Getting Reacquainted With Kites II - Types of Kites

Check out the Flic Flac here.

There are numerous choices when it comes to choosing a kite.  Shapes, sizes, colors – single line, dual line, quad line.  How can anyone sort through the options? 

It may look complicated at first, but it’s actually quite simple once you understand the basics.

To start, kites can be broken down into three simple categories: single-line kites, stunt kites and power kites.  Beyond these, choosing a kite is simply flier preference and skill level.  Below, we’ll walk through these categories with an overview of each, and then you can best determine which direction may be right for you.


When thinking of kites, the single-line diamond or delta will probably come to mind first.  These classic shapes with vibrant colors are the kites that most of us grew up flying.  The single-line now is not what it used to be.  The classics still exist and the same principles of flight are designed into new shapes that continue to be transformed.

Head out to a local kite festival and you will likely see a variety of different shapes including boxes, airplanes, ships, parafoils¸ rokkakus, dragons and more.  There are even large selections of glider kites that require no wind to fly.

Within each of these shapes, you will find unique designs beyond classics such as rainbows and tie-dye.   Mermaids, pirates, sharks and various other creatures are incorporated into kite designs.  These make great kid’s kites.

When shopping for a single-line kite, the key is to look for quality material (usually rip-stop nylon), ease of assembly and launch, and a flying line that’s long enough to reach the Smooth Wind.  Length of line is also important because these kites do not usually perform complex tricks or maneuvers, the altitude of flight will be critical to enjoyment.

Below are brief explanations of some of the most common single-line kites.  Remember, quality is crucial.  Cheap plastic kites often do not last very long and are more likely to break.

Box KitesYou will find box kites and cellular kites in the same family.  A box kite has multiple sail surfaces and is generally known for its origins as a weather measuring instrument. 

Classic Diamond and Delta – Traditionally known for easy assembly and launch which allows nearly every age group to experience flight - these kites are universally recognized. 

Dragon Kites – Traditional Chinese kite design featuring a long, flowing tail.  These kites are extremely easy to fly and are fun for pilots as well as onlookers.

Parafoil KitesAn easy-to-fly version of the Power Kite, parafoils are a staple at kite festivals around the world.  They require no assembly and fly using open cells that allow airflow to fill the sail and provide lift.

Rokkakus (Rok Kites) – Traditional Japanese kites originally used for kite fighting competitions, Roks generate very strong lift and allow for easy launch.  This stable kite is simple to fly and perfect for kite aerial photography.

The list goes on and the names may differ, but the single-line kite will provide endless enjoyment to beginners, casual flyers, and families with children of all ages.

Stunt Kites

Dual-line stunt (sport) kites do not vary nearly as much as single-line kites.  Stunt kites are designed to perform maneuvers in flight.  You will find them almost exclusively in a delta shape.  When searching for a stunt kite, the trade-off will be stability versus maneuverability. 

Beginner vs. Advanced

Most beginner stunt kites will have a lower aspect ratio, which allows for slower flight and more control.  Advanced stunt kites have a higher aspect ratio.

As an example, the Skydog Learn to Fly kite is much narrower vs. the more advanced Skydog Crossfire which has a wide, pointed wingspan.  The Crossfire will move at much greater speeds and perform more rapid maneuvers.  The Crossfire is designed for and piloted by experienced fliers.  The Learn-to-Fly is perfect for those desiring an introduction to the sport.

Standard | Ultra-Light | Vented

Stunt kites can also be categorized as standard, ultra-light, and vented.   Note the recommended wind range for each of these designs; it will let you know exactly why they are different.

Standard kites are primarily made of the same material as single-line kites.

Ultra-light (UL) versions are made with lighter materials designed to fly in low wind conditions.  Vented kites are made with similar material but include vented sails that allow air to pass through and the kite to fly in much higher wind conditions. 

In most cases, the UL and vented versions of any kite are intended for intermediate or advanced fliers due to the added difficulty of control.

Stunt kites are fun for all ages.  Flying these kites involve developing skill over time and moving from simple maneuvers to much more advanced.  Be sure to select a stunt kite that fits your level of comfort.

Power Kites

There is one clear purpose when it comes to power kites – generating power to move a person or object.  Power kites are used for a range of activities which can be water-based, land-based and snow-based.

Sports such as kiteboarding and snow kiting have become increasingly popular thanks to these kites.  Of course, you can also just bring these kites to the beach and let them drag you through the sand.

Water v. Land

There is a clear difference between power kites intended for land-based activities and power kites intended for water activities. 

Land-based kites primarily use cells that are inflated by the wind allowing the kite to fly.  Because of these open cells it cannot land on water.  Alternately, power kites for water-based activities utilize a pre-inflated leading edge allowing the kite to land and be re-launched safely in the water.

When it comes to power kites, size matters.  Unlike stunt kites where the aspect ratio is the determining factor, the performance of a power kite depends largely on overall size.  A larger power kite can harness more wind and generate a stronger pull.

Power kites can have either dual-line or quad-line systems.  The important differentiator here is the quad-line variety has breaking systems to avoid losing control of the kite.  There are often harnesses for larger power kites that also help maintain control in flight.  Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines with respect to power kites and their appropriate set-up and wind ranges. 

There are a number of beginner power kites available that allows anyone to get an introduction to the excitement of power kiting.

As with all activities, there is no single right way to enjoy the great sport of kite flying.  The equipment choices described here are plentiful depending on how the kite will be used.  Just be sure to pick up the right kite that will maximize the fun and enjoyment that it will be sure to bring.