Freestyle League Format

This page describes the format and rules of the Freestyle League kite flying competition. It is a basic format which is intended to be as inclusive as possible, allowing pilots of any skill level to compete with no prior preparation required. It is also easy to organise, and relatively simple to judge and score. Pilots have the freedom to fly in whatever style they choose, including tricks of any level of difficulty. However, in addition to the technical difficulty of their routine, they are also marked on artistic interpretation. This encourages them to fly with style, resulting in a competition that is more performance orientated than one based purely on technical merit.


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Each pilot flies a one minute freestyle routine. They are judged and given one score for technical content and another for artistic impression. These two scores are then added together (or averaged - it's the same thing) to give their combined score for that round. Three judges each provide a technical, artistic and combined score in this way. The scores for each judge are then added together (or averaged) to give an overall score for the pilot for that round. A second round is then flown as per the first, but with the pilots going in reverse order. If time permits, a third round can be flown, with the pilots flying in reverse score order (lowest score first, highest score last). The final score for each pilot is the best score of the two (or three) rounds, the other score(s) being discarded.


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There are no restrictions on who can compete. Any flier of any ability can enter the competition, flying any kind of controllable kite. The format is designed to allow novice to fly against master, and dual line to fly against quad line. However, there's no reason why the competition can't be organised into different skill levels (e.g. novice, experienced, masters) or based on the kind of kite they're flying (e.g. dual line, quad line) or some other criteria. In practice, it makes sense to considering different categories if you have a large number of entrants, but it's usually simpler, and more fun, to keep everyone together in one group if you have a manageable number of participants.


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Three judges are required for the duration of the competition. They should be experienced kite fliers who have an appreciation of the technical difficulty of different tricks and flying techniques. Each judge requires scoring sheets (pieces of paper, back of an envelope, etc) and a pen. One of the judges should have a stopwatch for timing the rounds.

Running Order

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The competition begins with a pilots' meeting. Here the pilots are registered, the judges introduced, the rules are explained, and the running order for the first round is determined by some random process of your choosing. Pick names from a hat, draw cards, roll a dice, play "pin the tail on the Freestyle Donkey", or do something else to get a running order for the first round.

Number of Rounds

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At this point, you also need to decide how many rounds are going to be run. Three rounds are ideal, but with a large number of participants you may prefer to run only two, due to time limits or some other constraints. Whatever the case, this must be decided in advance. It's not fair to tell pilots that they're going to get three bites at the cherry and then take it away after two because it's taking longer than expected. As a rough guide, allow at least five minutes for each pilot in each round. That includes setup, flying, clearing away, and also takes into account time spent at the debrief meeting. So if you have twelve pilots then it will take an hour per round at best, possibly more. So if you think you might run out of time, then decide up front to run only two rounds, or come to an agreement that you'll run a third round, if and only if the second is completed by a certain time.

Round One

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The first round is flown in the order determined at the pilots' meeting. Each pilot sets his or her kite up in the appropriate place and gets ready to begin. When the judges indicate that they are also ready, the pilot calls "IN" and begins flying a freestyle routine for one minute. One of the judges acts as time keeper and notifies the pilot when then end of the minute approaches (e.g. countdown from ten). The pilot is not required to begin or end the routine on the ground. At any time within the minute, the pilot can call "OUT" to end the routine immediately (e.g. when a kite breaks, lands in an unlaunchable position, or the pilot just decides to give up). In this case the score given will be reduced appropriately (e.g. a pilot flying for only half a minute can hope to get no more than half marks at best). In the usual case, however, the pilot just keeps on flying until the minute is up, or aims to land as close to the end of the minute as possible.

The competition is intended to be flown without music, but at a suitable venue (e.g. a kite festival with a PA system) background music can be provided. The pilot is not required or expected to choreograph their routine to music. However, there is nothing to stop them from doing so if they think it demonstrates a higher degree of skill or expresses a more creative artistic statement that might impress the judges into giving them a higher score. Think of the music as part of the natural environment, in the same way that you might consider the ground. You can choose to interact with it (e.g. groundwork) if you like, and it may work in your favour to do so, but it doesn't say anywhere in the rules that you have to.

Judging Criteria

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The performance is judged on two equal criteria: technical content and artistic impression. These equate roughly to skill and style, or in other words, "What you do" and "How you do it".

The first is based on the technical difficulty and variety of the elements that the pilot included. There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines that say which tricks are more technically demanding than others, and even if there were, they would be highly dependant on the choice of kite flown, the wind conditions and various other factors. However, it is expected that the judges have sufficient knowledge and experience in these matters to be able to give a subjective, but informed opinion about the technical difficulty of the routine as a whole. As well as evaluating the individual elements the judges should look for variation in the elements of the routine which demonstrate a wider repertoire of flying skills. In this way, a pilot who demonstrates a wide variety of less difficult tricks may score comparably to another pilot who includes more demanding tricks but repeated often, or with little variety.

The second criteria is artistic impression. The judges should take into account how well the individual elements were executed, how they flowed together to bring structure to the routine, use of the wind window, general choreography, variety, contrast, costumes, and anything else that they felt added or detracted from the overall style of the performance.


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Each of the judges gives one score for technical content and another for artistic impression. These can be marks out of 10, 50, 100 or some other number that takes your fancy, as long as you use the same range for both criteria. In practice, we humans are decimal creatures and tend to think best in tens, so either a mark from 10, or a percentage from 100 is probably easiest for the judges.

Each judge adds their technical and artistic scores together to get a combined score. The combined scores from each of the three judges are added together to give the overall score for the pilot for that round. Scores can be averaged to give a percentage if you like, but this often requires a calculator or some long division. In practice, it's easiest to give a score from 100 for each of technical content and artistic impression, combining them to get a score from 200 for each judge, which are combined to give an overall score from 600. If you want to divide that by 6 to get a percentage, then go right ahead, but it doesn't change anything in the long run.

Judges may, at their discretion, deduct points or disqualify a competitor from one round or the entire competition for unsportsmanlike behaviour, or for infringing any "local rules". For example, at a kite festival with marked arena, flying over the boundary may be punishable by death, a slapped wrist, a zero score, a kick in the behind from Bob the Freestyle Donkey, or some combination of the above. But none of that is written in stone here - that's what we mean by "local rules" that vary between location, situation and so on. Just make sure the rules are stated in advance at the pilots' meeting so that everyone knows what they are.

On the subject of discussion between the judges, we have found the following to work well. Each judge first decides on their own approximate score for the two criteria before discussing the performance with the other judges and comparing their relative scores. At this point they may wish to adjust their score in the light of insights gained in conference with the other judges, but it should still be their own opinion and not swayed unduly by the others. In an ideal world, judges would have perfect recall of a routine and be able to summon up an accurate score instantly. But in the real world, we have found that this generally isn't possible. It's hard enough trying to remember everything that happened in a minute, never mind figuring out an appropriate score to award it. An open discussion between the judges seems to provide better overall results that more accurately reflect the relative performances of the pilots.

The judges may also wish to consult the scores from previous competitors and adjust the score as necessary. For example, it is relatively easy for a judge to decide that for a particular criteria, Alice was better than Bob, but not as good as Charlie. However, it is nigh on impossible for a judge to remember what scores were previously given to Bob and Charlie without a glance back at previous score sheets. If Bob scored 50 and Charlie 60, then it should help to confirm that a score somewhere between these two values is about right for Alice.

Score Giving and Debrief

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At the end of each round, a debrief meeting is held at which the scores are announced along with any additional feedback from the judges. Any or all of the judges may wish to make notes on each pilot's performance in order to provide appropriate comments at this stage. Ideally each pilot should be told what the judges liked about their performance and what they liked less or felt was missing or could have been done better.

Comments should be as constructive as possible and judges should try to focus on how the pilot can fly better next time rather than how badly they flew last time. It's hard being a competitor, but it's also hard being a judge. Judges, go easy on the competitors, and competitors, go easy on the judges, forgiving them any directness or indiscretion in pointing out your flaws. Sometimes it's hard to find the nice way of saying "this part sucked", and to do it for each competitor (and let's face it, we all have sucky flying moments from time to time :-).

Round Two

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The second round is flown in reverse order to the first. So whoever flew last in the first round now goes first, followed by whoever was previously second last, third last, and so on, until the round finishes with the pilot who began round one.

Pilots are judged and scored as per the first round. A debrief meeting follows as before, where the scores for the second round are given. At this stage, the overall scores for the first and second rounds can be calculated by taking the best score for each pilot from either round, and discarding the other score.

If the competition is being held over two rounds then these constitute the final scores. Otherwise, proceed to round three.

Round Three

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The third round is, rather unsurprisingly, identical to the first two rounds in all but running order. Here the pilots fly in the order of their current overall score (best of round one or two). The pilot with the lowest score goes first, then the next lowest, and so on, finishing with the pilot leading after the first two rounds.

At the final debrief session, scores and feedback for the third round are given and the overall scores are announced. The final score for each pilot is the best score of round one, two or three. The other two scores are discarded.

League Scoring

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For the purpose of creating an ongoing league, points are awarded to each pilot based on their final position, in "grand prix" style. Each event is independant. Multiple events at any particular location (e.g. the two consecutive weeks at Stoke Park) count as separate events and points are awarded for both.

Position Points
1st 10
2nd 8
3rd 6
4th 4
5th 2


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This format evolved thanks to inspiration from a number of sources. These include the original freestyle competition run by STACK, and similar formats from other "freedom sports" (e.g. figure skating, skateboarding, freestyle snowboarding, etc). Many people have contributed to the format with most of the discussion taking place on the Fractured Axel Forum. Jason "International Man of Mystery" Winter deserves special credit for putting the first incarnation of this competition in place, with the "Trick Thang" series he organised in Stoke Park towards the end of 2004.

Martin Devonshire has also produced a document outlining a similar format (in all but a few details) based on this ongoing discussion, and reported here in this thread. These different formats should be viewed as complementary rather than competing against each other at this stage. We both have the same intentions, and we're working towards the same goals, but at the moment the specific details are slightly different.