Kite Designs: Types of Kitesurfing Kites Simplified

F-One Bandit 4 2011Modern inflatable 4-line kites used for kitesurfing these days, come in a very wide range of profile designs. With all the different terminology used to describe these kites, it’s easy to get confused as to what the difference is between a C and a Bow kite, a Hybrid and Delta…and what on earth is a Delta Hybrid?

Kite Design: Is it really what they say it is?

Kite design is a hugely complicated field and one I’m not going to attempt to dissect. It is further complicated by marketers who bandy the terms around with little concern for the actual design specifications of each type of kite. Thus they might call a kite a delta kite even though, in the strictest sense of the word, it isn’t, but only something similar to a delta kite or with delta like qualities. This is generally done because the boundaries between the different types of kites are so undefined that it’s easier to put kites with matching flight characteristics in the same bracket even if technically they don’t belong there.

The easiest way to understand the difference is to break things down into basics and then use your own common sense to decide which family a kite belongs to.

Kites Bow Hybrid C Kite - Profiles

Types of Kites

C Kites

C kites are recognizable by their square wing tips and lack of a bridle. If you laid a C kite down un-inflated and looked at it from above it would look like a rectangle. The lines attach at the 4 corners of the rectangle. Their profile when viewed from the front also looks more like the shape of the letter C, when compared to the flatter profiles of most other kite designs.

C Kite - Slingshot Fuel 2012

C Kite

As a beginner coming into kitesurfing if I could give one word of advice when buying a kite, it would be stay away from C kites. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against C kites, and they are great fun when you know what you’re doing. I just think that for the beginner they offer a difficult learning curve and are unnecessarily dangerous when compared to other types of kites. They have little in the way of de-power, so if the wind picks up or you’ve put the wrong kite up (a common mistake for beginners) you’re in trouble. To my mind this makes their safety questionable for a beginner or someone unfamiliar with how to use one, which is my chief reason for advising you against them. While again the lines are blurring between C and Bow kites and many C kites do now offer a degree of depower, to make things simple for yourself stay away.

Bow Kites

Bow kites we will classify simply as any kite with a bridle (a lot of interlinking lines running across the leading edge). Again if you laid a bow kite out un-inflated and looked at it from above it would be more triangular in shape, due to the swept back nature of the wings. The lines do not attach directly to the leading edge but to the bridle which is itself attached to the leading edge.

Bow Kite Laid Flat - Cabrinha Crossbow 2012

Bow Kite Laid Flat

 

Bow Kite - Cabrinha Crossbow 2012

Bow Kite

Bow kites, as a family, offer much more de-power than C kites (principally due to the bridle, and the flatter, more “wing like” profile) so when you let go of the bar the kite loses all, or most of its power and slowly drifts back to earth in a controlled manner. For this reason they are generally considered to be a lot safer than C kites and this is why nearly all schools will now teach on some type of bow kite. Bow kites come in several flavours: pure Bow, Hybrid and Delta style kites. All have the same general characteristics (ie lots of de-power) with a few subtle differences.

Hybrid Kites

Hybrid Kite - North Rebel 2012

Hybrid Kite

Hybrid kites are somewhere in between bow kites and C kites and generally aim to give the feel of a C kite combined with the safety of a bow kite.

Many old school riders complained when bow kites were first released that they did not turn with enough power. Bow kites tend to turn very fast but they sacrifice power in the turn for agility. C kites tend to turn in massive arcs, which gives you a huge pull, which is great if that what you’re after…for kite loops etc, but not so good if you’re taking your first tentative steps towards riding. Hybrid kites were designed to bridge this gap offering kites with de-power (like bows) but that also turn with power (like C kites).

Some hybrid kites will be nearer the C end of the spectrum and others nearer the bow end. Again if you’re going for one of these kites as your first kite my advice would be to aim for something at the bow end. The easiest way to tell which end of the spectrum the kite is…look at the shape.

Delta Kites

Delta Kite - F-One Bandit 5 2012

Delta Kite

Delta kites are bow kites with a much more swept back wing profile…think of an F14 with its wings drawn back in Top Gun! The precise angle of sweep is what defines a Delta kite, but most manufacturers now classify any kite with this type of profile as a Delta kite. They will tend to be short and fat in shape. If I had to recommend you to buy any type of kite as a beginner it would be one of these. They are easy to re-launch, offer forgiving piloting and the power tends to ‘turn on’ slowly (meaning you can feel the power rising gradually rather than just appearing out of nowhere and hoisting you over the front of the board!), giving you much more time to react to what the kite’s doing. Please don’t think these are just beginner kites I still enjoy riding them and they are great for improving your skills on and unless you’re heading for the pro circuits I doubt you’d ever outgrow their capabilities. What they will do is cut a lot of the frustration out of learning and the re-launch ability will keep you smiling for years!

(I’m not in any way affiliated with any Delta kite sales…we just use them in our school and I think they’re great!)

Note from editor: If you are still thinking about getting into kitesurfing, we highly recommend reading our Beginners Guide to Kitesurfing: Getting Started, which will introduce you to the sport, and highlight your most important first steps. And if you’d like to know where these modern day kitesurfing kite designs came from, who invented the first inflatable kite, and where the sport is headed in the future, check out at our history of kitesurfing article.

Delta Hybrid Kite

Delta Hybrid Kite

Test, Test, Test…

This is a massive over simplification of kite design and I imagine over the years you’ll learn that a lot of these things are only half truths. By breaking things down like this I hope to help you to start getting a feel for the different types of kites you’ll see down on the beach and the differences in how they perform. As you progress as a kitesurfer the best way to get a feel for these different kites is to try them, so any time your mate buys a new kite ask them if you can have a go. We all have different styles and each will find kites that they like and hate…get out there and experiment.

Written by

Sam Guest

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11 Comments

  1. Christoff says:

    I would rather define a Delta kite as a kite with a BOW type leading edge, but straiter more C-type trailing edge, forming the letter D after which is is named. Your definition is confusing to me.

    And yes, Delta kites are great, especially for waves. They normally turn fast, have light bar pressure and very good wind range, but what I’ve found is that most modern kites pack those features into their kites without the kite necessarily looking like a delta.

  2. Hi Christoff,

    fully agree with you on both points, the reason I didn’t mention the trailing edge is that I’d have felt compelled to get into the whole, hybrid kite convex trailing edge vs bow kite concave argument which I feel over complicates things, I like the simplicity of your explanation though. The technical definition of a Delta kite is complicated, your method makes it much easier to visualise.

    Very true about the features of Delta kites now being packed into all kite types…thus the actual definitions between the types of kites become ever more blurry!!

  3. lofnan says:

    Hi,

    I’m new to kiteboarding. I dont even have my own gear yet and started surfing the web a couple of days ago on how to choose the right gear. Its incredibly confusing. Thus far, this article gave me the best clues so far in the kite-buying “jungle” for me.

    Thanks.

    • Hey Lofnan,

      We are delighted to hear you found the article helpful in your search for the right kiteboarding gear. Thank you for taking the time to let us know, and for your support.

      If we can be of any assistance, just let us know.

      PS: Come back and tell us how you are getting along on your gear buying mission, and your first steps towards learning to kitesurf.

  4. Vin Benzin says:

    Hey
    could you guys tell me if a peter lynn charger is good for a beginner because i wanna be learning landboarding and kitesurfing and i heard these are good for both but im guessing this is a c-kite ?

    • Hi Vin,

      To be honest, I am not familiar with the Peter Lynn kites to that extent, however I will do my best to get someone who is, to advise you.

      Please bear with us while we find the right person to answer your question.

      Thanks.

      Brendon

    • Michelle says:

      Hey Vin,

      Brendon asked me to answer you since I used to be a Peter Lynn team rider for kitesurfing. I flew the charger and really enjoyed it since I prefer C kites. I wouldn’t recomend it for beginners though as it is very fast and best for advanced riders. I’d say get an older model Peter Lynn like the Synergy as they are great for all riders and work for landboarding and kitesurfing. What size are you thinking of getting? Let me know if you have any more questions – I have had a lot of experience with PLs and am now flying Ozone.

      Hope this helps,
      Michelle

  5. Vin Benzin says:

    Hey
    thanks for the quick response and for the advice.
    I was thinking about gettin me a 12m but now i will be looking out for a synergy

    grtz

  6. daniel says:

    Very good info, great post for those getting involved. The only thing I would disagree is with the Bandit photo image being a delta Kite. Even thou F-one mostly designed its kites around the delta Kite shape form, the Bandit happens to be a bit of a hybrid ( a mix between delta and C kite ) Detla C kite. Never the least I would personally recommend delta kites to be good for learning and great for teaching. There is not such thing as ” self launch “, but they do most of the work for you. Good stuff guys !

    By the way we have a local school in the Yucatan
    help us by letting us post our website and check our webpage at: http://www.airliftkiteboarding.com/
    Thanks and good wind!!!!!

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