As your training progresses and you successfully got that great feeling from your first rides, you should be looking to get your first kites and get out there on windy days to practice as much as you can. But getting a ‘wrong’ kite or a kite that’s not suitable for your level would greatly affect your progression, and sometimes even set you back and frustrate you.
There are so many brands out there, and each brand has such and such models, I got frustrated some times and I bet I’m not alone out there. Here I will try to lay out some general points to consider for you to get your first kite.
By the most general categorization, a kite can be either a foil kite where the air flows through those tiny holes between the top and bottom canopy of a kite and generate lift; or a leading-edge inflatable kite (or simply, an ‘inflatable’ kite). For beginners, it’s better to stick with inflatable kite, it is easier for water relaunchs and most likely they are the kites are used in the kiteboarding courses.
Among the inflatable kites, it’s further categorised by the shape. As a rule of thumb, for beginners, I would recommend you to go with bow kite or delta kite, and stay away from C kite.
I’ve riden with taught with many brands at different kite schools and personally, personally I really like Core‘s XR series, F-One‘s Bandit, Duotone‘s Rebel, Cabrhina‘s Switchblade. These are the kites that I’ve seen my students progress the most with. Plus, personally, I could teach my students and then after the class I could go out for a session for myself with the same setup. These are the so-called ‘free-ride’ kites, they are all-rounded, you can ride from your first water-start attemps, to later jumping 10+ meters and doing aerial tricks, and never get bored of them.
On the contrary, C-Shape kites are usually for unhook tricks (‘new school’ tricks), they turns very fast, but doesn’t generate a lot of power if stay still in the sky (i.e. you have to constantly ‘work’ it). These are for more advanced kiters.
This video below from Kite-Surf-College Tutorials and Tricks explains very well the pros and cons of the kites of common shapes.
New vs Second-Hand
I received many questions on this from fellow kiters and my students. Short answer: for your first kite, if budget is not a huge concern, go for a new kite that suits your style. It comes down to how you value your precious practice time…
I have seen many cases where a student bought a second hand, thinking of saving a fortune, but ended up having many trouble like uneven lines (which greatly affects how a kite flies), leaking/exploded bladders, snapped lines…The list goes on… Not to mention when they got a C-Shape kite (see above) which left them wondering why the kite flies so ‘weird’, which greatly hinders their learning progression.
That said, not all second-hand kites are created even. I suggest that you only go for a second-hand kite when you know the kiter well and trust that he/she has treated the kite properly (that includes flying, packing, storing). There are some points to consider when looking at any second-hand kite posts:
- The kiter’s experience and skill level
Number of times the kite was used shouldn’t be the only consideration, as a kite that’s used only a few times but got smashed heavily (on water, beach, etc. ) would still suffer considerable damage than a kite that’s used a couple dozens of times without any hard landings / scratches.
- When was the kite produced
Normally I would stay away from any kites that are more than 5 years old. Even if you don’t use the kite, and let the material sit there for 5 years, the canopy, the air bladder, the connecting rubber hoses, they would all deteriate with time. After all, who wants to deal with a kite that leaks?
Sun is also one of the kite’s worst enemy. If you leave your kite under the sun for a long time (e.g. when taking a long break / switching kites during a session), the exposure to the sun would cause the material to deteriorate faster. See this post on some of the best practices when it comes to maintaining your gears.
Once you decided to go for a second-hand, a couple of things to do before you make the deal:
- If you have a chance, pick up the phone for a quick chat with the seller
To get a sense of his/her level of experience, how and under what conditions the kite has been used. Ask if there has been any tearings on the canopy, any leaks / repairs in the air bladder, etc.
- Test the kite & bar, if possible
Pump the kite on a beach / ground and let it sit for 30 minutes. Does the shape hold? Look for any visible scratches, are they patched (i.e. fixed) properly with kite repairing materials?
Walk the lines of the control bar and look for any scratches on the line. These weak points might become a hazard later on. You might also want to measure if the 4 (or 5) lines have the same length.
Why does the line’s evenness matter? After a few sessions of kiting, the lines (front lines and back lines) might get uneven due to either kiter’s habit (e.g. kiter likes to loop to kite on just one side), and line’s natural decay. A brand new bar should have all 2 front lines and 2 back lines the same length when the trimming line is at maximum power. The usual case is front lines gets longer than the back lines (so when you have the 4 line-tails lined up, maximum power trimmed, you pull the bar all the way in, there’ll be a distance between the bar and the chicken loop), the bar will tend to fly backwards (‘backstall’). See this post on How to trim your bar properly
Another case is two front lines are not evened, see the photo below, the two center line are differed by just ~1cm:
This 1cm difference looks trivial, it will alter the kite’s shape when flying,. When putting the kite at 12 o’clock, I found the bar significantly tilt to one side (as if one of the side lines was longer than the other, but in fact the back lines have the same length).
- Jump in the water for some test runs
Does the kite flies properly? Does the kite tend to front stall (due to side-lines too long) / back stall (due to front-lines longer than back lines)? Trust your feelings / observations, not the words of the kiter.