Next Level Kiting Drills
Next Level Kiting Drills
Getting dragged sideways across launch sucks. So do failed inflations and feeling a lack of control, especially when other people are watching. The basics of inflate, turn, and go, are often enough to get a pilot in the air, but are far from adequate to handle more advanced scenarios during launch, flight, and landing. Practicing kiting on a high mountain launch is not very practical, and the lack of an amazing kiting location might make the task of wing-mastery daunting. Spending a long weekend (or more) at a ridge soaring site can open the world of kiting to a pilot, especially if they can keep their knees bent and eyes on the horizon. There are plenty of ways to maximize the time spent kiting, with a new challenge always around the next corner. Eventually, kiting can transform from frustrating to fun.
Kite a different wing
Finding access to another wing for kiting purposes can be difficult, but very rewarding. Nobody wants to loan their gear out for a day, knowing that it will probably be smashed against the ground a bit. Trading wings with another pilot for some kiting can benefit both pilots, and both pilots can agree to treat their friends gear nicely. Kiting something a little bit different can bring a pilot back to many basics, such as smooth motions, weight in the harness, and feeling brake pressures rather than positions.
Borrowing a little wing can teach a paraglider pilot a lot. They can also be used in much stronger winds for kiting, because they do not yank a pilot around as much. A wing that is designed to tip over side to side and recover back to center quickly can help tune a pilot into a few subtleties. Any asymmetry in the hips while ground handling will manifest itself in the wing quickly wanting to dive to one side or the other. Kiting a mini-wing in some higher wind can also provide great lessons in patience and anticipation. Despite everything moving so much quicker, it is almost always better to just let the wing come back to center with minimal input than to try and correct and end up over-correcting. Kiting a mini-wing is also very useful before flying one.
A much more advanced XC wing can also be used to learn some new tricks. Compared to an A or B, they require much more pilot effort to keep inflated. They tend to be more eager to overshoot as well as leave their tips stuck in when deflated. Knowing how to fly the good side while pumping brake or pulling stabilo to re-inflate an advanced wing on the ground will translate to confidence in the air on a more friendly wing.
Tip Touches and The Slide
To be able to slowly and gently touch one wingtip to the ground and hold it there for a moment before doing the same with the other wing tip is surely a sign of knowing exactly how to control the wing. Sometimes during a hurried inflate-turn-go, the wing might be a little bit off to one side, making for a rather exciting launch. Being able to tune into which way to drop a hip and which brake to add or subtract while the wing is off to one side is a neat skill that directly translates to launching and flying. If done right, a wingtip can be held inches off the ground and maintained with judicious addition and subtraction of brake on the high side of the wing.
A bonus move after tip touches are mastered is being able to slide in a chosen direction. This one is fun if there is space and wind. Start by holding a wing tip slightly off the ground, then add a little bit of brake to both sides. Those who keep their weight low will be rewarded with a stylish slide downwind and in the direction of the low wingtip. Straight-legged paragliders expose themselves to getting yanked over.
No-Hands and No-Hands Inflations
Paragliders fundamentally want to be flown with a bunch of weight in the harness pulling down on the carabiners. They are designed and built within tight tolerances, and the first thing to disrespect those tolerances is a pair of human hands yanking on the brakes or A risers. Simply dumping the brakes suddenly might allow the wing to surge and overshoot, but letting off on the brakes smoothly and gradually will let the wing find equilibrium overhead. Similar to riding a bike with no hands, starting with small moments of letting go completely will likely yield to longer moments. Eventually, in smooth wind, kiting with no hands can be done for an indefinite amount of time. Being able to adjust a harness strap, put gloves on, re-attach the speed system, high five a best friend, pet the dog, and take selfies all come from.
In the right amount of wind and with a modern glider that inflates easily, the no-handed inflation can teach pilots a lot. Instead of yanking on the A lines and having it come up ridiculously fast, only to smash on the brakes in order to prevent it from overshooting, try a reverse inflation with a solid step backwards, knees bent in an athletic stance, and hands out to the side. Often, the wing comes up smoother than ever, and hands naturally reach for the brake lines to correct anything small.
At ridge soaring sites, a plethora of friends can be found. Instead of joining them in the air for smooth passes back and forth, kiting on the ridge for an extended period of time can yield some incredible results. As friends pass by, their wake can interrupt a glassy smooth kiting moment. Some friends pass by closer or are heavier and can make for different sized wakes that can ruffle a wing. These moments of feeling a wrinkle and catching the surge afterwards demand solid kiting posture and actively feeling the brakes in a thoughtful way. This drill can be thought of as preparation for preventing deflations in turbulence while flying.
Kiting up the hill or with the wind
So much effort is made to travel from inflation to launch. It is largely a single direction activity- into the wind and off launch into the air. To be able to go backwards opens up an entire world of possibility. Kiting downwind is an exercise in finding the perfect amount of brake, footwork, and A risers in order to keep the wing overhead and moving where the pilot wants it to go. The wing can even be flown in such a manner that it helps to pull a pilot up the training hill, making for less hiking and more flying up the training hill. Combining a top landing, kiting downwind, and a tip touch, a pilot can artfully stack their wing sideways into an open stuff bag.
One of the truly next level moves, back flying is done by flipping the glider over and flying it backwards. It is doable, and demands incredible precision. The leading edge becomes the trailing edge, and vice versa. Most success is found by using the brakes (which now act as the A’s) to help the glider jump into the air. Instead of preventing the glider from overshooting overhead, very fine use of the brakes must be used to prevent the glider from shooting into the ground, fully pressurized, and potentially blowing out some cells.
Spinning the wing with feet on the ground while keeping the wing from touching dirt is considered to be the ultimate cool kid trick. Ground spins demand incredible precision and finesse as well as extensive practice with stall point and back flying. Learning to dial in amazing and clean ground spins not only is a fun way to pass the time, but it also builds a strong foundation for acro flying. Spinning the glider one line-length above the ground can ruin the glider, as the wingtips get scraped against the ground much more and the glider and end up shooting downwards, nose first, and blow out the trailing edge as the leading edge pounds into the ground. Many people who have dedicated enough time to learn ground spins have their own kiting-specific glider, often a very well loved one that is not fit for flying anymore.
Multi Wing Kiting
Multi-wing kiting is the next evolution of ground handling. While it does not translate directly to flying, it is the next challenge, however practical it might be or not. If one guitar neck is not enough for legendary rock stars, then kiting one wing is not enough for legendary ground handlers. Multi-wing kiting is best done with smaller wings with varying line lengths. Smaller wings pull the pilot around less when not overhead and different line lengths allow them to stack in different ways.
These are just a few of the many tricks that can be learned while kiting. They can be combined with each other, built upon, and perfected. Every pull on a line is like a pushup, and after millions of repetitions, can make for an incredibly strong and practiced pilot. Being able to fly a wing and maintain a tolerance to the ground within inches is an ultimate exercise in precision and mastery. Kiting is to paragliding as the simulator is to flying an airplane or helicopter. Everybody can benefit from more.