Kiting Terminology

1/2 Axel (Axle): (kite trick) a 2 line stunt kite trick that is a neat way of changing direction rather than a carved turn. At the edge of the window, having done a ground pass, release the top wing and then pop the same side. The kite will make a half turn and then pull back on both lines to fly off in the opposite direction. 360: (kite trick) in very light or zero wind, you can fly your kite outside of it’s normal 180° wind window  and complete a 360° circuit around the pilot. Start by flying right out to the left edge in a nice straight ground pass, then as you reach the edge start to walk backward to power the kite around, keep the kite’s speed up until you reach the beginning of your wind window on the other (right) side.

Access Power: to manouvre a traction kite to give extra power

Active Bridle: see bridle

Aerodynamic: having a shape that is not adversely affected by wind blowing past it.

A Gas: (buggying acronym) When it is As Good As Skiing

Airfoil (aerofoil): shape of a wing, blade, propeller, rudder, sail whose shape controls stability, direction, lift, thrust or propulsion. It’s shape provides force when in motion to surrounding air and can lift or control a plane in flight. (see profile)

Airtime: (buggy slang) the amount of time spent in the air while jumping

Alee: to the leeward side (downwind)

Angle of Attack: also known as the angle of incidence (AoA or AoI) is the angle  with which the kite flies in relation to the wind. This angle is adjusted from the bridle.

Angle of Incidence: angle which the kite takes compared to the wind direction

AoA: see Angle of Attack.

Apparent Wind: (AW) The wind felt by the kite or rider as it passes through the air. For instance, if the true wind is blowing North at 10 knots and the kite is moving West at 10 knots, the apparent wind on the kite is NW at about 14 knots. The apparent wind direction shifts towards the direction of travel as speed increases

Aspect Ratio: the ratio of a kite calculated from it’s height/width. Kites are referred to as having a high aspect ratio (like the Flexifoil Stranger) or a low aspect ratio.

Back of the sail: the part of the kite which faces the sky when flying

Backstrap: a strap that replaces the harness and the link line between handles, running from one handle, around the rider’s back, to the other handle. It allows true no-hands steering, but does not allow the rider to hook in or unhook easily while riding. It is unsuitable for kites that require large control movements with the top lines

Backing (wind): the change of the wind direction, opposite of veering Clockwise in the southern hemisphere, counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.

Back to Front: (buggy trick) To travel backward, do a 360, and finish up traveling off forward in the direction you came from.

Backsplice: a method of weaving the end of a line to keep it from unraveling.

Ballet: a routine which is choreographed to music, used in competition by teams, pairs or individuals.

Balloon Tyres: very large buggy tyres with a wide crown. Suited for soft surfaces.

Batten: length of fibreglass or carbon which fits in a pocket to add stiffness or shape to the sail Often used for wing tip areas.

Beam: widest part of a boat, board or buggy.

Beam reach (sailing – see point of sail): Buggying such that the apparent wind is coming from the beam side of the boat buggy at about a 90° angle. A beam reach is usually the fastest point of sail. A beam reach is a point of sail between a broad reach and a close reach.

Beating: Tacking, To sail against the wind by sailing on alternate tacks (directions) towards the wind. Beaufort: scale of wind strengths from 0 to 12. Named after the English Admiral, Francis Beaufort, who invented it. 0 = no wind whereas 12 = hurricane. Click here to see the full scale.

Beckett: a loop at the end of a line.

Bigfoot Buggy: Buggy set up with large balloon tyres.

Birdsnest: When your lines get into an un-retrieveable knot/tangle. (Best to keep all knives and sharp implements out of reach!)

Bladder: an inflatable inner tube in a kite used to give the kite shape and floatation. Bladders must be pumped up by hand.

Blade: a model of foil kite made by Flexifoil.

Body Dragging: being pulled through the water without standing on your board.. usually on your stomach.

Brakes: aka (air-brakes) objects which attach to kite or lines to slow the kite or reduce its pull in strong winds. See page on coping with wind.

Braking: Using the power of the kite to slow down or stop when buggying.

Brake lines: flying lines attached to the kite to slow the kite or reduce its pull in strong winds. Brake lines lead to a back attachment point (trailing edge) of the kite.

Breaking strain: Used to determine line strengths, this is the maximum stress the line can carry before it breaks.

Bridle: lines that form the junction between kite and flying line. The bridle transmits the commands of the pilot to the kite. The bridle is made up of specific portions. The tow point (where flying lines are attached),  in-haul (from the centre T to the tow point) , upper out-haul (from upper spreader leading edge to the tow point) and,  lower out-haul (from lower spreader leading edge to tow point). For a more detailed look at different types of bridles (ie, active, dynamic, static etc) see Andy Wardley’s website.

Bow: front of boat or board.

Broad Slide: (buggy trick) to slide with the back wheels rotating towards the wind.

Buggy/Buggying: general name for a small three wheeled land yacht powered by a kite. Steered with the feet on the front wheel which has pegs on either side. Sometimes referred to as a parakart

Buggy tricks: for the freestylers.

Carbon spars: today’s spars are made of carbon fibre which is a stronger material. Also know as graphite spars.

Carrington: A brand of ripstop nylon.

Camber: the curvature of an object such as a sail, keel or deck of a boat. Usually used when referring to an objects aerodynamic or hydrodynamic properties.

Canopy: while a parafoil is suspended in the air it can be referred to as a canopy.

Cascade: Chain of axels to the left or to the right, top to bottom of the wind window.

Cheat Line: See trick line

Cell: a parafoil is divided up into equal ribbed compartments called cells.

Centre T: Attachment where the spars for the spine and lower spreaders are joined

Chikara: A new sail material. It is a nylon cloth developed in conjunction with Vlieger Op (Holland) and Flexifoil International (GB).

Chord: (see profile) The measurement between the leading and trailing edges. In the case of a rectangular shaped the Flexifoil, looking down on the top of the canopy, the chord would be the width.

Close reach: Buggying or sailing with the wind coming from the direction forward of the beam of the board/buggy. A close reach is the point of sail between a beam reach and close haul.

Closed cell: these kites normally have a limited number of air intakes and a valve system to prevent the air to escape after a fall. These types of kite are called closed cell foil kites.

Coefficient of lift: (CL) a measure of how hard a kite pulls relative to its projected size.

Coin Toss: The kite is poised on a wing-top and  flight onto the other through an axel.

Connector: parts made from moulded plastic, rubber or simple PVC tube which are used to hold spreaders to leading edges.

Control bar: a single bar used by the kitesurfer to control the kite. The kite lines are connected to the ends of the bar. Some kitesurfers use a pair of handles instead

4-line control bar

Concept Air: Canadian manufacturer of foil kites including the New Wave and EX models.

Control bar: a single bar used by the kitesurfer to control the kite. The kite lines are connected to the ends of the bar. Some kitesurfers use a pair of handles instead.

Creep: the amount a line permanently lengthens when pulled. Loosely braided line has a lot of creep, tightly braided has less, linear core line has the least. If all the lines creep evenly, it’s pretty much unnoticeable. On ram-air and hybrid kites, the power lines creep more than the brakes, causing the kite to fly sluggishly.

Cross Spar: see spreader

Cross Venting: holes cut into the individual profiles to allow air to pass through between the cells in a parafoil.

Curb: (buggying) small vertical ledge commonly found at beach river mouths.

Curb Jump: (buggy trick) to jump down off a curb or ledge.

Dacron: A synthetic polyester material. Kite line used with beginners or children’s kites.

Dead before: running with the wind directly behind the buggy.

Delta: stunt kites

De-powering: used in power kiting, the opposite of Power up, letting the sail out to release pressure and reduce speed.

Drag: the resistance to movement.

Drift: The inability for a kite to keep on a straight line, or in buggying and kite-surfing, the sideways pressure due to the action of the wind on the sail.

Drogue. Typically shaped like a cone, used to increase the drag.

Dual Line: Kite which is flown using 2 lines of equal length. Having 2 lines enables the pilot to steer the kite right or left.

Dynamic Bridle: see bridle

Ease: to loosen the lines that control the kite.

Edge: (as with skis or a snowboard) the under edges of the board which keep the thing pointing where you want to go.

End Cap: Small plastic cap which fits over the end of the spine to prevent it from punching through the sail.

Equalize: adjusting the flying lines to exactly the same length, giving precise control.

Eye of the wind: the direction that the wind is blowing from

Fade: (kite trick) A turtle, but with the nose of the kite pointed towards the pilot.

The Fade (the kite is a Flexifoil Matrix)

Fat wheel: 480-400-8 wheelbarrow tyre on an 8″ hub.

Ferrule: a hollow tube to join 2 spars together. Can either be glued to the upper leading edge spar, or lightly glued then taped on for ease of removal.

Fighter: single line kite, generally of Asiatic tradition. Fighting consists of cutting your opponent’s kite from the sky by means of line coated with powdered glass.

Flat Spin: The kite nosedives towards the ground and swings around flat before re-taking it’s flight.

Flic Flac: (kite trick) A rapid chain of turtles flipping the kite on it’s front then its back from the top to the bottom of the window.

Foil: a type of kite which is made up of cells which fill with air

Footstraps: (buggy) straps used to keep your feet from bouncing off the pegs.

Fore: towards the front of your buggy.

Foul: when a line ends up somewhere it does not belong and becomes jammed. Lines can foul on winglets, wing tips and nocks. Hence the use of an anti-foul  or trick line.

Frame: the collection of carbon or fibreglass spars that form the skeleton of the kite.

Freestyle: style of flying which includes up-to-date tricks of more or less difficulty put together in rapid succession. When a kite is referred to as “Freestyle” it is typically a good all round performer, capable of many tricks but having a generally steady pattern of flight.

Fronts: used in meteorology to describe boundaries between hot and cold air masses. This is typically where bad weather is found.

Front of sail: the side of the kite that faces the flyer when the kite is in action. GRP: fibreglass used for spars.

Fusion: when several tricks are done consecutively. (fused together)

Gale: a storm with a wind speed between 34 to 40 knots.

Gauze: see-through net like fabric, can be made of thin wire used for allowing the air to pass through in the venting of stunt kites for use in higher wind, or placed at the opening vents of a foil.

Go about: to tack

Granny knot: a bad knot that was probably tied in error, will not necessarily hold fast, and may be difficult to untie.

Gybe: usually spelled jibe. To change direction while running down wind. (See tack and point of sail)

Hard Terrain Buggy: Very stable buggy with heavy duty frame.

Hard Terrain Riding: Riding in various non flat terrain. Dunes, moguls etc.

Highside: to flip over in your buggy while sliding sideways

Icarex: Modern sport kite sails are made from Icarex. There are basically 2 types of Icarex. Icarex polyester (P31/P38 – P31  being lighter) and the newer Icarex polycarbonate (PC31) which has a lower stretch rate and looks less crinkly. Icarex is  now the  preferred kite sail material rather than the older Carrington Nylon which is much heavier.

Indoor: flying inside with no wind. Highly technical. Kites are specifically designed for this activity.

Inhaul: Part of the bridle from the centre T to the tow point (see bridle)

I.R.E – Involuntary rectal expansion: (buggy slang)

Irons: In irons, a sailboat with its bow pointing into the wind preventing the sails from filling properly so that the boat can move. It can be very difficult to get a boat that is in irons back under sail. An old square rigger could take hours to get underway again. In a buggy this is no problem as you can move your kite around you.

Jacobs Ladder:  a stack of Flexifoils, a rope ladder, or a song by Rush 🙂

Jibe: see gybe.

Jud: Dart/Chevron shaped stunt kite

Kentface: (buggy trick) to jump off the top of a hill in a buggy and land on your face at the bottom.

Kevlar: man-made fibre used for bridles and flying lines. It has a low stretch and is very strong, but it is also highly abrasive, has a high melting point which makes it cut other flying lines. It is generally banned in competition.

Knot: speed of one nautical mile per hour (or the things you use to tie lines together).

Land Breeze: a wind moving from the land to the water during temperature changes in the afternoon.

Larks head: knot used for attaching flying lines to the bridle.

Lash: to tie something with a line

Launch: to send the kite up into the air.

Lay: the direction in which strands of line are twisted.

Lay line: an imaginary line on which you can sail directly to your target without tacking.

LE: see leading edge

LEI: Leading edge inflatable

Leading edge: side of the kite running from the nose to the wing tip.

Lee: the direction that the wind is blowing toward. The direction sheltered from the wind.

Leech Line: a line that runs inside the trailing edge of the kite sail. Prevents vibration and noise.

Leeward. the direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.

Leeway: the sideways movement away from the wind.

Lift: upward pressure which the air exerts on a kite or aircraft, counteracting the force of gravity.

Line Set (lines): the strings which are used to control the kite. These lines come in a variety of weight and lengths. Stronger weight lines being used for stronger winds and bigger kites. Recommended lines should be made from Spectra (see Spectra).

Longeron: Another name for the spine, or any other spars which are run the length of the kite.

Loop: manoeuvre which consists of performing a full circle, the tightness of which depends on the amount of control given.

Lower Leading Edge: see leading edge

Luff: (i) A term used to describe that edge when the airflow around it stalls. (see luffing)  (ii) to lose tension on the flying lines due to the kite stalling.

Luffing: A description of a flapping motion along the luff (leading edge) of a sail. A sail begins to luff when the air flow stalls when traveling across the sail. Luffing is a sign that the sail is not properly trimmed or that the you are trying to sail too close to the eye of the wind (pinching.)

Lull: A period of no wind. Lulls may be followed by a significant change of wind speed and direction.

Mega Team: formation of numerous pilots into a large team. Very popular at festivals and at the end of competitions when the pilots have a get together.

Mincing: (slang) when the wind is perfect.

Mylar: A laminated film which is strong and very low in stretch. Used for reinforcements and on its own in areas of the sail needing more stiffness.

Nautical Mile: Distance at sea is measured in nautical miles, which are about 6076.12 feet, 1.15 statute miles or exactly 1852 meters. Nautical miles have the unique property that a minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile (there is a slight error because the earth is not perfectly round.) Measurement of speed is done in knots where one knot equals one nautical mile per hour.

Nock: The plastic cap at the tip end of the leading edge spar which has a groove dug in for the bungee cord to tension the sail. The trick line is also attached to this. The word nock comes from the arrow, the point where the arrow stretches back on the line at the bow.

Nose: the front of kite that points into the wind

Off the wind: Buggying with the wind coming from the stern of the buggy.

On the wind: Sailing close hauled. Sailing toward the wind as much as possible with the wind coming from the bow.

Outhaul: Part of the bridle which can be adjusted to move the tow point toward the wing tip or toward the center. This adjustment affects turn rate of the kite.

Oversteer: tendency of some kites to over rotate after turning.

Pair: (2) a team of two pilots flying together.

Parafoil: invented by parachute designer Domina Jalbert in 1963, this is a kite which is based on the aerofoil wing shape and does not require any rigid frame for flight. Can also be called Rogallo, square, ram-air, wing, ram-jet, and paraglide.

Parakart: Alternative name for a buggy.

Payout: to let out line.

Peg Stand: (buggy trick) to stand up on the foot pegs with your rear out of the seat.

Pilot: A term for the person who flies a kite. Used mainly to refer to flyers in competition or those using buggies (and of course, someone who flies a plane)

Pitching: sideways movement from one side to the other often seen just after take-off

Planform: (design) view of a foil looking down from above.

Planing: in kite-surfing, the board rises up at speed as an effect of pressure.

Point of sail: The position of a buggy, sailboard or boat in relation to the wind. The points of sail for sailboats also applies to traction kiting. There are 4 basic points of sail – Irons, Close Hauled, Reach and Run. A buggy or boat with its head into the wind is known as “head to wind” or “in irons”. The point of sail with the bow of the boat as close as possible to the wind is called close hauled. As the bow moves further from the wind, the points of sail are called: close reach, beam reach, broad reach, and running. The general direction that a boat is sailing is known as its tack. (See reaching)

Pop: (to pop the line) a quick flick of the wrist used for doing tricks (ie an axel) – this is done with the same speed as flicking a towel, except the flick or pop is done towards you rather than away from you.

Power Kiting: traction kiting, or a more extreme form of kiting, where the kites can pull you along in a buggy, surf board, snow board, skis or just your bare feet (also called scudding). See Buggying.

Power Zone: the centre lower  portion of the wind window where the pull is stronger

Power up: in windsurfing, pulling the sail in tighter to you to increase the pressure and therefore accelerate.

Precision: method of flying which demonstrates the pilot’s mastery over the kite and is by definition, precise. In competition, a series of compulsory maneuvers and freestyle section performed in front of judges.

Prevailing winds: the typical winds for a particular region and time of year.

Profile: an airfoil, the side view of a foil. The upper and lower surfaces of a kite are separated by a number of evenly-spaced airfoil shaped ribs. Also referred to as the profile.

Profile thickness: refers to the height of the profile

Projected area: The apparent area of a kite while it is being flown, as opposed to lying flat on the ground.

Pull Turn: A dual line kite can be steered with either a push or a pull turn. If you were to pull the right line a couple inches towards you, the kite would turn to the right. A pull turn is more graceful than the push turn (see below).

Punch: See “snap stall”

Push Turn: (see pull turn). A push turn results in a sharper turn, good for square cut or angled turns. A push turn will have the opposite effect as a pull turn. If you were to push the right hand line on a dual line kite the kite would turn to the left. The right wing being tipped backwards. A kite can also be turned with a combination push/pull turn. (ie to turn the kite more quickly or dramatically to the right you can pull on the right line while pushing with the left line.

Quad line: Kite flown on four lines. Having 4 lines has the advantage of  not  only being able to steer left and right like a dual line, but you can also move the kite up and down (forwards or  backwards) in the wind window.

Quarter: the side of a boat behind the widest part. There is both a port quarter and a starboard quarter.

Reaching: Any point of sail with the wind coming from the side of the buggy/boat. If the wind is coming from directly over the side, it is a beam reach. If the buggy is pointed more directly into the wind it is a close reach. If the wind is coming from over the quarter, it is called a broad reach.

Re-launch: to launch the kite again.

Ripstop: made from nylon or polyester, it is the type of cloth usually used for kite sails. Ripstop refers to the squares of reinforcing fibres in the cloth which make it resistant to tearing. A rip will stop at one of the reinforcing fibres.

Running: A point of sail where the buggy has the wind coming from behind.

Rolling Axel: Horizontal spin during flight

Sail (skin): refers to the cloth material that the kite is made from (excluding the frame) which is usally made of nylon or polyester Ripstop or Icarex.

Safety harness: A device worn around a person’s body that can be attached to lines to help prevent a person from becoming separated from the kite.

Scud: (i) to be pulled along the ground by a kite, whilst standing. Best done on a sandy beach. (ii) when a boat runs before the wind in a storm.

Shaper: (kite surfing) a shaper is a board maker, who makes boards by hand or in small production runs.

Sheeting in: the trailing edge is pulled towards the wind increasing the AoA (angle of attack).

Single line kite: kite flown on one line.

Skin: the sail of a kite

Slack: a line that is loose, or to ease a line

Sleeving: short ‘sock’ which encapsulates the ends of flying lines and helps to preserve strength and prevent wear.

Snap Stall: Air is forced out of the sail very quickly. Fly the kite left to right parallel to the ground. Pull left to initiate a left turn, then punch right to counteract that motion, then return both hands to neutral position. This is done very quickly, in a split second. The kite should stall with the nose up, wing tips parallel to the ground.

Snub: to suddenly stop or secure a line.

Span: (design) looking down from on top of the kite, the span is the length (see chord).

Spar: the sticks used as the frame of a kite.

Spectra®: Also known as Dyneema in Europe is the acceptable standard for flying lines. Can be compared to look like dental floss but because it is so slippery will allow multiple line wraps without breaking.

Splice: the place where two lines are joined together enabling the strength of the line to be greater under stress than knotting the two pieces together.

Spreader: Also known as a cross spar, these are the spars that run horizontally across the span of the kite opening out the sail. Most modern stunt kites will have 2 lower spreaders which run from the spine to the leading edge, and one upper spreader which runs from leading edge to leading edge, although if a kite is smaller it may only have one spreader running from the leading edge to leading edge.

Squall: a sudden intense wind storm of short duration, often accompanied by rain. Squalls often accompany an advancing cold front.

Stability: the balance of the kite enabling it to fly with good control.

Stall: As the name indicates, it’s stopping the kite on the spot in the window. Air is said to stall when it becomes detached from the surface it is flowing along. Usually air travels smoothly along both sides of the sail, but if the sail is not properly trimmed, the air can leave one of the sides of the sail and begin to stall.

Stalled Axel: Stopping the kite and put it into a horizontal spin

Stand-off: short length of carbon or fibreglass which runs between the trailing edge and lower spreader There may be two, or up to six.

Stern: the aft or back part of a boat or buggy. (could also be said to describe your father when you were younger).

Straps: usually made from soft webbing these are attached to the flying lines, from which the pilot controls the kite.

Stretch: the amount a line momentarily lengthens when pulled. Spectra has very low stretch, kevlar has slightly more, nylon has a lot. Stretch affects responsiveness and size of control movements.

Strike: to lower.

T-Piece: section of the kite where the lower spreader joins the spine.

Tack: To change direction, particularly to turn upwind. As opposed to a gybe which is downwind.

Tacking: To change direction, turning into the wind.

Tail: a length of nylon or plastic which is attached to the kite for visual effect or to cause drag (on a single line kite). Also the term to describe the lower end of the spine.

Tandem Buggies: two buggies joined together, see the page on tandem buggying.

Tandem Axle Buggy: 5 wheel buggy with two wheels on in front of the other on each side of the back axle.

Team: a group of three or more kite flyers who perform together in formation. Equivalent of an aircraft display team.

Tip Drag: to drag a kite’s wing tip on the ground while flying along.

Tow point: the part of the bridle to which the flying lines are attached.

Track/Tracking: The kites ability to keep on a straight path.

Traction: see power kiting.

Trade winds: Winds in certain areas known for their consistent strength and direction. Trade winds are named because of their reliability, allowing for planned voyages along the routes favored by those winds

Trailing edge: the edge of the sail running from the wing tips to the tail. Can also be called a leech. The trailing edge may have a leech line sewn in.

Trick line: (anti foul line/cheat line): a line which runs from tip to flip through the end of the tail. It helps to prevent lines tangling round wing tips-especially useful for freestyle and tricks.

Trim line: (kite surfing) a line that adjusts the angle of attack (primarily used for inflatable 4 line kites) which runs from the wingtips to the control bar centre or through a hole in the control bar attaching to the harness.

True wind: the speed and direction of the wind. The motion of a boat will cause the wind to appear to be coming at a different direction and speed, which is known as apparent wind.

Turbulence: (see “Wind Turbulence”)

Turtle: Flipping the kite on it’s back and giving a lot of slack to the lines; the kite descends the window in this position.

Two wheels: see wheelstand

UL (Ultra Light): a kite designed for very light winds or indoor flying.

Upper Leading Edge: See leading edge

Upwind: to windward, in the direction of the wind.

VMG: see velocity made good

Vane: A flat device that is affected by the wind. Vanes are used in wind direction indicators and some self steering gear systems.

Veer: A shifting of the wind direction, opposite of backing. Clockwise in the northern hemisphere, counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

Velocity made good (VMG): Actual  speed after adjusting for such factors as current and leeway.

Vented Kite: A high wind version of a performance kite, usually with a netted gauze replacing some sail panels to allow the wind to pass through.

Ventex: Sail cloth, made from polyester. It was specially developed and branded for HQ/Invento.

Water start: (kite surfing) starting in the water.

Wheelstand/Wheelie: (buggy trick) to travel along in the buggy with one of the wheels in the air, usually the back wheel.

Whip: to bind strands of a line with a small cord.

Whisker: (aka wisker) see “stand-off”.

Winders: Lines are stored on winders. Ensure that when lines are wound on that you wind them off the same side of the winder. This will stop any twists forming in the lines. A figure 8 or pro-winder works best.

Wind range: used to describe the range of winds that a kite will fly well in. Usually given in mph or Beaufort scale.

Wind speed: the speed with which the wind is travelling

Wind turbulence: a tree will interfere with the flow of the wind, causing the wind to be disturbed or irregular

(Wind) window: a quarter sphere in which the kite flies, determined by the length of the lines. At the edges of the window the kite will slow and has a tendency to fall.

Windward: in the direction of the wind. Opposite of leeward.

Wing: another name for a kite. Used more in design circles.

Wing Span: the widest measurement of a kite often taken from wingtip to wingtip

Wishbone: (kite surfing) the control bar, on a wind surfer it’s a fixed curved bar which allows control of the sail.

Yo-yo: The kite rolls up and down around it’s lines.

Zenith: the highest point in the sky directly over the observers head

Zephyr: a gentle breeze. The west wind. Named after Zephuros, the Greek god of the west wind.