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Let's Go Fly a Kite

Wonderful, warm, windy summer days are the best for flying a kite. All you need is a basic kite, a bit of a breeze and some time.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Armed with knowledge of kite-flying science and some techniques to get you off the ground, your kite-flying game will be next level!

The parts of a kite

  • Kite sails must be light and strong.

  • Lines should be thin and strong; an excellent kite will not fly well with a poor line. The thicker the line, the greater the wind resistance. You will need at least 75 feet of line, but it is better to have more like 300 feet to 450 feet.

  • Tails are only necessary in very strong winds or with flat kites.

Kite science

There’s more to how a kite flies than you might think. It all comes down to the sail and the tail. As it soars through the air, the back of the sail is tilted down thanks to the tail.

When wind hits the sail, more air flows under the kite than over the top of the kite. That extra air pushes up on the kite and keeps it flying. This is the science of air pressure.

Find the perfect kite

There’s lots of different kites to choose from — different colors, different shapes, different designs. Standard diamond kites are great, or you can go for fancier kites like box kites or parafoil kites, which are more challenging to fly.

Check the wind and weather

Weather is make or break in kite flying. You want some breeze, but not so much wind that it will blow you over. Kite fliers consult the Beaufort Scale to tell windspeed. Britain’s Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort created this scale in 1805 to help sailors estimate the wind using visual observations. We still use this scale today to easily identify how strong the wind is outside.

“Light” and “gentle” breezes (4 miles per hour to 12 miles per hour) are your best bet for kites. There is probably enough wind to fly a kite if you can feel a breeze on your face. Other things to look for are rustling leaves and waving flags. With the right gust, your kite can soar and dance.


The Beaufort Scale

MPH Wind scale Name

4-7 Leaves rustle Light

8-12 Small flags fly Gentle

13-18 Dust flies Moderate

19-24 Trees sway (flying is risky) Fresh

25-31 Trees bend (don’t fly) Strong


Make sure you are flying in safe conditions. Don’t fly in strong winds, when it’s raining or when there’s lightning.

Pick the right place

When it comes to flying kites, more room equals more fun. Look for wide-open parks, beaches and fields. Don’t forget about forest preserves! Trees won’t hurt you, but they will snag kites, and you may not get it back. Most importantly, always stay away from power lines.

How to launch a kite

The hardest part of flying a kite is getting it in the air. Try these methods and see which works best for you.

  • Method 1: Run. This is not the best way to launch a kite, but it sure is fun! Grab the string and let out just a little bit of line. Then run into the wind. Once the kite catches, you will have to stop to let out more line.

  • Method 2: Standing start. This might be the best way to get your kite in the air. Stand with your back to the wind. Hold the line in one hand and use the other hand to hold the kite up, with the top pointing straight up. Let the wind catch the kite and let it go. Don’t throw it into the air, just gently release it while you let the line out as the wind lifts the kite.

  • Method 3: Launcher and flier. This requires some teamwork. You are the flier and a friend is the launcher. The launcher holds the kite about 50 feet away. The flier pulls the line tight and signals the launcher to release the sail. The flier takes a few steps backward and the kite should shoot up in the air.

Tips and tricks

  • You might have to try a few different times or locations to find the best wind for flying.

  • Keep the line at a comfortable tightness. If the string is too slack, reel some in. If the kite pulls too hard, let out some line.

  • If your kite spins in gentle wind, then your tail might be too short.

  • When you’re finished flying, simply wind the line around the spool or the handle while walking toward the sail.

  • Make sure to wind the line slowly so it does not get tangled or knotted.

Now that you know the basics, get outside and fly. Challenge yourself by seeing how fast you can launch your kite or see how you can make your sail dance in the sky. Try other kite shapes like the delta, dragon, box or parafoil. Most importantly, have fun!


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