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Issue 9 (May/Jun 1999): Novice Class

column novice competition

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#1 Phil Napier

Phil Napier


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Posted 01 June 1999 - 04:00 AM

Welcome Back to Class. This month’s topic is tricks. I’m no Andy Preston, Andy Wardley, Dodd Gross, Mark Reed, or Curtiss Mitchell in the trick book, but I have managed to learn a few tricks. More importantly, I’ve learned a little about the commands different kites require to get things to happen. Much of this learning has come at the expense of my checking account and overfilled kite bags. My friend and Ultra Man Terry Murray has also trained many of kites the tricks that they know. I hope of the ideas expressed in this month’s column will be helpful to you. Kite Manufacturers take no offense, my intent is not to bash anyone’s kite but to point out what has been both easy and difficult with particular kites. Since I’m not getting kites sent to me to evaluate, the kites mentioned are going the be ones that I have in my bag or have spent some time with on the demo fields.

This month’s column is not intended to be a "how-to" for tricks. It is intended to get you thinking about what certain kites like to do and what are the essential parts of the hand/body movements in order to make the trick happen. Personally, I don’t like to describe these moves as "tricks" because it’s just flying to me.
Tricky, Tricky, Tricky

The Stall

Most tricks require the kite to be stalled in one way or another. Before you can do most tricks, you need to understand the feel of the stall. Run right out and buy Flight School 1.5 from Dodd Gross OR Prism's "Way to Fly" or "Advanced Way to Fly". They have great illustrations and a great discussion of the stall. I will not attempt to improve on what is said in these videos. Now, there are areas where I can offer advice that I feel will be helpful if you’re just learning.

It is best to practice stalls in light winds. Hand movements to stall the kite are small and you do not have to move your body forward too much to hold the stall. In heavier winds (above 5 mph) you use larger and more vigorous hand movements and must remember to MOVE YOUR BODY forward to maintain the stall once the hand movements have stalled the kite. Don’t fly your kite like you’re a tree planted on the beach. Move around!

The Axel

OK… when you first are exposed to dual line sport kites, you want to learn how to axel. (Let’s let others debate whether or not it’s axel or axle!) This desire to learn how to axel can end up with the kite in a turtle or feather (kite laying on it’s back nose away). The keys to the axel are the stall prior to and the release after the pop. Please visit Peter Peters Kite Site for more definitions on the push, pop, etc. Basically, you must first learn how to stall your kite- See Flight school 1.5 or the Prism Way to Fly and Advanced Way to fly for more information on the Stall.

If you don’t get your kite fully stalled when learning the axel, you’ll end up with a wing wrap most of the time… with the kite in a turtle floating to the ground. If this is happening to you… your kite is not fully stalled and you need to practice stalling the kite.

If your kite is starting to axel, going flat (nose away) but not finishing the rotation, you are not releasing enough. Most times your kite will power up and head towards the ground or it will get a wing wrap. This can be solved by always throwing your arms forward (releasing tension on the lines) and taking a few steps forward to let the kite rotate. BE PATIENT and give the kite slack and time to rotate.

One more hint…. When learning the axel, you are usually just learning to stall the kite at the same time and your stalls are not very stable. What I am telling you now… I’d consider bad form, BUT it will help you accomplish your first axel. When the kite is stalled (and you are just learning the stall) the kite will be rocking left to right while stalled (i.e. the stall will not be stable or pasted to the sky)… when your stalls are like this… practice. I’ll state up front that I need to practice more. However if you wish to axel, just pop the rising wing while stalled and RELEASE, RELEASE, RELEASE, Walk forward… and be patient for the kite to rotate. You will notice with some kites that while stalled (remember that you may need to be walking forward to maintain a stall!!!) if you walk forward slightly, you will see the nose of the kite drop forward just a bit…. When this happens, it is the PERFECT time to do your first axel… the kite is already on it’s way to being flat so just tug/pop on one line, RELEASE, and wait for the kite to rotate. Hope this rambling helps.

The Side Slide

The side slide is nothing more than a stall where the kite is sliding to the right or left while in this stall. Two things helped me learn to side slide my kite. One, the prism Advanced way to fly video. This video mentioned holding the kite in a stall with the leading wing tip slightly lower than the trailing wing tip. What ends up happening is that you sort of "pull" the kite along. Most times this is also accomplished by moving your body in the same direction as the sliding kite.

The Second breakthrough for me was the purchase of a kite that was EASY to stall and Easy to maintain a stable (non-rocking) stall. That kite was a TC Ultra. If you need to do side slides or axels in a routine, then the Ultra is your kite. It is easy to slide, stable in a stall, and does nice slow, FLAT axels. Axeling the Ultra can be difficult. The kite has a long keel and bridle.. I would always end up with a keel wrap. The key with kites where you end up with keel wraps is NOT a cheater line BUT learning to RELEASE and walk forward to allow the lines and/or bridles to go completely slack and out of the way.


Many individuals also have problems stalling and landing the kite in the center of the window. The key is to stall the kite fairly low to the ground and RUN forward. Try it… Remember to move your entire body during these tricks.

More Tricks in future issues

I wish to thank you for following my ramblings in KiteLife… Let me know what tricks you’d like me to help out with in the future. I can still vividly remember the two solid weeks that I spent 3 solid hours after work and 8 hours each day on the weekends trying to learn how to axel… Some of you may have already spent this amount of time and are still having difficulty, my hope is that this month’s column will help you do your first axle.

Remember, Buy more Kites

Here’s the difficult part of this column… I want to give you some straight talk about kites… I’m going to pick a few kites each month and highlight what I think they do that is elegant, and how easily it is accomplished with each kite. Please remember that I am not sponsored by any Manufacturer and have nothing to gain or lose by telling you like it is about a kite.. I will however try to be nice… If you can’t say something good about a kite… then say nothing at all.


The MEFM is one of the most flown kites in my kite bag… It does most tricks well. However, that is not what you’ll read about it on web pages, reviews, etc. I fly the Mefm with the kite at it’s highest aspect ratio- long top spreader and all four lower spreader spacers. Those of you who own a MEFM will know what I’m talking about. Those of you who don’t own a MEFM have my condolences. The realistic wind range for this kite is 3-13. The specs say 2-30… but I’d be scared to death to fly this kite in more then 18 miles per hour… besides, I couldn’t do many tricks with it in winds that high… so why fly it! HOWEVER, I will say that with the governors, short top spreader, and no spacers, I could fly good precision with the kite up to 20-22 miles per hour. This kite fades nicely, will launch to a fade, axels OK… it just doesn’t get as flat as other kite, half axles and cascades great. Also, it meet’s all the Phil requirements for a great kite: It will come out of a turtle, half axels, and does beautiful pancake relaunches. ( I know I’m just whipping around the terms here, but more on these in future columns.) It also flies rock solid precision.


The Ultra made by TC Powers is a dual/quad line convertible kite. No kite bag should leave home without one. The standard single vent Ultra flies wonderfully in 4-13 mph. It will fly in the manufacturer’s specified wind range, but I’ll just state up front that there are not too many kites that I want to fly and compete with in more than 13 mph. This kite comes in a "double vent" model that is WONDERFUL when the winds are 9-20 and a Hurricane, which as the name implies is for VERY high winds.

Axeling the Ultra in dual or quad line mode requires that you remember to release and walk forward. You must stall the kite fully, let the nose drop slightly, pop, and walk forward a few steps. You will be rewarded with the MOST BEAUTIFUL AXEL in the world… There is just something about the shape of the kite and how FLAT it goes. You must remember the release! The Ultra will coin toss, 540 flat spin, and fade nicely - fading is easier at the lower end of the wind range. The exciting thing about this kite is flying it quad. If you are patient, you can do some VERY cool stuff with this kite quad. For instance, hovering the kite while upside down and going in to a flat spin then hovering nose up. Quad line flat spins and axels are possible, as are quad line coin tosses. I will tell you that these things are NOT easy but look really neat!

Air F/X

If you want to fly precision … just go out and buy yourself an Air F/X. It is a wonderful kite. However, for those of you who think that a precision kite can not fly tricks… I invite you to watch John Barresi fly one at an event. You’ll see it do leading edge drags, coin tosses, fades, axels, etc. I will state that is does require practice and finesse to get the kite to do a FLAT axel, but it is possible. The "fun" wind range on the standard Air F/X is about 4-13.

The Speed Limit

OK, Enough already… What kite does Phil like to fly when the wind’s blowing in the teens? When the wind is above 13 mph, there is NO other kite I want in my competition bag besides the Speed Limit. However, when the wind is lumpy and dropping below 10mph… The Speed Limit stays in the bag. I’ve seen Terry Murray flic flac this kite in 20 mph! Many of you might say what’s the big deal… lots of kites can flic flac in 20mph… How many of those kites are still capable of flying good precision in 20mph… and how many of those kites are flying at a nice constant speed rather than zipping around the wind window at 65mph??? The speed limit is not without its shortcomings - it requires a lot of finesse to get a good flat axel, but it will do cascades, nice side slides, stalls, 540 flat spins, slot machines and half axels in 15-20 mph winds.

Have no fear… there are still plenty of kites left in my kite bag for future columns. Next time I wish to highlight the OuterSpace, the Illusion, and both the Skyburner version and the Premier version of the Trick and Track (T & T).
Phil Napier

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