This post was last updated on October 15th, 2013
“Start walking… jogging…RUN… RUN FASTER!!! You’re up, now keep that bar at your chin……………..aaand FLAIR!!!! You did it!”
The encouraging words of wisdom from our flight guide at Kitty Hawk Kite’s Hang Gliding School. They claim to teach the easiest sport in the world-one so fantastically simple that even a bag of sand can do it. This might be true, once you get past the fear of being the sole pilot in your very own hang glider that lets you soar up to 15 feet above the “soft sands” of Jockey’s Ridge Dunes.
If you took a poll asking people what their ideal super power would be, I think 9 out of 10 would say “flight“. The others might say super strength, time travel or x-ray vision, but let’s be real. Super strength would make it impossible to hug cute puppies, time travel would screw up the continuum and nobody likes the guy who wears sunglasses inside. So if it’s the power of flight you want, look no further. Jockey’s Ridge at Kitty Hawk is the birthplace of human-powered falling with style. It was the Wright Brothers flight location of choice and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
So me, Casey and eight of our close friends journeyed out to Kitty Hawk for the weekend to take on hang gliding. After an exciting night of ghost stories, leaky tents and ukulele sing-a-longs, we rose with the sun for our 10am appointment with fate. A quick video and personal instruction session later we made the short trek to Jockey’s Ridge. Apparently it only takes around an hour to learn to fly. Who knew the amazing concept of flight could be explained and executed by newbies such as ourselves in such a short time frame.
One at a time, we made final preparations for take-off. We were each given 5 flights in rotation at progressively higher altitudes. While each flight was only about ten seconds in length, the whole process definitely felt much longer. At first, your heart races as you accelerate to the end of the dune. But then, a feeling of pure joy takes over as your feet are lifted off the ground effortlessly and you glide over the dunes beneath a Carolina blue sky. Then comes the landing, when your instructor tells you to flair. This can be the hardest part, and although we had a few bumps along the way, nobody had any crazy out-of-control nosedives or was blown into the next county. The instructors held onto our hang gliders with a string and guided us the entire way. All this for the price of $94 dollars a person. A little pricey–yes. But totally worth it to experience flight where the Wright Brothers did. (Us North Carolinians are pretty proud of being first in flight if you haven’t noticed…)
Explaining the whole process can be a little tricky, so here are some pictures and videos. Please be patient with the first video–there is about 15 seconds of waiting for Casey to take flight.
Pretty awesome, right? And those were videos of our first flights before we really got the hang of it. It is crazy how much better each flight is as you learn to guide the hang glider.
We would like to thank Kitty Hawk Kites for their amazing service during this awesome experience. If you’ve ever thought about flying, then these are the guys who can make it happen. But if you do go hang gliding at Kitty Hawk, don’t do what we did and camp. Just don’t.