What is Freestyle?

  • Freestyle is about Flow
    Using the whole of the wind window, and a full repertoire of tricks that naturally feed into one another. Freestyle works with the wind.

  • Freestyle is about Easy
    It all began with 6ft kites & short lines that didn't break the bank - even when they broke.

  • Freestyle is about Anywhere
    The beach or the city, a park or a car park.
    Fly everywhere.

  • Freestyle is about Style
    Your own style. Your own kite modified how you like it. Learn from others but never copy.


A History of Freestyle

  • The History of Freestyle goes back to the dawn of time; before people even had Broadband Internet connection, or GPRS on their phones.
    I know, it is hard to imagine.
    Because of the great time spans involved we have to piece together the evidence - what you read here may not be accurate.

  • Pre-Freestyle
    Before Freestyle kites there were just sport kites, huge lumbering beasts. Some way back had aluminium frames, but even the creatures boned in carbon rod were noisy and fearsome. Thankfully these creatures are now pretty much extinct. No-one knows what strange proto-fliers piloted these obscure beasts. Rumour has it some of them are still around today.

  • The Evolution
    However in the mid 90's a evolutionary change came about that transformed the world of kite flying. Some time in 1993 a new breed of sport kites evolved that brought the end of the lumbering Jurassics to an end. Kites like the Stranger designed by Andy Preston and eventually made by Flexifoil, the Box-of-Tricks designed by Tim Benson and made by Fizz and later Tim himself, and later the Midi Sandpiper designed and made by Chris 'Beaker' Matheson.

    These kites would stop, axel, flat spin and recover in a way that the dinosaur kites couldn't. The basic building blocks of intelligent kite life were now in place; thus was born what we now confidently refer to as 'OldSkool Freestyle'.
    Apparently there was also something going on in the US as well but none of us were there and we are not going to take anyone else's word for it. There may even have been kites that could Axel before the Stranger but this is probably just be a folk myth; like dragons. Okay it was probably some guy called Steve Thomas who invented the Axel in the US in 1992 . The Prism Eclipse would have been the first Freestyle kite. The whole thing might be a conspiracy.

  • It gets Odder
    As the years go on the Freestyle kites evolve and spread until all kite fliers own at least three. Smaller kites are designed for higher winds, like the Matchbox and the Psycho.
    As well as radical all out Freestyle kites some begin to seek a kite that would perform freestyle and precision. Always a compromise this began to lead to a divergence of different styles in Freestyle: Short lines vs. long lines. 6ft vs. 7ft vs. 8ft. As Freestyle conquered the planet it diversified. From this orgy, kites like the Andy Preston's Matrix and Tim Benson's Outer Space were born.
    With further diversification came a new emphasis of tricks. Preston's new Stranger Level 7 was stranger still; performing 3d moves it was 6 levels too strange for most people. But the cat was out the bag, suddenly Freestyle flying got a whole lot more pitch and back based. 
    Kites like the Area 51 wowed Blackheath festival in 1999 by performing multiple backspins, lazy susans, flap jacks and all sorts of stuff that hadn't been seen quite in that way before. Later that year the Andy Wardley / Tim Benson designed Gemini hit the scene. A new era of Freestyle had dawned. Or had it?
    Power kiting hit. Despite the exciting and innovative new designs many in the UK joined the power rush. People who would have bought Freestyle kites bought Blade 4.9's and gave them to their 5 year olds. Thousands were injured quite a lot.

  • The NuSkool
    Freestyle however was not dead. In warmer climes the Arctic pull of power didn't sway everyone. Especially not the French. The French decided they liked the new pitched based tricks. Very much. They flew on long lines and soon were developing a whole new range of tricks and kites that fliers in backward nations could not pronounce let alone perform; multiple yo-yo's wapdowaps, comete's and so on. We saw it coming, but instead we kept flying the same moves on 15ft lines.
    By 2002 the NuSkool was well under way, suddenly feeding back into a renewed interest in Freestyle elsewhere, including the UK. Sadly none of the new Continental kites could flat spin very well.

  • Is it Nu?
    Possibly Not.
    Many of the 'new' tricks being flown are not that new at all. People have been flying yo-yo's for years, what is true is that the addition of stoppers and weights has really helped expand that area of flying. However very few fliers would suggest it is without cost to other areas of performance.
    There has been a tendancy towards Polyvalent kites on longer lines, but there have always been Polyvalent kites on longer lines, not just on the Continent but in the UK and US too.
    The 'French Style' is more of a development of a type of flying that has always been around, especially in competition circles. The link with competition is important as the 'French Style' of flying has been particularly expressed in the Tricks Party competition scene.

  • Is it Freestyle?
    Let's have a brief look at the rules of Tricks Party:

    "Each competitor has beforehand to fill a form (furnished during the inscription) with order and names of the tricks which will be performed during the ballet." Tricks Party

    "4 from the 8 selected tricks will be chosen by judges prior to competition regarding to wind conditions. Each trick is notated once on a 10 points base; meanwhile, competitor may performed the trick a second time, but notation will be on a 8 points base. Judges will take in account highest mark. " Tricks Party

    Compare this to:

    "Freestyle is not another word for "trick flying". Sure, freestyle flying will often include radical tricks and extreme moves, but the two are not synonymous. Freestyle is about Freedom and Style. Freedom to express yourself and explore the moment, and to do it with style. Freestyle flying can be any kind of flying. That's where the freedom comes from." ABW

    Perhaps it is not fair to take ABW's words as definitive:

    (Freestyle is a) "much more free-form pastime - reflecting the natural line and grace of kite's flight. Flowing movement rather than trying to dominate the kite." Andy Preston in KP

    There is definitely a fundamental difference of approach between the two Andy's and the Tricks Party.

    Q: Is one right and one wrong?
    A: No.


    Q: Are they both talking about the same thing.
    A: Probably not.

    Hmm. Is it about competition?

  • Is Freestyle Competitive?
    Until recently I would have said that Freestyle was not competitive, but then I realised that this is simply not the case.
    Many of the top freestyle fliers are deeply competitive, but it not a desire to fulfil the demands of a judges score pad, rather it is an internal competition. It is a desire to fly better than you fly already. It is a desire to fly with, and show off to your fellow fliers. This is not surprising as this is the way many trick sports work. ABW's Freestyle Competition (often known as the Trickout) flows from this approach. It is not about being the best, but rather about pushing yourself creatively.
    It is important that international competitive kite bodies recognise this competitive nature inherent in Freestyle and acknowledge it.

  • Progressive Old School?
    This is not about knocking the 'French Style', or any type of flying, instead it is about getting back to basics about what Freestyle is.
    Is this a Progressive Old School?
    I would go further, and say that there is really no such thing as Old School and New School Freestyle, there is simply a Technical Freestyle School and the er .. Freestyle Freestyle School!
    Freestyle is about flowing with the kite, not dominating the kite, exploring the wind rather than needing it to be perfect. 
    It's a style that suits fliers of all levels, fliers who can't find the perfect flying field, fliers who want to tune in and chill out.