Elements of kite flying and design
by: Tim Elverston


      Our latest passion in kite flying is the trick that doesn’t have a clear beginning or an end. We rig the kite on medium-length lines and fly it as though the kite is part of its surroundings. It’s like combining street-style skateboarding with kite flying. Some of us have been doing this for a while, but we’re acting like it’s new.
      It turns out that when the kite merges with, and slips into, the subtle goings on in any particular airspace, people in general have an easier time identifying with what is taking place. A kite slowly moves through a narrow gap between a garbage can and a telephone booth, then turns away only to mimic the motion of a nearby flag on a pole—or a kite which moves so fluidly that, for a brief moment, it could be mistaken for a living creature. These kinds of tricks extend well beyond the direct control of the kite and venture into the minds of the onlookers. The movement and context of kites within a situation can impart a whole host of emotions.
      The ability to surf the airflow in these often hostile urban environments becomes a kind of quiet, heart-pounding excitement—an obstacle course that changes with every whim of the air moving through it. These tricks begin in the moment the kite leaves the ground and end when the kite is flown back to base camp and packed down again.
      We believe that the compatibility of kites and the general public should come first and foremost. People need to be comfortable in close proximity to the kite while it moves through the air. The responsibility for this rests entirely on the abilities of the kite flyer and the kite. The bystander must never question their own safety or that of loved ones. If they do, the relationship will be over before it begins. Instead, decide that your kite must approach an area as if it is a wild beast that must win back the trust of frail humans. This is indeed a true test of control.


Notes on design:
      The WindFire Flame, from a structural point of view, begins simply with two Photon Fighter kites that share a central sail area. From there it’s a matter of mapping the deformation as the load on the sail and the attitude of the kite vary. The kite should feel slippery but also linear in flight, as if on free-form rails. If the wing deformation is not planned for, then the wing may change in a nonlinear way, yielding unexpected results from a control input in that moment. Once a basic shape is defined, decide what aspects of the kite’s geometry you leave adjustable during routine assembly.