What size power kite to get.....
This seems like the most common question asked by people starting out in the power kiting sport. I always say start small and move up from there.
Power kites generate power based on the wind they are used in. A larger kite will produce power in less wind, smaller kite will produce power in higher wind. They ALL produce power, a small power kite is not a kiddies toy that you will outgrow, if flown in the designated wind range, a small power kite will produce the EXACT same amount of power as a large kite. Let me try to explain this a little more. The maximum amount of power any power kite can produce is the point where it overpowers the pilot. When you get overpowered you are no longer in control with the kite (and usually the ground). You become a tethered weight bouncing along at the mercy of the kite. So regardless of the size of the kite, they will produce maximum power when you lose traction - this is the same power output regardless of the size of kite you are flying.
Now, which kite do you start with? Again, start small and move up from there. Smaller kites can handle a lot more wind than larger kites. I suggest looking into something 3.0 meters and smaller. A 3.0 meter kite will get in the air in winds starting around 5-7 mph and you can learn to fly it, control it, land it, etc.... with less worry about getting injured while you learn. When the winds start to approach the 15+ mph range, the 3.0 meter kite should have more than enough power to move you on a buggy, mountainboard, or snowboard....... The power will surprise ya.
There are other factors that will weight in to this including your weight - heavier people will need a little more kite than lighter people to get moving, the terrain you are riding on - smooth flat terrain will require less power to get moving on than soft snow or grassy parks, what you are riding will also make a difference. Big foot wheels/large boards will require less power to get moving on the soft stuff than smaller wheels/boards. But generally you only need to adjust only one size kite (plus or minus) to compensate for these things.
For kite size, purchasing a 1.5 Meter or 2.0 Meter kite is not a waste of money. As stated the smaller kites will have plenty of power to get you going when the winds are stronger, so you may not fly it all the time but in the right conditions they will be the only kite you CAN Fly. In strong wind days you will NEED a small kite or you will end up sitting around watching others ride. So starting small is not a bad thing at all, the kites cost less and after you end up with a couple other sizes you will have a complete array of kite sizes to allow you to fly in nearly every wind condition.
Kits size can be confusing as well.....
Why do some people say a Frenzy 5.0 meter kite is a good high wind kite while others say a 2.0 meter Samurai is a good high wind kite? Thats where the confusion comes in. Different kites will produce different amounts of power. All 3.0 meter kites are NOT THE SAME! Depowerable foils have a different power output than fixed bridle foils. LEI kites also have a different power output than bridled foils. (LEI = Leading Edge Inflatable) C-shaped and Bow kites are also different... And to add to this confusion even more, a high aspect ration 3.0 meter bridled foil kite will have more power output than a lower aspect ratio 3.0 meter bridled foil kite.....
All of this is different because of kite design techniques.
First lets take fixed bridled foils vs. depowerable foils. Depowerable foils have the ability to change the profile of the kite wing during flight (the curve of the kite). This allows them to dump power or power up instantly, usually done with the sliding of a control bar and a complex bridle system. Depowerable kites such as the Ozone Frenzy and HQ Montana have set the standard in snowkiting because of this unique ability. In gusty conditions you can dump the power instantly or power up whenever you want. This gives you the ability to do huge jumps without having to get super aggressive with the kite. The ability to dump the power comes at a cost, depowerable foils will generally have much less power per size than fixed bridle foils. This is the reason they are sold in larger sizes. Because of their larger size, they will also turn slower in the air than fixed bridle foils. A huge advantage of Depowerable foils is that they have a larger wind range in which they can fly in. By depowering the kite, you can fly them in stronger winds than a fixed bridle kite. Usually one Frenzy will cover the same wind range as 2 or even 3 fixed bridle kites. Fixed bridle foils are just that, the bridle is pre-set to maximize the performance of the kite and cannot be changed. Fixed bridle foils will produce a huge amount of power in their given wind range and will be very responsive as compared to most other kite designs. The speed and control of fixed bridle foils make them perfect for buggying and static flying. You can get aggressive with the kite and it will respons immediatly. Turns are fast and sharp while they power up instantly and continue to pull without the softer mushy feeling depowerable foils will sometimes give. Fixed bridle kites are designed to work in a specific wind range which is much smaller than that of the depowerable foils. This is the reason depowerable kites are offered in 4 or 5 different sizes where foils can have as many as 10 different sizes to cover the same wind ranges.
LEI, Bow, and SLE kites are mostly designed for water use. This is the reason for their inflatable leading edge. SLE and Bow kites are a new variation of the standard C-shaped LEI kites. Bow and SLE kites will incorporate a small amount of bridling to give them more depower ability, extending the wind range they can fly in. These kites are designed to fly without the use of bridles (not including 5th line systems). They acompolish this by a C-sharped arc and pressurized struts / leading edges which gives the kite good stability in the air. This design makes these style kites large in size. The wing tips of the arc give the kite the stability while the center of the kite gives the sail area to produce lift and power. Kite sizes for these kites usually start smallest around 5-7 meter and can go up to 20-25 meter in size. To help give the customer a comparason to other kite sizes, they will usually post two different measurements. Flat area and projected area. Flat area is the total sail size when the kite is laying flat on the ground. projected area is an estimation of how much of the wing is actually used to produce power. Projected area will give you a closer comparison to fixed bridle kites as far as size although fixed bridle kites will still produce a much more effecient power output than the projected area of LEI style kites.
Kite design makes all the difference!!!
If you fly a 3.0 meter kite from one manufacturer, and then fly another 3.0 meter kite from another manufacturer, the kites will react differently, deliver power differently, and produce power differently. This is even the same for kites of the same manufacturer of different styles. In example, the Ozone Yakuza 2.7 meter kite will produce much more power than the Ozone 3.0 meter Fury. This has to do with the aspect ratio of the kite and the overall design & construction techniques of the kite. More power is not always better. The Yakuza is a high aspect ratio full race kite. This kite produces mind-boggling power when flown properly but can be a real frustrating kite to fly by an inexperienced pilot. The extreme power output of the high performance race foils come at the cost of stability. Race foils can be twitchy in the air and can spank you hard in unpredictable gusty conditions. The race foils also have huge amounts of speed - they rock through the air. This high speed flight lets the kite fly well past the edge of the wind window and if your not prepared for it, the kite will luft, fold up, or even bow-tie. Race foils also have a very small wind range and it is easy to get overpowered fast on a race foil as compared to a lower aspect ratio kite. Lower aspect ratio kites are (usually) more forgiving in gusty conditions.
Best advice I can give to anyone starting out in power kiting is "fly before you buy". Talk with your local shop and see if they have demo kites you can try out. Ask them about other pilots in your area, where they fly, what the most common size kite for your area is. Talk to other riders in your area and ask them what they like/dislike about different kites that they have tried. Most kite flyers are very friendly and will let you try their gear out as well, giving you hands on experience on different kites. Kites have personalities just like people do, a favorite kite for one person may not work well for you. The only way you will find this out is either dropping huge amounts of cash or test flying a kite beforehand. In our area a 3.0 meter is the most common size. In your area it may be something totally different. Check with your local shop / riders to help get you a kite that you will be able to fly most of the time and will be happy with. Whats the best kite to buy??? Well, it will be whatever kite fits your personality and flying style best. There are many manufacturers on the market and generally, you get what you pay for. The better performing kites usually cost more than others. The extra cost is usually because of the construction techniques used in the kite. Generally, the more expensive kites will fly better, produce better power, and last longer (again, GENERALLY!!!) This is not to knock the other less expensive brands but more stating a general fact. Try as many kites as you can and when you find that perfect one, enjoy!!
There....now that I have set a new record for the longest post I will crawl back into my dungeon.
Hope this helps you and anyone else out there that is looking to get into power kiting.