For Christmas in 1974, Julie Simon, a friend in Berkeley, bought me a gift certificate for a HangGliding
Introduction Course. One weekend, we went out to Point Reyes and I had the time of my life. Her Dad
got into the sport, and bought a hang glider, and we were allowed to borrow it. So we did. She was also
amateur photographer and took these photos of me.
Point Reyes has these beautiful sand dunes, right near the ocean where a constant wind makes it the
place for hang gliding. The dunes are a little rocky, but this turns out to be a good thing because
pure sand is
VERY hard to climb up. These dunes had lots of sand in the important spots, i.e. the landing area!
Here I am, young punk, ready for anything!
Beginners start lower down on the dunes, where your glide angle pretty much matches the slope of the
dunes. By this point, I was going off the top where you could finally get some altitude, say 50 to 70
feet up. If
the wind was strong enough and you had a good kite, it was possible to "soar" on the front
of the dune. That
is, stay up without losing any altitude. I was never good enough for this... must have been the wind
conditions... and it wasn't a high performance kit either. So, I got in lots of short flights. It mostly
on how many times you could carry the kite back up the dune.
This is from part way down the dune.
When the wind shifts, you have to go down different parts of the dune. Here I am coming down one of
sandier parts. The whole thing is pretty magical. This hang glider was equiped with a primitive seat
Really easy and comfortable. But has the aerodynamics of a brick. All the high performance ones let
rotate your body so you are lying down. These weren't used in the beginner course because beginners
frequently forget to move their feet back under them for the landings.
This photo captures more of the scale of the whole thing. In the distance you can see the tents and
beyond the dark stuff is the surf pounding
into the beach. Water is too cold to swim. And forbidden also because of the fierce undertows.
This was not a particularly brilliant flight.
Lots of funny things happened during classes and watching other classes. I have to add some in here!
More, I want More!
Iwent back quite a few more times. Point Reyes was an ideal place for beginner hang-gliders. I
mean, where else can you fly with cows?
The hill was pleasantly close...
The people were friendly, even if they had WAY too much hair...
How To Hang Glide:
Pick the kite up, and stagger up the hill. It helps to let the wind help you. Then, put the kite
down, clip in and pick it up. Pull it up tight against your harness, and "find the wind".
point, you will hopefully have the kite in such a position that the wind is lifting it up, and you are
not being blown over backwards. It is a fine line...
Then run down the hill, and slowly push the control bar forwards... Note the soft sand. It makes
trudging up the hill a nightmare, but is ideal for beginners to learn on.
Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it just looks easy...
But, then you stall and...
I stalled and would have bounced on my butt, except for putting my feet down and running some
more. Note the rocks. Not a nice place to sit down hard. And then the wind comes and reverses
the sail, and if you don't have your legs out from under the cross bar, you are pinned by 300
When it goes right, you find yourself hanging in the air.
When it goes really well, your flight lasts 3 times as long as an average one...
I haven't done any hang-gliding since the 1970's. But then, I never drive past a cliff or big hill
without thinking what it would be like to ride a hang glider down it.