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The Griffin Sport Kite.American Kite Magazine - Summer 1994

Wingspan: 8 ft.
Height: 3 ft, 8 in.
Weight: 15 oz
Frame: carbon graphite or fiberglass
Wind Range: 3-25 mph
Rec. Lines: 80-200#
Purchase : IAB Store

The Griffin has secured a place in kite flying history. This is the bird that broke the price barrier, that first made full-scale stunt kites affordable to the masses. If kiting ever becomes a full-on, mainstream sport, the Griffin will sit at one of the turning points in the struggle.

But price is just one of the Griffin's strong points. Any landmark kite must also offer performance, durability and enough personality so that flying it doesn't ever get boring. Judged on those criteria, the Griffin deserves a spot in the kite hall of fame. Hang it alongside the Fire Dart, the Phantom, the Revolution and other famous kites that advanced the sport and attracted new blood. A collaboration of two established kite companies was required to produce such a big and worthy flyer at such a reasonable price.

To call the Griffin "full-size" hardly does it justice. The sail is 8 feet from tip to tip, so, technically, full-size is correct. But it's a big sail, stretched tight by long standoffs that produce plenty of depth. This kite has guts. No gewgaws are added - the Griffin is simple and straightforward. It is sewn securely from five panels of stout nylon (in this version), which covers a frame of Pro Spar fiberglass. Two other frame materials (each with a slightly different pattern in the sail) also are available. The Beman-framed version costs about $115, and the Advantage-framed model runs $150. Both of these reduce the minimum wind requirement from the least expensive version's substantial 7 mph or 8 mph.

The nose is protected by heavy webbing, as befits a kite that will be the choice of many beginners - with their habit of crashing hard. The Pro Spar rods have proved themselves to be tough. About the only obvious weakness in the design is the rudimentary fashion by which the standoffs attach. In keeping the cost down, the manufacturers have left open the possibility of running the end of a standoff through the sail. Caution at every setup (or a custom alteration) solves the problem.

The Griffin and a breezy day, say 12 to 15 mph, are made for one another. The kite leaps into the sky and immediately impresses the pilot with the force of moving air. The Griffin has more pull than Richard Daley.

Nothing else about its flight is subtle, either. It cuts a straight line well, but cuts it fast. It spins on a point inside either of its wingtips in a blur of color. And it roars with a slightly different note from each of its wings, a characteristic of kite designs in which Bob Childs has had a hand. Racing the Griffin around the sky on short lines tests reflexes and calls on strength. It is no threat, but it's a handful. Attention is required. Big loops, tight spins and breathtaking ground passes are a delight. Precise turns are a taller order. For exact results, the kite prefers to be steered by a push on one line, with no pull on the opposing handle. Working both handles in the turns makes it hard to avoid oversteer.

The big, deep sail grabs a lot of air, and the kite holds at the edge of the wind amazingly well. It also flies through a lot of sky. With sufficient wind, a 180-degree window is easy to maintain. Lighter winds might reduce the window, but then this is no ultralight. When the pilot pulls out at the edge of the wind, the Griffin flips over without losing altitude or diving for the ground the way some of its more expensive competitors have a habit of doing. It also spins repeatedly without displaying any intention to lose air or widen its loops into the ground, through it drops a little altitude with each revolution.

When the time does come to set the Griffin down, it alights with surprising agility, landing gently and staying put. Off-wind landings are the preferred version: downwind landings require commitment and foot speed.

If you like your kite performance meaty, with control movements pronounced, this is a good choice. If you're looking for a lot of performance in an inexpensive package, it can't be beat. If you are a beginner wondering what all the excitement is about, get one and strap yourself down. And if you're a collector, pick up a Griffin and own a piece of history.

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