Kite Advantages and Disadvantages –  How do Bow, C, and Hybrid Kites Compare to Each Other?

Each kites advantages are as unique as its disadvantages, so it's good to know about them.

What are the pros and cons of Bow, C, and Hybrid kites?  How do they compare to each other?  These two questions are common these days, and are very important ones to answer.  Each kite has very different characteristics, look below to find out  what they are.

The C- Kite

C kite

C- Kite Advantages:

  • The C kite has a very ‘direct’ feel when riding.

C kites can’t de-power as much as Bow or bridled kites, and as a result are constantly pulling and putting pressure on the rider.  This helps the rider feel more connected with the kite, which translates into a more direct feel.

  • They provide more performance for their specific wind range.

These kites only fly well in their narrowly specified wind range, so they can be fine-tuned for that exact range.  This means that these kites are very specialized, which makes for a higher performance kite.  It’s not all good though, as you will see below, a specialized kite is not as good for general riding.

  • They are great for unhooked riding.

Expanding on the advantage above, a narrow wind range means that the kite doesn’t need to be sheeted in and out as much.  This makes them better for riding unhooked, where sheeting cannot be done anyways. 

  • Their shape maximizes SLED boosting, which improves jumping performance.

C kites can jump faster and with a more explosive pop thanks to what is called SLED boosting.  The definition SLED boosting is far too technical for this page, but here’s a short version:  Compared to Bow kites, C kites are more rounded (or C shaped…), which maximizes the amount of upward lift that the kite can produce; more upward lift produces more upward pull, which launches you off the water more forcefully.

C- Kite Disadvantages:

  • C kites have a very specific wind range.

It’s a pro/con trait, really.  A very specific wind range means that you need more kites to cover all possible winds, and this can get expensive.  In order to span all wind conditions, you might need between 3-5 kites; buying 5 of the cheapest kites can be expensive!

Also, a smaller wind range means you will be rigging kites more often.  If the wind picks up (or dies down) enough that the kite you are using is too big (or too small), you will have to get back to shore and rig another one. 

  • Difficult and involved water re-launch.

In order to re-launch, these kites need to be flipped onto their back and piloted to the edge of the wind window.  This procedure can be difficult and involved.  I’m sure we all would rather just ride.

  • Less ability to de-power can make C kites unsafe for beginners.

C kites have limited sheeting ability, which means they can’t be de-powered as much as a Bow kites.  You can’t just drop the control bar and have the kite lose its power.  Instead the power needs to be controlled more by how the kite is flown, and in an emergency situation it is too late for piloting anyways.  Since beginners do not have a lot of experience piloting big kites, they are almost guaranteed to be overpowered.

Note:  C kites still have safety releases, but they lack the ability to dump a lot of power solely by sheeting out.


The Bow Kite

Bow Kite

Bow Kite Advantages:

  • Bow kites can be de-powered fully, making them safer and easier for beginners.

Thanks to their innovative design, Bow kites can be de-powered completely just by sheeting out.  In case you ever need to quickly dump power (i.e. when you get caught in a gust of wind or wipeout on your board) all you need to do is drop the control bar, and the kite will loose all of its power.  This feature makes bow kites very safe and easy to use, especially for beginners.

  • They cover much larger wind ranges.

Another benefit of this kites massive de-power is that they can be used in many different wind strengths – all you need to do is adjust the power strap and sheet the kite.  And a larger wind range saves you money!  Since one bow kite can have you riding in many different conditions, you don’t need as much equipment.

Finally, you get to ride more.  Because one kite covers more wind and can be adjusted on the fly, you spend much less time rigging kites and more time riding.

  • Bow kites can be easily re-launched off the water.

No need for complicated maneuvers.  All it takes to get this thing out of the water is to pull on one of the rear lines; the kite will turn on its wingtip, move towards the edge of the wind window, and re-launch.  It’s really easy to do.


Bow Kite Disadvantages:

  • They are not as good for riding unhooked.

The Bow kites ability to de-power hinges on sheeting; therefore you need to be hooked into the chicken loop to do it.  If you want to ride unhooked, you will need to be in that narrow wind range suited to the size of the kite, which brings you back to the C kite problem of needing a lot of sizes.

The Hybrid Kite

Hybrid Kite

Since the hybrid kite is a synthesis of the two styles listed above, it is hard to universally list its advantages and disadvantages.  Each kite will differ depending how Bow-like or C- like it is.  In general hybrids will:

  • Have a greater ability to de-power than a C- kite, but less than a bow kite.
  • Have a more C- kite like jump since its shape is more curved.
  • Be easier to water re-launch than a C kite.

Take a hard look at the features of any hybrid you are interested in, and try to get in a couple of test runs!

And that is the summary of kite advantages and disadvantages.  As kites continue to evolve, the pros and cons will continually shift.  Regardless of style, there are many kites on the market that are exceptional performers.

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