Riding the wind
Published: Friday, September 28, 2007
Updated: Friday, December 26, 2008 19:12
If you have the guts and $325, you could also spend your Saturday afternoon hang gliding off the top of Mount Tamalpais and flying like the birds. With no prior experience and only a 10-minute lesson you could soar alongside an experienced flight instructor, landing softly below on Stinson Beach.
Flight instructor Kevin Coltrane from Kitty Hawk, N.C. spends 20 minutes putting his hang glider together after carrying it on his shoulder from his vehicle to the launch site.
"Gliders weigh about 50 pounds and tandem gliders about 70 pounds, so when I throw my back out or can't carry it anymore, I'm done flying," Coltrane said.
Coltrane is in the area for the summer, working for the San Francisco Hang Gliding Center. He has been flying since 1998 and has taken 1,500 tandem flights over the last six years.
V Kingsley is here for her first flight. She is a cancer survivor who has overcome blindness, and is from Felton. Her partner, Danielle Hope, purchased the flight for her as a gift. Their 10-year-old son, Parker, has come along to watch his mom fly.
"I am here to celebrate life," Kingsley said. "I am 40 years old and I just ended four years of chemotherapy treatment."
Also preparing to fly is John Simpson of Pacifica. He began hang gliding eight months ago and enjoyed it so much that he decided to buy his own glider. This would be his first solo flight off Mount Tamalpais. To help coach him through it, he requested David Beerman, the site administrator, to meet him on the mountain.
"I'm here to help advise him," Beerman said. "I've been flying this site since 1983 and in the past 25 years we've only had two fatalities."
Beerman is a past tandem instructor as well as the president of the Marin County Hang Gliding Association and has six gliders of his own.
"Medium wind is ideal and cloudy is often better," Beerman said. "Tandem flights last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, but sometimes solo flights can last for hours."
Chris Valley of San Mateo shows off his bright red Wills Wing U2 complete with a GPS and an onboard computer that calculates lift and sink as well as wind speed.
"I learned to fly at Mission Soaring in Hollister," Valley said. "I bought this glider last year for $5,000. Hang gliding becomes a way of life."
After her flight, Kingsley said, "It was the opposite of scary; expansive. I grew up on the beach and thought I knew everything there was to know about the ocean. It was a completely different perspective. I was so close that I could smell it and almost touch it. It was spiritually mind-blowing."
For more information on hang glading or to inquire about a flight call (510) 528-2300 or visit www.SFHangGliding.com.