Freestyle Trickout

This page describes the Freestyle Trickout competition format. Kites are flown to music in a head-to-head knockout between two pilots, with the emphasis on radical tricks peformed with style.


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The Freestyle Trickout (commonly known simply as "trickout") competition format is a fast, exciting, accessible and entertaining competition format. It is easy to stage, requires little preparation from the competitors or organisers and can be broken up easily into separate rounds staged throughout a day or over a weekend. It is easy and quick to score and it provides a spectacle and point of interest for competitors, other kite flyers and members of the general public alike.

General Format

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The Freestyle Trickout competition is divided into rounds. In each round, the fliers are randomly selected into pairs. Each pair of fliers (constituting a "heat") is given 3 minutes in which they must fly off against each other in alternate 30 second bursts. A random selection of music is played and the fliers are expected to improvise a performance that demonstrates style, control, originality and shows off their ability to perform extreme tricks and freestyle moves. Their performance should be choreographed to the music wherever posible. At the end of the heat, the judging panel decides which flier gave the best performance according to those criteria and he or she is chosen to qualify through to the next round.

Thus, the competition continues with the number of fliers halving in each round until there is just one flier remaining. He or she is then declared the winner.

Entry Criteria

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There are no entry criteria for participating in this competition. Any flier of any ability may register to enter the competition, although the logistics of organising such a competition may require a maximum number of competitors to be imposed. No prior preparation is required on the flier's part.

Depending on the number and relevant experience of the fliers participating, it may be useful to hold "Qualification Rounds". This gives the less experienced competitors a chance to compete against each other for places in the subsequent rounds, without the threat of being knocked out immediately by more experienced fliers.

Qualification Rounds

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Qualification Rounds may be staged when there is a large number of entrants (more than 8) and a high proportion of those (at least 4) who are less experienced and would like the chance to compete (initially, at least) against other fliers of a similar skill level. The decision to start in the Qualification Rounds is generally at the flier's own discretion, although organisers may employ a ranking scheme of some kind to determine the relevant experience of the competitors.

The Qualification Rounds are staged as per normal Competition Rounds until one or more fliers remain. These flier(s) then qualify through to the remaining Competition Rounds to fly against the experienced pilots. The number of fliers selected from the Qualification Rounds is decided in advanced, based on the number of entrants and the number of qualifiers required to fill the subsequent Competition Rounds.

Although the rounds may contain any number of fliers, it is most convenient to start with a number that is a power of 2 (e.g. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.) Thus, with a field of 14 experienced fliers, it would be convenient to select the final 2 fliers from the Qualification Rounds to make a total of 16 entering the Competition Rounds.

Running Order

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The running order for a round is determined by drawing the fliers' names from a hat. The first 2 names drawn constitute the first heat, the next 2 names, the second, and so on. The flier whose name was drawn first for any given heat will fly first in that heat.

If the first round contains an uneven number of fliers, the flier whose name is drawn last will receive an automatic bye into the next round. Subsequent rounds that start with an uneven number of fliers may be augmented by selecting one other flier from those knocked out in the preceeding round. These fliers stage a "Losers' Fly-Off" in which they all fly for 30 seconds, one after the other. The best flier is selected and qualifies through to join the other fliers in the next round.

The round is complete when all heats have been flown and the Loser's Fly-Off has been staged, if required. At this point, the names of all qualifying fliers are re-drawn to determine the heats and running order for the next round.

Competition Rounds

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The heats for a round are flown in the order they were drawn. The two fliers in any given heat must fly against each other, alternating in 30 second second bursts. The flier whose name was drawn first should fly first.

A suitable piece of music is played and the first flier begins his first segment. A time-keeper is required to mark the start of the section and notify the fliers and judges (and ideally, audience) when the alloted time is up. An audible countdown should be given over the last 5 seconds to give the fliers time to prepare to change.

After 30 seconds the first flier stops and the second flier begins his first segment. The fliers continue to alternate every 30 seconds until they have each performed 3 times.

Fliers are not required to start or end a segment with the kite on the ground, but the inactive flier has a responsibility to keep out of the way of the active flier. Kites should remain on the ground while the flier is not performing and should only be launched within the 5-second countdown to a segment. The kite should be landed as soon as possible after the segment ends.

Judging starts and stops at the changeover point. Anything coming before the start or after the allotted 30 second slots is not judged.


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At the end of a heat, the judging panel determines which flier gave the best performance and declare him or her the winner.

The fliers are judged on their ability to improvise a performance that demonstrates style, control, originality and shows off their ability to perform extreme tricks and freestyle moves. Their performance should be choreographed to the music wherever posible.

Style, control and choreography are paramount. Remember that a trick, no matter how technically difficult it is to execute, often looks like a mistake when performed without style and control. Close choreography to a random (and possibly unknown) piece of music is difficult and at times impossible, but fliers should recognise the positive impact that it has on judges and audiences.

Any infringement of the rules or unsportsmanslike behaviour may be taken into account by the judges when making their decision.

Loser's Fly-Off

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When a round is completed leaving an uneven number of competitors remaining, a Loser's Fly-Off is held to select one additional flier to qualify from those who have been knocked out of the preceeding round.

All fliers who wish to participate in the Fly-Off enter the arena and fly one 30 second burst to music. The fliers continue in turn, following the original running order for the round, until all are done.

The judges select the flier who gave the best performance and he or she then qualifies through to the next round.

General Guidelines

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Any controllable kite may be flown in the competition. Equipment can be modified or replaced at any time.

There is no lower wind limit. There is no fixed upper wind limit, but the competition should not continue while high winds or adverse weather pose a threat to competitors or spectators.

There are no specific conditions imposed by this format regarding a minimum or maximum arena size. Where a suitable arena is provided, the organisers may wish to impose boundary regulations in the interest of safety.

Fliers should behave responsibly and demonstrate sportsmanship at all times. While competitiveness is not discouraged, participants are reminded of the need to set a good example to other fliers and spectators by being kind, courteous, considerate and above all, by having a good time.

Safety is paramount. Respect the safety of other fliers and members of the public at all times.

Freestyle and Trick Flying has a reputation of being incomprehesible to some and at times looking no better than someone having severe difficulties trying to keep a kite in the air. Unfortunately, the reputation is often deserved, so strive to give the best performance you can, concentrating on style and control of the kite. The positive side of this kind of flying is that it can demonstrate some of the most amazing and elegant moves and techniques possible with a kite. Use the opportunity to enlighten and educate others about the best things that Freestyle flying can offer.

Mistakes and crashes are not uncommon so don't be afraid to take some risk in pushing yourself to the limit. Don't be disheartened by mistakes: if you don't crash then you're either very good or not trying hard enough...

Organiser's Information

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Organisers should arrange to have the following available:

  • Paper and pens/pencils for scoring
  • Stopwatch for timing
  • Music

A judging panel should be formed, consisting of three or more experienced fliers who feel competant enough to judge such a competition.

An experienced commentator can greatly enhace such events by identifying the fliers as they take the field, calling the winner when decided, stimulating support and applause from the audience and perhaps even commentating on some of the tricks and moves as they are flown.

Different coloured flags or banners can be provided to help distinguish one flier from another. These can be placed in the ground to mark the two flying areas or a coloured sash or band can be worn by the flier. The judges may wish to have flags of the same colours that can be waved to indicate which flier they have chosen as the winner. This also helps the commentator to identify one flier from another and communicate this to the audience. For conveneince, the fliers starting first in a heat should always be assigned to the same coloured flag (i.e. first flier is red, second flier is yellow).

The choice of music for a competition is difficult. Ideally, the music should suit the wind conditions. In a stronger wind, something with a faster tempo and stronger beat is likely to promote better flying whilst a lighter wind generally calls for something slower and more melodic.


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The format for this competition evolved from the discussion and participation of a number of people. Of particular note is Patrick Sommelet who has devised and run a kite trick competition which provided the inspiration for this freestyle format. Thanks also to Patrick "Speedy" Guggenheim who brought this competition to my attention and noted the appeal of the format.

The Freestyle Trickout has evolved over a series of events and the necessary amount of trial and error. My thanks extend to all those people who have organised and participated in these events.