Monday, July 02, 2007

Parafoil = best kite ever

I've considered myself a kite hobbyist for years now, but I haven't really made many (read: any) purchases of a kite for myself. My video game hobby seems to always take precedent. However, now that I'm locked inside studying all year in urban Columbus, my desire to return to my favorite outdoor activity has resurfaced. Hesitating as usual, I had my eye on an $18 kite called Pocket Parafoil (TM) for a few weeks now. The money I was going to use to buy it was leftover from my birthday in May, and it was otherwise headed toward Wii Points to download classic Nintendo games.

So I finally broke down and bought the thing on Sunday, and what a great decision it was! Gina and I had a blast flying it, along with a $2 mini-kite I also picked up. We went to beautiful Berliner park just south of town. The park was completely deserted, and the wind was relatively steady, so we were easily able to get the kite out to a full 500 feet of line. Nice. At one point, a helicopter landed in the field beside us, then took back off. On its way up, it looked like it was going to cut our kite string before it veered to the right and flew out of the way. I have no idea why it was there, but it just seemed to add to the magic.

What made the event such a pleasant surprise was the parafoil kite. In many ways, it is the antithesis of what I'd want in a kite. Parafoils feature no spars (that's the name for the sticks that make up the frame), and they don't have a great shape or painting on them. I usually prefer box kites or rokkaku kites that are more visual, but I also have crappy luck getting them to fly. I also tend to prefer really expensive kites that have strong pull and require heavy duty line. This kite came with a 30-lb. string--practically sewing thread--but it was thankfully 500' long. Considering that most kites come with no string, and considering that string itself can cost more than $20 for 500 feet, the Pocket Parafoil (TM) was cheap in every sense of the word. Instead of an interesting tail, it has ribbons. So all of these things made me think it wouldn't be that great. But as I started thinking more about flying kites again lately, I realized that one of the biggest hindrances to a good flying experience in Ohio--where the wind may only be good for an hour at a time--is the lengthy set-up and tear-down process of my previous box kite. The parafoil's sparless design makes it ideal for a quick flying experience. Plus, it rolls up very small into a pocket, which is great for someone living in a small apartment like me. Additionally, parafoils are so lightweight without any sticks in them that they can fly in lower winds, which is a must for Ohio. And, perhaps best of all, if you're a lousy flyer like me, there's no way to damage the kite if it crashes. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of my kite in the sky (Gina and I forgot the camera again), but you can look at a similar parafoil kite in the included picture.

So, even though it may seem boring, a parafoil kite can really be your best friend. It's just characteristic of my recent life experiences that the opposite thing from what I want turns out to be the best option.

1 comment:

Cheezer said...

I am now considering this the definitive guide for reviews of kite types (specifically, parafoils). I never knew so much about them. It has been long since I have flown a kite, but I only have experience with a stunt kite, containing two handles for pulling off turns and what not. Like you, I was never very good at it, so it was probably a worthless purchase in the end. Thanks for your thoughts!