Compiled by Chris Glazier
(all Chris' articles are
Some modifications by Hung
Vu in Jan 2007
Airfoil (aerofoil): a wing, kite, or sail used to
generate lift or propulsion.
Airtime: the amount of time spent in the air while
AOA, Angle of Attack: also known as the angle of
incidence (AOI) is the angle with which the kite flies in relation to the
wind. Increasing AOA generally gives more lift.
AOI, Angle of Incidence: angle which the kite takes
compared to the wind direction
Apparent wind, AW: The wind felt by the kite or rider as
they pass through the air. For instance, if the true wind is blowing North
at 10 knots and the kite is moving West at 10 knots, the apparent wind on
the kite is NW at about 14 knots. The apparent wind direction shifts towards
the direction of travel as speed increases.
Aspect Ratio, AR: the ratio of a kites width to height
(span to chord). Kites can range between a high aspect ratio of about 5.0 or
a low aspect ratio of about 3.0.
AR5: The legendary first 4 line inflatable kite manufactured by Naish.
ARC: a foil kite manufactured by Peter Lynn
Back Loop: a kitesurfing trick where the kiter rotates
backward (begins by turning their back toward the kite) while throwing
his/her feet above the level of his/her head.
Back Roll: same as a back loop but without getting their
feet up high.
Batten: a length of carbon or plastic which adds
stiffness or shape to the kite or sail.
Bear Away / Bear Off: change your direction of travel to
a more downwind direction.
Beaufort: scale of wind strengths from 0 to 12. Named
after the English Admiral, Francis Beaufort, who invented it. 0 = no wind
whereas 12 = hurricane.
Bladder: an inflatable inner tube in a kite used to give
the kite shape and floatation. Bladders must be inflated or pumped up by
Blade: a model of foil kite made by Flexifoil.
Blindside: is to ride backwards from normal orientation
so you will be looking away from your direction of travel and riding on your
Board Leash: a leash or line connecting the kiter to the
board and used to keep the board nearby when the kiter is in the water.
Modern kiters don't use board leash anymore
Body Dragging: being pulled through the water without
standing on your board.. usually on your stomach. One can body drag
upwind by extending one arm in the water.
Bone: a trick where you bone out your leg means you
straighten it all the way out. A "boned out grab" is one where your leg or
legs are straightened out while grabbing your board.
Bow Kite: A new type of inflatable kite that is flatter and does
not have a pronounced C shape or U shape as the classic inflatables.
Bow kite is a part of the Flat LEI Kites; however, Bow kite has to have a
concave trailing edge to make it shaped like a bow while some other Flat LEI
kites may have straight or convex trailing edge and do not have a bow shape.
Brake lines: flying lines attached to a foil kite to
slow the kite or reduce its pull in strong winds. Brake lines lead to back
attachment points on the trailing edge of a foil kite. Inflatable kites do
not have brake lines.
Bridle: lines that form the junction between a foil kite
and the flying lines. A foil kite may have a complex bridle. An inflatable
kite usually has no bridle and the flying lines are connected directly to
the kite. Bridle lines are sometimes called shroud lines.
Buggying: using a power kite to pull a small land-based
3 wheeled vehicle.
Bularoo: A SLE kite manufactured by Best
Cable Park: a place to practice wakeboarding by being
pulled with a cable instead of behind a boat. A cable park is a place where
mechanical cables pull the rider around the water.
Cabrinha: a manufacturer of inflatable kites including
the Black Tip and the CO2 models.
Camber: the curvature of an object such as a sail or
kite usually used when referring its aerodynamic properties.
Cell: a parafoil is divided up into ribbed compartments
Chicken Loop, Trim Loop: In 4 line kites: the small loop
connected through the middle of the control bar that attaches to the two
front kite lines. Hooking into this loop and pulling on it reduces the AOA
and depowers the kite.
Chikara: A kite material used on some foil kites. It is
a nylon cloth.
Chord: the kite measurement between the leading and
Closed cell: these kites normally have a limited number
of air intakes and a valve system to prevent the air to escape after a fall.
These types of kite are called closed cell foil kites.
Coefficient of lift, CL: a measure of how hard a kite
pulls relative to its projected size.
Control bar: a long bar used by the kitesurfer to
control the kite. With 4 line inflatable kites, the rear kite lines are
connected to the ends of the bar and the front lines are connected to a
chicken loop which goes through the middle of bar. Bar length is typically
40 to 90cm.
Creep: the amount a line permanently lengthens when
pulled. Loosely braided line has a lot of creep, tightly braided has less,
linear core line has the least. If all the lines creep evenly, it's pretty
much unnoticeable. On inflatable kites the front lines usually creep more
than the backs.
Cross Venting: holes cut into the individual cells of a
foil kite or parafoil to allow air to pass through between the cells.
Dacron: the material used for the leading edge of most
Directional: a kite board that looks like a small
windsurfer board or surfboard with footstraps. A directional usually has 3
footstraps. It rides best in one direction and has definite nose and tail
ends. A directional board is typically 150 to 220 cm in length.
Deadman: a kitesurfing trick where the kiter hangs
upside down during a jump, lets go of the control bar, and hangs their arms
De-powering: letting the kite lines out to release
pressure and reduce speed. With 4 line kites this is done by pulling on the
chicken loop or pushing the kite control bar away.
Downloop: a kiteloop where the kite is first turned
downward and then is continued in turning until it goes back against the
original direction of travel. The kite direction of travel is rotated 180
Downwind: the direction that the wind is going toward,
opposite of upwind.
Drag: the resistance to movement.
Drift: the sideways movement due to the action of the
wind on the kite.
Dual Line, 2 Line: Kite which is flown using 2 lines of
equal length which enables the rider to steer the kite right or left.
Dyneema®: Also known as Spectra. It is the
standard line for flying lines. It is slippery and will allow multiple line
twists without loosing kite control.
Edge: to tilt the board on its edge and ride it that
way. Used to control the direction of travel. To go upwind, a rider must
edge hard. Skiers and snowboarders also use this type of edging to slow down
or to turn.
Eye of the wind: the direction that the wind is blowing
Fifth Element: a 5 line kite control sustem used on
Fifth Line: a 5th line on a kite can is used for
relaunching, depowering and helping maintaining the shape of the kite.
Fin: a small piece of rigid material on the bottom of a
kiteboard that tends to guide the board in a forward direction. Kiteboards
usually have 4 or more fins.
Flat LEI: A new type of inflatable kite that is flatter and does
not have a pronounced C shape or U shape as the classic inflatables.
Flat LEI is often confused as Bow Kite which has to have a concave trailing
edge to make it shaped like a bow while some other Flat LEI kites may have
straight or convex trailing edge and do not have a bow shape.
Flex: is the degree of stiffness in a kiteboard.
Flexifoil: a manufacturer of foil kites including the
Blade and Nexus models.
Flying lines: the main lines between the kite and the
rider, usually made of Spectra. A kite usually has either 2 or 4 flying
Foil kite: a soft type of kite which is made up of cells
which fill with air. Foils achieve their shape by inflating with the wind,
and have no other rigid structure or bladders.
Footstraps: straps used to keep your feet from bouncing
off your kite board.
Front Loop: a kitesurfing trick where the kiter rotates
forward (begins by turning away from the direction of travel) while throwing
their feet above the level of their head.
Front Roll: same as a front loop but without getting
their feet up high.
Grab: a trick: while in the air, the rider reaches down
to the board and clasps their hand on it. There are many different types of
Grab Handle: On a kite board it is a handle between the
footpads. On a kite bar, it is a handle usually connected to one rear kite
line that can be used to hold and depower the kite after the bar is
Gybe (or jibe): To change direction by turning down wind
and then continuing to turn until you are going in the other direction.
Handle Pass: a trick where the kite control bar is
passed from one hand to the other behind the kiters back.
Handles: used instead of a control bar to fly the kite.
In 4 line kites, a pair of bent handles with one power line connected to the
top and one brake line connected to the bottom of each. A "link line" or
harness line runs between the two handles to allow a harness to take the
load of the kite. Generally considered unsuitable for inflatable kites.
Hangtime, Airtime: the amount of time spent in the air
Hard rails, soft rails: The rounder the edge of the
board the softer the rails are said to be. Hard rails means a sharper edge.
Harness: worn by the kitesurfer around the waist. It has
a metal speader bar with a hook in the front. The kite control bar has a
line loop which can fit in this hook thereby allowing the harness to take
all the kites pulling power (and save your arms from fatigue). Similar in
operation to a windsurfers harness.
Heelside: the side of a board on the edge where your
heels are (opposite of toeside). To ride heelside is normal and is where
your heels are tilted down below the level of your toes.
Hooked in: the rider's chicken loop or fixed loop is
connected to the spreader bar hook on the harness.
Indie: a kitesurfing trick where the kiter grabs the
toeside edge of the board with his/her back hand near his/her back foot
during a jump.
Inflatable: a kite with bladders that must be pumped up
by hand prior to flying. Inflatable kites use bladders in the leading edge
and in the ribs (struts). When the bladders are inflated by using a hand
pump, then the kite forms the desired flying shape.
Jibe (or gybe): To change direction by turning down wind
and then continuing to turn until you are going in the other direction.
Kevlar: A very strong fiber sometimes used for kite
lines. Has some characteristics (more stretch) which make it somewhat less
desirable than Spectra.
Kite Leash: a leash or line connecting the kiter to the
kite and used to keep the kite from flying away when the control bar is
released. A kite leash must depower the kite when used.
Kite loop: when the kite is rotated 360 degrees in the
sky. A kiteloop can be either clockwise or counterclockwise.
Kitesurfing, Kiteboarding: also called kite sailing or
flysurfing. Using a kite to pull you across the water with a board under
Knot: speed of one nautical mile per hour. It is 1.852
Km per hour or 1.15 mph.
Larks head: knot used for attaching flying lines.
Lay line: an imaginary course on which you can sail
directly to your target without tacking.
Leader Lines: Short thicker lines from the control bar
to the flying lines. Used to keep the kiters fingers away from the flying
Leading edge, LE: the windward side of the kite, (the
forward edge that the wind hits first).
LEI, leading edge inflatable: an inflatable kite where
the leading edge (the forward side that the wind hits first) of the kite has
an inflated bladder.
Leech Line: a line that runs inside the trailing edge of
the kite to prevents vibration and noise.
Leeward. the direction away from the wind. Opposite of
Lift: when flying, a kite generates lift or upward force
like an airplane wing. Lift is proportional to the square of the apparent
Lift-to-drag ratio, L/D, LDR: a measure of the
efficiency of a kite. High L/D means the kite has a high top speed and flies
at a greater angle to the wind, which results most noticeably in sailing
more upwind (to windward) and faster possible board speeds. Kites are not as
efficient as sails, their L/D rarely exceeds 4.0 while a good yacht sail
manages 10 and sailplanes (gliders) get over 50.
Line Set (lines): the flying lines or strings which are
used to control the kite.
Locked in: sailing along with the kite is remaining
stationary in the sky relative to the rider - not moving the kite around but
just letting it fly steadily.
Luff: A kite luffs when the air flow stalls. It may then
stall and fall out of the sky. Luffing will occur if the kite gets too far
upwind of the kiter.
Naish: a manufacturer of inflatable kites, based in
Hawaii. Robby Naish is a legendary windsurfer and an early kite surfer.
Nautical Mile : Distance at sea is measured in nautical
miles, which is 1852 meters, 6067 feet, or 1.15 miles. Measurement of speed
at sea is always done in knots (nautical miles per hour).
North: A manufacturer of inflatable kites including the
Rhino and Toro.
Nosebone: a trick in which the rider, while in flight,
tucks one knee to the chest and extends the other leg straight out in front.
Nose line: a short line from the nose of the kite
(usually the pump leash attachment point) to the 5th line in 5 line kite
Off-shore wind: when the wind is blowing from the shore
towards the water.
Ollie: a trick where the rider pops the board into the
air by pushing down on their back foot and jumping up with their front foot
On-shore wind: when the wind is blowing from the water
towards the shore.
Parafoil: invented by parachute designer Domina Jalbert
in 1963, this is a kite which is based on the aerofoil wing shape and does
not require any rigid frame for flight. Can also be called ram-air, wing,
ram-jet, and paraglide.
Peter Lynn: a New Zealand manufacturer of kites
including the ARC, Waterfoil and C-Quad models.
PFD: personal flotation device, lifejacket.
Pig Tails: the 4 short lengths of line attached to the
kite where the 4 flying lines are tied.
Planing: is when the board is going fast enough to skim
across the surface of the water, as compared to pushing its way through the
Point of sail: The direction of a kiteboard or sailboat
relative to the wind. When you are sailing as much upwind as possible, your
point of sail is called close hauled. Other points of sail are called: close
reach, beam reach, and broad reach.
Pointing: going in a direction as upwind as possible. A
kite that points well is one that goes upwind at a better angle than others
(more directly into the wind).
Polyester: is the material used for the canopy of most
inflatable kites ..ripstop polyester of about 50 gram weight.
Port: The left side of a boat, from the perspective of a
person looking forward. The opposite of starboard.
Port tack: Sailing on a tack with the wind coming from
the port side (left side). You are normally kiting on port tack if your left
hand is forward.
Power Zone: the centre lower portion of the wind window
where the pull is strongest... (straight downwind of the kiter).
Profile: in an airfoil, the side view of the foil.
Projected area: The apparent area of a kite while it is
being flown, as opposed to when it is lying flat on the ground. The amount
of area that presents itself to the wind.
Pump Leash: a short line used to hook the air pump onto
the nose of the kite during pumping so the kite does not blow away.
Quad line, 4 line: Kite flown on four lines. Having 4
lines has the advantage of not only being able to steer left and right like
a dual line, but you can also adjust the AOA.
QR, Quick Release: a mechanism that will allow a kiter
to disconnect something when needed. For example, most modern kites now have
a QR to allow a kiter to disconnect the chicken loop in an emergency.
Rail: The edge of the board is the rail. A rounded edge
is a soft rail and a sharp edge is a hard rail.
Railey: a trick where a kiteboarder jumps in the air and
extends their body and swings the board behind them up over the level of
Ram Air Kite: Ram air foil kites have no rigid
structure. The shape of the kite is formed while flying. These kites have
shapes that are very close to airplane wings and therefore are the most
aerodynamic kites. These kites normally have a limited number of air intakes
and a one-way valve system to prevent the air from escaping, and are also
called closed cell foil kites.
Reaching: Sailing with the wind coming from the side
(sailing across the wind). If the wind is coming from directly from the
side, it is a beam reach. If the board is pointed more into the wind it is a
close reach. If the wind is coming more from behind, it is called a broad
Rebel: An SLE kite manufactured by North.
Relaunch: to start the kite flying again. It is
desirable to have a kite that the kitesurfer can relaunch from the water
after a fall.
Rhino, R2, R4: Rhino2 and Rhino4 are models of
inflatable kite manufactured by North.
Right-of-Way: A right-of-way boat has precedence over
others on conflicting courses and has the right to maintain its course.
Usually a boat on starboard tack has right of way over a boat on port tack.
Rigid kite: a kite such as a speedwing or delta whose
shape is mostly held by means of a rigid frame, eliminating the need for a
complex bridle. Most rigid kites are not water relaunchable.
Ripstop: Ripstop refers to the squares of reinforcing
fibers in the fabric which make it resistant to tearing. A rip in this
fabric will stop at one of the reinforcing fibers. Many kites use ripstop
polyester fabric in their canopy.
Recon: a kite control system used by Cabrinha that
allows easier water relaunching
Reel bar: a combination winding reel and control bar
used to wind up the kite flying lines.
Roast beef: a trick where a kiteboarder jumps and grabs
the heelside (back) of the board between his/her legs.
Rocker: the curve along the bottom of the board. The
amount that the nose and tail of the board are curved up. If a board has 4
cm of rocker, then the tip and tail are 4 cm higher than the middle of the
Shaper: is a board maker, who makes boards by hand or in
small production runs.
Shackle: a metal clip mechanism than can be used to
connect something and also to release it when activated. Some kiters use a
schackle on their spreader bar to connect their chicken loop.
Shift System: A 5 line kite control system used on some
Sheeting out/in: Sheeting out decreases the tension on
the lines that lead to the edge of the kite to decrease the angle of attack
(AOA) and lower the kite's power. Sheeting in has the opposite effect.
Sheeting is not possible on a 2 line kite.
Shroud Lines: Bridle lines are sometimes called shroud
Side-Shore: when the wind is blowing parallel to the
shore line (along the beach). This is desirable for kitesurfing.
Sine wave: flying the kite up and down at the edge of
the wind window (which creates a sine wave pattern) to generate more power
with apparent wind.
Sining: Sining the kite means moving it in a sine wave
pattern (up and down) to generate apparent wind and increase it's power.
Sleeving: short protective sleeve which covers the ends
of a line and helps to prevent wear.
Slick: Flat smooth water.
Slingshot: A manufacturer of inflatable kites including
the Fuel model.
Slogging: moving along slowly with the board not fully
Snap shackle: a metal shackle that can be opened by
pulling on a release mechanism.
Span: the kite width, the size of the kite measured at
right angles to the wind. Usually the longest dimension of a kite.
Spar: the sticks used as the frame of a kite. A batten
is a spar.
Spectra®: Also known as Dyneema in Europe. It
is the standard for flying lines. It is slippery and will allow multiple
line wraps without loosing kite control.
Spin: a kitesurfing trick where the kiter rotates one or
more times during a jump. A spin is when the rider and board rotate around
on a vertical axis. A spin can be either a forward or backward rotation.
Spinout: when a board's fins lose "grip" on the water or
stalls, causing the tail to slide sideways.
Splice: the place where two lines are joined together. A
splice usually refers to a smooth join of two lines without using a knot.
The end of one line is interlaced or runs through the core of another.
Spreader bar: the metal bar that is on the front of a
kiters harness. It usually has a hook for holding the harness line or
Stall: a kite stalls when the air flow past it becomes
detached from the kite surface and becomes turbulent. A stalled kite loses
lift and falls.
Starboard: The right side of a boat, from the
perspective of a person looking forward. The opposite of port.
Starboard tack: Sailing on a tack with the wind coming
from the starboard side (right side). You are normally kiting on starboard
tack if your right hand is forward.
Stretch: the amount a line momentarily lengthens when
pulled. Spectra has very low stretch, kevlar has slightly more, nylon has a
lot. Stretch affects responsiveness and size of control movements.
Struts: term used to refer to the inflatable battens in
an inflatable kite. There are several body struts and one leading edge strut
that hold the shape of an inflatable kite.
Table top: A flashy move that can be done while jumping.
Hanging more or less upside down with your board out flat above you like a
Tack: The direction which is being sailed, normally
either starboard tack or port tack. Also: To change direction, by turning
upwind. As opposed to a jibe which is done by turning downwind.
Teabagging: the rider is frequently being lifted and
then falling back into the water due to wind, like a human teabag being
Thermal wind: cold air over the ocean and warm air over
the land result in a pressure differential that causes wind. Thermal wind is
often quite steady.
Toeside: to ride a board on the edge where your toes are
(opposite of heelside). This is the same technique as in snowboarding.
Traction kite: any kite big enough to pull a vehicle on
land, snow, ice or water. This type of kite is called traction kite.
Trailing edge, TE: the back edge of the kite running
between the wing tips. Can also be called a leech. The trailing edge may
have a leech line sewn in.
Trim line: in a 4 line inflatable kite is a the line
that goes from the loop at the center of the control bar (chicken loop) to
the two flying lines connected to the front of the kite. Adjusting its
length adjusts the "trim" or angle of attack (AoA) of the kite. Changing
this adjustment can increase the AoA for more lift or decreasing the AoA for
Trim loop: a loop used in most 4 line kites located at
the centre of the control bar and used to adjust the kites AoA, thereby
depowering the kite. Also called 'chicken loop'.
True wind: The wind as felt by something that is not
Twin tip, TT: a board that rides equally well in either
direction, like a wakeboard. A TT is usually smaller than a directional
board in size. A twin tip is typically 110 to 160 cm in length and is
symetrical (has no front and back end).
Unhooked, hooked out: the control bar is not connected
to the harness, the rider is bearing the full force of the kite with his
Upwind: to windward, in the direction toward where the
wind comes from.
Wakeboard: a wakeboard can be used as a kite board. It
usually has 2 boots fixed on it like a snowboard. A wakeboard is typically
140 to 150 cm in length. Most production wakeboards do not have the ideal
rocker (shape) for kitesurfing.
Water start: starting in deep water by lying on your
back and letting the kite pull you up onto your board. Like a water ski
start or a windsurfer water start.
Wave ride: to surf a wave like a surfer while kiting.
Wind range: used to describe the range of wind speed
that a kite will fly well in. Usually given in knots.
Wind Window: the air space in which the kite can fly,
shaped like a quarter of a sphere. For all practical purposes, the wind
window is the area you can see with your eyes when you are facing straight
down wind (90 degrees to the left, 90 degrees to the right, and straight
Windward: in the direction toward the wind. Opposite of
Wing: a term used sometimes for a kite or any other
Wing Span: the widest measurement of a kite often taken
from wingtip to wingtip
Wipika: a French manufacturer of the original inflatable
(bladder) kite developed by the legendary kite boarding pioneers, Dominique
and Bruno Legaignoux. Theirs was the first practical water relaunchable
Working the kite: making figure eights or sine patterns
with the kite to generate more power by increasing apparent wind on the
kite. In light winds it helps to really work the kite.
Wrist Leash: a safety leash attached to your wrist to
allow you to depower the kite when you let go of the control bar. Then you
can retrieve the control bar and your kite. When the control bar falls out
of your hands, the wrist leash pulls on one line causing the kite to flatten
out and depower.
X2, X3, X4: are models of inflatable kites manufactured
Zenith: the highest point in the sky directly overhead
Picture by Roberto Desideri