Ever wondered why birds prefer the air to the ground? Once you’ve piloted a hang glider from a sandy coastal bluff at the Dockweiler Hang Gliding Center in El Segundo, you’ll know exactly why. Under the careful instruction of Windsports Hang Gliding, you’ll be emulating the ubiquitous gulls around you in the course of an afternoon.
Instructor Andy Beem drills you in the three key basics: loose grip on the bars, upright stance, eyes fixed on a distant object (as opposed to the ground rushing beneath you). Then comes a series of safety checks. Clipped in? You balance yourself. Feel the wind in your “sail.” Step into a walk, a run, and before you know it, you’re soaring!
The 34-foot wingspan of the glider that felt intimidating at first quickly becomes one with your body after you’ve left the ground. You don’t soar far (maybe 100 yards) or high (maybe 10 feet), but you’re flying, and it’s an unforgettable sensation.
If it sounds scary, know that Windsports instructors are fanatical about safety and know how to ease you into flight. When you cross the coastal bike path to get to the launch site, Andy assures you: “That is the most dangerous thing we will do all day.”
TIPS: The lessons are on Dockweiler State Beach, so bring sunblock and drinking water. Hang gliding is more tiring than you may imagine (especially bringing the hang glider back up the hill after a flight), so wear comfortable running shoes and come ready for some exercise.
Windsports Hang Gliding offers a full lesson and seven flights for $160, or a mini lesson and four flights for $99. Dockweiler State Beach is just south of LAX. Take I-405 to I-105 west till it ends after 3.5 miles at Vista Del Mar. Turn left (south) on Vista Del Mar, continue about half a mile, and turn right into a large parking lot. The Windsports hut is at the far south end of the lot, where parking is $8 to $10. No dogs.