Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kitesurf Line Length and Kite Behavior: Long or Short Lines?

race kites with long lines

The line length of your kitesurfing gear is a very important factor that determines how a kite will fly and produce power, and knowing how to manipulate the line length can be very useful in order obtain the best performance of the kite in a particular situation.

kitesurf line extensions

Most of the kiters don't actually focus on this topic, because the kitesurfing gear comes complete and pre-set from the manufacturers, and if we want to change it, it's normally something we do ourselves by cutting and sewing the lines or attaching some extensions.

The first thing to point out is that the kite line length determines the dimension of the window of flight, which means a wider or narrower area in which our kite will fly.

Window of flight influences our kite’s performance in three ways: 1) the higher the kite flies, the stronger the wind; 2) the amplitude of space that the kite flies in determines the speed it can reach and how long it will stay in the power zone; 3) behavior of lines: the longer they are, the wider will be the curve (caused by their weight and the wind action), and this will cause less response on steering commands.

wind speed different heights

If you understand these basic concepts, you can easily figure out how to manipulate your kite’s lines:

-        -   Shorter kite lines will force the kite to fly in a smaller window, at lower altitude. This will prevent the kite from reaching stronger high winds and, at the same time, will limit its possibility to fly for long periods in the power zone and to get high speeds. Since your kite’s amplitude of flight will be limited, it will reach all points of the flying window very quickly, giving a very fast response to the kitesurfer’s commands.

 -          Longer kite lines will do the opposite. When the kite reaches its maximum height, it will be able to catch strong winds. A wider flying window will allow it to fly at high speeds and to be in the power zone for longer time. The result will obviously be the opposite: since the space to travel from one side of the flying window to the other is bigger, and the longer/curved lines take more time to transmit commands, the kite will appear much slower and less responsive.

 -          Normally manufacturers sell kites with a length of lines between 20 and 25 meters: this is a good compromise between power and response.

 -          Short lines (between 15 and 20 meters) are used in situations of very strong and gusty winds to allow a better control of a kite.

 -          Long lines (25 and up to 40 meters) are normally used in light wind conditions or in kitesurf racing, when it’s necessary to reach the best wind possible. It’s pretty clear that if you aren’t experienced enough, using long lines can be quite dangerous: the kite will be much less responsive and it will be able to reach high speed for long period of time, generating a huge amount of power.

 -          If you are just learning kitesurfing, use very short lines (between 5 to 10 meters) before starting on the board: the kite won’t be able to reach high speed and will have a very limited window of flight, making it impossible to reach enough power that could lead to dangerous situations. That’s why the best certified schools tend to use short line set-up for their beginner students.

short lines kitesurf lesson

What is your experience with using long or short lines? Share it in the comments!

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Information about the different behavior produced by the longer or shorter kitesurf lines.
Date published: 06/03/2014
Date Update: 06/03/2014