The whole C vs. bow kite debate has been raging on beaches for the past few years and now, with the addition of hybrids and delta wing kites, it has become even harder for the beginner to work out which kite they should be riding after their kitesurfing lessons.
A C kite is the ‘original’ kite, its what we old timers learnt on and you’ll still a few around generally ridden by die hard kiters who learned on them and have ridden them their whole kitesurfing career. C kites are recognisable by their exaggerated C shape and their lack of a bridle. They are a dying breed, when I first arrived in Tarifa 5 years ago C kites were the only thing you’d see on the water, having just got back from a session now I counted 1 C kite on the water, the rest being bows and I suspect that’s because the guy picked it up that 1 cheap from eBay. The reason bow kites now enjoy market dominance is summed up in one word…de-power. A bow kite will de-power almost 100% when you let the bar out, this has several obvious advantages; The first and most crucial of these is safety, if you mess something up and find your kite in the power zone and about to send you skyward against your will, simply by letting go of the bar you can release all the power and stay in control, avoiding that ‘oh sh*t’ moment and saving your style on the beach! Kitesurfing insurance used to be a step above other water sports because of the high risk factor, now, due to bow kites, most insurers class kitesurfing in the same class as windsurfing, which for me says it all. In short if you find yourself taking your kitesurfing lessons on C kites its probably worthwhile asking your instructor why.
There are other less obvious advantages to bow kites as-well. Buying bow kites will actually save you money! Due to their massive de-power they have a huge wind range (that means they can provide pull over a much larger difference of wind i.e. 8 – 20 knots as opposed to 8-12 knots) because of this it means that many people now ride with a 2 kite quiver whereas with C kites, 4 even 5 kite quivers are more the norm, that’s a saving of cash, storage space and brain power when it comes to deciding which kite to put up on a particular day! Most schools will have a supply of Bow kites in their inventory and should be able to do a deal on one after your kitesurfing lessons.
Bow kites relaunch easier, in fact many now relaunch so easily that they relaunch themselves when your not watching! Oh and for the fashion conscious out there, they look pretty as-well!!
Now that I’ve completed the character assassination of the C kite I’ll talk about the different type of bow kites. Bow kites have branched into 3 main types pure bow, hybrid and delta shape. To be perfectly honest the difference between a hybrid kite and a bow kite is now so blurry that there really isn’t any difference at all. Originally hybrid kites were designed to be C kites with lots of depower but over the last few years the term has been bandied around so much its lost a lot of its meaning and kites which would once have been described as bow are now being called hybrid and vice versa. My personal opinion is that hybrid is now simply a marketing term used by manufacturers to ensure their kite appeals to die hard C kiters and the newer generation raised on bow kites. Delta wing kites are the latest craze at the moment, you’ll recognise these kites by the swept back wing tips (think of Tom Cruise in Top Gun when he sweeps back the wings of his F-14…Yeehaa Jesters dead, etc…etc..!!!) anyway these kites tend to turn faster and with more power than their bow style counterparts, as with all things its success will be decided by the market and its too early to say just yet but here in Tarifa they’re quickly becoming a much more common sight on the beach and could be the shape of things to come.
You’ll most likely spend your first days and your kitesurfing lessons on bow kites, that said if you do get the chance to try a C kite, jump at it. They really are worth a try…even if only to make you realise how comfortable your Bow kite is!!