Kitesurfing: A descendant of the original man-lifter. (Jarno Schurgers/Red Bull Content)
Photo: Jarno Schurgers/Red Bull Content P-20150603-03677

A lightweight aircraft—often erroneously considered a toy—propel-led by the wind and controlled by a user on the ground via a line or set of lines. The first kites are believed to have been constructed out of silk and bamboo in sixth-century China, where the monoplane was used for military purposes like signaling. In 1903, Wild West showman Samuel Cody got in a small boat, attached it to a “man-lifting” kite—an item that most closely resembled a biplane—and crossed the English Channel. Many innovations followed. Kite surfers now fly over the water behind inflatable designs, while Arctic explorers use lightweight and packable foil designs to pull themselves on skis across vast stretches of ice.

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