27 Apr 2021
Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head is the place you want to go if you want to try hang gliding during your Outer Banks vacation. They offer dune hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge state park in Nags Head. They also offer tandem hang gliding where you are towed up 2000 ft. (or a mile high) and hang glide back to earth with an instructor. In addition, their “taste of flight” package can get you both experiences for one price. Kids hang gliding is available as well from Kitty Hawk Kites.
Today, I teamed up with Kitty Hawk Kites to go hang gliding on the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State park.
I came prepared as their pre-arrival email directed me to. I brought plenty of water, sunscreen, and shoes because the sand on the dunes can become blazing hot during the mid-day. Kitty Hawk Kites does sell sand socks and there are plenty of vending machines on hand if you forget anything.
Watch My Outer Banks Hang Gliding Lesson
The lesson starts off with what they call “ground school” in which my instructor, Hunter, showed me anything and everything that I needed to learn before taking flight. I’m talking how to stand, how to run, how to maneuver the hang glider, etc. Surprisingly, yet obvious if you think about it, the hang glider bar is used primarily for steering and not used to hold you in the hang glider like you might think when you see people hang gliding on TV. You are strapped into a harness which locks you to the glider, and this harness does most of the work when hang gliding. Hunter let me know that I could steer the hang glider by holding the bar with just my fingertips.
There are 4 primary moves with the bar: Pull in for more speed. Push out to slow down. Swing your hips to the side and back to center to steer left or right. Flair out (like Superman) to stop the glider and land. Simple enough. I was stoked to try.
I had 5 or 6 attempts to fly over some of the same sand dunes on which the Wright Brothers invented flight. As Hunter and his co-worker, Zack, ran beside me and helped control the glider with control straps, I shifted my weight into the harness and jogged down the sand dune. With Hunter yelling instructions, I took flight and controlled the glider pretty well as I glided over the dunes and down into a soft sand landing. I was having such a good time that I forgot to stand up and landed on my knees. I was immediately hooked on this experience. It was like a seconds long window into how a bird feelsor a GI Joe (they often hang glided in that classic 80’s cartoon from my youth-nerd points).
By the end of the last lesson, I had gained enough skill to speed up, slowed dow, turn and land the hang glider. On a difficult scale of 1-10, I’d say it was a 2 to fly, at least with instructors at my side. It’s kind of like bowling or golf (or video games), in that you can’t wait to try again so you can perfect your form and have a flawless run.
After Your Lesson You Become A Member Of The Club:
Now that I know, in general, how to work a hang glider next up will be tandem hang gliding to see if this is something that I will want to pursue. If I do, Kitty Hawk Kites offers certification to get one to full hang gliding pilot status. They are plugged into the hang gliding community and are a great resource for big boy hang gliding trips in the mountains. The next steps for this are listed on my Kitty Hawk Kites flight school log book and are as follows:
FIRST LESSON…TANDEM TOW…BEGINNER RATING…NOVICE RATING…SOLO TOW…MOUNTAIN FLIGHT.
The next time you’re in the Outer Banks I would highly recommend checking hang gliding off of your Outer Banks bucket list. Guests of Seaside Vacations have access to discounted hang gliding lessons, and other Kitty Hawk Kites adventures as part of the Seaside Vacations/Kitty Hawk Kites partnership.
About the Author: A former radio DJ from Nashville, Chad has been fully embracing the island life for about 10 years. Whether he's hiking through Nags Head Woods or hang gliding off Jockey's Ridge, he loves experiencing everything the Outer Banks has to offer. In his spare time, you can find Chad hanging out with his wife and 2 daughters, filming/editing really awesome videos, and moonlighting as Captain Seaside.