Restrictions, quarantines and lockdowns have taught people all around the world to appreciate the simple things in life: going for a walk, baking bread, painting by numbers and solving jigsaw puzzles. May we politely suggest you add flying a kite to that list?
Kite-flying is a lost art that’s simple, accessible, enjoyable and affordable. Of course, kite-flying never really went away after you last enjoyed it as a kid. In some countries, in fact, it’s an ongoing tradition that enjoys widespread popularity and even annual kite festivals – many of which have gone online, while others were postponed until 2021. In Turkey, quarantined residents flew kites from their rooftops, while in India a video of a monkey flying a kite made social media waves.
Here’s how to get in on the action and fly your own kite this summer.
Get The Right Kite
For small kids, a simple diamond shape with one line is the perfect starter kite. This is probably the type you see in your mind’s eye when you think of a kite – and simple to DIY, if you want to add an extra activity (see below) or if you’re not sure it’s worth investing money in case the activity doesn’t catch on.
Not quite as classic, but equally suitable for beginners is the delta kite, which looks more like a triangle and comes as a single- or dual-line model. Older or more experienced children and adults can level up to two, three or even four lines that make it easier to manoeuvre the kite, but also add the risk of lines getting tangled. Cellular kites and box kites come in many three-dimensional shapes, so they look cool, but are also generally heavier and harder to control. Finally, stunt kites or sport kites are the most impressive, nimble and hardest to fly, so only recommended for the advanced pilot.
(Or Make Your Own Kite)
You probably have all the materials needed to make your own kite at home, so why not try building instead of buying one? Many tutorials are for paper kites, but that isn’t the most durable material and may not survive its first flight, so go for fabric or plastic instead. You can upcycle an old sheet, shower curtain or plastic bag, then paint or otherwise decorate your kite before letting it fly.
Where To Fly Your Kite
Before you even head out with your new kite, make sure the conditions are right. Check the weather online and look at a map for the perfect location. Winds between 7-15 km/h are ideal. That means you can feel it, but you don’t have to struggle against it; it will set leaves in motion, but not shake an entire tree; it shouldn’t be too gusty, but steady and constant. Wind is obviously an essential ingredient to successfully flying your kite, but don’t even think about heading out if it’s stormy, rainy or there’s a thunderstorm brewing.
You need a lot of open space, possibly more than you think, in all directions. You want to be able to run whichever way the wind turns, but you also need room overhead, so beware any trees, buildings or other structures, which can also cause turbulence. Flying a kite near power lines is dangerous – not only to you, but also to other people in the vicinity. Kite strings tangled in power lines can even cause electricity outages, so stay well clear of any power infrastructure.
How To Get Your Kite To Fly
It’s possible to fly a kite alone, but where’s the fun in that? Bring a friend, and have them in front of you holding the kite. Stand with the wind at your back, holding the spool with the wound-up line. Walk backwards, into the wind, slowly unrolling the spool as you walk. Once you are 10-20 metres away from the kite, give the string a tug as your launch assistant lifts the kite into the wind. It may take a few attempts to actually get it off the ground, but once it catches the breeze, you keep pulling on the line to help it rise up.
You can continue to extend the line to let your kite rise higher and higher, but resist the temptation to simply “let it fly” before you learn how to control it by tightening and loosening the line. Basically, pulling on the line will make the kite climb, letting it loose will bring it down, and at some stage you will feel it flying more steadily, meaning it’s found stable winds. Enjoy watching it flutter in the breeze and let it all go (figuratively), while holding on tight (literally).