Issue 2: Doin’ it Indoors

After I found out that you don’t use fans for indoor kite flying, I had to research three things:

How it is accomplished.

What kite to use.

Where to fly.

These are the basics of indoor kite flying. If this is old news to you, read on anyway…you never know what you might pick up.

The ‘how’ of indoor flying is rather simple. The actual doing is another story. In principle there is no wind indoors. So what puts pressure in the kite’s sail in order to make it fly? You do. Indoor kites are built extremely light. They don’t need much to make them fly. It is the flier who creates the pressure in the sail in a couple ways.

One is by walking backwards. And not just backwards, but almost always away from the kite. But for the most part, backwards. Another way of generating lift is by using your arms in a sweeping motion. This will only work for a short distance because when you reach the limit of your arms stretch you are no longer creating lift. So it’s a combination of arm movement and walking away from the kite.

Probably the first thing you want to learn is what is known as an “up and over”. This is exactly what it sounds like. You start with the kite on the floor leaning against a wall, nose up, belly toward you. With the end of the lines in each hand, walk backwards away from the kite until there is no slack. Keeping the lines tight, extend your arms, place one foot in back of you and in one smooth movement, take a couple steps back while bringing your extended arms up and over your head to one side or the other. Be sure to keep your arms extended. As your arms get to your ears, begin turning in the direction the kite has gone while bending your arms at the elbow. Your kite should now be descending. As the kite reaches about 7-8 feet off the floor, start to turn it right or left so that you can have the kite ready to fly parallel to floor.

Coming out of the “up and over”, our next maneuver is a ground pass. It’s the same as outdoors, except now you can do it in full circles. Remember, indoors you must be moving away from the kite. So as the kite is flying in a ground pass, we must be moving not only backwards, but in a sideward direction as well. Keep your hands close together and use only slight movements. Big jerky hand movements usually result in the kite finding its way to the floor in a hurry.

You now have the two basic maneuvers in indoor flying. In future issues I will introduce other maneuvers for both dual and quadline kites. These two are important to learn first because while learning all the others, these two will get you out of trouble. Especially the “up and over”. When you feel yourself in trouble just bring the kite over your head. It’s the same in flying airplanes…when you’re in trouble, altitude is good. Practice these two movements until they are routine. You can practice doing up and overs one right after the other in a very small area of the floor. From that you can begin doing giant figure eights without moving your feet. Practice doing the up and over to both sides, i.e., once over your right shoulder then over your left. Do ground passes until they are comfortable in either direction.

Indoor flying takes practice. It is extremely gratifying. But the best thing about indoor flying is that you can do it whenever you want. There are no variables. No deciding which kite you have to fly today because the wind is light or heavy. There is no rain or snow or gloom of night either. Shorts and a tee shirt are always in style. With no variables and lots of practice, you can get good at flying indoors faster.

Choosing a Kite

Today there are more and more manufacturers willing to produce dedicated indoor kites. These manufacturers realize indoor flying is not just a fluke or fad, but that it is here to stay. The most popular kites are the dual and quad line kites, with single and three line kites still on the fringe, but growing in popularity. Especially single line fighters.

So which kite is right for you? Basically, you want to pick a kite in a category that is familiar to you. If you are more familiar with dual line kites, start with dual line. The same goes for the others.

No matter which category you fly, sizes and prices will vary. For example, in dual line kites, you can purchase a quick little Buena Vista Pi or a Prism 3-D for around $60.00. At the other extreme is the Synchro going for around $500.00. The differences go far beyond price, though. Major differences are usually in the materials used and the size of the kite.

Smaller kites like the Pi, 3-D and Wren use half ounce Icarex sails with microcarbon frames. They are fast and very responsive to input. And while they are the easiest to keep up in the air, they are also the easiest to pull out of the sky because of exaggerated hand movement.

The larger kites like the Synchro, Vanishing Point and Pro Wren still use half ounce icarex sails, but incorporate wrapped carbon frames. Every bit of excess weight is shaved off to make the kite as light as possible. For example, the Pro Wren maintains a 7 foot wing span while weighing only 3.7 ounces.

So which kites should you choose to start?

If you fly dual line, your best bet would be to start with one of the smaller less expensive kites. I first started with a Wren from Precision Kite Company. It is a bit larger which makes it somewhat slower and more graceful. It also has better floatability. It is also slightly higher in price. Any of the three kites mentioned are good starters. There are others out there and I’m sure I will hear from the ones I neglected to mention. Basically, if you have a favorite brand of kite that you ordinarily fly, find out what they offer in the way of indoor kites.

If you are more committed to indoor flying and wish to start with a kite you can grow into, there are some bigger, modestly priced models available. The Buena Vista Feather appeared in 1997 and created its own niche. This year Prism has introduced the Ozone. Both are good for indoor flying and are excellent outdoors in the slightest breezes.

As for the big ticket indoor kites, you may want to wait until you know for sure if indoors is what you want to do.

For quad liners, the choices are less varied. Basically, you have kites manufactured by two companies; Synergy Deca and Revolution Enterprises. I must tread lightly here because I am a big fan of both kites. In my opinion, Synergy has more to offer in the indoor category with dedicated indoor kites. Revolution Enterprises offers the Rev 1, 1.5 and 2 in super ultra light models. Made with half ounce polyester and 2 wrap frames, they are very light versions of the patented Rev design. They do fly indoors. Most people strip them down to the bare essentials and remove the bridle, connecting the lines to the vertical spars. They will do all the basics plus some 3-D maneuvers that cannot be done with a Deca. Again, this is just my opinion, but I hope to see Revolution come up with a dedicated indoor version of their design.

Synergy Deca, on the other hand, has designed indoor kites for just that, zero wind flying. They offer a model, the Zero Wind Deca, made with half ounce icarex and framed with microcarbon as well as a much larger kite, the Zero Wind Great Deca, again with half ounce icarex and framed with wrapped carbon. The latter of the two is a wonder to see indoors. It is big and extremely graceful.

Again, it will probably come down to what you use to fly outdoors that will determine your decision as to which kite you fly indoors. Both Revs and Decas are a marvel to watch and they never fail to gain the attention of an audience. Four line flying indoors is a challenge, but the rewards are great.

In future issues I will be giving reviews on the kites I have mentioned above as well as some I have not. Basically, the same advise goes for indoor kites as for outdoors. Try to fly before you buy.

Where to Fly Indoors

When I first decided to fly indoors, the hardest part was getting advice on where to fly. At first I would settle for anyplace. I asked around and got a variety of answers. Suggestions ranged from church auditoriums to school gymnasiums and one suggestion was to try the local mall.

The first thing I did was let my fingers do the walking. I checked the local schools and when I found someone who didn’t think I was a nut, I was informed that there wasn’t any public use of the gym. Go figure. I thought I paid for the gym. Others told me there would have to be someone on staff present and I would have to pay their overtime. Not!

Then I came up with a really good possibility. The local YMCA. I put in the call and was warmly received. The gym would be available during “open gym” hours. However, I couldn’t claim the gym and would have to share. That was okay with me. So I signed up for membership, around $400.00 for a yearly annual membership. Then I asked what times of the day the gym was usually empty. I was told the best times would be between 7-9 AM. Yikes! It wasn’t easy, but I dragged my butt out of bed and made my way to the Y at least twice a week. That is, until others found out the gym was not crowded early in the morning. It was unbelievable. People would completely ignore the fact that I was there and just start shooting basketballs. Wonder how they would feel if they were in the middle of a game using the full court and I just walked in and started flying?

The short story is I had to find another place to fly. Unbelievably, the first place I called was the local college and they had a booster program set up for their athletic department that allowed members the full use of the facilities for just $75.00 per year for a family membership. Cool! Not only was the price right, but the gym was enormous. Three basketball courts surrounded by an indoor track. If that’s not good enough, should that gym be in use, there is another gym down the street with two single basketball courts. Needless to say I signed up that day.

So the trick is to be imaginative. Figure out where there is a likely spot and ask. You never know.

At this point, I would ask other indoor fliers to e-mail me with your suggestions on where to fly indoors. I will do my best to pass on that information in future issues and on my upcoming web site.

That about wraps it up for this issue. So do your homework on which kite you want to fly indoors, then research where you can fly and then go practice, practice, practice.

See you inside!