cjay

Beginner kite selection information guide. Updated on 12-30-2018.

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 I have been reading the beginner kite advice threads and noticed that I was looking for much of the same information about selecting kites that a lot of other beginners were asking about.

 I thought it would have been nice to have a consolidated page of kite selection advice from experienced flyers available for beginners like me to reference. So I compiled some of the tips and concepts that I have read in posts on various topics here, and some stuff that I have learned myself that I didn't see written, and although incomplete it might be a starting point to build on. Hope nobody minds that I used and paraphrased some of their comments. I tried to keep it focused on the different aspects involved for selecting a kite. This is a work in progress, and I will edit, delete, and change content as necessary. Input is welcome.

 

Dual line sport kite selection guide, definitions, and reasoning.

 

This guide might help a person doing research to be aware of the limitations and performance differences between different types and sizes of kites.

 

The first step in figuring out what kite to get is to understand some basic definitions. This will help you to understand the difference between kite flying characteristics, knowing what type of flying you want to do, what wind ranges are, why it matters, and making comparisons between kites.

 

 

Definitions:

 

Outgrow a kite means: Reaching the limits of what you can do with that kite. When your skills progress beyond the capability or trick potential of the kite. This limitation could be caused by the kite size, materials, design, build, or the conditions it is suited to fly in. Usually it means that a pilots trick skills are beyond what a kite is capable of doing.

 

Flying means: The kite is moving in a forward or nose first direction, making forward moving headway. This is the direction that a kite or airplane naturally travels when it has enough lift to fly. In general, it is directional flying and turning.

 

Stall means: The kite is no longer producing lift sufficient to make forward moving headway. It could be hovering in a controlled stall, or even falling.

A stall is defined as the aerodynamic loss of lift that occurs when an airfoil (such as the wing of an airplane or kite sail) exceeds its critical angle of attack.

 

Precision flying means: The kite is flying and moving in a forward direction, but accurate movements such as turns, figures, or patterns are being performed, and the ability for the kite to respond precisely to line control inputs is required. Consistent stable tracking or the ability to maintain a set course of flight is needed.

 

Stunt flying means: Performing other movements, or combinations of movements, primarily with the kite in a stalled or non-flying state. Stunt trick ability is generally based on a kites potential to be controlled in a stall.  This can also be referred to as Freestyle stunts.

 

Kite lines or line sets: The set of two lines that connect between you and the kite and allow you to control the kite. They transmit your hand movements into kite movement. Usually the lines attach to the kite, and then run and connect to a set of wrist straps made of fabric loops that you hold on to. Lines are usually made of low stretch spectra, or dyneema for fast response and less wind drag on the lines. Line quality and length effects a kites responsiveness.

 

Line inputs: Your hand movements applied to the kite lines.

 

Wind ranges for types of kites (generally):

( 0 mph = indoor kites ). ( 1-3 mph outdoor kites = Super ultra light ). ( 3-5 mph = ultra light or light). ( 5-12 mph = standard ), over 15 mph = high wind or vented kite.

 

*Be aware that every kite will have a wind range that they will perform the best in. Kites will often have the wind ranges misrepresented, which can cause incorrect expectations. 

 

*(With some exceptions), most mass produced kites wont be able to fly easily in under 5 mph of wind, and most people will usually stop flying at 15 mph or even less, unless the kite has certain features that makes it flyable at higher wind speeds, such as; smaller kite size, sail venting, stronger lines, and padded straps.

 

 

 

Kite selection;

When trying to figure out what kite to get, decide what type of flying you want to do, and in what wind range. Whether you want to just fly around in a forward direction, or whether you want to do precision flying, or maybe step up to performing freestyle tricks also called stunts.  

 

If all you want to do is get out and fly around in a forward direction, and carve some turns in the sky once in a while, and don't want to spend much on a kite, getting a more expensive kite over 5' in size is not really necessary.

 

For perspective;

 

  *  A kite that is $100 dollars and below is not considered to be much money for a kite. These kites are usually smaller than 6', and are generally considered to be cheaper entry level mass produced kites.

 

* If you are on a budget, selecting a cheap $100 or below kite in this smaller size range (6' and under) may be the only option you have and will at least get you flying. However kites in the $100 or below price range are not usually as stall or stunt capable, and if you are trying to learn tricks this could limit your progress, and as your skills surpass the kites potential for tricks you would "outgrow" the kite, in which case you would have to buy another kite that is capable of doing tricks.

 

 This is a common first kite choice for a beginner on a budget, and usually means buying one, entry level, mass produced kite in the 5' to 6' size range that can take a beating. The reasoning is that these are good for learning forward directional flying and basic kite control. This will get you through the frequent crashing phase where kites can get damaged, and can give you an idea of how much interest you have in flying before investing much money. It can also be good to keep one around for other beginners or kids to learn on. 

 

* Be aware that everything happens faster with these smaller kites. They can move so fast it can be hard to tell which way they are going and how they responded to line inputs, and can be harder to see and keep track of and correct in time to prevent a crash. This can be fustrating to a beginner.

 

 * Most of these kites in the smaller 5'-6' size range are built for beginners, and are usually heavy for their size, because they are built stronger to handle more of a beating before they break. They might need at least 5 mph of wind or more to get up and be stable when turning because they have a smaller sail size, and because they are heavy for their weight. The extra weight usually comes from the type of rods that are used in these kites.

 

 It is common for experienced kite fliers on forums to recommend that a beginner buy a more expensive large 7' or 8' sized kite, or even a boutique kite as a first kite. Part of the reason is that most of the experienced fliers are into freestyle stunt flying, and are usually more particular about kites.

 

 But also because a kite in the 7' - 8' kite size range will take you farther, and can be easier to fly for a beginner because they move and turn slower allowing for more reaction time. They are also easier to see and follow because of their size and slower speed, which means it should be easier to see how the kite responds to your line inputs, potentially making it easier to avoid crashes, and be faster to learn on.

 

* A nicer or better quality kite in this context usually means a larger kite in the 7'-8' size range, with possibly better sail fabric material, better rod and line set quality, and overall better design and build quality, with more freestyle stunt capability. These are usually over $100, and often $150 to $200 for a factory production kite. These factory kites might be considered cheap in both build quality and price compared to a $400 dollar custom made boutique kite.

 

* If you can afford a 7' - 8' sized kite then get one of those. There are also some kites in this size range that are built tough for beginners and are heavier than the more advanced kites of the same size. They usually cost more than the smaller sized beginner kites, but not as much as a more advanced kite of the same size.

 

I have found that it is helpful to have a kite that is easy to see and tell which direction it is going. Certain colors and color patterns are easier for me to see and track against a clear sky, or in gray conditions. I can usually see bright colors like yellow, orange, or red the best because of the contrast.

 

Also consider that kite manufacturers promotional flying videos can be misleading because they usually have a world-class pilot flying in the video, leading consumers to believe that it will fly like that for them, too. How long it will take to achieve a certain level of skill varies depending on what you want to do, but it can be substantial.

 

 

For stunt flying; select a full-sized kite with a wingspan of at least 7’ wing tip to wing tip.

The 7’ foot and larger kites will move a little slower and feel more controllable & predictable, and give you more time to react and learn. Larger kites can generally require lower wind to fly due to the larger sail size. They are usually easier control and maneuver during a stall, which is where freestyle tricks are normally performed.

 

For non stunt flying; selecting a kite of 6' foot (72”) or less, will be faster flying than the larger kites, and will require a little more wind to get flying due to the smaller sail size, and require less input on the lines, and can be more difficult or even impossible to properly stall and do tricks. They may also be able to fly in higher winds due to the smaller sail size.

 

 They will be twitchier (which means it will turn very quickly, with a high probability of over steer). As for it needing higher winds - that depends on the weight of the kite, but as a general rule, smaller wingspan kites (under 70") usually do need a little more wind than say an 80" - 100" wingspan kites, and will also fly through the sky a bit faster as well.

 

For Precision flying: If precision flying is the main goal, do not assume that a dedicated stunt kite will be the best choice as it may or may not have high precision. Although most quality modern kites in the 7-8' size range usually have at least decent precision and tracking. Make sure to do research first because there are a number of kites that are known to perform better for this.

 

Which ever kite you get, be sure to check the line lengths and make sure they are the same. Sometimes they come from the factory uneven. This can have a negative effect on the way it handles.

 

 

 

A few thoughts on kites and wind ranges.

 Manufacturers advertised wind speed ratings are not always accurate (usually not). It may not be possible for everyone to fly a kite at the lowest or highest wind speed rating.

 

In general, kites perform best within specific wind ranges. You may not be able to tell what the real wind range is from the kite specs, and will either need to try the kite or read a review to know for sure what wind range it works the best in. 

 

It is common for people to have different kites for different wind speed conditions. One kite for indoors, one kite for little to no wind, one kite for light wind, one kite for medium wind, and a vented or smaller kite for stronger wind conditions. It is common for people to stop flying a standard kite in the 7' size range when the wind gets up to 15 mph, because things start breaking, and the pull can get dangerous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for taking the time to combine the various bits of useful information you've discovered, well done! 

There is only one thing I noticed that may be a bit misleading: 

4 hours ago, cjay said:

For Precision kites: There are kites made more specifically for this type of flying. Generally dedicated  stunt kites aren't usually as good at precision flying.

Generally, most dedicated stunt kites do have a high precision rating since stunting tends to require it (flying low to the ground, giving inputs to the kite when the leading edge is at the proper position in order to execute stunts, various types of landing and relaunching very quickly without damaging the kite, predictably performing various figures/patterns/combinations, etc.). However, it's not guaranteed that a dedicated stunt kite will have high precision so it is worth noting such (that if precision flying is the main goal to not assume a stunt kite will be the best choice since it may or may not be).

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Thanks, I deleted that part and added your input.

 Keep the information coming, it is a work in progress. I will continue to add input and correct it as needed.

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I like where this is headed and would like to hear more from newer flyers as they have related experiences.

Well done, cjay!

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On 9/4/2017 at 4:27 PM, cjay said:

 I was looking for much of the same information about selecting kites that a lot of other beginners were asking about.

Can't wait till you ask about line sets...

I find that some kites can do some tricks easier than other kites. A trick learnt on one kite can be translated to another kite. I don't think there is one kite that does everything great, but there are kites that will fit your flying style better than others.

Lots of great info. Good job. 

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38 minutes ago, Kansas Flier said:

Can't wait till you ask about line sets...

That's a whole different can of worms, but worth scrutiny.

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Hello fellow flyers! I've been flying for 2 seasons. I don't have a lot of knowledge but I will share my experiences for cjay and anyone else who might be interested in my noob experiences. Thanks for doing this post. I'm following.

So I started with the Freebird by Skydog. It was a good price and a good teacher. It took a beating and I love flying it. Makes a good sound and flies fast but not too fast. I've been told it's a decent all around kite that can do tricks (although I haven't really tried) and it handles pretty good. The only down side is that it takes (correct me if I'm wrong) solid carbon spars that are 6mm diameter and I cannot find them anywhere. A few people from here and a couple of facebook kite groups suggested I contact Dodd Gross and after trying every other option, I did but it didn't get me anywhere either. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend this kite as a beginner kite unless your ready to accept that you will have to purchase a new one once you break a rod which could be rather quickly after you buy it. You will crash...a lot. You will probably fly it in too high of winds or be too rough with it at times. You may not know how to adjust the bridle for the winds and put too much stress on your kite. A lot can damage your kite and as a new flyer, expect to abuse your first kite so consider how you will be getting replacements and repairs done. Most the time if you buy from an actual kite shop they will sell kites they have access to repairing. I bought my first kite from the closest store who had a stunt kite for sale and it was just a hobby shop and the guy didn't know anything about kites and didn't have parts or a way to service them. :(

My second kite was a WolfNG by Premier Kites. I got it from a kite festival but they have a storefront and only sold kites they could get parts for and service. Parts are not too costly on this one and are indeed easy to get. It's a little heavy being a little bigger of a kite than my Freebird. I get some oversteer and it's a kite I would imagine a person who has flown before could handle but a novice might have some trouble getting the hang of. I think it's a good one for just flying. I've tried stalling and axles but it just seems to do that oversteer thing when I try it but I'm still attempting to get the hang of the tricks so maybe I just need to practice more. It does claim to be able to fly in some low winds (4-25mph) but I feel it flies much better if the wind is steady and around the 10mph-15mph range. It might be possible to do 4mph but you'll be doing a whole lot of exercise to make that 4mph wind work for you. It's just a little too heavy for that low. Really hard to get it up if the wind is under 7mph and especially if it's a gusty day where you may have moments where the wind dies off to under 7mph. I personally like flying this kite with my 100ft tail on it when the wind is good and steady and just doing casual loops.

My third kite was a gift for my birthday. I discovered I wasn't able to fly on most days I would think I could because our wind just drops off so hard. It'll be a 10-15mph perfect flying day but then I'd have moments where the wind was nothing and I'd stand in the field waiting to lift off once the wind picked up and then crash when it dropped off again. This was not fun for me so I started shopping for an UL that I could use outdoors in little wind but could handle the 10mph gusts. I found the AirWave Zero by Flying Wings and it's my favorite kite to date. Smooth flying even in gusty winds. It has great response and it's just a dream to fly. If the wind starts making it buzz too much I stop flying it because it is very lightweight and the sail is very thin. Frame is very thin also and being my favorite, I really don't want to break it. I have tried a few stalls and axles and it does them when I do it right and it seems to be the easiest for me to get that to happen with. It doesn't oversteer and will just hang there or slowly drift down. Parts are easy to get an also not too expensive. The price was decent for it's class. If you need a kite that can do 0-10mph, this is a good buy in my opinion. I'd love to try it indoor as well but I don't have anywhere to do that so I cannot speak of how well it'll do indoor flying but I'm sure it can because I have tossed it around in the house a little and it seems to be doable. This is not a kite for a novice. Get used to flying in all sorts of wind conditions and comfortable with your flying. Once you have confidence in your flying abilities I'd recommend this. I sometimes feel I could break it just by trying to break it down at the end of the flying day. It's very fragile so try not to crash, but if your gonna, don't crash too hard.

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On ‎9‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 8:23 PM, Kansas Flier said:

Can't wait till you ask about line sets

Haha.

I will leave that list to someone else, in a different topic.

I have been into the technical information of dyneema and spectra before for other sports, so it isn't as much of a mystery to me, and so not as interesting.

 

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On ‎9‎/‎7‎/‎2017 at 10:26 AM, Nekoshi said:

Freebird by Skydog

That's good to know about the lack of parts availability on the freebird. I wonder how parts availability is for the Dream On.

 

On ‎9‎/‎7‎/‎2017 at 10:26 AM, Nekoshi said:

WolfNG by Premier Kites. I get some oversteer

I am surprised that the Wolf NG has oversteer. It weighs 9 oz, is a pretty good size at 6.71' wide, and is a wrapped carbon and 2400 fiberglass frame. I am not sure if that means composite rods, or that some rods are carbon and others are fiberglass. I have seen some pretty good flyers on youtube tricking pretty well with it.

I am not sure if it has a tail weight but I was told that removing it helps if you are just flying around and not trying to trick.

I am lucky that several kite shops in the NW can do full kite repairs, cut and make custom rods, sleeved line sets, etc.

Ocean Shores Kites, The Kite Company in Newport Or.

And the kite Shoppe in Vancouver Wa for line sets.

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Trick kites are intentionally designed to be somewhat unstable. Moving the center of gravity towards the tail helps accomplish this. Bridle anchor points, adjustment, and distance apart will augment or diminish this tendency. 

Precision kites will have the exact opposite of these design features, and therefore, more difficult to stall and trick, as tricking depends largely on how easily the kite can be stalled. Precision kites tend to have their center of gravity towards the nose of the kite.

Most kites are a compromise between these two extremes, but will lean towards one or the other, depending on the designer's intent.

In addition, the depth of the sail, the number, location and attitude of the standoffs, the aspect ratio, and the number, shape, and location of sail panels of the kite will play a major role in the overall performance. It's not as complicated as rocket science, but all the basic principles of aerodynamics are considered by the advanced kite designers when building a kite for a specific purpose.

And then they have to try to make it look pretty, which may slightly inhibit the other performance traits. Very often, the uglier ones will perform better than their pretty cousins, but the differences are so subtle that only an advanced flyer can feel any difference.

This is what makes kite flying a life-long learning experience. The level you want to achieve is the one that makes you smile the most.

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On ‎9‎/‎8‎/‎2017 at 9:51 AM, makatakam said:

The level you want to achieve is the one that makes you smile the most.

The nice thing is that we all get to define for ourselves what level we want to achieve, and what the experience is like.

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Thought this list of some production kites was relevant here, since people might be coming to this thread to do research.

I listed some basic specs as I could find them, and added info and comments that I have read or heard about them. Maybe it will be useful to someone.

I listed them by brand, and by size from smallest to largest.

 

I am not making any claims about these products, their quality, or the accuracy of the information. The performance details are opinion based from various places. There might be some errors in the list.

 

 

Premier

Premier vision – 5’3” (63”) Weight 7.5 oz. fiberglass frame. Ripstop Nylon fabric. 100' test low stretch polyester line. Wind range 5-20.  hard to stall.

Jewel – 5.5’ (65”) Weight 5.5 oz. 4mm solid carbon frame. Ripstop nylon fabric. 80lb spectra line. Wind range 3-18. Smaller version of the wolf, and widow. Quick and responsive.

Addiction Pro – 6' (72”) – weight 6.4 oz, carbon frame. wind 4-20. not built as good as the original addiction. Too Fast. Twitchy. oversteers. Or maybe it is just sensitive to line inputs.

Wolf NG – 6.71 (80.5") Weight 9 oz. Ripstop Nylon, Wrapped Carbon & 2400 Fiberglass. Oversteers.

Magnum – 7.83’ (94") ( No Longer Made ) Weight 10 oz.  Wrapped carbon. 30D Ripstop Polyester fabric. Wind 3-25. 150lb spectra line. slower, more pull, less oversteer, more of a precision kite.

Widow NG – 8’ (96") Weight: 11 oz. (.687lbs) Wrapped carbon frame. Ripstop Polyester fabric? 150 lb. Test Spectra Line. 

 Needs solid 5mph to fly, very strong pull at 12mph. I have found that 6-9mph seems to be the sweet spot for directional flying.

 Tracking is solid and crisp but response to quick succession turns is slow, removing the tail weight may help with this. 

 Jon already has the tail weight maxed for what the kite benefits from but lowering it can make the kite less spongy. Some people fly with the stock 16g most of the time but drop it to 10 or completely when they want less tail spin and more responsive turn performance.

 Known to break the lower spreader at the T on the female end with crashes. Putting a few wraps of strapping tape on the outside of the female rod end seems to prevent this problem. 

 Sail combined with the p-300 frame makes this one tough kite, the forgiving nature of the kite can make quick turn transitions lackluster, the tail weight comes loose from the shaft causing the keel strap to slide off to one side, and some people lose the weight.

Spec contradictions as to whether it is; ripstop polyester or ripstop nylon fabric? Listed as ripstop polyester fabric on Premiers site, and as ripstop nylon on kitesandfunthings site, in reviews, and on other kite retailer sites. Jon T insists that it is ripstop nylon, and Premier stands by the claim that it is ripstop polyester.

 

 

HQ

Bebop - 4.75' (57") 4+5mm fiberglass frame. Ripstop Polyester fabric. 44lb 66ft Dyneema line. Wind range 9-24. 4 point bridle.

Limbo 2 – 5’1” (61”) 5mm fiberglass frame. Ripstop polyester fabric. 90lb 65' line. wind 7-31. Good precision. High wind rating.

Salsa 3 – 6.17’ (74”)  5mm Carbon and Fiberglass Hybrid. 100% Ripstop Polyester. 100lb 80ft Dyneema line. More entry level ballet precision. Not that great for tricks, Slow to turn

Jive 3 – 6.41’ (77") Pultruded Carbon hybrid Frame. Ripstop Polyester fabric, 100lb 80ft Dyneema line. Better trick kite than salsa 3.

Ion – 6.75’ (81") 6mm Carbon + Hybrid frame. Ripstop Polyester fabric. 130lb 80’ Dyneema line. Wind 7-37.  Good T, better trick performer than jive 3, more advanced. Good precision.

Shadow – 6’9” (81") 4mm Dynamic T12+4+5mm carbon. Icarex fabric. UL 2-12 mph. Does not come with lines or straps. Weighted tail UL trick kite. Slightly less pull on the lines than a PDSUL, loaded sail feeling. More tricky than the PDSUL. The wire weight inside the spine can be removed, and it will fly down to 1 1/2 - 2 mph. Some say use 65' 50lb lines. Others say it will break 50lb lines easily. Backspins well. Some people find it a bit 'twitchy' but much of this can be sorted with a different bridle. very spinny and takes a bit of time to adjust to with its smaller inputs.  The Shadow has more trickability compared to the 4D.

Maestro 3 – 7.21’ , carbon 6mm / Dynamic T15, Polyester fabric. Line: 80’ x 130lb dyneema.  strong Puller, weighted stunt kite.

 

 

Skydog kites  (hard to get parts for?)

Thunderstruck – 5.79’ (69.5") Loud, pulls hard, cheap line set.

Freebird  6’2” (74”) 6mm carbon frame. Wind range 5-20. Nice buzzing sound, slower forward speed. Decent line set.

Black Dog UL - 6.41' (77") ( No Longer Made ) Carbon fiber frame. Ripstop polyester fabric. Wind range 2-10 MPH. Light, low wind kite. Said to track well.

Jammin – 7.16’ (86” x 37”) 6mm pultruded carbon fiber frame. Ripstop nylon fabric. 3 point standard bridle. spars are sub par and tend to break at the t-piece with aggressive flying. Offshore wind, spins fast, is a fast kite.

Dream on – 7.25’ (87” X 35.5”) Glorified beginner kite. Team kite, flies the best of skydog kites, good precision, well mannered, noisy, is the least tricky, better for inland wind. Low wind 5-20 mph. 6 to get going, Fast at 10. made for precision more than tricks.

Crossfire 2 - 7.58’ (91" x 38") high aspect ratio, weighted kite, not good precision, more trick oriented

 

 

Prism

4D - 4.83' (58") High Modulus Micro carbon frame, icarex, polyester, mylar, 50'x50# dyneema line. 0-15 mph wind rating. Basically a small lightweight low wind kite. The 4D is small and very twitchy. It manages low wind slightly better and is very portable. 4D is very capable in ultra light winds, but it is a small kite so it does everything rapidly and takes a bit of concentration to keep it smooth. Not as tricky as the HQ Shadow.

Jazz – 5.16' (62”) fiberglass carbon rods, ripstop nylon fabric. polyester lines.

Prism Nexus – 5.33’ (64”)

Quantum – 7’ ( 84”) Pultruded carbon, wrapped carbon. Ripstop Nylon fabric. 85' x 150 lbs Dyneema lines. Designed to be strong for beginners – heavy – not as good in light winds – slow

E3 – 7.58’ (91”) Skyshark P100, P200 Wrapped carbon. Icarex Ripstop Polyester, Mylar Laminate fabric. 85' x 150 lbs Dyneema lines.

Zephyr – 7.71' (92.5”) Skyshark P100, 3PT wrapped carbon. Icarex polyester and Mylar laminate fabric. Low wind  85' x 150 lbs Dyneema line. Most flyers consider it a Light, rather than an UL. Is not easy to fly in 1-3. The Zephyr is truly disappointing in unsteady SUL/UL winds. Gliding feel to it until 10+ it starts to drive.

Hypnotist – 7.83’ (94”) Pultruded carbon / wrapped carbon frame. Ripstop nylon fabric. 85' x 150 lbs Dyneema line. Designed to be strong for beginners – heavy – not as good in light winds. Quantum pro sail, with quantum frame. Strong, fly’s good, turns slow.

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