Have you ever launched a kite only to find that it swoops up and down, or spins from side-to-side when in the air? It’s not an uncommon problem, especially with handmade kites! It can be very frustrating, but we’re here to explain why a kite spins, and how to stop it.
A kite spins because it is unbalanced. The unbalance can be due to a variety of reasons. The easiest way to stop a kite from spinning or swoop is to attach a tail to your kite.
Depending on the type of kite you are flying, trying to fly it without a tail may result in the kite spinning, veering to one side, swooping, or crashing because the kite is unstable . Adding a tail to the bottom of a kite makes the bottom of the kite point downwards. This also helps to lower the center of gravity of the kite, and changes the balance of the kite, making it more stable with the added weight.
Make a Kite Tail Quickly and Easily
Purchased kites tend to be balanced during manufacture and are ‘ready-to-fly’ out of the box. Handmade kites? Not so much. It can be difficult to tell if a kite is balanced and ready to fly if you haven’t given it a test flight, especially after making it yourself.
If you are out and about flying your kite, and realise that it is spinning, you can easily make a kite tail with materials that you should be able to easily get.
- Tie pieces of unused paper tissues or serviettes to your kite with some kite line. If you have a handkerchief, you could also tie it to the bottom of your kite.
- Tie a clean plastic bag to your kite using the handles as attachment points
- If you are in a park and can find a branch or two, you could tie those to your kite as well. Alternatively, use a bunch of grass or fronds if they can be easily attached
If your kite already has a tail attached but is still spinning or swerving to one side, attach a small length of tail to the opposite wingtip. If you run out of material, try taping a coin or two to add additional weight to the end of the tail.
It is good practice to have some spare tail material with you when you go kite-flying. Items like ribbons, surveyor’s tape, pre-cut strips of plastic bags rolled up and secured with a rubber band, and a small sharp pocket knife can be very handy.
There are many different types of kite tails that you can either make or purchase to stop your kite from spinning and to add color and flair to your kite setup. We have a guide on how to make various kite tails here.
Other Reasons For A Spinning Kite And How To Troubleshoot and Fix Them
There are other reasons why your kite is spinning in the air:
- Wind conditions
- Uneven / unbalanced kite spars
- Uneven / unbalanced / stretched bridle lines or keel
Various types of kites require different wind speeds to fly and be stable in the sky. For example: a sled or parafoil kite requires wind to fill its cells to lift the kite into the sky, and that means a lot of wind is required – anywhere from 10mph to 40mph winds will help. The popular mid-wind-range Delta kites take off easily and hold their own in a light breeze. Low- or zero-wind kites, and indoor kites require very little to no winds at all to fly.
When picking a kite, check both the minimum and maximum wind speed limit of the kite. This will give you a better idea of which kite to fly in various wind conditions. Larger kites generally require more wind to stay afloat in the sky. Not enough wind can cause it to spin and crash.
Another reason how wind can cause your kite to spin, or generally be unstable during flight is turbulence. Turbulence is characterized by gusty winds. In the picture below, the obstacle is causing the wind to not flow smoothly around it, creating turbulence.
If you are flying your kite close to tall buildings or even trees, it can cause your kite to at best, spin, and at worst, crash due to an unsteady source of wind. In this case, you should move away from your current location to somewhere more open and with lesser to no obstacles.
If you are flying away from obstacles, but there are still sudden changes in the wind speed or direction, it can mean that a storm is on its way. If this is the case, check your local weather forecasts and be ready to retrieve your kite and leave the area.
You’ve checked the weather report, measured the wind at your location, and it’s generally good kite flying weather. But your kite is still crashing! Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’re not destined to fly a kite. It could be some simple fixes that your kite needs
Uneven Or Unbalanced Kite Spars
The spars of your kite are also sometimes called the kite frame. Think of this as a skeleton for your kite, opening up the sail and providing tension. More importantly, spars provide balance to your kite.
The problem of unbalance kite spars tend to be more frequently seen in handmade kites, due to the size and materials used. This doesn’t mean you can’t fly your handmade kite. In general, a kite with uneven or unbalanced spars will veer to one side, spin, or crash. If you suspect that you have unbalanced or uneven kite spars, we have an in-depth guide on troubleshooting this here.
You will need to remove your kite spars to check what’s wrong with them. If your kite has crashed, and it is very clear that a spar is broken, be very careful when retrieving your kite and removing the spar. Ensure that you do not pierce the sail when removing the broken spar; if unsure, contact your local kite store or kite-flying club.
Uneven, Unbalanced, Or Stretched Bridle Lines Or Keel
The bridle is the line that connects the kite with the flying or kite line that you hold on to. Most kites have a bridle that is connected to the kite in 2 places; kites with more complex structures use bridles that are attached to it in many places. The point where the flying line attaches to the bridle is called the bridling point.
There may be a knot where your kite line joins or is attached to the bridle. Sliding this knot towards the bottom of the kite lowers the kite’s center of gravity, and will usually reduce the kite’s tendency to spin. Moving the knot toward the top of the kite will cause the kite to be ‘top-heavy’ and increase its tendency to spin or swoop.
If the kite is constantly spinning or turning to the right, the length of the bridle line on the right side is too short. Check your kite for a knot that can be slid either right or left on your bridle. If the kite is constantly turning or spinning to the left, move the knot to the right, and vice-versa. This right-left balance is a sensitive adjustment, so you should move the knot only about 1/64” (0.5mm) at a time. Fly your kite for 5 to 10 minutes after each adjustment to see if it is no longer spinning.
Over time, bridle lines can also stretch due to the stress of being pushed and pulled by the wind. This can be easily checked as some manufacturers will publish the recommended bridle length for your kite.
Alternatively, if your bridle lines can be detached, you can detach them and check if they are of the same length. Bridles with unmatched lengths will tend to pull your kite in one direction and make it more likely to spin and crash.
On the flip side, there have been reports of shrinking bridle lines – these are more common in the kitesurfing community due to the type of lines that they use (woven or braided lines, instead of the common twisted lines in normal kite lines). So while this may not be commonly seen in beginner kites, this is something to consider when checking your bridle lines.
“…the line is a woven structure. This woven structure gets loose with (the) time and use. Water, dirt, and sand can get in between the filaments. What happens is that the line gets a bit thicker and this makes the line shrink as well.“Aurelien Mierswa, North Line specialist
Another reason why your bridle lines are uneven is that there could be knots, twists, or tangles in them. When you set up or pack down your kite, always inspect all your lines for knots, twists, and tangles. If there are any, you must undo them before launching your kite.
When unpicking any knots or tangles, always check that there is no wear on the line(s). Wear-and-tear can occur over time, and is also exacerbated when lines rub constantly against each other.
Alternatively, your kite may have a keel as shown in the image to the right. A keel is a piece of material on the bottom of the kite. The keel is usually perpendicular to the rest of the kite when in the air, providing stability. The keel usually has a hole to attach the kite line where it is indicated line attachment in the image to the right.
If your kite has a keel instead of bridle lines, and you suspect that the keel has stretched, it is best to contact the manufacturer. Ask if it’s possible to get dimensions of the keel, so that you can measure your kite’s keel to see if it has indeed stretched or not. Generally, if your keel is stretched, you will have to replace it with precise measurements from the manufacturer, or a knowledgeable kite flier who has done something similar. In such cases, it is always best to speak with your local kite shop or kite-flying club for more hands-on advice.
In general, a quick and easy way to stop your kite from spinning is to attach a tail to it. Always ensure that you only change one thing at a time when working on your kite so that you can pinpoint what is causing it to spin. Take your kite for a test flight after any adjustments to see if the adjustment has stopped it from spinning in the air.