a.k.a. 540 Flat Spin

TP-USA Tricks Party Definition Group 3

The 540 is a single 540° belly-down rotation initiated from a Flare (belly down, nose away) that is entered from a vertical line of flight. The kite is flown straight down, flared, and rotated on its belly a full 540°, ending with the nose toward the pilot. The rotation should be as flat as possible, with no change in altitude. The trick is exited nose-up.
KEY ELEMENTS: â–ºNose-down entry. â–ºFlat rotation. â–ºNose-up exit.


* The kite starts flying directly downwards towards the ground.
* At some point before the kite hits the ground (and the lower you go the more impressive it is, but also more risky), you throw both arms forwards so that the kite flattens out, with the nose pointing away from you and the front of the kite now facing the ground.
* A gentle tug (I tend to use the word "pop") on one line should start the kite rotating flat as if it was impaled on an imaginary pole sticking up from the ground.
* After 540 degrees (1 and 1/2 rotations), the kite should still be flat facing the ground (or nearly flat) but with the nose now pointing towards you.
* A gentle pull on both line makes the kite sit up and fly off upwards.


Primary Execution

The 540 flat spin starts off with a vertical dive. Bring your arms behind you to prepare for a dead stop. Stop the kite by throwing both arms forward. This should flatten out the kite with the nose pointing away from you (Flare position) . Some kites like a very fast kill (Stranger, Box of Tricks) other prefer a slightly slower kill (Phantom Elite, MEFM). The trick is to kill the kite slightly unevenly. If you're going to "pop" it with your right hand, then let your left hand lead slightly when throwing your arms forward. This will kill the kite with the nose pointing slightly to the left. After that a firm "pop" with the right hand immediately followed by lots of slack on both hands should initiate a flat spin. As long as you want the kite to spin you have to leave a lot of slack in your lines. Allow the kite to rotate one and a half times (540 degrees...). The last 1/4 turn is the tricky part. The kite can catch the wind and not want to turn up. You can help it along by a short gentle tug of the left hand. This extra tug takes a lot of practice to get right, but eventually will allow you to give it an extra revolution or two (and even reverse direction).

As simple as that? Well actually, no. There are a few subtle things that you have to get right to perform the 540 Flat Spin and unless you know what you're looking for, they can be difficult to get right.

The Fast Kill
The first thing is that you have to kill the kite effectively. The "kill" is that step when you throw your hands forwards to flatten the kite out. As the kite is diving down, pull your hands right back behind your back and then thrown them forwards fast. If you need to, take a step forward (considering the speed you have to do this, it's more of a "lunge") to get a fast a positive kill.

Practice killing the kite out like this, holding it for a second and then recovering from this position. To do this, either walk forwards and let the kite drop the the ground, or to recover in flight, take up the slack on the lines, pulling more on one line than the other, to get a half-twist-come-turn back out of the killed position.

Not all kites like to be killed fast (some prefer a more gentle approach) so you may need to experiment until you find what works. These kites *will* do a Flat Spin, but generally they need a little more accuracy from the part of the flier. Dedicated trick kites tend to kill and spin faster with more tolerance for user error.

The Uneven Kill
The second, and by far the most important point, is that the kill should be uneven. By this, I mean that one hand should be thrown forwards before, and going further, than the other one. If your strongest hand is your right hand, you'll use this to execute the "pop". In this case, it should be the *left* hand that you throw forwards first.

The reason is this: when you pop with the right hand, that wing should be slightly nearer to you than the other. When this is the case, the kite is already a little way into the rotation and will continue into the Flat Spin much easier. To get the right wing nearer, you push the left wing out further and faster. Just to confuse matters, the kite is upside down and the right wing is actually on the left as you look at it...

Waay-haaaay! It's Crap ASCII-Art time!

Looking down from above in a bird's eye view, the kite flier on the left has killed the kite evenly. The flier on the right has thrown his left arm further forward which has made the kite rotate a little in an anti-clockwise direction. The kite is now set up for the pop.

-+ Nose  --->      *           * 
-+                 |            \ 
-+ T/Edge -->   ___|___          \  _/ 
-+               \   /            _/ / 
-+                \ /           _/  /        ( weird looking kite, eh? ) 
-+ Lines --->      X             \ /           
-+ (crossed)      / \             X                       
-+               /   \           / \                     
-+                               m  \                 
-+ Hands --->    m   m           |   \                
-+ Arms  --->    |   |           \   m 
-+ Body  --->     \O/             O_/ 

The "Pop"
You've killed the kite and there's only one place to go: The "Pop". Consult the Crap ASCII Art diagram above (the stick flier on the right) and check your position. Don't worry if your hands don't look like the little "m" characters, though. The important thing is that you've thrown you hands forward such that your left arm is fully extended and your right hand is down by your waist, or perhaps a little further forwards.

Now give a small but firm tug with your right hand and *immediately* let lots of slack into both lines. Another step forwards at this point is often a good idea to achieve this.

Watch the kite. If the pop makes the kite "jump up" into the air instead of rotating then you either pulled too hard or the kite wasn't set up properly - perhaps you killed the kite too evenly? If the kite starts to turn but then tensions the lines and stops, then you need more slack in the lines. Try taking that step forwards.

If everything goes according to plan, the kite will rotate one and a half times and then recover. Most trick kites will usually recover themselves as they complete the final part of the rotation - the wind catches them and off they go. Try and gauge the slack in the line so that you can re-tension at exactly this point to get a clean and controlled exit from the trick. Some kites might need a little tension as the final rotation completes to help them recover.

Where in the Window?
The center of the window is most impressive, especially in a ballistic wind. Imagine the kite screaming down towards the ground in a mad suicidal dash, only to stop at the very last minute, perform a clean 540 inches of the ground and then scream back off into the wind.

The center of the window is most dangerous, especially in a ballistic wind. Imagine the kite screaming down towards the ground in a mad suicidal dash, only to stop at the very last minute with a loud crunch as the frame splinters, tearing through the sail and embedding the spine firmly in the ground.

The moral: practice in lighter winds, off to one side of the center of the window. If you go too far out, you can find the kite sliding sideways as it spins. This is the basis of an advanced Flat Spin trick - the Flash?, but for beginners it can be a little off-putting. The left(ish) side of the window is slightly easier for right-handed poppers and vice-versa.

The "Eezy Peezy" 540 Flat Spin Technique
Still haven't got it?

Instead of flying directly down to the ground, try flying out from the top center of the window, down towards the bottom left hand corner of the window. You should aim to reach the point where the kite slows down and almost stops by itself (ideally without hitting the ground). The nose of the kite should be pointing towards 7 or 8 o'clock on an imaginary clock.

Now execute the same 540 maneuver as described above *but* doing everything a bit slower because the wind should be holding the kite almost stationary - "parked" at the edge of the window. A nice gentle kill (push that left hand forward!) followed by a smooth right hand pop should be enough to start the kite spinning smoothly around. Remember that it needs slack in the lines once it's started to get all the way around.

If you prefer to "pop" your left hand, then fly out to the right side of the window, push your right hand forward and then "pop" with your left.

You'll probably notice that the kite slides back in towards the center of the window while it's spinning and it probably won't spin totally flat to the ground. In fact, the trick you've just done is a 540 variation that has a name of its own: The Flashback?. Because it happens more slowly out at the edge of the window, it's a little easier to learn than the straight 540 Flat Spin.

When you've mastered the Flashback? you can try coming in a little from the edge of the window, speeding up the dive, and heading more downwards than out. Eventually you should be doing straight 540's without thinking about it.

The footwork
The idea behind the footwork is to get your whole body into the right position to make doing the 540 real easy.

Let's say that you're going to pop the 540 with your right hand. This is how I would do it.

As you bring the kite down towards the ground, power up the kite by pulling your hands behind your back. Time this so that you are just at the end of the back stroke when the kite is ready to be thrown out. At this point your weight should be on your back foot (left foot). So there you are arms down behind your back, weight on your back foot (left foot) and the kite about 6' off the ground.

Now, all in one movement transfer your weight through your right foot and onto your left in one step, making your left your front foot. Also throw both hands forwards while doing this. This sudden movement forwards will transfer all the forwards speed that you built up by pulling back into an away from you direction. (If you make a note of how far back your hands are at the start of this and then check where they are at the end, you'll see that you've managed to move forwards by at least 6' (just like that...)

You should stunt (hold back) one hand as you throw them forwards, in this case it would be your right hand. Let it come to just in front of your waist, 6" max. As the kite hits the end of the line give a small flick of the right wrist, like cracking a whip.


Because having your left foot forwards will turn your whole body around to the right, making your left shoulder relatively further forward than your right. Try this simple test, put your left foot forwards and try to look to your left. You should need to look over your shoulder to see, now look right.

As you get the 540 down, you'll find that you need less movement to perform it. At this point you can get away with just transferring your weight from your back foot (left) to your front (right) without the step.

Videos with the Trick

Trick animation by Roy Reed


A tutorial by Randy Greenway
TPUSA judging tutorial

180 Flat Spin

Created by Kamikaze. Last Modification: Tuesday 14 of April, 2009 17:45:07 BST by Kamikaze.