Pictures from hang-gliding
The field full of cows south of Hollister, CA where we went hang-gliding today.
Boriss getting ready to take off.
Boriss was doing tow-launches today. There's a motorized winch hooked to a long cable, which reels in the glider very fast. Like a kid running with a kite on a string, this propels the glider up into the air very rapidly.
... and then the cable lets go and you just soar. She disappeared above the clouds and didn't reappear for many minutes.
When I heard "let's go hang-gliding", of course what I imagined was jumping straight off a sheer cliff above the ocean, or something.
Nothing like that. I joined a newbie class with eight or so other beginners. They started us on a gentle grassy hill, something you might sled down in the winter.
We'd take turns running down the hill and briefly leave the ground (or not) for a few seconds before landing again. It was a great, non-scary way to get started.
Here's me, getting ready to try it. The guy in the red shirt is Dave, our teacher for the day.
He taught me how to avoid the most common newbie mistakes. "Walk, then jog, then stride", he said. Most people launching for the first time will instinctively stop running and try to jump when they feel the lift under the wing. It doesn't work that way; if you stop running you'll just fall down. You have to keep running while the glider picks you up.
The other thing that's easy to do wrong at first is to grip the bars too tightly. When people realize they're leaving the ground they tend to grab on for dear life. But there's no need; the harness on your back is what's holding you up, and grabbing the bars in a death-grip will just make the glider stall. You have to force yourself to relax and use a very gentle touch.
By my second or third try I was flying. It feels really great! When I was a kid and I had dreams of flying, they always started with me running and jumping off the top of a hill or a staircase or something. Hang-gliding feels exactly like those dreams.
I was expecting to wipe out a lot today, but I mostly landed on my feet.
There were a lot of cow pies in this field. I managed to dodge them, but I saw one guy land right in one. Gross!
A hang glider is something like a tent -- you take out the poles holding it rigid and then the whole thing folds up into a narrow tube shape and zips up inside a bag.
It was a ton of fun! I am tempted to start doing this semi-regularly and get good at it, so I can do towed launches or jump off mountains or whatever.