Depending on your style, your kiting spots, your weight and skill level will determine what type and size of kites will work best for you.
There are basically 2 styles of kites that are used to do this wonderful sport of kitesurfing, the LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable) Kite and the Foil Kite.
Typically, LEI kites are made from ripstop polyester with an inflatable, internal plastic bladder that spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders that are perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite. The LEI comes in low and high aspect ratio designs to accommodate different styles of kiting such as freestyle, wave riding, wakestyle, unhooked, speed racing and BIG air. LEI’s are the most popular choice among kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs and easy re-launchability if crashed into the water. But if an LEI kite hits the water or ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or the kites canopy can be torn apart. These LEI kites are also commonly known as Hybrid, Bow or Delta Kites. Air pumps are required to pump up the bladders within these kites making them more stable and ready for action!
Foil kites are also mostly ripstop nylon fabric with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. Growing more and more popular, foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, but the disadvantage is harder re-launch capabilities. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.These kites are not usually recommended for beginners unless it's a small trainer kite used for land lessons.
Open cell foil kites rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated but are generally impossible to relaunch if they hit the water because they have no means of avoiding deflation and quickly become soaked.
Closed cell foil kites are almost identical to open cell foils except they are equipped with inlet valves to hold air in the chambers, thus keeping the kite inflated (or, at least, making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water relaunches with closed cell foil kites are simpler; a steady tug on the power lines typically allows them to take off again.
Which kite should you be looking to purchase?
I’ll start this firstly for the beginners out there looking to advance their kiting skills! Now hopefully you got good lessons or plan on getting good lessons from an awesome Instructor and typically, he or she will personally suggest the best type and size of kites for you. If that did not happen, then you’ve come to the right blog! As mentioned earlier, your first quiver of kites should be the LEI kites and once you've advanced your kitesurfing skills then later, if you choose to do so, you can try out the foil kites. Many kiters purchase a quiver of different size kites accommodating to different wind speeds. Basically, the higher the wind speeds, the smaller the kite is used and the lower the wind speeds, the larger size kites are needed. There are over 30 kite manufacturers these days and most of them do make good, beginner friendly kites. Without mentioning a bunch of the brand names here, I’m just going to list what a beginner needs to look for when purchasing a safe, entry level kite.
- Low aspect ratio kite
- Good stability in the air
- Good de-power
- Wide wind range
- Good upwind performance
- Easy re-launch capabilities
- Less powerful
Choosing the right size kites for you and the wind conditions of where you plan on kiting is extremely important as well. It varies upon your weight, size of kiteboard and general wind speeds. So here I have supplied you with a fun calculator to help determine which size kites to purchase. And once again, never hesitate to ask advice from your local instructor or any advanced local kiters at your kite spot.
Characteristic Differences Between Low and High Aspect Ratio Kites
The top kite is a low aspect ratio kite and the bottom kite is a high aspect ratio kite.
Low aspect kites are short and wide and easier to re-launch. They turn quickly, though offer less lift and float than higher aspect kites. They generally have more de-power at the bar resulting in safer kiting. They are more stable in gusty wind conditions and drift down wind well. Low aspect kites are generally for wave riding, freestyle, wakestyle and unhooked riding. They also make for great beginner kites!
High aspect kites are longer and thinner. They fly faster, great upwind performance, more lift, glide and float well but a bit harder to re-launch.
Slower turning and less depower at the bar when powered up. High aspect kites are generally race and big air kites.
Medium aspect kites are on the market as well! They generally are an all in one type of kite that doesn't highlight any one specific feature but is pretty good in every characteristic. Medium Aspect kites are generally for freestyle and freeriding.
How Much do Kites Cost
The entire cost of all needed kitesurfing gear definitely can be discouraging for some. Not to mention the kitesurfing lessons needed to get started but once you have everything, then all you need is wind! Kites alone can be quite costly these days but as mentioned above, there are over 30 reputable kite brands in competition with each other so good deals are sure to be found! Generally, the larger the kite, the higher in price they are. For most beginners, used kites are a good start. Kite safety and performance though is improving every year so I’d like to stress that the newer the kite, the better! Beware of purchasing too old of kites!! When purchasing a used kite, it’s always good to buy from a big company that can guarantee and back up their product with a fair return policy. But if you do decide to purchase a used kite through such sources as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or simply in person to person, then here is your quick checklist of what to do and look for:
- Do your homework on the kite using online forums and reviews from regular kiters.
- Pump up the kite and wait for any unwanted slow air leaks (LEI kites only).
- Examine the kite thoroughly for any rips, tears or repairs.
- Ensure the air valves are not too old or cracking (LEI kites only).
- Examine all of the bridle strings and connections.
- Ask the seller if there has been any repairs on the kite and/or the internal bladders.
- And getting to fly the kite first before purchasing is always an added bonus!
Used Kites- In USD, the cost for good and safe used kites can generally range from about $200 up to about $1,600 or so. Finding a ‘bro deal’ is a great way to go as well! Also, remember that this blog is on kites only and that the bar and lines are also obviously needed to fly kites. I will blog about bar and lines later.
New Kites- In USD, the cost for good and safe, brand new kites can generally range from about $400 for a little 5m kite and up to $2,250 - $4,000 for the largest and most top of the line kites on the market!
There are also great deals you can find on new kites that are ‘last years models’ or many big companies/dealers offer package deals on a complete set up to get you out on the water. It’s also always good to support your local retailer as well.