There are many terms you will hear when people talk about kite shapes and designs like: 5 line hybrid kite, closed cell foil kite or pure wakestyle C-kite. Often, this can be confusing for beginners.
So let's break things down and get to the bottom of matter.
First of all, when it comes to kite material and constrution, there are two distinct types of kites: inflatable kites (LEI) and foil kites.
Inflatable kites, as the word says, are inflated with a pump until they get their rigid shape. Since they hold the air inside, they float on the water and they are water relaunchable. Rigidness means they are not going to change shape in the air which makes them more stable and easier to fly.
Foil kite, on the other hand, is something very similar to a paragliding wing. They don't trap the air inside but instead they have air chambers that let the air flow between sheets of fabric of the kite. They do not have rigid shape like inflatables and not all of them can be water relaunched.
Foils can be divided into two categories - open cell and closed cell. Open cell foil kites do not float on water if you drop them so they are suitable only for land kiting sports like kite snowboarding or kite buggying. Closed cell foil kites can be water relaunched therefore they are suitable for kitesurfing.
They are less popular than inflatables and are mostly used in big sizes for light winds. That's because they are lighter than their inflatable counterparts and that gives them a little advantage in light winds.
Because of their advantages, inflatable kites are the weapon of choice for vast majority of kitesurfers. So let's talk about them a little more.
Not all inflatable kites are made equal. They are also categorised by their shapes and this is where all different terms come in: C-kite, bow kite, hybrid kite or delta kite. So, what are they and which one you need as a beginner?
C-kite: this is the original inflatable kite shape. Visual appearance: they have square wingtips and they are more bent (C-shape) than other types of inflatable kites. Performance: they are generally more agile and have less depower ability (and thus less wind range) than other types of kites. Not for beginners, suitable for advanced riders and riding styles (unhooked wakestyle).
Bow kites: this is the first shape that brought almost 100% depower ability, making the sport safer and accessible to broader audience. They have swept back wingtips and they are flatter than C-kites. They also have the biggest wind range. Perfect kite for beginners.
Hybrid kites: some kites have a mix of features from C-kites and bow kites, they can generally be called hybrid kites although there will be differences among individual kite models which are labeled as hybrid.
Delta kites: a type of hybrid kite that is also very suitable for beginners. It is easy to relaunch and has flying characteristics similar to bow kites.