Hotter speed and turning than competition kites. Higher-quality exercise and livelier pull than power kites.
WindDances are "airgear," a new concept. They fly better and feel more exciting than typical stunt kites.
Our other advancements: Ergo T-handles that boost feel, control, exercise. Natural active FLY-a-kite skill.
WindDance review by Kite Lines magazineThe review Our comments
©1999 Æolus Press, Inc., publisher of Kite Lines magazine, the international kite journal, P.O. Box 466, Randallstown, MD 21133-0466, USA. Used with permission. Spring 1999, Vol.13, No.1
WindDance by Seattle AirGear
Soft fliers for travel fun
Stunt kiting has moved in the direction of radical performance and "slack-line maneuvers." But Seattle AirGear wants to bring us back to a time when kites pulled hard and we maneuvered them through our own vigorous pulls on the lines. These three new, dual-line soft wings, designed for stunting, not traction, will turn on a dime, scream across the sky and pack into small bags easy to take anywhere for impulse flying.
All three kites are based on the same basic design, differing in the number of cells across the span. Sails are 1.5-oz ripstop nylon, and every conceivable stress point has been reinforced. Cell openings are edge bound and bridled ribs have a strip of material zig-zagging down their length to spread pressure. In fact, the WindDance kites are so well built they can withstand a power dive into the ground at the center of the window -- an action often devastating to other stuntable parafoils.
The kites also feature a polyester cross-bridle with a simple method of bridle adjustment. Each of the two bridle points has an adjustment line which is fastened to the towpoint loop by a sheetbend hitch. By moving this hitch, the flyer adjusts the flight characteristics.
To prevent bridle tangles during storage, each WindDance also has loops sewn on the trailing edge to which each leg of the bridle may be larksheaded -- a much appreciated feature. These loops also double as tail attachment points, and tails can be used for show or to help slow down and reduce the pull of the kites.
We flew all three kites on the manufacturer's recommended 75-foot, 90-pound Spectra lines, in winds ranging from 3 to 15 mph. The lines held up in moderate winds even with the largest WindDance 3, but we suggest heavier lines for both the 2 and 3 in winds much higher.
Edge work proved a risky business with all of these kites. Flying too quickly to the window extremes tended to turn the kites onto their backs. But we soon found it was possible to approach the edge gently, and once there do all sorts of fun things, including tip stands and other ground work.
All three kites launched easily, as long as we carried a ground stake and had some method to weigh down the trailing edge of the kite, such as a line bag, to prevent an inadvertent launch or roll while we walked back to the handles.
The baby of the series is the fastest and tightest turning. It was an absolute blast in medium to high winds, able to recover from almost any sort of tangle, flip or fall. This kite pulled lightly even in high winds and made sharp, angular turns. With its low pull, it would even be suitable for children to fly, a good kite on which to learn two-line skills.
The mid-size model performed much like the 1 in terms of its turn speed, and angular turns were similarly possible. While not quite so fast across the window, it was still a spry kite, recovering from most in-air mishaps or crashes into the ground. The pull was significantly stronger, however.
The largest kite's additional cells give it a higher aspect ratio, producing a noticeable effect on flight and recovery. Turns and forward flight were slower, and we could not match the crisp angles possible with the 1 and 2. We almost always had to walk to the kite to reset it for launch after a crash or midair tangle. The kite pulled quite hard, and should be flown by adults. The good news however: This kite flew in surprisingly light winds, given the weight of the canopy.
Overall, we were impressed with this series of kites. They are well-made, fun to fly and great for travel.
-- Jeff Burka
DATA CHART Name of kite WindDance 1 WindDance 2 WindDance 3 Manufacturer Seattle Air Seattle Air Seattle Air Sgstd Retail Price $89 $119 $139 Sail Material RN RN RN L'ding Edge Material n/a n/a n/a Framing Material n/a n/a n/a Fittings n/a n/a n/a Dimensions 5'6" x 22.4" 6'11" x 22.4" 8'4" x 22.4" Sail Depth at stand-offs n/a n/a n/a Sail Area 8.8 sq ft 11.4 sq ft 14.1 sq ft Weight (oz.) 5.5 7.0 8.5 Suggested Wind (mph) 4-30 3.5-30 3-30 Suggested Lines (lbs) 150 150 200 Skill Level Required N N N Assembly (minutes) 1 1 1 Launch/Relaunch E VG G Landing/Ground Work G G G Responsiveness E E G Ability to dwell n/a n/a n/a Straight Speed F F M Speed in Turns F F M Precision/Tracking E E E Amount of Pull L M H Amount of Noise Sl Sl Sl Visual/Graphics VG VG VG Workmanship E E E Portability E E E Durability E E E NOTES: Retail price (in US dollars) is as "advertised" or "suggested." Wind range (mph) covers minimum and maximum speeds deemed suitable by our evaluators. Dimensions are in the following order: width x height. Measurements and (usually) drawings are made with the kite standing on the floor facing the viewer. Materials: RN-Ripstop Nylon, RP-Ripstop Polyester, DT-Dacron Tape, WD-Wooden Dowels, B-Bamboo, FG-Fiberglass, GR-Graphite, EP-Epoxy, CF-Carbon Fiber, PRF-Prizmafilm, r-Rods, t-Tubes, MP-Molded Plastic, V-Vinyl. Speed: SL-Slow, M-Medium, F-Fast. Skill levels: N-Novice, I-Intermediate, SK-Skilled. Pull: L-Low, M-Medium, H-High. Noise: Sl-Silent, L-Low, M-Medium, H-High. Other Ratings: P-Poor, A-Acceptable, G-Good, VG-Very Good, E-Excellent, n/a-not applicable.
Our comments, thumbs-down and thumbs-up. We use the review, and our remarks, to shed light on how much fun sport-kiting can be -- and on what's preventing a lot of that fun from happening.
- The public expects a kite magazine to award top billing to the kites that FLY best. The public is mistaken. It doesn't know about organized kiting or the kite culture that drives it.
"Stunt kiting has moved in the direction of radical performance and "slack-line maneuvers." But Seattle AirGear wants to bring us back to a time when [we actually FLEW our stunt kites with exciting speed and turning and pull]."
That's the kite culture speaking, where FLYING a kite is no longer the point of kite flying. What's the new way of flying? Un-fly your kite and do all sorts of non-flying tricks such as flipping it in the air and tumbling it on the ground. That kite-culture trend toward less-and-less FLYING performance and more-and-more difficulty began around 1990.
Stunt kiting by the general public has not moved in that direction. People buy sport kites to FLY them. FLYING a kite is the whole point of kite flying. The higher the FLYING performance and the easier it is, the better. Outside of organized kiting it's been that way all along.
Although the kite culture loves trick flying, does the general public care for it? No.
In that issue of Kite Lines Magazine, several kites are reviewed. Two contrast sharply:
- A trick kite by a celebrity designer is "designed to be "killed"": un-flown into a non-flying state with abrupt-&-jerky advanced skill. It doesn't FLY well. It is difficult to fly.
- WindDances are aeronautical-engineered and built to be FLOWN. They FLY with astonishing acceleration, speed, turning, and liveliness, all in response to the wind and to your basic skill. They are easy to fly.
A sport kite for hot tricking with poor FLYING performance. Sport kites for hot FLYING with poor tricking performance. Kite Lines chose the trick kite -- the one that doesn't FLY well -- to lead the reviews.
- WindDances are considerably more than what the review portrays.
Rather than presenting WindDances as what they actually are -- as new sport-kite technology with the exceptional qualities described on this website -- the review pigeonholed WindDances into a kite-culture-stereotype slot.
The kite culture stereotypes all dual-line parafoils as "power kites" or "compact kites." Since WindDances are not power kites, Kite Lines put them into the "soft-kite-for-travel" slot. See the heading and conclusion.
What are WindDances? They're speed & turning fun machines. And airborne exercise machines.
They're superior-performance, easier-to-fly replacements for delta sport kites for flyers who are into FLYING. They're also superior-exercise replacements for power kites.
Except for pointing out some of the speed and turning and fun, the review did not capture that essence.
- WindDance parafoils are new state-of-the-art -- in sport-kite technology, and in FLYING performance and handling. WindDances out-FLY other parafoils in the three essential ways. They also out-FLY deltas in the three essential ways.
WindDances are so different they're a new class of sport kite. No other dual-line kites, delta or parafoil, have such high overall FLYING performance and versatility.
WindDances enable WindDancing, a new and different class of sport kiting: Easy, fun-recreational, healthful-exercise, high-performance, sport-kite FLYING. Hotter speed & turning, and lots easier, than delta-kite trick & competition flying. Better exercise, too. More speed-&-turning thrill, and higher-quality exercise, than power flying. And far livelier pull.
Total all this up and you begin to see our huge advance in the state-of-the-art. A newsworthy achievement. But nothing about any of this was mentioned in the review.
The 1999 Into The Wind catalog at least partially recognizes what we did, "WindDance -- the next step in foils."
- The relative-speed results -- "straight speed" and "speed in turns" -- are incorrect. But the results are exactly in line with the kite culture's expectations of speed.
When you tune WindDances for maximum speed by adjusting the bridle, the WindDance 3 is faster than the WindDance 2, which is faster than the WindDance 1. Faster "straight speed" and faster "speed in turns." That is, the larger WindDance models are faster than the smaller ones. We always see this when we WindDance side-by-side. The opposite of other kites.
These unique relative-speed characteristics are described in the user's manual -- and in our advertising fliers, video, web site, and kite-magazine ads including our ad in the review issue. The user's manual describes how to tune for maximum speed.
Considering all that, the evaluators should have been fully aware of WindDance relative-speed characteristics, and they should have tuned all three WindDances for top speed. Like how testers for car magazines tune the vehicles to perfection first before they put them through their paces.
About actual speed: For delta and parafoil kites, the larger the kite the slower it flies. Why? Larger kites distort out of shape more, which causes them to lose more speed. WindDances are not like that. More info about actual speed.
About apparent speed: A smaller kite appears to fly faster than a larger kite that flies at the same speed. That appearance of greater speed is an illusion. More info about illusion of speed.
Why did the Kite Lines evaluators get the wrong results? Either they didn't tune the WindDances. And/or their judgments were colored by the above kite-culture stereotypes of speed.
- "Flying . . . to the window extremes tended to turn the kites onto their backs." Turbulent wind's fluctuating wind direction, when the wind suddenly strikes against the top of the wing, certainly does that. But we discovered WindDances often collapsed at the edge when experienced delta-kite flyers flew them in smooth wind. Why? They failed to use sport-kite FLYING skill: pull to make it FLY. When the WindDance needed a tiny bit of pull to keep it FLYING, they just stood there like a post and let their lines slacken and the WindDance collapse.
As you fly directly toward the edge, the pull becomes very low -- sometimes so low, especially in light winds, there's not enough pull to keep it FLYING. To keep it FLYING, you merely sense the declining pull or loss of pull, and then you apply the few ounces of pull needed to keep it airborne.
Those delta-kite flyers we witnessed having difficulty with WindDances flew by sight and not by feel -- the way the kite culture taught thousands to fly in the 1990s. They did not sense the declining pull or apply the few necessary ounces of pull to keep it aloft. We suspect this happened to the Kite Lines evaluators on their first WindDance flights.
At a kite festival an old-timer remarked, "Isn't it a pity that nobody feels what their kite is doing anymore?" Yes it is. It's all by sight now. The preferred control handles, wrist-straps, dull your feel and control -- you simply cannot feel as well with the backs of your hands as you can with the palm side of your hands and fingers. Our new ergonomically-correct T-handles do enhance feel and control, but the kite culture doesn't care for them. Suppose sports fishermen didn't bother to feel for nibbles or strikes, or pull when they hooked a fish. Most advanced sport kiters fly like that. Suppose you controlled your sports car strictly by sight. On a slippery road you would not sense the subtle early onset of a skid. You would let the skid develop until you saw it happening in a big way, too late for a recovery. This is what sport kiting has come to in the past decade -- and the review reflects it.
Do WindDances tend to collapse at the edge? "Unusually stable at the edge (where they handle more like deltas than foils)," states the 1999 Into The Wind catalog.
- We had hoped for more depth. Including an evaluation of how well they FLY in the three essential ways. And evaluation of other performance & handling qualities including pull-liveliness and exercise qualities. Nada.
- When you FLY a precision-tuned WindDance using basic skill, you experience a symphony of exciting visual and tactile sensations. Slow to very-hot accelerations. Low to very-high speeds. Wide slow turns to very-tight, very-fast turns & spins. Even the fastest, sharpest moves are smooth and graceful in the sky due to the perfect tracking: no understeer/oversteer, no skidding, no wobbling after sharp corners. Accompanied by nibbles and strikes as you feel every ripple and bump in the wind. Pull that rises 2,000% from almost nothing to awesome as you accelerate from the edge to the power-zone in one to three seconds. Jolts of pull that suddenly yank you off your feet when gusts hit. Pull that rises when you turn, which makes your body burn after several hundred fun-inspired turns -- even in light wind. That acceleration, speed, turning speed & sharpness, and pull constantly fluctuate as you WindDance all over the flight envelope, including in steady wind.
With other dual-line kites, the visual and tactile sensations are dullsville in comparison.
In the review, there's nothing about the extraordinary acceleration and its sharply-rising pull. Or how the small WindDance 1 can pull more strongly than the large WindDance 3. Nothing about how the pull rises when you turn, important for easy learning, positive control, and receiving good exercise while having loads of speed & turning fun. Nothing about how alive a WindDance feels through its flying lines. The only mention about pull? Low for the smallest model, medium for the middle one, high for the largest. Like an arts critic describing a concert of three symphonies as soft, medium, and loud, period.
The review didn't even hint at the wide spectrums of visual and physical enjoyment unique to WindDancing.
- We had hoped for our WindDances to be subjected to the full power of basic FLYING skill, to be subjected to Kite-FLYING Test #1. It's an easy test: merely pull-turn energetically.
Pull strongly and far on one flying line and let the other go slack. Pull strongly to apply power and speed, but only on one line to funnel all that power and speed into a sustained sharpest-possible and fastest-possible spin.
It's just a test of "pull = speed = FLYING" while turning hard. Simply pull hard on one kite line. Kids can do it. A good dual-line kite will respond with fast powerful turning to that basic turning skill.
The sports-car equivalent? Crank the wheel all the way over and stomp on the gas. With a sport kite specifically engineered for FLYING there's no skidding at all, just incredibly fast & tight & powerful turning.
This essential FLYING test is not in the review.
How come? Extremely few dual-line kites can withstand, or respond well to, energetic basic pull-turning skill. That is, extremely few dual-line kites can pass Kite-FLYING Test #1 (WindDances pass with flying colors, and so did the deltas we developed years ago). That's why powerful pull-turning is something most good flyers don't do. Within the kite culture, that essential basic FLYING skill is not expected of kites or of flyers.
Although our sport kites just love to be turned sharply and fast and powerfully, the testers didn't crank the wheel all the way over and stomp on the gas to extract that all hot performance we carefully aeronautically engineered into them.
Would a car magazine not peak-tune it, and hold back on turning the wheel and stepping on the gas, when testing a hot next-generation sports car?
- We wish they hadn't truncated our company name in the data chart. Although "Air" is more accurate -- a WindDance is 99.99% air and 0.01% gear by volume when FLYING -- we would have preferred "AirGear."
- The data chart's fine print assures readers that the prices are Suggested Retail Prices, which we supplied. But the prices shown are discounted prices. This will hurt most of our dealers.
- Except for the "Air" and price errors, all the thumbs-down items above are not the fault of Kite Lines Magazine. They are a reflection of the kite culture -- and its misconceptions, prejudices, and pressures -- the magazine is immersed in and subjected to. Kite Lines was as accurate and fair as it could be.
In fact, as described in "Thumbs-up" below, Kite Lines rose up and acted counter to the kite culture by presenting WindDances far more accurately and fairly than most kite retailers care to.
- "These three new, dual-line soft wings [are] designed for stunting, not traction . . . " Bravo for helping to dispel the power-kite/traction-kite stereotype about parafoils.
- We like the responsible recommendations about how the WindDance 1 is suitable for children and the WindDance 3 for adults only. How smaller is often better.
For some, it's a trick kite for dad and a WindDance 3 for the little 8-yr-old. Pure insanity.
For many of us older kids also, especially for brisk wind, smaller is better because of the tighter aerobatics and lower pull so the fun can last longer!
- We like the correct assessment of how easy they are to fly: novice skill for all three models.
- And the good marks for fast assembly, and ease of launching and relaunching.
- We like the nice mention of the easy bridle adjustment, and the anti-tangle feature.
- We like the praise about our overkill construction, excellent workmanship, and excellent strength and durability.
- And the high marks on how cool they look in the air.
- We sure like the FLYING performance judgments. Responsiveness, excellent! Straight speed, fast! Speed in turns, fast! Precision/tracking, excellent!
That's better overall performance than most delta sport kites!
- Above all, we appreciate the raves about how much fun WindDances are to FLY!
"These three new, dual-line soft wings . . . will turn on a dime, [and] scream across the sky . . . " " . . . an absolute blast . . . "
Some background about why we appreciate this so strongly. In our dealings with the kite culture since early 1997, here's what we encountered: Many kite retailers, and many delta-kite flyers, behaved as if FLYING a sport kite with hot speed and turning, dazzling aerobatic agility, and exciting lively pull is something to be avoided. Is something beneath them. Is something that's no fun. Especially if it's a parafoil because deltas are considered the ultimate. "What are WindDances for?" asked a trick flyer. "For FLYING," we replied. "An interesting new concept," he remarked. Tricks are where it's at. FLYING is passé.
After experiencing all that, these raves came as a breath of fresh air!
Here's what makes it really special! The reviewer is a trick flyer! Who likes to FLY!
- We thank Kite Lines Magazine for a good review. And for taking a bold step . . .
When we sent that video to 300 kite retailers in North America in July-98, we expected our sales to skyrocket. Instead, they immediately plunged by about 80%. Why? Retailers had been selling WindDances as kite-culture-stereotype parafoils, as considerably less than what they are, in violation of their Kite Trade Association International Code of Ethics. WindDances are Corvettes for speed & turning fun, but they sold them as Chevy trucks for pulling things. Having not believed our advertising, or read the user's manual, or flown them at full performance, they thought they were Chevies and wanted them to be Chevies. The video suddenly blew away that misconception. The video shows WindDances performing as advertised, as hot aerial sports cars -- better than other parafoils and better than delta sport kites -- and they didn't like that. We were boycotted because WindDances are good.
With help from our bank to get set up for credit-card retailing via the internet, we quickly recovered.
If we had a video ready for kite retailers when our first WindDance shipment arrived in early 1997, there would be no Seattle AirGear today.
What do most kite retailers, and most flyers in the kite culture, prefer in a parafoil? One that pulls well, but FLIES poorly in the three essential ways. They like new variations of the same old thing that keep failing Kite-FLYING Test #1. Why do those new products keep failing this vital test? Because half the bridle is missing: no "cross bridling." That's fine for paragliders, and miniature paragliders such as quad-line power/traction kites, but it simply doesn't work for dual-line parafoils. Many go gaga over the new parafoils that lose wing shape and FLYING performance when you pull-turn them, especially when the wing collapses. That FLYING defect is even packaged as a selling point, as "trickability" and "fun." For the kite culture, parafoils must have "culturally-correct" low-&-faulty performance otherwise they're not accepted: since delta 'performance' kites are hyped as the ultimate, parafoils cannot and dare not outshine deltas. One of our dealers suggested that we consider reducing WindDance performance to achieve stronger sales to kite people. Kite retailers gladly sell the low-performance parafoils the kite culture prefers. But most will not ALSO sell the easy-to-fly high-performance healthy-exercise parafoils the general public prefers. Here's an example of such a retailer. Folks outside of organized kiting find this truly, truly bizarre.
Care to witness the prejudice against parafoils that FLY really well? Visit your nearest kite shop and ask to see the WindDance video's "WindDance 1 at play" sections (they have one: we sent a video to every kite shop in North America, and if they don't have it anymore have them download the "WindDance 1 at play" MPEG clip from our web site). While viewing it in the presence of the owner or manager, speak your mind about what you see: "Look at that hot acceleration, that speed! How it zips across and up and down the envelope in an instant! Look at those incredible sharp and snappy turns! That perfect tracking! Look at how the wing always keeps its shape, like it's a rigid kite and not a soft kite, even during those fast spin-on-a-wingtip down-turns at the edge! No delta kites fly that well! And it's all done with basic pull-on-your-kite-line skill that anybody can learn fast! See those high-speed crashes and quick relaunches? A framed kite would be destroyed! WOW! What fun! How can serious flyers, like yourself, NOT truly enjoy this? Why aren't you selling this amazing new form of fun to everybody in sight? Don't you want to sell something that's really good? Don't you want to sell to the public? Don't you want to make money?" Most retailers will squirm. Some will fume. A few may explode. So be sure to keep smiling.
Why is organized kiting behaving like this? During the 1999 KTAI (Kite Trade Association International) show at Clearwater, FL, a seasoned non-sport-kite exhibitor saw how well WindDances FLY, bought a WindDance 1 & 2 for himself (other such exhibitors did too), and explained what's happening: "The kite culture is resisting WindDances like the horse culture resisted the automobile."
During the 1999 trade show and kite festival that preceded it, our WindDancing on Clearwater-area beaches attracted attention from many people who ranged from young teens to couples to families to grandparents.
That's how the general public reacted -- and kite retailers clearly saw it.
But reaction from the kite culture was totally different.
During the kite festival, serious flyers kept their distance. During the trade show's on-the-beach demo sessions for retailers, most kite retailers stayed far away from our WindDances. Those who walked by usually averted their eyes from us and from our spectacular-performing aerial Ferraris.
The 1999 KTAI trade show cost us $3000. Less than 150 retailers from around the world came to see the exhibited kites and accessories. Most of them shunned WindDances, preferring sport kites that don't satisfy the public as well. We picked up one new dealer account.
We had hoped that in sunny Florida the kite culture would be more sensible like the general public. It seems the kite culture is the same everywhere.
We hope nothing befalls Kite Lines for verifying our video's message -- that our parafoils are easy and hot and pure joy to FLY.
Our first WindDance review? Shortly after we received our first WindDance shipment, during a friendly May-97 fly on Seattle's Kite Hill a delta-kite trick-flying celebrity deliberately flew our demo poorly. He expertly made our WindDance 2 look like a terrible kite that no one would want to buy. We took it as a supreme compliment. At the time we hadn't a clue it would be a typical kite-culture reaction.
Our second review? In July-97 on a Pacific Ocean beach here in Washington State, we proudly flew our first production WindDances at their first kite festival. Bystanders, including the folks and kids we quickly taught how to fly, sure liked our WindDances! So did flyers who are not in the kite culture! But nearly everyone entrenched in the kite culture gave us the cold shoulder. It's been this way at all kite festivals and KTAI trade shows we've attended so far in CA, FL, OR, and WA.
When Kite Lines Magazine -- a kite-culture institution -- offered to review our kites, see why we were a little apprehensive? See why we consider their good review an act of daring for the good of "kite FLYING?"
WindDance dual-line parafoil stunt kites/sport kites are developed, sold, and backed by Seattle AirGear.
WindDance, WindDancing, Seattle AirGear, and AirGear are trademarks of Seattle AirGear.
Copyright © 1995-2017 Seattle AirGear.
This page last revised Oct-11-1999