If you had to pick a super power, what would it be? For some people it is being invisible, for other it is to travel in time, for me it was flying. When I was a kid I used to dream of flying... I would close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be in the air, what the ground would look like, how it would feel. It was amazing in my imagination and a dream to be accomplished someday.
As I grew older, i realised I'm not actually Superman, but there are other realistic options. It was time to cross this off the Bucket list!
Quick Q&A to start:
Is it hard to learn hang gliding? The first few lessons are a combination of exhilaration and frustration. Getting off the ground and gliding through the air feels amazing, but it is also very different from other things you have experienced, which is takes a little time to get used to. It isn't a car... don't turn it, shift you weight !
Am I going to fly on the first lesson? - It isn't guaranteed, but I think most people are able to get a few feet off the ground and get a nice feeling of what it feels like. Watch it, flying can be addicting!
How long is the lesson?- The lessons that I have taken are usually 4 hours.
How do I land?- Your glider will loose momentum naturally and in the first lessons you usually run it off. There are training wheels on the beginner gliders in case you fall. : )
OK, on to the top 10 list:
1- Pick a site with multiple teachers! Learning from different people will help gain perspective and learn from the person you can relate.
2- Chose site that is close to you! The first few lessons may be OK, but if you have a weekday job, you will have to take weekend lessons and the classes are normally held in the morning because of the wind direction. Soon enough you will start resenting the early saturday and sunday morning alarms.
3- Lessons can be expensive so you will have to find a balance between the frequency of lessons, retaining your recently learned skills vs. your budget! I found that lessons every other week worked out well for me.
4- Don't be too hard on yourself! In the beginning the lessons can be a little disappointing since you are only getting a few feet off the ground and you are constantly worried about crashing. Don't look at the ground, look at the horizon! Gliding through the air feels amazing and even a few feet off the ground gives you a terrific rush! I also found that getting a Hang Gliding training manual is very helpful as you do your "Homework" after the classes.
5- It will normally take from 5-8 lessons to get your Hang 1 license so make a schedule so plan accordingly.
6- Don't try to "learn it all at once". I found that some people will travel to different sites or cities to learn everything in 1 week, but they don't have a way to keep the skills sharp afterwards. On the other hand, it is easy to let too much time go by between lessons, and I found that Hang gliding skills are like anything else- if you don't use it, you will loose it!
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7- Meet people around the site! You can make friends with other students or advanced pilots, you will start growing into the community. This will also be helpful later on when you start taking flights on your own and you need someone to drive you up the hill to the launch sites. It will also help you make friends to take Hang gliding weekend trips later on.
8- Going up the hill can be challenging if you are on your own. People often times "pair up" and take turns driving together up the hill. Someone will fly down and the other will drive the car back down. This can be helpful if you have a few friends in the community. You can also check out local forums or blogs to see if there are people that could drive you up. Some trainers have to observe a certain number of student launches before then can officially teach hang gliding. Those guys will drive you up the hill for free !
9- Once you obtain a Hang 2 license, you will start to fly more on your own. Plan for this ahead of time and save some money because you will want to have your own glider, harness, and parachute at this point. Make sure you get the parachute with the harness since without the parachute you won't be able to fly from higher hills.
10- Get a GO PRO and mount on the glider or have someone record your landings, this can be really helpful in determining why you may be having a hard time.