How would you like to soar over sand dunes, fly high above sea and shore, and enjoy thrilling bird’s-eye views of lush fields and sparkling waters?
You can experience all that and more when you try hang gliding here in the Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina.
These beautiful barrier islands offer ideal conditions for family-friendly hang gliding – with smooth, consistent winds to lift you into the air plus plenty of sand to gently cushion your landing.
No wonder thousands of gliding enthusiasts flock here ever year.
Your Chance to Fly Like a Bird
The typical hang-gliding aircraft consists of a light yet strong airframe covered by spreading wings made of synthetic sailcloth. A sturdy triangle frame attaches beneath the airframe.
For each flight, you’re strapped into a safety harness suspended from the airframe. Your hands rest on the control frame – the bottom bar of the triangle, resembling a handle bar.
There’s no motor or engine. You’re borne aloft by the wind. As you fly, you control your direction by shifting your body weight in opposition to the control frame. It’s easier than you might expect. And more fun than you’d ever imagine.
Beginner to Pro, There’s a Hang-Gliding Adventure for Everyone
Never tried hang gliding before? Come to Jockey Ridge State Park (Mile Post 12 in Nags Head), a 427-acre preserve with a network of massive sand dunes towering up to 100 feet high. They’re the tallest sand dunes on the entire East Coast, and they’re the ideal launching platform for gliders.
Here, in this unspoiled setting, Kitty Hawk Kites conducts the world’s largest hang-gliding school – just four miles from the site of the Wright brothers’ historic first airborne flight.
Founded in 1974, Kitty Hawk Kites offers year-round hang-gliding lessons for students at all levels, beginner to advanced. The only requirements? You must be at least four years old and weigh between 80 and 225 pounds.
What if you’re a little lighter? No worries. Special lessons are available for kids weighing 75 pounds or less.
Kitty Hawk Kites can even accommodate students with handicaps and disabilities. Practically anyone and everyone can get in on the excitement.
Start Out at the Jockey Ridge Dunes
Each three-hour lesson includes five solo flights. First, you’ll spend about 45 minutes learning the ropes in the Ground School, with special emphasis on safety precautions. Then you’ll be ready to fly.
Accompanied by your expert instructor (who carries all the equipment), you’ll climb to the top of a dune. Your instructor will help you clip on your harness and review any last-minute pointers. Then, safely strapped to the glider, you’ll run right into the wind – and, in mere moments, you’ll be airborne.
During your exhilarating flight, you’ll soar from five to 15 feet high over a distance of up to 100 yards. You’ll catch breathtaking glimpses of Roanoke Sound and the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Then you’ll make a nice, safe landing in soft, welcoming sand. No worries – even if you mess up, you’ll be OK.
How to Prep for Your First Flight
As always when you’re gearing up for outdoor sports, you’ll want to be thoroughly prepared. Here’s what most experts recommend:
- Use sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin against blazing sun and harmful ultraviolet rays.
- Wear sunglasses or other eye protection – such as a cap with a visor – to shield your eyes against blinding glare.
- Dress in layers. Even on a scorching day, the winds that crisscross the dunes can feel surprisingly nippy. Carry a light jacket or sweater to chase away the chill.
- Bring water. As you trudge up and down giant dunes, you can work up a powerful thirst. Take a swig from your water bottle or backpack bladder to stay cool, refreshed, and hydrated.
- Don’t forget your camera. As you soar through the air, you’ll have a perfect chance to snap shots of the stunning scenery. Make sure your phone or digital camera is within easy reach. Pro tip: When you’re not using your small electronics, keep them in zip-locked baggies to protect them from sand and grit.
Ready to Fly Even Higher?
Try tandem hang glidingwith Kitty Hawk Kites at the Cotton Gin Flight Park in Jarvisburg.
You’ll share your special two-person hang glider with a certified flight instructor. Once you’re both strapped in safely, you’ll be borne aloft by an ultralight craft called a tow plane. Depending on which package you’ve purchased, the plane will release your glider at either 2,000 feet or an entire mile above sea level.
It’s an unforgettable experience. For 10 minutes or more, you’ll glide above Currituck Island, with sweeping views of Currituck Sound, open ocean, and gorgeous countryside. With your instructor’s help, you’ll try heart-pounding tricks like diving, stalling, and turning.
Then you’ll cruise to a comfortable landing, thanks to your glider’s “tricycle” wheels.
Don’t Miss Out on These Thrills (and More)
There’s so much outdoor excitement awaiting you here at the coast. Gather the fam, hop in the car, and head to the NC Outer Banks now!