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Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:57 pm
by brettbrew
Hey guys,
My name is Brett, I live in Buffalo, USA and I was looking to get a bit of advice as I pick out my trainer Kite. I am 5'8 155lbs and have no boarding experience of any kind. My ideal trainer kite would be sturdy, safe, useable in water, and able to generate enough pull for use on snow and land. However, as I am a college student, cost is of vital importance. I have narrowed down my choice to 3 main kites: the HQ Rush IV 350 Pro, HQ Hydra 350, and the Scout 4m.
Will any of these kites have enough force to pull me on snow in winds around 15mph (13knots?)
Can the Rush Pro be used on water at all?
I was told the Scout 4m is much beefier than the other two...should that matter? Are these kites very fragile?
The HQ Hydra is 76$ more than the Pro so will I be able to use it at all on water, or is the water-useable feature useless?
I know this is a long post so I appreciate all answers even if you are only able to answer one question! Thanks

Best wishes,

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:47 pm
by icebird
Depends on what you want, but I think the real usable kites are too expensive unless you are a school or have specific needs. Better to learn to surf with or without a cheap trainer kite, then get a kite quiver for water, and bring it to the snow as well.

I think the Viron 4m kite could be a good quality long term usable trainer, but with the above reservations - too expensive, too limited use. Might be a really high wind kite later on, but that will take some time before you will be ready for that anyway.

Some schools will let you borrow a trainer kite as part of the lessons fee, and otherwise the money may be spent on 1-on-1 tuition with a big kite instead.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:25 pm
by jbdc
Of the kites you mention, only the Hydra can be used in the water. That said, water capability in a trainer isn't as important as you might think, and it's hard to justify the higher price. I can't speak to the relative build quality of these kites, but in general foils are pretty robust as they don't have bladders to pop.

While HQ makes a quality product, I think they and the entire industry as a whole do a disservice by promoting 2-3 line trainers with bars as an entry point to kiteboarding. I'll try to explain why as succinctly as possible. First, foils come in two different design schemes: Fixed bridle, and 'depower'.

Depower foils are flown on 4-5 lines with a bar and require the use of a harness. They have a fancy bridle system which allows the angle of attack (AoA) and profile of the kite to be changed dynamically in flight (in a similar fashion to most supported leading edge inflatable (SLEI) kites these days). Suffice to say, these are more expensive and not very popular in the 'trainer' market, because they really are full-fledged kites and the price reflects that. The Viron icebird recommended is of this type. They would make an ideal trainer but for the price, and the additional cost of a harness.

Fixed bridle foils are flown on 2-4 lines with a wide variety of control schemes, everything from straps to handles to bars. Because the AoA and profile of the kite is 'locked in', these kites are considerably cheaper. To realize further savings, most companies selling 'trainers' have taken the simplicity to it's logical extent: Fixed bridle, 2 lines, on a bar so that it looks like it bears some relation to an actual kiteboarding kite. A step up in complexity and price is a 3-line foil, which is really just the same as a 2 lines, with the 3rd attached to the trailing edge exclusively for relaunch and landing. The Rush Pro and the Hydra you're looking at are of this type.

I'm of the firm belief that 2-3 line foils on bars are rather silly and almost useless, and it's why people tend to sell them or let them collect dust after getting a 'real' kite. The reason is that they offer very little in terms of control because the power and the steering of the kite are all mixed together on the two flying lines. All they're really good for is a basic introduction to the wind window, and learning how to steer a kite with a bar--which are good things to learn, but you'd hope a 'trainer' could give you more. Further, I think they give beginners a bad impression of how to control a kite; they demand a bit of muscle to make them turn, when what's needed with a 'real' kite is finesse.

The middle road is a 4-line fixed bridle foil: Two front lines mainly for power delivery and 2 brake lines on the trailing edge to aid steering. The distinction between power and steering allows much greater control of the kite, and opens up more opportunities for learning. Because of their relatively low cost and good control, 4-line fixed bridle foils remain the dominant platform in the buggying and kiteskiing communities.

So, if 4-line fixed bridle foils are so much better than 2-3 line foils, why aren't they more commonly sold as kiteboarding trainers? Basically, it's because they don't fly particularly well on a regular bar; they usually require at least a little steering input on the front lines, which is why they're predominantly flown on handles. There are systems which make it possible to fly 4-line fixed bridle foils on a bar, like the Ozone Turbo Bar:


...or the fancy bridle on the Scout that you're looking at:


But since these systems don't offer any additional control and come at a premium, they remain something of a niche product.

I'm of the belief that a 4-line fixed bridle foil on handles represents the best combination of good control for learning, at a low price for the aspiring kiteboarder. You don't need a harness at the outset, but you can add one into the mix later as the next step in your progression. The ability to stall the kite, and learning how to recover it will put you *way* ahead when it comes time for your first lesson in the water. Finally, it will be great for snow kiting on windier days.

I got my first 4-line foil *after* I was already a competent upwind rider. Nonetheless, I got this little 3.5m foil for about $100 used, and it improved my kite flying skills dramatically:


Here's a picture of a friend flying it in about 15 knots of wind with a harness and strop line between the handles. He's probably about 170 lbs. and it has the power to take him for a bit of a drag when he puts it through the power zone:


So, enough power to make you respect the wind and the kite; but not so much that it can kill you unless you do something phenomenally stupid--on purpose.

Some people seem to think that learning on handles can complicate the transition to a bar on a depower kite. This hasn't been my experience in the least, and even if it were true, I'd contend that it couldn't possibly be worse than the ham-fisting a 2-3 line trainer promotes.

There are great deals to be had on Ebay for 4-line foils with handles (specifically from a seller called '4mkites' from 'china, china' with whom I have no affiliation). You'd want something with a lower aspect (shorter and fatter looking) and not too large, I wouldn't go for anything over 4 metres--my chubby 3.5m foil stays in the sky with little trouble in around 7 knots of wind. Depending on your size and the wind strength, fixed bridle foils start getting dangerous between 3.5-5.0m; by which I mean 'enough power to lift you off the ground, but not enough area to let your down gently.' Stay away from things like Flexifoil Blades, or Pansh Aces, those are high-aspect (long and skinny) performance-oriented kites; if you do a search for 'power kite accident' on YouTube, those models seem to come-up most often.

My reddit comment history has a bunch of posts in more depth on this topic. I'm happy to answer any more questions you might have.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:29 pm
by Rando1994
I would skip the trainer kite. I bought one and in two weeks I practiced all that is practiceable with a trainer kite. Then never touched it again.
Better to study every video you can get your hands on. I recommend "Zero to Hero" from REAL Kiteboarding in Hatteras.
Then, once you have memorized everything there is to know about the wind window, power zone, launching, self launching, landing, self landing, rigging, etc, get yourself a good instructor that uses a jet ski.
Go out with him/her and impress them with your working knowledge of everything you've learned. You will be body dragging and then riding in short order.
And saving money since they won't have to teach you things that you already learned from the videos.
Good Luck!

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:28 pm
by icebird
So to boil down jbdc's post, although HQ is water launchable, it isn't a "real" kite anyway.
The Viron is a "real" kite, but it is too expensive (I think schools should have them though).

I will absolutely always recommend lessons, but if I was to learn on my own, I think the Viron would be a good investment. But don't do that, kiting is too dangerous in the unskilled hands.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:10 pm
by dyyylan
Lots of random opinions being thrown around lol

To comment on what you're actually asking, it depends on your spot but I think the water relaunchable trainer kites are absolutely worth the money. I have the slingshot b3 (in my opinion the best trainer that i've flown) and there are so many times when I've wanted to show someone the basics but a sketchy beach area makes me not want to hand the bar over because they might crash it into bushes/trees/the water/etc. If you have a water relaunchable kite, you can go out into the waist deep water and you (or your girlfriend or whoever you're teaching - because you will probably end up doing this if you have a trainer kite) and have fun. With most trainer foils, if it his the water, you're done until it dries out enough

That said, if you have a big enough area where this isn't an issue, I'd pick up one that sells well because after you take your first lesson on a "real" kite you'll probably never fly it again. For me it was worth the $230 or whatever I paid, because I kept it around and use it to teach friends on.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:38 pm
by brettbrew
Thanks everybody for the opinions and advice! Much appreciated and I ended up getting the Rush Pro because it was middle-ground price wise, Good for teaching friends, has 3 lines, and will allow me to do light snow-kiting in heavier winds.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:07 am
by jbdc
I should have included this link in my earlier post:

Chris Schulz from HQ giving a run-down on a 4-line power kite. He explains some of the benefits of 4-lines at about 2:15

dyyylan raises a good point about tight launches; it didn't even occur to me. I've only ever used that foil in open fields, parks, and wide beaches--like Delray Beach. Is the beach that much smaller in Boca? ;)

To me the entire point of one of these kites is not having to worry about killing it. You want to mess around with it to learn what might be a bad idea with a larger kite. This means a lot of experimentation--and yes, screwing up. Which as far as I'm concerned, means that you should spend as little as possible lest you be worried about damaging your new baby or hurting your resale value. That said, I did try the cheapest 4-line foil I could find from a local guy and it was poorly made. So, "cheap but no too cheap." The 'second lowest bidder' doctrine may work well here.

I love my little foil, but I have no qualms about handing the controls over to a total beginner because it's not a big deal if it gets ruined. It will be a sad day when it happens, but then I'll get another one to repeat the cycle anew.

Fly it like you stole it, I say. But yeah, trees and kites have a long and adversarial history second only to power lines, so avoid those bastards.

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:06 pm
by dyyylan
jbdc wrote: dyyylan raises a good point about tight launches; it didn't even occur to me. I've only ever used that foil in open fields, parks, and wide beaches--like Delray Beach. Is the beach that much smaller in Boca? ;)
Ya, been to Delray since hurricane Sandy? the beach is only between 10-20 meters wide now. Boca is about the same but they are starting to fill back in

Re: Trainer Kite?!

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:17 pm
by jbdc
Yeah, I was there this winter after Sandy. The beach was weird: narrower, with the high plateau and steep(ish) drop down to the water--basically no difference in the location of the water line between low and high tide. My GF's family has a condo near Linton, and apparently the dredging was going on there sometime from March to May (I can't remember when they'd mentioned it.) I'm looking forward to better breaks and skimboarding the next time I'm down there. :D