We know that wind is the “engine” that keeps a kite afloat. However, what wind speeds are the best for kite flying? Overly strong winds can cause your kite line to snap or your kite to be blown away if you are not careful. On the flip side, having too light a breeze can make it difficult to launch your kite or keep it afloat in the air.
The best wind speed for kite flying is anywhere between 7mph to 15mph. Larger kites will generally require higher wind speeds, and there are certain types of kites that will require little to no wind at all. We will cover wind speeds affecting different types of kites in this article.
The Beaufort Scale
Wind speeds determine how easy it would be to launch and fly your kite across all seasons. Winds are usually unpredictable, and this is further made complicated with what is called ‘gradient wind’, which is the concept that winds are stronger the higher they are away from the ground. The following information is based on the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, or the Beaufort Scale for short, which was was devised by Francis Beaufort in 1805.
The Beaufort Scale is a system for estimating wind speeds without any use of instruments, which can be handy when you are outdoors without any specialized equipment to do so. The scale is based on the effects wind has on the physical environment, which means that you can make an easy and educated guess as to the current wind speed before you start flying your kite. The scale is often used to estimate wind speeds at seas as well; however, in this article, we will focus on the signs for land.
While the Beaufort Scale goes from 0 to 12, we will look at 0 to 7 on the scale in this article. Anything higher than a 7 is potentially too dangerous to safely fly a kite in. By learning how to read the surrounding environmental signs, you can ascertain wind speeds through the Beaufort scale.
0 – 7mph Winds (Beaufort Numbers 0 to 2)
On days when there is little to no wind, as a beginner you may struggle to launch your kite or even keep it afloat. However, certain kites do well with light winds. The more experience kite-flyer will also be able to launch kites easily.
In this range, you will find that low-, zero-wind or indoor kites will fly the best. These are kites that are made from ultra-light materials, and are designed to fly in low or no wind conditions. These kites rely on the movement of the user to generate wind – watch the video below for an amazing performance with an indoor kite.
8 to 24 mph winds
If you have a light beginner’s kite, the following wind conditions are perfect for launching and flying them. Make sure you fly away from trees and any above-ground power lines so that your kite does not get entangled in them if it accidentally drifts away from you. Read more about spaces that are ideal for kite flying here.
Kites such as the Delta kite, and a standard Diamond kite do well in these wind speeds. The Delta kite has been hailed as one of the easiest beginner kites as it can be easily launched and will stay afloat even at the lower end of these wind speeds.
25 to 38 mph winds
In this range of wind speeds, it can be difficult to use an umbrella, much less fly a kite. These are generally less-than-stellar conditions for beginners to fly a kite in. There is also a higher chance for the windchill factor to affect you.
However, there are certain types of kites that require these wind speeds to launch and stay afloat, namely:
- Box kites
- Box kites are probably more well known in the field of meteorology, as they fly exceptionally steady in strong winds. It was invented in Australia as part of Lawrence Hargrave‘s research to develop a stable three-dimensional lifting surface for powered manned flight. These kites generate a lot of lift, and meteorological instruments (known as meteorgraphs) have been attached to them to measure and record factors that affected the weather. Source: National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA
- Parafoils or sled kites
- These are known as ‘soft kites’, having no rigid spars. They maintain their shape while in the air with wind filling the chambers or cells of the kite. When air fills up these pockets, the kite becomes semi-rigid and starts to fly.
- Novelty kites
- Novelty kites tend to be more eye catching and attractive. They can come in all shapes and sizes, tend towards being bigger, and will require a higher wind speed to launch and keep afloat.
If you are new to kite flying, I would caution against flying a kite in these windy conditions. If your kite line snaps, or if you accidentally let go of your kite line, these winds can very quickly take your kite far away from you. You also do not want to be chasing a flyaway kite in such potentially dangerous conditions.
These wind speeds are usually also a precursor to thunderstorms or general bad weather. If you are a beginner kite flier and the winds start picking up, it’s time to start packing up and heading home!
Now that we’ve talked about the different wind speeds that you’re likely to come across when flying a kite, read on for more information on other factors that can affect kite-flying.
While we have gone into a lot of detail about what wind speeds are best for kite flying, the steady wind is the most important factor in keeping your kite in the air.
If you have been in a boat or a ship before, a steady sea prevents you from being tossed about on the boat. Similarly, winds blowing steadily will prevent your kite from being blown around.
When your kite is in the air, and you feel a sudden loss of tension in your kite line, it can mean that the wind has suddenly stopped blowing. To ensure that your kite is still in the sky, reel in some line till you feel tension in your kite line once again before slowly letting the line out.
If your kite is jerking your kite line, it may be facing gusts of wind, also known as turbulence. If this happens, it may be best to let out some kite line instead of trying to fight it. This is so that a gust of wind does not knock your kite over and cause it to crash, or snap the kite line and cause your kite to fly away – I have experienced both and it’s no fun trying to chase after a flyaway kite or to pick up a damaged kite!
Dangers Of High Wind Speeds
High wind speeds can cause damage to the environment and cause bodily harm. Depending on which parts of the US you stay in, you may have experienced high wind speeds in the form of tornadoes or storms. It’s best to leave the kite-flying (if any) to the professionals in such cases.
High wind speeds can also cause flying debris – roofs broken off houses, trees broken, or even vehicles can be launched. If you are flying a kite with a lot of lift potential, it can lift you bodily; in high wind speeds, your kite and kite line can be like missiles, just like other flying debris. This can potentially cause injury or fatalities.
If you are in the Winter season or heading into it, you may be wondering if the cold weather would affect you flying a kite. Yes, it can!
What is the windchill factor? It is the temperature that you feel due to the wind. For example, a thermometer or the weather forecast may read 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and there is a wind blowing at 25 miles per hour (mph), the windchill factor would cause it to feel like it is 50 degrees F instead. This causes your body to lose heat as if it was 50 degrees F outside, instead of it being 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Many weather forecasting agencies now include a “Feels Like” temperature so that you have a better idea of what you would feel when heading out.
It is important to factor in the windchill factor, especially in Winter, as it can be dangerous to go out in cold weather exacerbated by windchill and your attention is focussed on kite flying instead. For other factors that you should consider when deciding to fly a kite in Winter, read here.
Kites have changed so much today that we now even have kites that specifically do not need wind to fly. However, understanding wind speeds are still important for the budding kite flier who may enjoy flying kites outdoors. It also helps to understand which are the easiest types of kites to fly.
When flying a kite outdoors, you would be at the mercy of the weather as well. Check out our other articles on what is good kite flying weather, if you can fly a kite in the rain, and if you can fly a kite in Winter.