Alphakites “TNT Zero” Review by Tom Patterson


I had heard about the TNT some time ago from both forums and videos – the kite has a movement and grace that really gets your attention.  Sadly, I knew no-one locally that owned one or had never actually seen one for that matter.   Some time ago, I finally broke down and bought a used UL.  I took to the kite like a fish to water – for the most part, everything was easy and graceful from the get go.  The trick speed is on the slower side compared to what I am used to flying  – you can speed it up, but it has a naturally laid back style in my opinion.

Whenever I flew the kite, I kept thinking that the Zero version of this kite must be unbelievably good.  My thinking was that the kite is already floaty and smooth and that one designed to fly in the lowest outdoor winds possible just might be even better.

I kept watch on the used-kite sites waiting for a chance at a Zero.  Let me tell you, in the US, you are just not going to find one.  I actively sought out a TNT for 6 months with few leads and no success on the ones that were being sold in Europe.   Finally, I could wait no longer and went ahead and contacted Heiko from Alphakites and ordered one for myself.

When you order a TNT you had better NOT be in a hurry!   Heiko was very clear to me at the time it would take (3-4 months as I recall), I thought that perhaps he was being conservative with his estimate, but it turned to be accurate.  In any case, life got busy and I had completely forgotten about my order, happily flying my bag all Summer.

Imagine my surprise when an email popped up saying that the kite was done and ready to ship.  I was surprised as I had literally forgotten all about it.  I paid the invoice and the kite was finally on its way to Seattle just in time to ease my pain of having to deal with the end of our super sweet Summer winds and weather.

Was the TNT worth the wait?   Read on…….


The kite arrived promptly – fully assembled and ready to fly right down to the lower spreaders being pre-inserted into the stoppers.  Now that’s service!

It took no more than a few seconds to pull the kite out of its bag and I had it assembled in my living room; but lets slow down.  The bag is well done – very high quality and interesting material.

The kite is also incredibly well made.  I have very high standards when it comes to kites in materials, assembly, design, and practicality.  This one hits on all cylinders – extremely well constructed with design and assembly details that are right up there with the best made kites that I’ve owned.   It’s the kind of item that you are proud to own – top notch.

A few interesting items to mention.  The center T is a design I have not seen – essentially, there is no center T! Instead the kite has a ferrule that is securely tied to the spine.  The lower spreaders then connect by sliding over both ends of the ferrrule. It’s genius – I love practical engineering details like this that simplify and make the design cleaner with less parts.  Similarly, the yoyo stoppers are the R-Sky type which I’ve never been all that crazy one way or the other about, but the way that these are installed allows them to point backwards which is both a cleaner look and also, again, practically functional since you cannot get the line hooked around one.  Touches like this let you know that the designer had spent a lot of time flying and refining the details of the kite.

One nit here is that the kite does not come with line leaders.  The UL did not either, nor have most other European kites that I’ve flown.  I’m starting to think that those guys just do it differently than we do here in the US and perhaps have the leaders installed on their actual flying lines.  I don’t know, but either way, I made some up for it and you will want to as well in my opinion.

I generally fly this kite on 50# lines and I intially did not have leaders – but flew it as-is.  This WILL result in snags on both the nose seam and on the standoffs.  Having added a short section of leader (enough to go around and just past the yoyo stopper), no snags at all and a much happier experience with less stress on the kite in general.
Here are the details from Alphakites:
  • Size: 240cm
  • Sail: lightweight high-performance Zero cloth (not standard Icarex)
  • Frame: Avia Skinny UL, SUL with Avia .188 upper spreader and Skyshark 3PT spine
  • Bridle: 3 point
  • Weight: 180g

It has a short 3 point bridle that attaches directly to the lower spreader itself.  I’ve never seen a bridle attached like this on any other kite.  You will notice that the bridle is very shallow (or seems so to me).  I can only guess that this works well due, in some part, to the attachment points.  Someone told me that it also increases the LS stability which seems to make sense given that their flex point has been nearly cut in half which should make them stronger.  The kite feels very agile and responsive on the lines and easily executes flat-spins, I would imagine that at least part of this could be to this unique bridle setup.


This kite looks great both on the ground and in flight.  I honestly don’t care much for many that I’ve seen online pictures of, but in person it actually works much better.  I got mine in dark grey.  In flight, as the sun passes through the kite, the graphics to some degree fall away and you see the sun coming through the white/grey sail material which looks great.

As I said before, the kite does look great in the sky and also while performing tricks – it has a smoothness to it that is really quite special.  It is so light that will will often seem to hover there and slowly rotate which can be quite beautiful.    I would put it in the class of Prism’s Vapor in terms of grace during rotations – its looks that good.


Enough about how its made, how does it fly!

Let me be clear, I bought this kite in an effort to find a kite that would fly in the lowest possible wind with the least amount of compromise due to having less mass.  My go-to kite for this has generally been a 4D which, while it flys in nothing (it weighs 2.8 oz and could be considered an indoor kite) is just not tricky and certainly does not trick in any standard sort of fashion.  So, my goal has been to find a kite that will effortlessly fly in literally next to no wind while also being fun in the freestyle department.   I have a few kites that I love to fly in super low wind, but when it is in that 0-0.5 mph range, you expend a bit of effort.  This is truly indoor/SUL sorts of wind.

It has a low wind ability and full size trick feel to it that is hard to match in this weight range.    It also has the ability to gracefully fly in low winds that reminds me of older-school kites with easy floaty rotations.

In particular, it has excellent feedback even in low wind and is always easy to control even when the kite is not being driven by the wind, and while being full-sized, handles well even on short lines.   Overall, it is an easy kite to just stand there and fly with a big smile on your face – sure, you will need to work it a bit in the lowest of winds, but it reacts to slow pulls very well and does not require much exertion.

Precision is nothing to write home about – this is really more of a kite built for tricks and fun in my opinion.  It does well in the lightest of winds and I’ve flown it up to 6 or so with no issues.  I switch to a heavier kite at that point, but it continues to fly with no concerns in that wind – no bending or other behavior other than becoming quite noisy and over-powered for tricks as the wind rises.  I expect that you can make the kite as quiet as you like if you want to adjust the leech line.  It has an easy to use bungie based leech line adjustment on the back of the kite, which seems a bit over-engineered to me, but works well and looks good.

For the most part, even though this kite is an SUL, it flys and tricks much like a regular kite.  In other words, it feels right at home, no need to completely modify how you are flying the kite due to its lack of mass for example.  I did notice that in almost any sort of wind, you can fly easily and do tricks such as axel, half-axle, backspin, half-axel, slot, taz, and two-pop yoyos.  These tricks are done easily – nothing special required on the behalf of the flyer.  The kite JLs well, but in my experience, I needed a little more wind to make it work as easily as I expected – you can still do them in low wind, just not as low as with the other tricks without requiring a bit more effort/backward movement.  More than a single comete rotation is out of reach for me so far on this kite.

This thing is light, you can easily 360 it on 40′ lines trying to slow it down as much as possible.  You can walk backwards rather slowly and maintain the kite in a 360.  I’ve flown the kite on longer lines as well – say 75′ and it was fine there are well, although I like it best on shorter lines.
All in all, this video is an extremely accurate representation of how the kite flys and tricks.  Including the cool axel to taz in super low wind – you’ve got to try that one!


The kite definitely has a few strengths to mention –  namely anything related to the flatspin including slots and the taz machine.  Similarly, older tricks like the 540 and pinwheel are about the easiest that I’ve ever done.  I can’t stress the slot and taz on this enough – a give away.  In other words, you get the nose up, pop it for the rotation, and then then kite floats around – with a nice mix of glide and rotational mass.  It’s completely reliable. Once you get used to it, its highly addictive – you can fly across in barely perceptible wind, half-axle and then pop for the taz in slow mo a foot off the ground – its a beautiful thing.

It’s low wind performance is quite impressive – this kite is very easy to fly and also performs rotational tricks in the lightest of winds.  Zero wind if you want to work it a little, but with just a wisp of wind, the kite is a lot of fun.    On short lines, you can literally (in no wind), pull the kite to the top of the window and then have fun on the way down as it glides, throw in a few 360s, or build pressure for a nice half axel and then fly the other way.

TNT001The Zero also fades like a dream – pop it in a fade and just hold it there as long as you like – very stable.   Backspin cascade easily as well – its changes directions well.  The slow nature of the kites movement paired with its super low wind flight combine in a way that gives you bullet-time to react and trick.

This kite works really well on short lines.  It is also very agile and the combination makes it great fun to fly even in a very confined space.  I have been enjoying it mostly on 35-40′ lines, but have had it on 75 as well, but nothing longer than that.  Many kites are just too difficult to control on such short lines, but this one remains amazingly agile – an impressive street kite for smaller spaces. 

Similarly the two pop is fun, easy, and reliable – you can pop your way into a double if you like, but too many and the LEs and sail start to deform, so its best done in the lightest of winds.

Also, the kite is very agile and does not require very subdued inputs like some other low wind SULs, you can hit it pretty hard.  In fact, some inputs require you to pop when I would normally pull – more on that later.

Multi-lazy, easy.  The kite turtle well and readily, so multi lazys, inverses, and risers are also easy.

Combos related to flatspins are similarly a piece of cake, for example you can 540 to fade very easily, reliably, and repeat it time and time again – very reliable.  It’s the same for the taz-to-fade which I first learned on this kite.

Combined with its floaty nature, low wind ability, and maneuverability, this kite is a great choice for zero to near-zero outdoor flying on short(ish) lines.  I used to pull out my indoor kite in those wind conditions, but the Zero had replaced that kite – its just more fun and feels like a full-sized kite.  In a word, its fun.


The kite has no stand-out deal-breaker weaknesses of a significant degree given its low wind performance, but a few things are worth mentioning.  Most of my comments are, I think, a consequence of its lack of mass which is somewhat expected.

First off, while the kite will do a one pop yoyo, your timing and wind conditions have got to be about perfect or it just will not go.  As I’ve spent more time on the kite I can get them to slowly roll, but its just not reliable enough for me to feel confident in the maneuver.  In fact, I generally do them only when I’m looking for a bit of a challenge.  Luckily, however, the kite 2 pops easily which is for sure my recommend and preferred way to yoyo this kite.  It readily drops into a turtle and quickly responds to a light or even harsher second pop and rolls right around.  The yoyo stoppers are perfectly placed and the kite remains flyable while wrapped ifi you like.

I’ve also had quite an adjustment in getting a decent looking comete to be solid on this kite.  I can do them on my other suls , but have not been able to get this trick down yet to my satisfaction on the Zero. One rotation is reasonably solid, but more than that has so far eluded me – certainly no celiing-to-ground cometes as I like to do them.  It may be my technique that needs some fine tuning for this light wind flyer, but I am starting think it is not  capable of doing this trick in the way that I want it to.

Another item to mention, while not a full on negative, is the way that the kite handles aggressive pulls, particularly on launch.  If you pull hard on a launch, the kite will immediately take off, but then also immediately stop unless you either have good wind or keep backing up.  All kites do this to some degree, but it is particularly so with the Zero.  It is easy to adjust your technique (just do slower longer pulls), but its something to be aware of.  When pumping the kite in very low wind there is a similar affect – just do a slower pull rather than an aggressive pump and its all good.  A friend was trying it and having some difficulty until I pointed this out.  He backed off a little on the launch and had success.  The easy-to-stall nature of the kite which I attribute this to does also have its advantages when performing tricks, so, like I said, not a big deal.  A downside is that its a bit more difficult to fly aggressively building and dumping sail pressure as the kite completely dumps all pressure so readily.

To me, the way that this kite does the jacobs ladder is both a plus and a minus.  It does the trick very well and looks good doing it, but it does not do it very well in the lowest of winds without a fair amount of back-pedalling (work).  There are also two things to note in the way it does it.  First, while I normally like to slowly pull the kite from the half lazy back to the fade, this kite does not like that approach and it will generally not work well.  Instead, it wants a bit of a pop in order to flip the kite and get this done.  It works fine, but I prefer a more controlled, always connected to the kite, sort of slow pull instead.  Secondly, the kite needs decent wind in order to maintain height while doing this trick.

A couple of construction details to note.  I think the kite needs line leaders, or even a slightly longer bridle segment.  Without this, 50# line snags and rips at the kite.  The framing also, while it works like charm, is tougher to get here in the US.

That’s about it – certainly no show-stoppers and, as I said, I forgive these nits because the kite flys so low – it can save your flying trip on a windless day at the beach.


That’s about all I’ve got to say on the Zero.  It certainly fills a spot in my bag in that it has essentially replaced my indoor kite as my go to kite when there is literally no wind.  This kite is super fun to fly in extremely low wind and is also tricky enough in that wind to deserve to be called a trick kite with only a few nits on a few tricks that I am fairly critical of.

In short, if you are looking to have some fun working on tricks when the wind has abandoned you for the most part, this kite can certainly fit the bill.   It has a balance of light wind and tricks that is about right.

Aside from that, it is also an excellent choice if you are working on learning the slot machine or taz machine as it excels at both of those with an ease that will allow you to build muscle memory to move the trick to your other kites.