Learning to Fly in the OBX

As a gal who’s scared of heights, I felt some mixed emotions when I learned that I’d be doing some dune hang gliding with my coworkers on a recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Learning to fly (so to speak) was always something I’d secretly dreamed of doing, but I knew that due to my phobia it would be really hard to get me out there. Hot air balloons, hang gliding, and even sky high zip lining were things that were on my bucket list, but that I always took secret comfort in knowing that it was likely never going to happen.

But, dune hang gliding was a bit different. You weren’t going quite so high, a professional was by your side the whole time, and I realized that it might be a great way to face my fears while I slowly worked my way up to tandem hang gliding and maybe even one day doing it on my own. If not, at least I could say that I had gone hang gliding in my own way.

My Experience

After some worries over bad weather, the skies cleared and we arrived at Kitty Hawk Kites in the afternoon. We watched a few educational videos about hang gliding that gave off a very 90s vibe and had us laughing. Then, it was time to get suited up and make our trek out to the sand dunes.

I took a few deep breathes and decided to focus on my excitement and push my nervous feelings down. After all, this was the place where the Wright brothers had learned to fly, and I could do it, too. I mean.. same thing, right?

We were split into groups of about 5 people each and I was nominated to go second. It was all happening so fast. Suited up in my super stylish helmet and strange overall-type suit, I hooked myself into the glider, tested my setup, and got the OK from my instructor, Jesse. He had a positive attitude and made me feel like I was in good hands.

Standing up, I was told that I was next up for “flight”. I started by walking my glider but quickly escalated into a jog and then a bit of a run until the glider picked up the wind and Jesse told me it was time to pick my legs up and soar. For a brief second, I felt a little frightened but then I couldn’t stop smiling. I wasn’t high off the ground, but I felt like a bird and it was amazing. At the end of my flight, Jesse shouted “flair” which meant it was time to end the flight by pushing the glider upwards and planting my feet. I couldn’t believe it, but I actually landed on my feet the first run!

Filled with excitement, I realized I had been holding my breath the whole time, but Jesse gave me some pointers for my next run and I couldn’t wait to go again. All in all, I got 6 runs down the hill (the course offers 5, but one of my kind coworkers gave away one of hers for me to try again because she saw how much I enjoyed hang gliding). Afterwards, I was given a booklet with a signature to prove that I had gone through the first phase of training. I’m holding on to it because I’m determined to get out there again— this time a little higher, too!


How You Can Fly, Too

If you’ve ever been curious about hang gliding but were also a bit skeptical, this is absolutely the perfect experience for you. It’s a fun way to fill your day in the Outer Banks with family, friends, or even co-workers for some team bonding. You’ll even get a decent workout in since you have to climb up the big sand dune at the end of each run.

Kitty Hawk Kites, the company we booked the excursion through also offers a few other flight options such as tandem hang gliding a mile high or tandem gliding 2000ft high.

So, tell us, what’s a fear that you’ve conquered while on vacation? Have you ever been hang gliding, bungee jumping, or skydiving? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Replies to “Learning to Fly in the OBX”

  1. I have a tremendous fear of heights. On my 30th birthday I took a hang gliding lesson; the kite took a sudden gust of wind and flipped over. No more hang gliding! On my 50th birthday vacation, I decided it was time to face my greatest fear–so I went skydiving. In tandem of course (I’m not insane). The first five seconds tumbling out of the plane were sheer, unadulterated terror, where in slow motion I berated myself soundly for making such a stupid decision. But when we got into position for free fall, suddenly it was beyond exhilarating. The chute opening turned the roar into silence, and I drifted down with no fear, landing on my feet. No, I won’t go again, and I’m still afraid of heights, but I have the knowledge that I was brave.

    1. That is so amazing! Sounds like a very exhilarating experience and it’s so great to know that you can accomplish your fears. What a great way to celebrate your 50th, too.

      Thanks for sharing your story and for reading!

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