#adventure17 v.4

16 Apr

So, what did you think?, our instructor asked after our 4+ hours of private lessons. I think I can speak for both of us, I said, when I say that this FAR exceeded our expectations. And when your adventure partner shows up to the gig wearing a superhero shirt in anticipation of how things might go, you know that’s really saying something! 

Ready to fly!

Our instructor was a bit flummoxed by the fact that neither one of us had harbored a life-long dream of flying (he says that’s the usual M.O. for clients) nor any real understanding of what hang gliding actually IS… 😳

  • No, we explained, we’d just ridden our bikes past the place literally thousands of times, always wondering what goes on here. 
  • No, during those thousands of ride-bys we’d never really stopped to watch anyone do this. 
  • No, we didn’t look at the video at the bottom of your email (or, more precisely: What video? I asked and What email? BB/PP asked).

Whoops, score –2 for our #adventure17 preparation, I guess! But, no matter, it would be just the 2 of us (usual classes are 4-6 people) so we’d get plenty of extra attention and guidance–and clearly we (or at least THIS part of “we”) needed it!

The four cardinal rules of beginner hang gliding are as follows: 


  1. Eyes on your target
  2. Legs beneath you
  3. Arms relaxed
  4. Hands even MORE relaxed

When you fail to do the second thing because you believe that “real” hang gliders should try to keep their bodies parallel to the ground/their wings–EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE EXPLICITLY TOLD THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE–guess what? Your legs will not be beneath you when you attempt to land! Instead, your almost perfectly parallel body will land 100% perfectly parallel to the ground, which is what I learned during my virgin flight. Luckily, BB/PP doesn’t know how to use my phone’s video function so you will just have to take my word for it when I tell you that my slide-stop/belly-flop was SPECTACULAR!

Here are some photos of me attempting to act like Supergirl on my hang-bar though:

WARNING: Do not try to act like Supergirl when you fly!

BB/PP had the advantage of learning from my mistake AND the disadvantage of me knowing how to use my own phone. Thus there is video evidence of HIS virgin flight, which was not exactly a superhero-worthy outing although he did epically nail the instruction to “just keep running in the air…!”

When we commenced the lesson the wind was inconsistent and weak. This gave us plenty of time to: (a) chat amiably with the instructor and each other, (b) watch all the many kinds of very different people walking/riding along the bike path that is usually a just dull piece of quickly traversed cement in our everyday-cyclist lives [NB: People Watching might get its own special #adventure17 slot if I can’t sort out my August adventure plan….], and (c) ponder and practice some “basic” [HUGE AIR QUOTES THERE!] biomechanical principles.

Turns out, flying a glider is not at all anything like riding a bike! We thought we knew what the instructor meant when he admonished us to hold the bars loosely because we frequently give that very same instruction–with the same types of examples and explanatory analogies–to riders who are learning how to descend more efficiently/safely. NOPE: the way in which a “loose grip” is managed on a hang bar is completely opposite from how it’s done on a handle bar. On handlebars your thumbs are your best friends. We have opposable thumbs for a reason, right? Control your bike with your thumbs (and eyes/hips) we tell our friends/clients. It takes some getting used to, but it works! 

What does our hang gliding instructor say about thumbs? Whatever your thumb might be doing is wrong. If you think you should use your thumb, DON’T.

Or, later, when we were still having trouble grasping this concept <ba, dumpt, Da!>: The animal best suited for hang gliding might be something like a raccoon–good, dexterous fingers; useless thumb.


Another way that gliding is dramatically different from riding is in how you make the machines turn. In riding we learn and eventually habituate the concept of “counter stearing,” which generally means that you push/lean-into whichever direction of turn you want to make using the OPPOSITE hand. In gliding, you certainly do NOT do that–as we each learned the hard/not-at-all-effective way during our 3rd runs. But you also do not exactly do the opposite, either. 

So what DO you do to stear your glider? Our lovely, very patient instructor made every effort to explain the concept(s) to me using a variety of words and stories and demos and whatnot but the more he tried the more confused and frustrated I got because I still have some lingering post-brain-bashing spatial orientation challenges that make the way I process the world quite different from how “normal” people do it.

So I asked BB to go first for our last 3 runs so that he could explain things to me after trying them himself (he’s done a pretty good job of learning how to translate the world for me) and so that I could watch him move because, ironically and despite my spatial disorientation issues, I learn best by observing other people do things. Learning by observation gives me space/time to translate what my eyes see into mental representations that jibe with how my mind sees, thinks, and then instructs my body to respond–eyes and brains can “see” things very differently you know…., but that is a topic better suited for a future sciency-post.

So, anyhow… BB assumed the lead-off role for our last 3 runs, during which the wind had picked-up nicely and we were instructed in more complex maneuvering skills + given more autonomy to practice them. Because I was so enthralled with watching BB perform–which he did brilliantly ~85% of the time–I neglected to take any further pictures or videos of him. I want to assure you–and HIM–however, that by our 7th and final run he totally rocked and embodied his Batman alter-ego! 

I barely avoided an emotional/ego meltdown after my very far from optimal 6th run. The words my instructor tried to use to guide me through the directional and gravitational challenges that the wind was giving me just DID NOT jibe with my mental map. My head was swimming and my eyes began to well-up with tears that threatened to leak out. 

BB saw/felt/intuited this and almost attempted to talk me down off the proverbial ledge with what I’m sure would’ve been kind, supportive, and possibly even helpful words, but I SHOT HIM WITH MY STONE-COLD ULTRA-INTENSE but-oh-so-relaxed-calm-and-focused LASER GLARE so he shut the fuck right up.


EPIPHANY: When I focus my thoughts and vision with clarity of intention, everything falls into place.

  • I will focus on my target
  • I will keep my legs beneath me
  • I will relax my arms and hands
  • I will trust the machine and wind to do their jobs

And wouldn’t you know? 

It worked!

I flew further and higher and with greater ease-of-control than I imagined to be possible. So. Friggin. HAPPY! 😃

If something feels beyond your control, just relax.

#adventure17 v.4 hang gliding: We learned to do more than fly today, we were reminded how to live.

4 Responses to “ #adventure17 v.4”

  1. Amanda April 17, 2017 at 8:04 am #

    Fabulous! 🙂

  2. Carissa Barker April 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    I SHOT HIM WITH MY STONE-COLD ULTRA-INTENSE but-oh-so-relaxed-calm-and-focused LASER GLARE so he shut the fuck right up.

    Bahahaha – I know that stare. I have that stare.

    Yay for Z flying!

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