How to fly a kite: A five-step guide for soaring success

Kite flying is one of the most enjoyable end-of-summer outdoor games one could have. If only we could sprout wings and fly! The ability to soar and swirl above the clouds has always held great appeal. Even if we can’t levitate ourselves, we can always revel in the simple joy of flying a kite. Kite flying actually can be traced back to about 2,800 years ago in ancient China. Kites started as simple paper creations but have come a long way since. They’ve had uses in fun and function over the centuries. Today, you’ll learn how to fly a kite like a pro with a few helpful steps.

Flying red kite in a blue sky
Diane Diederich/

First, make or purchase a kite

If you plan to save yourself a little time and purchase a kite, size is important. The lighter the wind, the bigger the kite; smaller kites are better suited to strong winds. Nylon materials are commonly used in most recreational kites, as well as thin plastic sheets or classic paper. The shapes vary widely.
A sled kite is a loose, parachute shape, while a diamond kite features a more recognizable design. A delta kite is triangular in shape, often with streamers trailing from the ends. All of them essentially accomplish the same feat. If you opt to make your own, you may use paper, dowels, string, tape, and ribbons. Craft stores will often sell kits to make your own kite.

Check the weather

How much wind do you need to fly a kite? Well, that depends entirely on the size of kite you have. Since most people don’t have the benefit of being a weather expert, there are ways to gauge if the conditions are blustery enough. If you feel a stiff breeze that will topple over a half-empty can or other slightly weighted objects, your chances are quite good. You can even hold out a flag or ribbon as a reference to the strength of the gale. With that being said, make sure conditions are safe. Kite flying in a storm, particularly with lightning, is never a good idea.

Select a location

Ideally, you want to fly a kite in a place with limited potential obstacles. Parks can be good as long as there are not too many trees. Always avoid power lines. Elevated areas are also effective, so find a good hill if there are any nearby. Wide, grassy expanses provide excellent possibilities. Some people find appeal in kite flying at the beach due to the frequency in winds. However, sand can make it harder to jog and keep your kite airborne.

Proper holding and guiding technique

It is always better to work in teams of two. One person will launch the kite, the other will fly it. The launcher should have his back to the wind so when they toss the kite up, it will catch the breeze. The flier should not run while launching the kite but wait until it catches a bit of wind. Once there is a bit of tautness to the kite string, the flier can pull the string to get the necessary friction. As long as the flier pays attention to which way the wind is blowing, they can switch their approach to keep the kite afloat. The flier can also practice with reeling and releasing more of the line for the best results.

Extra tips to try

Family of three flying a kite

You can add guide marks to the string in order to gauge how high you’re able to fly your kite. You can also experiment with weighted kites if you find yours is perhaps too lightweight to control properly. Many people add small magnetic weights to the tail of the kite. Brightly colored models are important in case the wind gets the best of you and tears your kite away. Don’t immediately try to get your kite as high as possible; instead, wait until you gain control over the gust and then gradually allow the line to unravel.

Kite flying has come a long way since its inception. There are events, festivals, and celebrations held annually reserved for this ancient pastime. If you’ve never quite been able to get the hang of kite flying, it may be the time to try. Choose or make a kite, and make sure the wind is strong. Find an open, uninhabited area and grab a partner. Remember to take turns launching and guiding your kite. Most importantly, have fun and keep practicing!

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