Big Inflatable Kites!
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best lifting kite for me as a beginner?

You need to consider size, cost, impact for the money, and what you want to lift. If you buy too little kite, and decide you really like it, then you'll be back spending more money again soon. Better to buy something substantial that will be a satisfying part of your "arsenal" even if you add more later.

Don't be intimidated by kites of more than 50 square feet. Any large kite has a learning curve. But all of them can be handled safely by one person once you get used to the process.

How much to the big foils pull?

The easy answer is that they pull a *lot*. But that doesn't really tell you anything.

Actual pull depends on the size of the kite, the wind conditions, bridle tuning, and what drogues or laundry is attached to the kite or line. The best answers can be found in our line recommendations for each model.

Whenever flying a foil of 30 or more square feet, we recommend good solid anchors. These kites are too strong to be "hand flown".

How do I anchor my line?

Some flying sites have natural or "pre-existing" anchors like trees, rocks, or fence posts. More often, you will have to rely on "portable" anchors like stakes, sandbags, groundscrews, and car bumpers.

Whatever you use, make sure it is much more solid than it needs to be. The only thing more dangerous than a big kite falling downwind is a big kite dragging a metal anchor behind it across the field.

Connect to your anchor using a strap, carabiner or figure-eight ring. Simply tying into the anchor with your line will create wear and abrasion on the line. And line is expensive!

Here are some anchor options:

  • In sand, use a sand anchor or bag. Fill the bag and then roll it into the hole the sand came out of. (See our Line pages for complete instructions.)

  • In sand or soft ground, use "RV Tie Downs". These are metal poles with an eyelet at the top and a split plate at the bottom. You can buy them at most hardware stores for about $10. We screw them down into the field using a thick dowel through the eyelet as a handle.

  • In hard dirt, use dog screws (several) or large stakes. One source of inexpensive stakes is half-inch rebar available at most hardware stores.

  • On any surface, you can use cars with bumper hitches.

Do I lay out line, anchor the kite and then put it up?

Yes, anchor the line first. Let the anchor do the work for you.

Large kites pull hard. You need the safety of being already tied down before you try to launch. And besides, if you don't have help, how can you tie the anchor off while holding the line??

With the line anchored, you can concentrate on opening your sail. Launch the kite from just a few feet below the tow-point and *walk* the line up. If you just long line it (release the kite and let it go up on a long line) it will rise through the power zone putting twice as much stress on the anchor. That's not good.

How do you launch foils?

Large foils should only be launched after good, solid anchors are secured, the flying zone is assessed for potential problems, and the line is secured and laid out between the anchor and the kite.

Ideally, three people should be used. One holds the kite at the tow point while the other two inflate the sail. Inexperienced helpers have a tendency to hold a kite by the keel, but the point is to get air into the vents and inflate the body. Have them open the cells using two hands.

When the kite is fully inflated, have the holders let go *simultaneously*. If one lets go too soon, the kite will roll over in the other direction.

If cells are not fully inflated, try popping the line to force air in.

And remember on every launch to make sure no one is caught in the bridle lines, flying line, or tails before the kite leaves the ground.

Can one person fly a lifter or is it a two-man job?

Susan would tell you that it can even be done by one *woman*. But yes, one person can launch, fly and retrieve the kite effectively. Like everything else, it becomes easier with some practice.

How do you inflate a foil in light winds?

For launching in general, there are three basic situations --- (1) line anchored, (2) launching with assistance, and (3) launching alone. In all cases, the trick in light wind is to get the cells inflated and then gain altitude.

In moderate winds, you can anchor the kite on a short amount of line, inflate the kite by holding cells open, and then let it go. You then just walk back to the anchor point and let out more line.

With assistance, you hold the line and have your friend(s) hold the cells open. Well intentioned volunteers tend to want to hold the keels rather than the cells and the trick is getting two people to let go at the same time. But once the kite is inflated, you can give the line gentle tugs to fill it and gain altitude. In lighter winds, you simply start with a longer line and pull it in to generate more altitude.

When you are alone and breezes are light, your challenge is to be close enough to the kite to inflate it and far enough down the line to give it a helpful tug. There are lots of different techniques. Mine is to hold the kite by the outside corners, arms outstretched, and 'shake' some wind into the cells. As they begin to inflate, I slide my hands down the keel to the outside bridle lines, and then slide down the top outside bridles to the tow point. In particularly light winds, I also walk backwards to generate a bit more wind. Once you get to the main flying line, you can continue moving back and letting out line until you gain enough altitude that the kite will hold and begin to lift on its own

What about tuning the bridles?

The bridles on each type of foil are a bit different. But basically, you have rows of keels and adjust the relative tension on the lines that go to each row.

If there is just one row -- like in a Sutton -- then tuning is easy. You don't; the kite self adjusts.

When there are two rows of keels - like in our SkyFoil -- you can slide your tow-point along the line connecting the bridle rows. Sliding "up" increases tension on the keels closer to the top of the kite. This increases lift. Sliding down increases tension on the lower keels. This increases drag. Usually we fly the SkyFoil with the lower bridles slightly limp to maximize lift.

Do I need a tail or drogue?

Almost always. Remember that all large foils need some drag at the back end to keep them stabilized. The more drag, the more stability. That's why we offer a tube tail package with most kites.

Should I use thin, low-stretch line?

Generally, kiters prefer thin line (to minimize wind resistance) and no stretch (to maximize control). Neither of these rules apply to large kites.

We use thicker line. Large kites have the power to lift it, and thicker line is easier to grab hold of. For example, a 500 pound kevlar line would have a thickness less than a pencil lead. Our 500 pound line sleeved dacron is about as thick as the entire pencil.

We also prefer line with a bit of stretch. Low-stretch lines like kevlar and spectra are *very* expensive. But more important, we consider line-stretch on a large kite to be a safety issue. Better to have wind gusts absorbed in line elasticity than to pound your anchor until it breaks loose.

What kind of line should I use?

You can find good flying lines in marine (sailing) or rock climbing supply stores. We use a dacron core line with a polyester sleeving in a variety of weights --

    3 mm 500 pound
    4 mm 750 pound
    5 mm 1200 pound
    6 mm 1800 pound

Five hundred pound line is good for the Sutton 125, mid sized Peter Lynn kites, and the SkyFoil Lifter in moderate (under 10 mph) winds. We also use it to anchor 10 foot baskets, crowns, and parachutes.

Seven hundred pound line is good for the Sutton 252, larger Peter Lynn kites in moderate winds, and the SkyFoil Lifter in stronger winds.

Twelve hundred pound line is good for the Sutton 450, large Peter Lynn kites in stronger winds, and the giant SkyFoil Lifter. We also use it to anchor larger baskets, crowns, and parachutes.

Eighteen hundred pound line can be used in any applications where the twelve hundred is used. It provides an extra measure of safety and impresses onlookers.

When do I put on my laundry, while the kite is on the ground or while the kite is in the air?

We use small carabiners to attach laundry. Generally we attach them to the kite or line before the launch and while the line is stretched out. That way we can easily adjust the connection points.

Sometimes it is easier to launch the kite first and get it stabilized. On gusty days, long tails sometimes get in the way. Put the kite up on a short line and then add laundry as you let line out.

Packing my laundry in a strong wind is really difficult. The tubes are full of air. Any suggestions?

Put that strong blowing wind to work for you!

Grab your tubes at the bottom end and let the opening drift downwind. Instead of keeping them inflated, the breeze will now flatten the tube for you. You can easily roll it up and when you are done, the bridles will be the last part packed. That makes it perfect for your next launch.

How do I let line out when the kite is in the air?

Carabiners and Figure Eight Rings are designed to let you manage line under stress. (Both line stress and your stress.) Even with a good piece of rebar as an anchor, we recommend using straps and "biners". The rebar can wear your good (expensive) flying line.

After you kite is airborne, have an assistant pull back and create some slack at your anchor point. Then disconnect the line and wrap it around the carabiner or ring. Be very careful when the kite is not "locked" in. With your line twisted around a carabiner or ring, you can easily let more line out in a controlled fashion. Then tie it back into your system when you reach the altitude you want.

What is cross anchoring?

Cross anchoring involves connecting the kite to the ground at two anchor points. The flying line forms a long "v" with the pointed end connecting to the kite. Two anchor points spread the flying load and prevents the kite from wandering too far left or right.

Another anchoring option to create a long flying tether. Anchor both ends of a main line across the wind, and then connect several kites directly to the tether. This maximizes the number of kites that can be flown in a limited space.

How do I tie the flying line to my kite?

Many people use swivels at the end of the line to minimize twists. We advise against that. Swivels are a weak point in the system. Only use swivels on things that rotate.

Attach your line to the kite or anchor using a larkshead knot.

How much line should I use?

What's the point of flying a large kite if it doesn't look large?? Higher up, they appear smaller.

With more line out, there is an increased chance that something will go wrong. Higher up, you have less control over the kite and its "safety zone". And of course, walking down several hundred feet of line can be a challenge.

We sell line in 300 foot lengths. We feel this is usually more than enough. Circumstances vary, but the general rule is to go high enough to clear ground turbulence, but fly low enough to maximize control and to look impressive. For us, that is usually between 100 and 150 feet.

On the other hand, some people use a thousand feet of line and argue "What's the point of flying a large kite if you can't see it from the next town?"

How do I get it down?

Leave the kite anchored and walk it down from the anchor point. This is easier if you use another strap and connect it to the line with a carabiner. If the wind is stronger, walk it down with two or more people.

I really want to own a lifter but maybe I'm too inexperienced.

Caution is good. But the only way to get experience is to try it. And it really isn't that hard. Just go slow, be careful, and don't let a few crashes spoil your learning experience.

Please tell me about pilot kites on the big animal inflatables?

A pilot kite is a stable kite, usually a parafoil, Sutton, or larger rokkaku, that is tied into the main kite and used to stabilize it. We fly pilots about 50-100 feet above the main kite and most people don't even notice that they are connected. Think of the pilot as an "anchor in the sky".

We now have a complete FAQ section on Pilots.

This system works well on the large and mid sized Peter Lynns. It isn't really necessary on the smaller models.

How do you deflate the giant kites?

Remenber when I said earlier to let the wind work for you??

Collapsing a giant kite is a lot of work on a windy day. We find the best method is to have someone grab hold tight to the bottom of the kite (not the tail but the base of the kite), and then turn the front end loose at the bridle point. The top of the kite will pivot around downwind and the breeze will collapse the "bag". This works best if the person holding the kite moves upwind as the people holding the bridle release.

Do this carefully! Make sure your area is clear. It is a quick and effective way to get the wind out of your large inflatable.

Any suggestions for cleaning?

First of all, forget the washing machines and detergents. They will get ripstop really clean all right. Given enough washing, it will wash the coating right off the fabric, make the fabric more porous, and eventually give the fabric a nice fuzzy, limp feel. That's a hard way to learn that these fabrics used to have a nice coating that you couldn't see.

Polyester and nylon should be washed gently with cold water and just a drop of mild soap on a lawn or soft surface, or in some similar way. It will not make it look as clean as the washing machine does, but won't damage the fabric as much.


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