Kiteboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The first real prototype kites used to pull riders on the water started to appear in the late nineties. Development was fast and furious as manufacturers and testers tried to figure out what worked while surviving those early halcyon days. Those early prototypes were much like the Apple 1, really for hobbyists and risk takers. In fact those early days were not very dissimilar to the early days of cracking the supersonic jet barrier, a lot of people got hurt.
Prototypes gave way to the "C-Kite" which was a giant leap forward but still had many problems - primarily in terms of safety and relaunch. Then the biggest evolutionary step forward to make this a consumer friendly market was the introduction of "bow Kites" in roughly 2004. These kites featured much better relaunchability to get the kite back in the air after it hit the water. But more importantly it featured "full" de power. Now you could let go of the bar and the kite would simply fall out of the sky as opposed to C-Kites which would stay powered up and required a second movement to trigger the safety release in order to achieve "full" depower.
Since the bow kite was released the evolution of kite designs slowed and each year saw subtle refinements as opposed to massive leaps forward. In some cases kite companies even back-tracked to earlier designs having realized they may have gone down the wrong road. Not to blame them, this is a very tricky sport and riding the wind is no easy feat. Wind is not steady, it gusts and changes directions and intensity. One kite does not work in all wind ranges, and kiteboarder quickly realized that to maximize the days they can rise on the water they needed a diverse quiver of kites and boards.
One of the most challenging of times was the low wind days. Even though manufacturers could make kites bigger so they could generate more power in lighter winds, they also got heavier and clunkier, turning was slow and arduous if you could even get the kites into the air in the first place. And if the kite should crash into the water chances are there was not enough wind energy to get the kite off the water and back in the air. The problem was one of weight and relaunchability.
Foil kites showed a lot of promise but open cell foils were useless if they got wet. Closed cell foil kites emerged to slow down the rate at which they would get water logged but there were other challenges, especially f the kite lost its shape.
What makes LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable) Kites so appealing to water sports is that the inflated struts give the kite a semi rigid shape that allows for optimal air flow while making the kite easily relaunchable should it hit the water. Early kites had a large leading edge and 5 struts which resulted in a lot of weight and did not perform well i light wind despite the wind range claims on many manufacturers web sites.
Over time, kites were designed to be light wind specialists by using less struts and refining their shape. But for serious winds most other kites still used 5 struts. Refinement continued until now we have the next leap forward: The strut less kite.
Strutless kites are super light allowing you to use less kite for the same wind ranges, as well as providing a feasible light wind kite that gets you down to 5/6 knots. This is achieved through a higher pressure, better shaped leading edge and laughter trailing edge that keeps the kites shape and promotes laminar air flow in light wind conditions.
I dont know who made the first strut less but I can tell you RRD makes arguably the best. The Emotion MkII is the 2nd generation consumer model of RRD's strut less kite. It's trailing edge is quiet unlike many other strut less kites on the market. It flies with very light bar pressure yet feedback is there and steering is precise and turning is fast.
Keep an eye on strut less, this is the next growth area of kites! And if you would like to test an Emotion RRD or become an RRD convert or ambassador just drop us a line and we will see what we can do.
We are confident that you will love the RRD Emotion and that these strut less kites will become an essential part of your quiver.
Shop for RRD Emotion Kites HERE. Quote this post and get a 10% off RRD Emotion Coupon.
In a previous post I shared a video called Upwind - Launch of a Sport - History of Kitesurfing which I am sharing again because its that good - and free!
C-Kites had several quirks. To "fully" de power you had to pull the chute or activate the rip cord... in an extreme moment this was an extra step that was too much to be considered safe. New kites let you de power just by letting go of the bar. The safety release is then another layer of safety escalation rather than a part of basic steering control like letting off the gas. That extra step caused a lot of injuries and death. I share these videos in all seriousness because some people find old used C kites for sale and buy them hoping to learn the sport -- this is a BAD idea.
To be honest/more accurate, all of this is an over simplification. It's possible to get hurt on modern kites also which is why you need proper training. But modern kites are much better and safer than older gear. And certain kite designs are better/safer for learning. There are many kite designs because there are many different styles of riding and each kite design is better suited for certain purposes. When you learn to ride a motorcycle your dont jump on a Ninja 1000 right out the gate, start slow with the right gear and gradually build skill and experience.
Learning should be done on modern kites and gear that have the most advanced and refined safety systems. Don't be a statistic! If you would like to learn the beautiful sport of kiteboarding stay away form old gear and speak to us or a certified instructor. We should say that modern C-Kites are very different than early C-Kites. Also when we say "fully" de power that is a tricky word which is why we use quotations. Always use a kite that is sized for the wind conditions. If the wind doubles the force quadruples. All kites have a limited wind range and using the wrong size kite will reduce or eliminate the deporting capabilities. If the wind changes significantly you should land your kite and switch to a smaller kite.