps towards riding. Hybrid kites were designed to bridge this gap offering kites with de-power (like bows) but that also turn with power (like C kites).
Some hybrid kites will be nearer the C end of the spectrum and others nearer the bow end. Again if you’re going for one of these kites as your first kite my advice would be to aim for something at the bow end. The easiest way to tell which end of the spectrum the kite is…look at the shape.
Slingshot RPM – Hybrid kites.
2-3. Delta kites
Delta kites are a refinement of the hybrid design. Their shape (when flattened out) is more triangular, which places more of the kite’s canopy in the middle. This increases the amount of “projected area” that is exposed to the wind, resulting in more power. These kites still use a bridle (though it’s often extremely simplified), and so could still be called SLE kites. (They are often called C-shaped, but they are not C-kites as they are traditionally known.) Delta C-kites are a new breed of hybrid which combines the high-performance of a C-kite with the depowerable fast-turning triangular Delta kites.