The Great Kite Debate

19' Teknacolor Delta Kite by Prism Kites.

19′ Teknacolor Delta Kite by Prism Kites.

Delta kite or parafoil? Which is the easiest to fly?

We’ve been having a bit of a debate here at Kitty Hawk Kites about this. On the one hand our buyer, Rachel Sanchez, has stated deltas are the easiest; the writer of this blog concedes that deltas are a great beginning kite but favors a parafoil.

Either choice is a wonderful kite for children, families or anyone who wants to put a kite in the sky and enjoy the beauty as it dances in the wind, so this is a debate of small portions of degree, not huge differences.

Delta Kites
Delta kite.

Delta kite.

Shaped like a triangle, delta kites are easy to assemble with three struts, two on the leading edges of the wings and one to hold the wing struts in place. With their flat surface, they capture the wind very effectively meaning they fly in light winds.

Because they have a flat surface, they are offered in an extraordinary array of designs and patterns—pirates, Disney characters, birds, multiple colors; the list seems infinite.

A 56” delta is a good place to start; their wind range is listed from 5-18, they don’t pull too hard and in a wind over 10mph a tail can be attached to make things a little fancier.

Parafoil 5 in flight.

Parafoil 5 in flight.

A parafoil has no struts, using the wind to fill baffles and lift it into the sky. Struts can be replaced, so breaking one is not the end of the world, but when flying with young children, it’s nice to know you don’t have to worry about that.

The shape is not what people often envision when they think of a classic kite, but don’t let that be a barrier. This is a remarkably easy kite to set up, it is virtually unbreakable and it packs into a small, easily stored bag.

For really young kids, the Parafoil 2 is probably a better choice—very light pull to the kite, it’s not quite as stable as the Parafoil 5 which adults and kids over nine years of age may prefer. The Parafoil 5 has enough lift that it can be nicely decorated with tails and spinners.

Giant Cows, Helixes and Windsocks

Giant cow windsock flying over Kitty Hawk Kites, Jockey's Ridge.

Giant cow windsock flying over Kitty Hawk Kites, Jockey’s Ridge.

There’s a tradition at Kitty Hawk Kites of flying a gigantic animal windsock from the top of the flagpole at their Jockey’s Ridge Crossing store. It’s a giant cow right now, and has been for the past few years.

Everyday the question is the same. “Did someone remember to put the laundry up?” or “Did you remember to bring the laundry in?”
That windsock, which is very specialized and not sold in the retail store, is a great introduction though to windsocks, spinners and banners and all those things that decorate kites, yards, porches and just about anything where there is a little wind to create motion.

Heather Doyle, who started working for Kitty Kitty Hawk Kites in college and has been with the company as long as anyone else, is the buyer for all those extras. She has a degree in fabric design from East Carolina University so when she says a certain company makes a particularly good product she knows what she’s talking about.

“The windsocks from Wind’s Edge Studio are beautiful and they’re really well made,” she says. “The woman who makes them is a quilter and she’s very artistic.” She also points out that the Wind’s Edge are double hooped—a hoop in the front a hoop to the rear so that even in very light winds or no wind they hold their shape.”

The Wind’s Edge windsocks are just one of many extras the company sells. Heather notes that windsocks are popular but the helix, a spinning circle that will extend 3’ or 4’ into the air, have been a big part of kite flying and yard decoration for years.

There’s a kite package that the stores sell that include a 6’ delta, two streamers and a helix, the she seems really like. “I think it’s the coolest kite package we sell,” Heather says. “And it’s only $49.95.”

Hang Gliding Memories

"I Flew Jockey's Ridge" for more than 20 years one of the most popular designs.

“I Flew Jockey’s Ridge” for more than 20 years one of the most popular designs.

John Harris, the President and founder of Kitty Hawk Kites, started teaching people to fly from Jockey’s Ridge in 1974 and it didn’t take him long to figure out that a hang gliding dune lesson and T-shirt went together as naturally as ice cream and a hot day.

For about as long as there has been a Kitty Hawk Kites, T-shirts have been a great way for people to remember their visit to the stores and the Outer Banks. We create our own designs—they are not available anywhere else—and we make sure they’re built to last. In fact, they hold up so well, they’ve traveled the world, and people have sent us photos from distant places and lands wearing our T-shirts.


Every year some designs really stick out, but one of the oldest designs we have is still one of the most popular. “I Flew Jockey’s Ridge” has been around so long no one can quite remember when it was introduced but after talking to some of former employees about the shirt, we know it’s been here for at least 20 years.

KHKtropicalWe try to keep things fun and sometimes funny with our designs—after all, flying a hang glider is fun! And we also know it’s a great way to remember a wonderful memory.

For anyone who is traveling to parts unknown and would like to send us a picture of a Kitty Hawk Kites T-Shirt, take the pic and reply to this blog.


KHK Basic Guide to Kites

Two line stunt kite in flight with a tail.

Two line stunt kite in flight with a tail.

There are so many different kinds of kites in the world that we couldn’t possibly list them all. There are certain constants among all them, though, that might help folks who are looking at 200-300 kites in a well-stocked kite store–Kitty Hawk Kites, as an example–and are wondering what to buy.

There are four basic kinds of kites—single line, single line fighter kites, dual line stunt kites and quad line stunt kites. Within each type there is an infinite selection, but those are the basics.

Single line

Single line parafoil in flight.

Single line parafoil in flight.

This is the most basic kite and what almost everyone thinks of when they imagine flying a kite with a child. A single line attaches to the kite, run into the wind and the kite goes into the air.

Three basic frames—diamond, delta and parafoil. The classic diamond is actually the hardest to get into the air; either the parafoil with no frame, or the delta are the easiest to fly.

Often intricate in their patters, fighter kites are are great for more experienced flyers.

Often intricate in their patters, fighter kites are are great for more experienced flyers.

Fighter Kites

Hailing from the Orient these are single line controllable kites. They are inherently unstable in flight, and are not a good choice for a novice flyer. Originally glass was imbedded in the kite lines and the object in competition was to cut your opponent’s line.

Two Line Stunt Kites

The Prism Nexus. A versatile dual line kite.

The Prism Nexus. A versatile dual line kite.

A fun, fun kind of kite to fly. The flight of the kite is controlled by two lines that allows the flyer to maneuver the kite up, down, across the horizon, figure 8s, just about anything imaginable.

Most two line stunt kites are delta shaped—actually look a bit like a miniature hang glider—but there are also dual line parafoils that generate tremendous lift and power.

It generally takes about an hour or so to get comfortable controlling a stunt kite. The time is very well spent.

Quad Line Stunt Kites

The Revolution quad line kite.

The Revolution quad line kite.

When Revolution Kites brought out their line of quad line kites back in the 1990s, it was, well . . . revolutionary. But here’s a historic footnote: look at a photograph of the Wright Brothers flying their 1901 kite and they are controlling it with four attachment points.

Nonetheless, quad line kites really got people thinking about new stunts and new ways of doing things. Remarkable in their maneuverability, and surprisingly easy to master.

Revolution is still making their frame kites. Ram air quad lines are great power kites; kiteboarding kites use quad line controls.


What’s Hot and What’s Hotter

Walking into any one of the Kitty Hawk Kite stores or a Kitty Hawk Surf Company store, can be a shock to the senses, so it can be a little bit tough to say what’s the hot product now. There is one product, though, that really seems to be catching fire and flying out the door.

The Lokai bracelet.

The Lokai bracelet.

The Lokai Bracelet is a simple bracelet with a profound message. “Life is full of joy and sadness, and we can all relate to its highs and lows. I hope that lokai will remind you to stay balanced and centered along your journey,” founder Steven Izen says of his bracelet.

With mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth, and water from Mt. Everest, the highest place, the bracelet represents the balance that Izen suggests we all need in our lives.

Made of clear silicon material, the Dead Sea bead is black and the white bead filled with the waters of Mt. Everest. The other beads are clear to allow the wearer to create their own story.

The Lokai Bracelet is just one of the many uncommon and unusual products we carry at our Kitty Hawk Kites and Kitty Hawk Surf Company stores. From the largest collection of sunglasses on the Outer Banks, to footwear for every foot, toys, kites and fun things to do, there is something for everyone in our stores.