Flying stunt kites might just be the perfect budget-friendly Jekyll Island beach activity for both kids and adults. Imagine your children mastering the intricacies of kite flying under your patient tutelage.
Whether you're hanging on the string of a traditional Diamond kite, flying a Dragon kite, or plying the winds with highly maneuverable stunt kites, kite flying with your kids is "da bomb"!
Jekyll Island's wide, flat, uncrowded beach front is the perfect venue for learning to fly kites of all kinds.
Kite Types -
You can have your kite and eat it too with the wide variety of kites on the market. They come in all sizes, shapes and colors.
All these different types come in a kaleidoscope of vibrant, beautiful colors. Really, there's a kite for everyone.
Tip: buy your kite ahead of time, and become familiar with how it goes together. You can easily get them from one of the on-line kite vendors. That way, you won't have to spend valuable vacation time standing in line at some store.
Flying Kites -
First off - everyone gets a kite, kids and adults. It's a lot more fun that way.
Follow the directions for putting your kite together. Kites come in some light material (paper, plastic or cloth). They'll have sticks, bow strings, bridles, flying line, and either something to wrap line around, or control sticks (if they're stunt kites).
Light to moderate winds of 5 to 15 mph are perfect for kite flying. Jekyll Island's beaches fit the bill, with steady winds most of the day.
But beach winds tend to be somewhat stronger, so you'll have to be selective in the time you're out there, especially with kids who are learning. It's not as important if you know what you're doing.
Check your flight area for hazards - trees, power poles, and especially people. Launch your kite by standing with your back to the wind, the kite held about head high. Release it into the wind and, presto! You're flying a kite!
Pull string to get lift, let it out to lower the kite. Winds are more stable and predictable at a higher altitude.
Try to limit your kite's altitude to about 100'. It's easier to control, and easier to retrieve if it's not too high.
In high or variable winds, you can increase stability several ways. One is to adjust the bridle string. Slide the tugpoint (the point where the string joins the bridle) a little higher to angle the face of the kite to where it catches less wind.
Or add a ribbon or cloth tail. If the winds are light, lower the bridle and bring the kite more perpendicular to the ground. It'll catch more wind that way.
In strong winds, thin string can cut fingers and hands. Wear light cotton gloves, or sailing gloves.
Best Kid Kites -
A Diamond kite, a Delta kite or a Dragon kite will do well in light to medium winds. They're the best kites for kids to start with. Box kites, parafoils, and stunt kites handle well in winds of 8 to 25 mph.
You can judge wind speed by looking to your surroundings. If you can feel the wind in your face, there's enough to fly. A 4 to 7 mph wind will rustle leaves and cause a flag to move slowly. Winds of 8 to 12 mph will make flags fly and bushes shake.
String is important, too. Lighter, thinner, stronger specialty kite flying string is the best to use. Thick string causes drag, and heavy string has to be hauled aloft by the kite.
Stunt Kites -
Stunt kites are a different breed of cat altogether. They come with two, and sometimes four, control lines. A practiced flier can make them dance in the air, performing whirls, loops, spins and dips - even battling other kites!
To get your stunt kites into the air, first lay the kite on the beach. Lay out the lines, checking for tangles and that all control lines are the same length. Make sure all bridles are adjusted for the wind conditions.
To launch, pick up the handles. Then step back, pulling the handles to your side. The kite should take off.
Control is easy. To turn the kite left, pull back on the left control line. Right, pull back on the right line. To fly straight, keep the lines even. The harder the pull, the sharper the turn. Then it's all about experimenting - try any combination of lefts, rights, and straight aheads and see what happens!
Kids will probably pick up on this quickly (hey, they've grown up playing video games). Clumsy grown-ups like me might have a little more trouble. The good news? It's not rocket science - anyone can learn fairly quickly.
Stunt kites fly best at string lengths of 75' to 120' - easier to control for beginners.
Kite Flying Safety -
Always be aware of your surroundings and weather conditions before flying. Make a special note of where spectators and fellow fliers are. A fast-diving kite can injure someone.
Try this pre-flight checklist:
One other caveat - don't fly your kite in a thunderstorm. Lightning loves kites, and the people who fly them!
With the best kites for the experience level of the flier and for the wind conditions, anyone can learn to fly in no time at all.
Have fun! Flying kites with your kids is another great memorable Jekyll Island Family Adventure.
Want to learn more about building and flying stunt kites (and other types)? Check out our previewed book about kites at Jekyll Island Books.