November 25, 2012
The Kite Glossary

Yes, there is a kite language.

We are providing the following glossary of kite terminology to assist you in developing or expanding your kite language skills. Enjoy and have fun! If you'd like to suggest a word, email me at Info@GombergKites.com

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | A | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
-A-

Airfoil: An airfoil is the shape of a kite when viewed in cross-section. A curved surface, which causes the air flowing across it to create a vacuum above the kite and provide lift.

AKA: The American Kitefliers Association is the largest kite hobbyist organization in the world. They publish Kiting magazine. They include 100 affiliated clubs, 150 member merchants, and sanction about 75 kite events each year. AKA hosts an annual convention where they honor contributors to kiting and rank competitors in sport kite flying, kite making, and fighter kite flying.

Angle of Attack: The angle that the kite penetrates the wind. As the angle of attack increases so does lift and drag, up to a point. Too much angle results in a kite that stalls or won't lift, or causes the kite to be overpowered by the wind. Too little angle results in not enough lift but increases the speed of the kite.

Anchor: A device where a kite can be safely secured. Examples include sand blankets, spikes, stakes, and straps.

Tuning

Anhedral: The U-shaped bend in a kite when in flight. It’s the opposite of Dihedral. This is also used to increase drag and add stability to designs such as a sled kite.

Appliqué: A decorative design process made by cutting pieces of material and applying them to another surface. Appliqued kites usually feature many layers of fabric to create a colored image. Often, the background fabric is cut away to brighten colors.

Aspect Ratio: The relationship between the height and width of a kite. A tall, narrow kite has a low aspect ratio, while a short wide kite has a high aspect ratio. High aspect ratio wings abound in nature. Most birds have a high aspect ratio, and with tapered or elliptical wingtips. In kite design, a high aspect ratio is more efficient and provides greater lift with lower drag. Lower aspect ratio kites often reply on tails for stability.

-B-

Batten: Flexible strips or spars placed in pockets in the sail of a kite to help maintain the sail's rigid shape. The lightweight spar strengthens the curvature of the kites body or wing.

Beaufort Scale: A system of estimating wind velocities invented by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort of the British Navy. An international scale of wind force from 0 (calm air) to 12 (hurricane) for gauging wind speed by observing conditions on the ground. Examples include how smoke may drift, grass or sand move, or flags and trees rustle. Click here for a Kite Table.

Bol: A large round, rotating Ground Bouncer. Examples include wheels, baskets, and crowns. Originally called bols because they were designed in France and looked like the large cups used to drink coffee there.

Bols

Bowed: Kites that are bowed have the surface facing the wind curved backwards from the center to the edge. Often a bowstring is used to create this curve. The result is more stability than flat kites. See dihedral.
Bols

Bowstring: The string that secures the curved spar of a kite to create a bow or dihedral.

Box Kite: See Cellular Kite.

Bridle: A series of lines that connect to the kite sail and frame to help support the kite and/or to orient the kite at a proper angle to the wind. Bridle lines then come together at a location where the flying line is attached. This is called the “Tow Point”. Simple bridles just control the flight angle of the kite flite, while a complex bridle may also form the shape of the kite.

Bridle Leg: Each individual line going from the tow point to the kite is known as a bridle leg. A kite bridle may have only two legs or dozens of legs.

-C-

Carabiners: Forged metal clips. Small Carabiners can be used to connect line laundry to the flying line. Larger pieces can be used as part of an anchor system.

Biner

Carbon: A lightweight, rigid, and strong material used for kite framing. Carbon typically comes in solid rods or hollow tubes. One of the most popular composites for kite framing, carbon spars are stronger than fiberglass and considerably lighter and stiffer, but also more expensive. A word of warning: carbon rods can conduct electricity. If you break a carbon or fiberglass spar, handle it very carefully. They have splinters which can be very painful.

Cellular Kite: Laurence Hargraves of Australia is credited with developing the original box kite. There are now many shapes that are variations of a box using sticks and spars to create a rigid shape. Cellular kites are well suited for stronger winds. Most are flown on a single line.

Centre ‘T’: The point where the spine and the lower spreader cross on a sport/stunt kite.

Chain Braid: A process for shortening the length of lines or bridles by creating a series of loose loops. Used for storage and to minimize tangles. Also called a "Daisy Chain".

Cover: The material that coats the frame of a kite is sometimes called a cover. It can be made of paper, plastic, polyester or nylon. The preferred term is to call it a sail.

Cross Spar: Also called a spreader or horizontal spreader, it is a rod made from wood, plastic, fiberglass, carbon or graphite. The spreader extends the wings of a kite.

Chain

-D-

Dacron: A trademarked synthetic polyester textile fiber commonly used for kite bridles and flying lines. Dacron lines are thicker and softer than so called "microlines" and comes in different weights that identify average breaking strength.

Delta Kite: A popular kite that is shaped like an isosceles triangle. It is a very sturdy kite with a single spreader, a spine down the center for strength, and two equal spars sewn inside seams along the leading (front) edge. Note that the leading edge spars often do not extend the entire length of the leading edge. For proper flight, they should be pushed to the bottom corners of the kite. Deltas are high angle fliers and can come with bridles or with fabric keels. Most sports/stunt kites are variants of the Delta design.
Delta Box

Delta Box Kite: A kite design that combines the lifting power of the traditional box kite with the stability of the delta wing kite. The Delta Box is also called the Delta Conyne (for inventor Silas Conyne) or the “DC” for short. The Delta Box is popular for lift, stability, and ease of stacking.

Dihedral: The V-shaped bend in the kite created when the wings curve back from the center. Typically, more dihedral causes more aerodynamic stability. If the wings lean back at the same angle, then the wind pushes equally on both wings. If one side of the kite begins to turn further into the wind, then the wind will push harder on that side until the kite becomes stable again.Dihedral can be created with a bowstring or molded connectors – also called dihedrals.

Dihedreal

Downwind: A reference to location related to the direction the wind is blowing. If the wind is blowing south, then anything south of you is said to be “downwind”.

Drag: The resistance a kite or line experiences relative to the wind. Drag is affected by the weight of the kite, the materials it is constructed from and they type of surface covering. Thicker flying lines create more drag than thinner lines.

Drogue: A device placed behind the kite to provide drag and orient the kite in a favorable direction. A specific style of kite tail, usually round, cone, or barrel shaped. An air anchor that floats behind a kite to encourage stability or prevent drifting.

Dual Line Kite: Any sport/stunt or power kite that uses two lines for control.

Dyneema Line: A strong, thin, low-stretch flying line used for flying multi-line kites. Similar to Spectra but with a slightly different molecular structure. Both Dyneema and Spectra are slippery which makes them effective for flying more revolutions in a line without loss of control. But both have a low melting point which make them easily cut by other types of flying lines. Knots are usually “sleeved” to prevent breakage.

-E-

End Cap: Plastic, vinyl, or molded rubber parts that slip over the end of spars. End caps protect fabric from the hard edges of fiberglass or carbon rods.

-F-

Fiberglass: A lightweight, flexible, and strong material used for kite framing. Fiberglass typically comes in solid rods or hollow tubes. Fiberglass spars have replaced the use of wood in kite building. Other alternatives are carbon and graphite tubes which are lighter, stronger, and more rigid, but also more expensive. A word of warning: If you break a fiberglass spar, handle it very carefully. They have splinters which can be very painful.

Fighter Kites: These are small, highly maneuverable kites that are flown on one line. Fighters are unstable and rotate on slack line, but move quickly forward on taught line. The flier steers by pulling and slackening the line to create direction and movement. Fighter Kite contests involve overtaking and capturing the opposing kite, completing a game of line tag, or using glass coated line to cut the opposing kite free. Not to be confused with Rokkakus which are also used for fighting.

Fittings: A variety of plastic, vinyl, or molded rubber parts used in kite design and construction to connect spars, hold spars to the sail, protect the end of rods, or create angles.

Flat Kite: Kites with no bow or dihedral so that they will lie completely flat when laid on the ground. Flat kites usually require tails for stability.
Flow Form

Flowform: A inflatable lifter kite with openings that allow the wind to move through. Typically, Flowforms do not lift as much as Parafoils and can be flown in larger sizes.

Flying Line: Kite line is available from many materials and in different styles, lengths and weights. Materials may include nylon, dacron, polyester, spectra, and dyneema. Styles may include braided or twisted. Weights are a measure of average breaking strength.

Frame: The structure of the kite to which the sail is fastened. Parts of the frame include spars and spreaders that go from side-to-side, a spine that goes top-to-bottom; standoffs that push the sail back from the spars, and fittings that connect everything together.

Freestyle: A style of maneuverable flying which includes maneuvers, tricks, and slack-line flying put together in rapid succession. A "Freestyle Kite" is a an advanced sport kite designed to perform freestyle flying.

-G-

Graphite: Carbon based substance that when bonded in an epoxy matrix layer produces an exceptionally strong but very light material ideal for kite frames. Graphite spars are lighter and stiffer than fiberglass though more fragile. They are lighter than their carbon spars and a bit more expensive. Graphite is produced in solid rod form and hollow wound or protruded tubes.

GKPI: Gomberg Kite Productions International. An excellent kite manufacturer, distributor, and retailer based in Oregon. See GombergKites.com, GKites.com, or NWWinds.biz.

Ground Bouncer: A kite accessory related to line laundry but with too much drag or insufficient lift to loft into the air. Examples include balls, bols, and a variety of animal shapes.

Fugu Bouncer

-H-
Halo Winder

Halo Winder: Plastic wheels designed to hold flying line. Available in a variety of diameters with or without line. Note that winding line directly from a kite onto a Halo creates pressure which can crush the “unbreakable” winder. Winding line on and then spooling it off can creates line twists.

Handles: A variety of devices are used to control a flying line for sport kites. These include hard plastic handles, wrist straps, and finger straps. As the proficiency of the kite and flier advance, handles become increasingly important to provide the flier increased “feel” for the kite’s control and performance. Plastic handles are often used to also wind line for storage. Straps come with a hard plastic card for winding and storage.

Hummer: A device attached to the kite which vibrates or spins with sufficient force to generate a loud humming noise.

-I-

Inflatables: A category of kites that have no spars and are filled by the wind to create shape. Often internal shroud lines help complete that shape. Inflatables can be quite large and are often supported by Lifter or Pilot kites. Popular examples include Octopus, Teddy Bear, Whales, and the ZumZum Bug.

-J-
-K-

KAP:: Kite Aerial Photography. Lightweight cameras are lifted by kite. Usually the camera is suspened from the line to minimize movement. The camera can be operated by remote control or set to take photos on a timer.

Keel: A triangular piece of fabric material used instead of a bridle. The front corner becomes the kite’s tow point. It does provide stability, but unlike a bridle line, will not allow adjustments for different wind conditions.

Kevlar: An extremely strong synthetic line with low stretch qualities. Kevlar was used in the early 90’s for sport kite flying but was soon replaced with spectra and dyneema which are more slippery and do not degrade as quickly in the sun. Kevlar is quite abrasive and can easily cut other flying lines. It is generally discouraged in group flying situations.
Kite Train

Kite Laundry: See line laundry.

Kite Train: Any combination of linking two or more kites together on a main flying line. The conventional train of kites passes the flying line from kite-to-kite, connecting either at the tow-point or the frame. Another method is called branch training, where each kite has its own individual flying line that is connected to a main trunk line. Training is also referred to as “stacking”.

-L-

Lark’s Head: A simple knot (also called a cow-hitch) made by forming a loop at the end of a flying line and then folding the loop over itself to create a noose. The Lark’s head is easily tightened around a knot on the end of a bridle line. It is the preferred method to attach line to a kite and very easy to untie when you want to disconnect from the kite.

Lark's Head Knot

Leading Edge: The edge of the kite in which strikes the wind first, or in soft kites, the edge the wind first enters. The spar on the outside edge of a sticked kite running from the nose to the wing tip.

Lift: The vertical force exerted by the wind on an anchored kite. This force is divided into line pull, a net vertical force that keeps the kite flying, and an horizontal force called drag, which tends to want to pull the kite down towards the horizon. Different kite designs generate different amounts of lift. They vary in their ability to carry tails, inflated line line laundry, and the kite line itself.

Lifter Kite: A stable kite with strong lift used to support and guide larger kites or line laundry below.

Lifter Loop: A reinforced line or loop attached to the top of an inflatable kite where a lifter kite or line can be attached.

Lifter Kite

Line Set: Single line kites use one line while the lines used on a multi-line kite are called a “set”. These lines come in a variety of weight and lengths. Stronger weight lines are required for stronger winds and/or bigger kites. With line sets, it is important that each line be equal in length.

Line Art: See Line Laundry.

Line Laundry: Anything that you can hang from your kite or the line going to the kite is called line laundry. Examples are flat tails, tubes, and a variety of shapes we also refer to as line art. Laundry behind the kite can add drag and/or stability. Laundry on the line can add drag as well. Laundry is generally considered a way to maximize the visual impact of a single kite with color, motion, and visual appeal.

Lower Spreader: More correctly called the bottom spreader on a sport/stunt kite, it is the horizontal spar that is closest to the tail of the spine. See spreader for more information.

-M-

Mylar: A lightweight, very low-stretch material used in the sail making industry. In a woven form, mylar panels are often used in sport kite covers. Very thin mylar, similar to cellophane, is also used to as sail material for small kites and lower-cost kites.

-N-

Nose: The leading point or leading edge of the kite. For example, in a delta shaped kite, the nose is the top point. In a parafoil, it is the entire front edge.

Nylon: Ripstop Nylon is a very strong, lightweight, and low-stretch sailcloth popular for kitemaking

-O-

Outhaul: A nautical term adapted to kite terminology, it is a line, which is part of the bridle of advanced sport kite, which is used to widen or narrow the tow point. This shift has a very dramatic effect on the turning, stalling, recovery and other handling capabilities of the kite.

-P-

Paper: Paper was one of the earliest materials, along with silk used to make kites, and is still used today in many cultures around the world.
Bulldog Parafoil

Parafoil: A rectangular, three dimensional kites with no sticks or spars. Parafoils depend on wind inflation, not on a rigid frame, to give the kite its shape. 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 aerofoil section. Parafoils typically have a number of bridle lines. They generate strong lift per square foot of kite surface.

Pigtail: A short length or loop of line with an overhand knot tied at the end. A pigtail is often attached to a kite or line laundry so that a lark’s head knot can easily be connected. See Lark's Head.

Pilot Kite: A stable kite with strong lift used to support and guide larger kites or line laundry below. See Lifter.

Pitch: Think of a boat dipping alternatively at the bow and stern. That movement around the horizontal axis is called Pitch,. Pitch shows up as wobbling at the top and bottom of the spine. Too much pitch will cause the kite to not lift well. Too little pitch will stall and cause the kite to nosedive toward the ground.

Pitch

Polyester: Ripstop polyester is a very strong, lightweight, and low-stretch sailcloth. Polyester absorbs less water than Nylon, so a kite will stay much lighter on high humidity days. Polyester also has a higher resistance to UV rays from sunlight, and its colors will last much longer before fading.

Power Kites: Multi-kites that are purposely flown to experience an upper-body physical workout or just battling the sheer power of the wind. Usually having two lines, they can be framed sport/stunt or foil-type kites. The large power kites (over 8ft) are capable of generating enough pull to lift or drag people. For that reason, power kites should be flown with care and caution.

Pull: The energy generated by a kite is referred to as pull. Pull is created by the upward force of the wind on the kite, and also by downwind drag. Kite energy can also be described as lift. However, lift is more vertical and pull more horizontal or downwind. Determining pull is important to select a safe and suitable flying line and anchor

Prusik Knot: Originally intended for climbing, this knot is designed to slip smoothly when loose and hold firm under a sideways load. it is useful for creating an anchor point for laundry on the main flying line. To prevent slippage use an additional overhand knot in the loop to keep it from coming loose.

Prusik Knot

-Q-

Quad-Line Kite: A maneuverable kites utilizing four flying lines for control. This allows a flier the ability to not only steer left and right like a dual line, but to maneuver the kite to fly sideways, spin like a propeller, and fly forward or backward. The Revolution or “Rev” is the quad line kite of choice for most fliers.

-R-

Ready to Fly: Abbreviated, RTF is a term denoting that flying line and/or line, winder and handles are included with kite.

Reel: See winders.

Ripstop: This term refers to the type of weave that incorporates smaller fibers with larger fibers creating squares of reinforcing fibers in the cloth. Generally used in nylon or polyester, if the fabric tears, it will most often stop when the tear reaches the reinforcement. Rip-stop signifies quality in a kite.
Rokkaku

Rokkaku: The Rokkaku originated in the Sanjo region of Japan. “Kaku” means a kite with corners; “rok” is Japanese for “six”. A Rokkaku is six-sided or hexagonal kite. Roks are stable flying platforms that are adjusted with two bow-lines. They are often used in Rokkau “battles” where kites are tipped or cut from the sky and the last kite in the air wins.

Roll: Think about that ship turning over on its side. That movement around the vertical axis is called roll. When it rolls, the kite leans, wobbles or tries to rotate from side-to-side.

Roll

-S-

Sail: Any material used to build a sparless kite or cover a kite frame. See cover.

Single Line Kite: A kite requiring only one line to fly.
Sled

Sled: A Sled is a flat kite with added ram-air chambers for increased lift and stability. They are made either with a very flexible frame or no frame at all. The bridle holds the sail in a The U-shaped Anhedral position. Smaller sparless Sleds, described as 'pocket kites', fold down to an efficient size for travel, backpacking or boating. Larger Sleds are used for lifting.

Sleeving: A short braided covering which encloses the ends of flying lines and helps to increase the line strength at the tie points and prevent wear.
Soft Stunter

Soft Stunter: A dual or quad line maneuverable sport kite designed with no spars. Soft Stunters with a ram-air wing profiles can generate enormous power. See Power Kite.

Spar: Any solid rod or tube used in the construction of the kite frame.

Spectra Line: A strong, thin, low-stretch flying line used for flying multi-line kites. Similar to Dyneema but with a slightly different molecular structure. Both Dyneema and Spectra are slippery which makes them effective for flying more revolutions in a line without loss of control. But both have a low melting point which make them easily cut by other types of flying lines. Knots are usually “sleeved” to prevent breakage.

Spin: Imagine a boat caught in a whirlpool and turning round-and-round its center of gravity. Kites can turn around their bridle tow-point in much the same way which. Aeronautical engineers call this a "yaw”. Some single-line kites, like fighters, use spin to change direction. A sport kite uses controlled spin as a simple maneuver.

Roll

Spine: The center spar or rod that forms the backbone of certain kites. May also be called a longeron.
Sport Kite

Sport Kite: Primarily dual-line kites that can be maneuvered for fun, exercise, competition or entertainment. Originally, the term "Sport" distinguished delta wing maneuverable kites from those with diamond wings. Now the term applies to all maneuverable kites. Pull the left line to turn left, pull right to turn right. Also called Stunt Kite.

Spreader: A spreader is any spar or rod that run horizontally across the span of the kite opening the wings. Generally, spreaders are removed from the kite when it is being stored or transported.

Stability: The quality or attribute of being free from change or variation. The ability of a kite to fly a steady course as it is guided.

Stacking: See Kite Train.

Stand Off: A short length of carbon or fiberglass rod, which runs between the lower spreader and the trailing edge of the kite. Stand-offs serve to tension and provide form to the kite, increasing its lift and stability. They also prevent the sail from luffing when flying on the edge of the wind. Originally referred to as “whiskers”.

Streamers: See Line Laundry.
Stunt Kite

Stunt Kite: Primarily dual-line kites that can be maneuvered for fun, exercise, competition or entertainment. Originally, the term "Stunt" referred to diamond wing maneuverable kites. Now the term applies to all maneuverable kites. Pull the left line to turn left, pull right to turn right. Also called Sport Kites.

Swivel: A device adopted from fishing gear, used to attach a flying line or laundry to a kite. The swivel turns and removes twist from the line. Swivels are necessary for laundry and line art that turns. In all other cases, a lark’s head knot is more efficient.

Swivels

-T-

T-Connector: A strong molded fixture that holds together the spars, the spine, or lower spreaders of a Sport Kite.

Taffeta: A crisp, smooth, plain-woven fabric with a slight sheen, made of various fibers, such as silk, rayon, or nylon, and used primarily for line laundry and streamers.

Tail: Long ribbons of fabric attached to the tail or trailing edge of the kite providing stability and decoration. See also line laundry.

Three Finger Straps: See Handles.

Tow Point: The connection point for the flying line to attach to the kite. It could be a solid fabric keel, a loop in the bridle or the end of a bridle. The tow point also serves as a place to adjust the kites’ angle of attack to the wind.

Traction Kites: Any large foil-type kite that is designed to have more pull than lift. They are powerful and can pull the user at great speed in a buggy, roller skates, surfboard, or snowboard. Traction kites usually have four lines or three lines to allow for braking.

Trailing Edge: The back edge of the kite.

Tuning: Adjusting the tow-point on the bridle to change the angle-of-attack. This allows the kite to perform differently in different wind conditions. Tuning is different for each style of kite (single or multi-line) but has the same performance effect.

Tuning
Turbulence

Turbulence: Irregular motion of the atmosphere, as indicated by gusts and lulls in the wind. Obstructions such as trees, buildings, or uneven ground can cause turbulence making it difficult to fly a kite.

-U-

Ultra Light Kite: A kite designed to be flown in a wind range of 2-9 mph. These kites are designed with very lightweight materials and will not fly in heavier winds without risking structural damage. Super Ultra Light kites are designed for optimal performance in wind range 0-5 mph and can be flown indoors on very short lines.

Upwind: A reference to location related to the direction the wind is coming from. If the wind is blowing south, then anything north of you is said to be “upwind”.

-V-

Vent: An opening in the kite sail to reduce the wind pressure on the face of the kite and improve stability in stronger winds. Often vents are constructed of mesh panels.

-W-

Whisker: Antiquated name for a standoff. These are small tensioning rods used to hold the sail back from the frame. See Standoff.

Wind Range: A term used to describe the amount of wind that a kite will fly well in. Usually given in a series of miles per hour, such as “3-5 mph”.

Wind Shadow: The area behind an obstacle which creates turbulence.

Wind Speed: The velocity of the wind as it passes the kite. The ideal wind speed for most kite flying is 10-15 mph. However many kites are specifically designed for higher or lower wind speeds.

Wind Window: The area of the sky downwind of the flier, in which the kite can be flown. Roughly a 120-180 degree arc or one fourth of a sphere's surface.

Winder: A variety of devices designed to retrieve and store flying line.

Wingtip: The very end of a kite’s wing is called the wingtip.

Wrist Straps: See Handles.

-X/Y/Z-

Yaw: See Spin.

This glossary was adapted from a document originally published by the Harbor Wind & Kite Co.
We acknowledge their contribution and thank them for their good work.

Most of our Advanced Sticked Kites have a high aspect ratio, a dihedral (or in some cases an anhedreal) and are designed to resist pitch, yaw, and roll.

They look pretty good too!

Order anything from our ASK page before December 15 and take 20% off. Just remember to mention the Update when you order.

Wilson Wing

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