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Singled-Line Kites: Essential Equipment
| Launching and Landing a Single-Line Kite
Single-Line Kites: A Basic Glossary | Tails For Single-lined Kites
How to Launch a Two-Lined Kite by Yourself | Kite Safety
Kite-flying is a popular hobby that has been an art and a sport for over 2,000 years. For the vast majority of that time, the kites had only a single flying line. All through that time, the hardest part of flying a kite has been actually getting the thing in the air.
Where to Fly a Kite
The first thing to do is select a suitable location, but please also check this article on kite safety. It is well-known that successful kite-flying needs a decent breeze, but it is less well-known that the breeze should be as smooth as possible. Select an area that is not only clear, but has clear approaches: if the wind has to come over a solid wall of buildings, trees, cliffs or hills then it will be turbulent, with gusts blowing down as well as along. Not good for kites.
The High Launch
Once you have selected a suitable area to launch, the easiest launch to try is known as the high launch, because the kite gains altitude quickly. The high launch usually needs an assistant (spouses or reliable offspring are often able to be 'persuaded' to take on this role). Stand with your back to the wind, and with your assistant holding the kite as far away as possible, holding the kite.
The way the kite is held is important. The assistant must be behind the kite, holding each side of the kite with enough space between the kite and their body so that the kite does not snag on their clothes, head etc. The line between you and the kite must be slightly taut, but not taut enough to pull the kite out of your assistant's hands.
An important point: you do not want to get your tail tangled. The ideal way to ensure this is to lay the tail along the ground back towards you as you are standing ready to launch. The tail can blow around quite a bit on the launch, which is why your assistant needs to stand with space between themselves and the kite.
At a signal from you (usually a yell along the lines of 'now, I said now, yes, let go!'), your assistant lets go and takes a step back and to one side. That's all. They do not throw the kite up. Throwing the kite makes it unstable and robs it of some of its vital lift. At the same time, you take a single step backwards (remember to read the safety instructions) and the kite will soar upwards. Once the kite is as high as it will go, you may pay out as much line as you wish.
The Solo Launch
Dedicated kite-flyers will eventually have trouble finding somebody to help them perform high launches, as wives and children eventually get bored waiting for you to get bored. This is the time to perfect the solo launch.
Safety note: the solo launch requires you to hold the flying line directly, so wear tough gloves.
Unwind three or four metres (ten to 12 feet) of flying line, and hold the kite by the line (hence the gloves) about one metre (three feet) from the kite, with the rest of the line in a loose loop across to the winder held in your other hand. Stand with your back to the wind and hold the kite out to the side, out of the wind shadow created by your body. As the wind catches and lifts your kite, let the line slide through your gloved fingers until the kite reaches the height allowed by the loop. You should now be able to fly your kite as normal, but look out for any sudden changes in the kite's flight, as even a level area has low-altitude turbulence. Try and get the kite to the desired height as quickly as possible, but remember to keep tension in the line or it will lose height instead of climbing.
The Solo High Launch
Some cellular kites can be launched solo, but still with a high launch. This is particularly useful for tetrahedral kites. If your kite is sensitive to dirt or water (for instance, if it's made of paper), then you should make sure the ground is dry.
Stand the kite on the ground, with the bridle facing into the wind. As you walk back towards the point where you intend to stand, unwind the flying line. You must keep the line slightly taut, or your kite will roll over in the wind and be impossible to launch, and make sure that it does not get snagged on anything lying on the ground. When you are ready, a steady pull on the flying line will tip the kite towards you until it reaches a flying angle and climbs skywards. You should be careful launching cellular kites in this way, as they can develop a lot of pull very quickly.
Landing a Single-Lined Kite
However you launch your kite, there are only really two ways to land it. The most usual way is to wind it down, winding the line around your reel until the kite is low enough to be simply plucked out of the air. If your kite is particularly powerful, or the wind is especially strong, simply winding the kite down can put excessive stress on the reel and the line, either crushing the winder itself, or keeping too much tension in the line whilst in storage. If this is the case, the kite can be 'walked' down.
To walk a kite down, the winder needs to be anchored (either held by your trusted assistant, or fastened down with a ground stake). You then hook a walk-down device (see below) over the flying line and walk towards the kite. This will pull the kite down to ground level without putting any extra tension on the line or winder. When the kite is low enough to be plucked out of the air, the tension is lost from the flying line and it can be easily and safely wound up.
Safety note: while walking the kite down, the line will be low enough for people to walk into, as well as thin enough and taut enough to do harm to anybody who does walk into it. You must keep a watch out for passers-by and shout a warning should they look as though they are going to walk into the line.
The Walk-Down Device
The complexity of the walk-down device depends on how often you need to use it, how much you are willing to spend on it or how much effort you want to put into making it. The simplest form is a tent peg (the kind made of a bent piece of thick wire). You hook the short end over the line, hold the long end that usually goes in the ground, and walk towards the kite. More complex kinds use pulleys that go over the line (the rolling pulley wheel reduces wear-and-tear on the line) and have a handle on each side to make it easier to hold. At the very simplest level, you can simply use your hand if you are wearing gloves, sliding your open hand along the top of the flying line. You must never use this method without gloves. To do otherwise would be about as sensible as running your hand firmly along the serrated edge of a hacksaw blade. You have been warned.