INFLATABLE (LEI) KITE TIPS
Self Launching an Inflatable Kite
First of all, you should launch with assistance, but sometimes, the conditions are so perfect and your friends are working....you gotta get out there. This is a fairly easy process, but should be practiced in light winds with the assistance of a friend. When setting up, you should run your lines perpendicular to the wind from the kite, so the kite will be launched at the edge of the window, where its safest. After the kite is entirely inflated and the lines are attached, you need to place it so that it can be launched when the lines are pulled tight. You need to make sure to secure the kite so that it will not catch any wind before the lines are pulled, otherwise you will be chasing it down the beach. Place the kite on it's back, with the leading edge bladder facing into the wind. As you do this, you want to make sure you are holding onto the upwind edge of the kite. The kite will bend and flop a bunch, so you need to have a good amount of sand on the folded-over tip to hold it down. Fold the upwind edge over and place a huge amount of sand on the fold. It is important that you make sure the sand is only on the folded over part and not on the inside of the kite, or it will not launch when you pull the lines tight. Once the lines are tugged, the folder portion will lift and the sand will slide off easily. After you have enough sand to hold the kite in place, walk back to your bar and attach all the necessary safety leashes. When you are ready, slowly walk backwards until the lines pull tight. When the lines pull, the edge of the kite closest to you, which is folded over, should unfold and release all the sand. Your kite will be at the edge when this happens, but still be ready for some pulling from the kite, but it should be okay. The kite will quickly lift off the ground - keep it to the edge of the window bringing it up slowly to zenith where you can set up and walk out to the water. Always pay attention to your kite while you're on land. Refer to the image below for a visual representation of the instructions.
Self Landing an Inflatable Kite
This is pretty difficult and should only be practiced in light winds! You should always land the kite with someone helping grab it out of the air after you fly it the the edge of the window and let it hover a few feet over the ground. However, if you need to land alone....you should first self land the kite into the water, with you on land, so the kite won't get damaged. Just fly it to the edge of the window, in shallow water where waves won't crash into it, and deploy the leash.
If you must self land on hard ground, fly the kite to the very edge of the window and start slowly lowering it down to the ground. Set the kite so that the bottom edge is resting on the ground. Once you feel that you have good control, take a couple steps towards the kite while quickly pulling in on the top lines. This will cause the front of the kite to fall towards you and position itself face down pointing directly into the wind. Be ready for the kite to try and climb back into the air. If this happens, either drop the kite and let the safety line do it's job or quickly grab the bar to reset and try again. Remember, practice this one in very light winds!
Another technique is to fly the kite to a position about 20 feet above the ground with the leashed line located at the upper side of the kite. It does matter if its a front or rear-line leash. You want the leash on the front (middle) line - the leash line is pictured as the dashed blue line. With the kite in this position, shorten your chicken loop/trim strap to depower the kite to its least powerful setting. At this point you will unhook. You want to steer the kite quickly toward the ground, and as the kite is making its turn and the LE is almost pointing straight down, you want to simultaneously deploy the leash and run backwards, pulling on the leashed line. This will pull on that upper wingtip that is closer to you to position the kite LE down pointing into the wind and it should land in a dormant position in the sand - as shown in the diagram to the left. Then, holding the one leash line, walk to the kite quickly and secure it with sand.
IMPORTANT: If your leash is attached to the rear line, another method is to land the kite using the above method but instead of using the leash line... grab the front line and pull on it as you walk backward and the kite will lay out into a dormant position. All these techniques should be practiced first in light winds! Keep in mind if you screw it up the kite could get damaged or the lines could get tangled around the kite, or you, if the kite tumbles downwind!! Make sure the downwind recovery area is clear of obstacles and people and only attempt if you are willing to risk damage to the kite, or getting dragged.
SECURE THE KITE: once the kite is on the ground, simply throw a few handfuls of sand on the kite material on either side of the center strut so it sits on the kite behind the leading edge bladder holding it down and preventing the wind from blowing it up and down the beach.
LAUNCH THE KITE: When ready to launch, to remove the sand, just pinch the material above the sand with your fingers and lift, and the sand will slide right off the front of the kite, allowing you to easily lift the kite and position it for launch - helping a friend, or solo. You don't even have to bend down doing this. Too many riders pick up the kite and try to shake the sand off the back of the kite. Just lift up the middle strut and it will slide forward off the kite.
Water Re-Launching an Inflatable Kite
This at first appears pretty difficult and should be practiced in shallow waters first. If you crash your kite in the water, and its nose down directly downwind, the easiest way to re-lanch the inflatable kite is to pull in on the front lines and the bar, then drop the bar and swim toward the kite quickly while pulling the front lines (as if you're in deep water which will most likely be the case when it happens for real). It helps to shorten your chicken loop adjustment strap or cleat as much as possible first. This lets the rears go slack while pulling the fronts tight. If this is done properly, the kite will flip on its back, since the water and the lines will hold the LE in position and the wind should push on the kite material, forcing the TE of the kite to fall backward. Once this is done, almost all inflatables will actually work themselves to one side of the wind window in a position for re-launch on their own. Just leave the bar alone and the kite should form the C-arc at the edge of the window in about a minute. You can assist the kite by pulling on either side's rear line, and with experience you will learn to accomplish this more quickly. Keep the bar away from you as the kite slowly moves to one side. If you sheet the bar in, the kite wants to move more quickly and the drag from the water may make it flip back down LE into the water. This makes you start over. You need at least 10 mph to water re-launch a kite with this method. If the wind is too light, it will usually not push the TE back to set up the launch no matter how hard you swim. This is a perfect case for the 5th line chicken loop to help this process.
Drift Launching Inflatable
If you don't have enough room to do a normal launch, you can set up the kite next to the water, attach your lines, and walk out into the water with your board. If you have to swim at some point, go ahead and swim out a bit until your lines can get tight without any interference from trees or the shore.
Set up the kite on shore with the bar hooked up to the kite. Wrap the lines around the bar but leave about 20 feet unwrapped. Bring the setup out past any weeds that might get caught in the lines. Continue to walk upwind to a distance farther than the length of the kitelines beyond any weeds, or wind shadows or obstructions that might screw it up. Hook your board to your leash to keep it near you (you dont' want it drifting to the shore after you launch your kite, so its best to have an extra leash for your board if you kite at a spot where you launch from the shallow water a lot), and slowly unwrap your lines as you continue to take some steps backwards to keep the lines from getting tangled as they unwrap. Be sure to unwrap the lines as you are walking out, otherwise your lines will bunch up and get tangled on each other. By walking out while unwrapping the lines, the lines will be pulled straight away from you as you walk through the water. Once the lines are fully unwrapped, and you are far enough upwind to stay outta the weeds after the kite flips on its back (because you're going to need extra distance to flip the kite), Flip the kite over and put the kite LE down in the water (like you would on the beach), throw about 3 handfuls of water on each side of the main strut to keep the LE from catching wind and flipping up and cauing a mess. Make sure the lines are not caught on any part of the kite. Now let go. Letting go, it will just drift back on its own. If you can, take some steps upwind here to just make the process happen a bit faster. The lines will get taut on one side and rotate the kite to be LE down straight downwind. Now just water re-launch as though you dumped your kite and ride.
If the kite happens to get stuck in a position where it is facing you, just pull on a line on one side of the kite enough so that the tip can catch the wind and pull the other side back around. Now just do a water re-launch by running toward the kite, or pulling in your 5th line, or using your reverse launch setup to get the kite back in the air. Ride away.