No Wind Flying

Last year I posted an article on how to fly in no wind, and since I recently
saw someone ask about flying in low or no wind, I figured I'd update it and
repost. Now remember, I ain't no expert, but I do fly in no winds, and 
enjoy doing it.  I would guess that since I can do it, at least 90% of the 
people on rec.kites could also do it if they had a capable kite.  This article 
will only deal with flying deltas in no wind, although some of this may be 
applicable to flexi's (and none of it will be applicable to Rev's). 

The first thing you will need is a proper kite.  It will have to be rated down
to at least 3 mph (2 mph is better).  An ultra light turbojet, Skyburner
(regular or ultra light), fire-dart rigged ultra light, or almost any of the
more expensive stunters (Phantom, Scorpion, Big Brother, etc) will do. 

For no wind flying, set the bridle a little heavy (remember that even a 1/8"
can make a distinct difference).  The reason you want to set it heavy instead
of light, is that you want it to grab more air.  Set the bridle light in a no
wind situation and the kite will make a pathetic little hop, come straight
towards you and belly flop.  The second thing to do is to take out the front
spar; it will make the kite a tad lighter in the nose.  If you have something
rated down to 2 mph (or maybe even 3 mph), leave the front front spar in to
see how it responds; if its too nose heavy, then take the spar out.  Do not
fly your kite in 3+ mph winds without your front spar in place, as that will
warp the entire flight configuration of the kite.  It's not likely to damage
the kite (unless you get a 5+ mph gust), but it will make the kite fly poorly. 

Now get some 50 lb line (Get a 100' length and cut it into two 50' lengths);
you will also need a sleeving tool.  With a Phantom shadow or a Skyburner
ultra-light, you may eventually be able to fly with longer 80 lb lines, but
start with the shorter lighter lines as it will make it easier to learn.  Also
make yourself some ultra-light handles (simple webbing loops with a D-ring or
cabinet door knobs with a loop).  At this point you're ready to go out and try

Get in position.  Step back and give a long, quick jerk at the same time. 
Continue backing up and repeating the jerks to gain altitude.  Always have
tension on the lines; with many kites, if you lose tension you're dead meat in
the air, and you won't be able to regain control. 

Try a "360" first.  A "360" is when you fly the kite in a horizontal circle
around yourself.  Yes it can be done, and I believe that Dave Gomberg holds
the record for the most "360's" at 100+ revolutions (it was done with a 6'
flexi rigged ultra-light with 15' lines).  To do a "360" to the right, turn
the kite to the right, and once it is horizontal, keep more tension on the
left.  Run away from the kite and to the left.  Remember to run forwards or
sideways and don't just back up as you are going to have to run about 3+
miles an hour to keep your kite aloft.  As you do this (if there is a .5 mph
wind), you will notice that there are places in your "360" which will feel
tighter than others.  These will be the places to do your acrobatics.  You
will find that by adjusting you pace, you can reposition yourself all over a
field, by just running a little harder towards the place you want to be. 

The second thing to do, is to learn to reclaim ground without running.  It's
not a problem to reclaim ground with a 2+ mph wind, as the kite should remain
aloft all by itself, but when you are backing up to keep a kite aloft,
eventually you will find you will run out of room.  The way to compensate for
this is to aim the kite directly away from you and, as it drops, walk forward
with the wind.  The secret to this one is determining proper tension.  Too
little tension and the kite will fall out of the sky; too much tension,
and you don't reclaim any ground. 

The third dynamic movement is an "over the top." Bring the kite to vertical
and start doing hard, quick tugs while backing up.  The kite will shoot up
with each tug.  Eventually the kite will pass directly over your head.  At
that point, while keeping tension, change directions and walk forward. 
Remember the kite will be aimed at the ground, and you will have to react
accordingly.  While this is the most dramatic of the three moves, it is also 
the hardest to perfect. 

When you get decent at "no wind" flying, you'll start on ground work and flat
stall spins (which are distinct from the stall spins where you stall the kite
vertically in mid-air).  I'm ok at ground work, but only passable at flat
stall spins.  By the way, if your kite doesn't have whiskers, then give it up;
there is no way you will do any ground work.  Ground work is necessary for
launch among other things.  The most most basic ground work movement is the
belly launch.  To do it place the kite face down and pointed away from you (if
there is any wind (eg: .25 mph), then be sure to use it.  Pull one wingtip
slightly back, and thus pre bias the kite to turn in that direction.  Tug
sharply with both lines, but a little more one the side you have biased back. 
The kite will grab air, shoot up backwards an then turn towards the line you
have pulled more.  Once it is aimed parallel to the ground, spin it up and
pull at the same time to gain altitude, or just start into a "360".  This is a
great way to get your kite airborne, as it is reasonably easy to gently belly
land a kite in no wind.  Try it a few times and you will get the idea.  As to
flat stall spins, the idea is to jerk the kite off vertical (keeping minimal
tension on one line), to get the kite to spin face down.  You're going to lose
altitude, so be sure to start with a lot of it.  One of the people around here
that does the maneuver best is Mike Sterling (creator of the cyborg kite).  He
seems to over-jerk on one side of kite (ie: pull it out of the wind) and the
kite tends to spiral down almost as if it were out of control.  It is not
quite out of control though (else it would just nose down and drop).  Then
Mike gives a recovery jerk, and its back in position and flying skywards. 

Light (2 to 5 mph) wind is also the only place you will be able to perfect
some of the more "odd" moves.  It really is a kick to be able to slip your
delta kite horizontally sideways (helicopter).  To do a helicopter, put your
kite at the edge of the wind in an upright position.  The kite has to be at
just about neutral buoyancy (correct terminology?).  It the kite still wants to
climb, then either take it farther out of the window, or start walking forward
to reduce wind.  Now pull the downwind line of the kite slightly and the kite
will start sliding into the window.  At that point you will be doing a
balancing act.  Pull too hard with the down wind side and the kite will
actually turn downwind, rather than sliding downwind.  Your upwind hand will
also be busy in this balancing act.  Keeping sufficient tension on the upwind
line will keep the kite from turning down wind, but too much tension will
cause the helicoptering kite to simply shoot forward, ie: rise in the air
Actually different kites will will demand different tensions.  For instance
the Prism Radian is essentially dragged with the downwind line and the upwind
line is almost slack, while the Scorpion takes a bit of tensions from both
hands).  Another thing to note is that the wind's effects will get stronger as
you get more toward the center of the window, and thus the kite will be more
likely to simply climb straight up.  To compensate for this, one should walk
forward to reduce wind.  There are two ways of walking forward.  The easiest
way is to walk forward and also in the same direction as the kite (eg: if the
kite is sliding left, then walk forward and left).  This allows you to keep
the retain the same angle of attack into the wind; of course the kite will
never get directly in front of you.  A little more advanced method is to walk
forward and keep adjusting to tension of the lines as the kite gets more
towards center.  It is easiest to start by perfecting the first method of
walking forward and progress to the second. 

Another nice move is to drop the kite vertically at the edge of the wind (kite
facing parallel to the ground and into the wind), touch one wingtip to the
ground and then take off again.  If the wind is just right (ie: very light),
then the edge of the wind will be quite close to center, and it makes a for a
very interesting move (a "kite's shouldn't be able to do that" kind of move). 

I don't know if I can really describe how it feels to fly a kite in no wind,
but when I had my first really successful time at it, I described it as
feeling like a "fucking magician!" It felt great to fly when I knew that
I shouldn't be able to fly (it's also impressive to onlookers).  By the way,
yes you will get an aerobic workout, but that's just an added benefit. 

                                Dave Butler

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