The Trainer Kite De-Mystified...
I remember one of the first things I felt when I was looking at a trainer kite was confusion. There were so many different sizes and types of lines that I found myself intimidated. After digging through all the options available, I realized that there are only two things that really affect your experience with the kite. They are:
- Kite Size
- Number of Lines
Once you understand the pros and cons of each kite feature, you will be able to choose the best trainer kite for your needs, so let's get into it.
Size - Does it Really Matter?
The size of the kite is the surface area of the kites bottom or top surfaces, and is measured in square meters (m2
). Trainer kites come in two differing size ranges:
- Small Trainers - These kites range between 1m2 and 2.5 m2
- Large Trainers - These kites range between 2.5 m2 and 3.6 m2. They are also called Traction-Trainers because they border on the upper end of the trainer kite sizes and the lower end of full traction kite sizes. (A traction kite is any kite used for propulsion.)
Each of these kite sizes has its own upside and downside. Let's examine them further.
Small Trainer (1 m2 - 2m2)
This is the smallest trainer kite you will want to consider. They work great for learning the basics of flying kites, and don't create a lot of power which makes them ideal for families and lighter people. They usually come set up with a two lines, which makes them cheaper and more foolproof (hence, good for families).
Advantages of a Small Trainer:
- Less power. These kites can be used by very light people and in strong winds.
- Two lines. This setup is very easy to work with and simple to fix.
- Cheaper. A smaller kite with two lines makes for a very affordable purchase.
Disadvantages of a Small Trainer:
- Less power. If you are really keen on getting into kiteboarding, a powerful kite will teach you to handle power properly and ends up being more fun!
- No reverse re-launch. The two line setup does not allow for a reverse re-launch which can lead to more work. Kites can only be launched in one direction, so if your kite is facing down you have to manually flip it over. Reverse re-launching allows you to re-launch the kite without ever leaving the bar. We will cover this later, so for now just remember that your time is best spent flying the kite!
Large Trainers (2 m2 - 3.6 m2)
A kite in this range is the largest trainer kite you want to consider. They are small enough to learn on, but are large enough to produce lots of power (and lift you off the ground if you want). They are available with 3 or 4 line setups which enhance the kites safety features, and allow it to be reverse re-launched which will save you lots of time if you crash your kite a lot (trust me, everyone does).
Advantages of a Large Trainer:
- Versatility. In the righr conditions these kites can be used to pull landboards or snowboards (or even sleds up a hill!)
- More power. A stronger-pulling kite will train you to handle power better and is more fun overall.
- 3 or 4 line setups. These setups improve the kite's safety features and allow it to be re-launched in reverse (click for an example).
Disadvantages of a Large Trainer:
- More expensive. Bigger sizes and more lines make for a more expensive kite. Keep this in mind if price is a factor.
- Power. These kites can generate massive amounts of power, so lighter riders may have to sit out on very windy days.
In most cases, I highly recommend you choose a larger trainer over a smaller one. You will have more fun, and with 3 or 4 lines it's possible to spend more time actually flying the kite rather than setting up and launching the kite. There are only two reasons I can see where you may not want to choose a larger kite.
- The first is if you are very small. If you are less than 120 lbs try to stick to the 2.5 m2 range or less, this way you still remain challenged while decreasing the chance of being overpowered.
- The second reason is price; smaller kites are cheaper. It's preferable to get a smaller kite than to not get one at all!
Number of Lines
Apart from helping keep it's shape and steering, the kite's lines determine it's type of safety system and how easily it can be re-launched. Kites can come with two, three, and four line setups, but three and four line kites are essentially the same thing.
Two Line Trainer Kites
A trainer kite with two lines is the simplest you will find. This setup allows you to steer the kite, and does not allow for any reverse re-launch abilities. The safety system on a two line trainer is also quite basic. Let's look at these two qualities.
When you drop the bar with a two line kite it is pulled on one corner, looses it's shape, and falls to the ground. The safety leash, which is attached to your wrist, pulls on the corner of the bar which pulls on the line that brings the kite to the ground. This is good because in overpowered situations all you need to do is let go of the bar and you are safe.
When you crash a kite, it hits the ground with its leading edge down. When this happens, either you or your helper must manually turn the kite right side up (leading edge up) and re-launch.
If you crash your kite often, this procedure can get quite boring. It's a lot of running back and forth, and is one of the reasons I prefer the 3/4 line setups to the two line setup.
Some trainer kites advertise the ability to re-launch with only two lines, but in my experience this does not work very well. If you are interested in finding out what other beginners who tested these kites thought, read these free trainer kite reviews.
There are two reasons why you might prefer a two line kite:
- Simplicity. Because you only have two lines, setup and take down are very simple, and any tangles are easy to sort out. Also, more lines equal more money, so if cost is a factor consider a two line kite.
Three or Four Line Trainer Kites
A trainer kite with this line configuration is ideal. These kites can be 100% de-powered in addition to being able to reverse re-launch. These two features make the kite much safer and more convenient to fly.
As with two line kites, the front lines attach to the leading edge and bottom of the kite and are used for steering. These lines attach in the same places on all foil style trainer kites.
The difference comes with the back lines. The third and fourth lines are attached to the trailing edge of the kite and pass down through the center of the control bar, ending in a safety leash. When you drop the bar, the front lines go slack and the back lines pull on the trailing edge of the kite. When this happens the kite loses the wind and its shape, causing it to de-power. It basically turns into a flag and floats to the ground. As long as the rear lines are being pulled on, the kite cannot re-power. I prefer this method of de-power because you can immediately stop the kites pull.
Kites with this setup can be launched backwards (see this page for an example). When the kite is laying leading edge down after a crash, gently pulling on the rear lines will cause the kite to lift off the ground backwards. Once up, the kite can be steered and flown away like usual. Learning this simple trick is a huge timesaver.
The only real downside with more lines is price. Kites with 3 or 4 lines tend to be a touch more expensive than their two line partners. In the end, when it comes to a few dollars, adding a solid safety feature and a convenient time saver is well worth it. Some people also argue that having more lines can be frustrating in case of tangles. Well, it can be, but if you pack your equipment properly it's a rare occurrence (I haven't ever had a tangle in my trainer's four lines.)
Choosing Your Trainer - Summary
Getting your first trainer kite is an exciting experience! This one step is your key to unlocking the amazing world of kiteboarding, and I want you to get the most out of it!
For this reason, I strongly suggest that you find yourself a 3 or 4 line trainer between 2.0 and 3.6 m2. You will have amazing amounts of fun and will benefit from the extra lines. But please remember, the most important thing is to get a kite that works for YOU. If you ever have any questions please ask them here and I will answer (if another kiter doesn't beat me to it).
Curious to see what other beginners thought of different line setups, brands, and other features of trainer kites? These free trainer kite reviews are a compilation of the honest feedback from beginners who tested all aspects of trainer kites - just follow the link and download them.