28 Apr 2021
Last week I took my first Outer Banks hang gliding lesson on the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. I was hooked after the first flight. During this lesson I learned how to control the gilder and foot launch off of the sand dunes. However, with the dune gliding, you’re only in the air 10-20 seconds at a time. To truly see if hang gliding was something that I wanted to experience more, I would have to get up in the air and soar a little. That’s when I called our friends at Kitty Hawk Kites and scheduled a tandem hang gliding experience. Kitty Hawk Kites is the oldest and largest hang gliding school in the world, located right here on the Outer Banks.
Watch As I Soar 2,000 Feet In The Air
Kitty Hawk Kites flies their Outer Banks tandem gliders from the Cotton Gin in Jarvisburg, a 30-45 minute drive from Nags Head. During the tandem hang glide you are towed up in the sky by an ultralight plane (the one that towed me was called a dragonfly), and once you reach your desired altitude the plan disconnects and an instructor helps you glide back to earth.
I am not a fan of heights so I was curious to see if this would be an enjoyable experience for me (come to find out my instructor doesn’t like heights either). I was anxious to get up in the air and see what kind of escapism awaited me up above the clouds, and if I would hate the height or not.
The tandem hang glider has tricycle landing gear and you strap yourself in a harness above your instructor. The instructor gives the signal and the plane tows you up into the air, 2,000 ft. It’s very effortless - you just hang in your harness and you can hold on to handles on your instructors harness if you want.
Once we launched off the ground, my instructor JB said, “Welcome to my office,” and I knew I was in for a good time. We reached our 2,000 ft. altitude and the glider detached from the noisy plan. I instantly became both calm and excited. It was just us and the wind - there was nothing else in the world at that moment.
The bird’s eye view of the vivid greens of the grapevines of Sanctuary Vineyards and the sparkling waters that surround the Outer Banks was simply stellar. I’ve flown above the clouds in a plane, but to see clouds develop and dissolve right before your eyes is amazing. As we glided along, powered by just the wind, JB let me take control of the glider. He showed me how to turn, speed up, and slow down. As he spread his arms out to his sides to take in the flight, the realization hit me like a brick that, on a random Thursday, I was flying a hang glider up in bird, plane, and cloud territory… it was awesome!
When it was time to land, JB took back the control bar and circled us around to the landing strip. We gently glided down, sped up as we approached the ground, and landed on our glider’s wheels just like a plane. Easy enough.
I highly recommend this experience during your next Outer Banks visit, even if you’re afraid of heights. Besides parasailing, it’s probably one of the most laid back experiences that you can have in the sky.
Kitty Hawk Kites offers two tandem hang gliding flights – a 2,000 ft. option and a mile high option. The tandem hang gliding experience is available from April 1st-September 30th. The whole activity takes 1-2 hours from check-in to landing. No prior hang gliding experience is necessary at all and you DO NOT have to take a sand dune hang gliding lesson to enjoy the tandem Outer Banks hang gliding experience. You DO NOT need any prior hang gliding experience. You just have to be 10 years or older and weigh less than 225 lbs.
Guests of Seaside Vacations have access to this Outer Banks bucket list experience and other Kitty Hawk Kites adventures at a discount 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.