Articles > Power Kite Guide > Before Your First Flight

So you've gone and bought yourself a power kite! You crazy fool!! Now what you gonna do?

Hopefully you've read our "How to get started" article and you're the proud owner of not only a shiny new kite, but also some pads, a helmet and some insurance... No? Well, you should seriously consider them.

Now you need to find somewhere to play. What you need is a good location, good wind, good weather and good vibes. I'll give you some more details:

Ask yourself - do I have...

Good Location?

Permission to fly here? Some locations have banned kite flying. In many of these places the local kite fliers will no doubt be engaged in debates with the local council or whoever is in control of the land. If you fly your kite here you'll do no end of damage to the situation.

Obstructions downwind of you? You're going to want a LOT of space downwind of you. Things can go wrong VERY quickly and you can get dragged downwind fast. Anything in the way will be a potential weapon of doom for you. Fence posts, goal posts, tent pegs, roads, railways, pilons, people etc etc... you need big open spaces for kiting!

Obstructions upwind of you? Anything upwind of you will cause a disturbance to the wind. Trees, houses, whatever - they all mess with the lovely clean wind and make it messy - this is not good - especially not for a beginner such as yourself. Rumour has it that if you move 7 times the height of the upwind object away - the wind will clean itself up again - this is not true. Go further.

People and dogs about? People and dogs pose a special problem to you. They move about and they're curious and they have a strong urge to pee on your kite. The fewer people and dogs around the better. Be aware of the fact that powered up kite lines cut through skin and muscle like cheese wire through butter - and these curious muggles will be upon you in a trice given half the chance ("can you fly with that mister", "can I have a go mister","where did you jump from"). So take care.

Good Wind?

Like waves to surfing, the quality of the wind is imperative to power kite flying. You may never have experienced the type of wind that kiters will travel across the planet to find. I recall the first time I felt clean wind - it was quite odd.

Clean wind doesn't change speed or direction with time... it just IS. Chances are you've not got clean wind, but all is not lost - it's OK as long as it's not too dirty (gusty)... unfortunately though - working out if it's too gusty is hard - it's something that comes with experience - which is something you don't have yet. Catch 22. If you're lucky enough to have a wind meter though, you can at least get an idea of the maximum wind speed - but be very careful because the wind changes from moment to moment. Just because your wind meter says the wind is going at 10 mph maximum one minute, doesn't mean it's not doing 40 mph the moment you stop looking at the meter. Also - the wind 30 meters above your head can be very different from that at ground level... so use wind meter readings with caution.

A pretty good alternative to a wind meter (and sometimes a lot more accurate) is the "beaufort scale" which equates certain types of visible phenomena with wind speeds. Here's a couple of links:

Another very very useful tool for checking wind speed is the internet. One of the single most useful sites to you (if you're in the UK) is XC Weather. This site tells you what the wind has been, what it is now (ish) and what the forecast is predicting it to be. It's not 100% infallible, so don't trust your life on it, but it gives a VERY good guide. Note what the wind was earlier, what it is now and what it is in the surrounding areas. Look out for VERY gusty (red arrows) conditions - if they're occurring in one place they often start occurring in others. Other wind forecasting sites do exist - but they're just that - they're forecasts - and often they're not corrected for the weather that's occurring right now, even when they're very wrong. Be warned. Weather forecasts, when it comes to wind predictions, are famously bad - often they're trying to give you a wind speed for the whole day when the wind varies through the day from zero to 40 mph and they average it out at 20mph. One of the better ones I've found is (for the UK) Weather.co.uk but, especially for long term forecasts (1 or 2 days hence), it's only the best of a bad bunch.

For your first flight you really really want to start in low winds. I know the urge to go out and fly your new toy is HUGE but trust me (and everyone else who ever did this), take your time and build up to higher winds SLOWLY - you'll enjoy yourself more and will actually get to spend more time flying your kite than you otherwise would - because you'll be injured! Start in winds under 10mph. This makes setting up your kite easier - and flying your kite relatively safe. You know it makes sense.

Good Weather?

You need to watch out for signs of anything that would indicate sudden changes in wind speed and direction. Thermals, storms, lightning, squalls - they're mostly given away by cloud formations. Before you begin taking part in a sport that is heavily dependent on the weather - take the time to learn a little about it. There's loads of online resources for this, here's a couple of links:

Good vibes?

Strange to include this perhaps, but sometimes you might just have a strange feeling that it's not good to fly right now. It's probably best to follow your instincts - who knows what signs your subconcious mind has picked up on (birds stopped singing, dogs started barking... something else random, who knows)- trust your feelings Luke - use the force of discretion.

In Conclusion

Think carefully about where you're kiting, and be very aware of the prevailing conditions. Learn about the wind and the weather. Equip yourself with the knowledge to keep yourself and others safe. And start slowly.

Further reading

Kiting is an extreme sport and sometimes accidents do happen - either to you or to those around you, so having some good first aid knowledge is a definite plus. If you'd like to learn more, consider reading this excellent article on first aid which is distributed to UK lifeguards. It's no substitute for a decent first aid course - but it's a good refresher if you've already been on one - and better than nothing if you haven't.

When you're ready, click here to learn how to set up your first kite...

Go back to the Power Kite Guide Menu.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope it has proved of some help!

Written by Jeff Snoxell , 8th August 2006


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