Human beings have yearned to experience the magic of flight millenniums before the possibility came to exist. In today’s modern age, even as jetliners crisscross the sky, drones buzz around us, and spaceships deliver astronauts to distant stations and then land again, many humans are still ingrained with this same deep yearning.
They want to fly.
Not a $259 Delta flight. They want to soar on the wind on their very own. They want to experience the magic of solo flight.
Kitty Hawk Kites in Outer Banks, NC make that possible, arguably more easily and inexpensively than anyone else in the world. The world-renowned flight conditions at Kitty Hawk, the very same conditions that beckoned the Wright Brothers in 1903, make this the ideal place for beginner hang gliding lessons. The steady prevailing winds, tall sand dunes, and soft sand for landings mean that Kitty Hawk Hang Gliding can get you in the air, by yourself, faster and more easily than other training locations.
Where To Hang Glide
You’ll take your hang gliding lessons at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Kill Devil Hills (one of North Carolina’s most popular attractions) The dunes of Jockey’s Ridge are ideal training grounds.
Follow the signs to the Kitty Hawk hang gliding training center – this training facility may look small, but it’s the largest hang gliding school in the world.
What to Expect
I was understandably feeling a bit south of intrepid as I prepared for our morning of flight. Not only was I about to take to the air for the first time by myself, but I was about to send our twelve and eight-year-old boys into the wild blue yonder as well. How does this even work?
The hesitant feelings passed pretty quickly as we listened to our calming instructors. “These machines just want to fly. All you need to do is relax and let them fly. The hang glider does all of the work.”
Let me be really candid for a second. I’m not talking about soaring hundreds of feet in the air, wondering how the heck you’re going to land this thing.
You take off from the top of a dune, climb anywhere from perhaps three to ten feet above the ground, and land eighty yards or so down the hill into the soft sand below – usually on your feet. The whole time an instructor or two are running along beside you. It’s very safe. And even more so for the kiddos who always have two instructors and an even better handle on the glider.
You’ll start with getting your gear, which consists of a harness and helmet. After about thirty minutes of basic “ground school” instruction it’s off to the dunes, which is less than a half mile walk away.
From there you’ll take five flights in total. Our group, which consisted of our family of four did two flights a piece in turn, followed by another two, and then the final fifth flight. If the wind keeps up, you’ll get more comfortable, and better and better with each flight.
How to Prepare
A few tips on how to make the best of your morning. We went in late August when it was hot – very hot. Bring lots of water – at least two bottles a piece. You’ll be able to bring a bag or backpack to hold water and cameras and such.
Sandals are probably your best choice for footwear. When you’re about to glide, bare feet work best because you start by running through soft sand. The rest of the time that sand can get a bit hot.
Let’s talk a more about that soft sand. Remember when we were told the hang glider does all of the work? Well that’s true – sort of.
But to get off the ground you do need to run pretty vigorously in the soft sand. And after the flight you need to walk back up the hill. Five times of all of this. (Don’t worry – the instructor schlepps the glider)
I’m not saying you need to be a triathlete, but as with any athletic activity you’re going to have more fun if you’re more physically prepared. So ramp up that workout routine, which benefits on so many levels.
Pro Tip: Be sure to add on the GoPro footage. You’re going to love the videos and photos it offers — footage not possible from a camera on the ground.
This was a fun event. But I was definitely left wanting a bit more. There are beginner, intermediate, and advance advanced classes available if you want to extend your soaring experience, but if you’re just in OBX for a short vacation, a tandem flight may be for you.
There are options for two-thousand feet and mile-high tandem hang gliding flights, where you do get to take over control of the glider. Tandem flights don’t take off from dunes – you are towed to altitude with an ultralight plane.
Kitty Hawk Kites also offers packaged deals, where you can soar on your own and in tandem in a single day.
Disclosure: Thanks to Outer Banks Visitors Bureau for hosting us on this amazing adventure. We appreciate Kitty Hawk Kites for showing us new heights, as well. Opinions here are all our own, as always.
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