Experience Review: HangglideOz

I have had the opportunity to do a lot of different things in my life so far, and hopefully many more to come, but one that had a really lasting impression on me was hang gliding. We are not talking about getting into a glider (essentially a plane without an engine), which I have also done; no, we are talking about running off a cliff strapped to essentially some tent poles and fabric. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Firstly, this was a gift, so not something I had considered. It was to take place at Bald Hill, Stanwell Park. This brought many sniggers from friends, as anyone who has seen a photo of me knows that I have been, let’s say, challenged in the hair department since my twenties. But once we got past the (very funny) jokes, this place is magical.

The views of Grand Pacific Drive, the Royal National Park, and the ocean and the beach below are incredible, if not also daunting when running off the cliff. It is about an hour south of Sydney, Australia, so just a long enough drive for the anxiety to build up nicely while you make nervous small talk all the way. The journey is simple: you run off the cliff out to the ocean, you are 180 m high (590ft), you then fly around and land on the beach to your right below. Sounds simple.

But before any of that, you need to put your glider together with your instructor. I am doing a tandem flight today as I have, of course, never flown a glider. So, my instructor and I will both be attached, run off the cliff, and he will teach me how to fly “on the job,” I guess is the best way to explain it. The first thing that strikes me as we happily slot what look like tent poles together so that they don’t lock in, they just slide in, and from what I can tell, also slide out very easily, is concerning.

I decide to bring this up as a concern, which brings much laughter from my instructor. He goes on to explain to me that there is no need for them to click together; once we are airborne, the tension caused by the fabric, the air, and our weight make it incredibly stable. Being generally optimistic about life, I take this on his word and think nothing more of it, until the moment we jump off the cliff 20 mins later when, I have to say, what to do crosses my mind again. The whole set-up is pretty basic, I have to say, although he assures me it is far more sophisticated than it looks.

From here on, it is simple, he explains. We both put on our harness, attach ourselves, I am slightly behind him and to the side, and we run off the 180m cliff, fly around for about 20 mins, and then land on the beach below. The whole thing is about 30 mins. Heights do not worry me; I actually quite like them, so I am pretty relaxed. But I will say the actual process of launching is insane. Strapped in, the tension appears to be working as he said it would.

If we are all good, we start to run to the edge of a cliff. Well, there’s just something very counterintuitive about running towards the end of a cliff. It’s just not something I have done before and my heart does pound, well, that is until I think it stops for about 10 secs as we go off the cliff. Wow, what an experience that is! You dip slightly as you leave the ground and then the thermals and the wind catch you, and you lift right up.

For me, this was one of the best parts; the launch gives you a sense of flying like I have never had, incredible. Fear disappears and honestly, wonder is the next emotion. It really is like nothing else I have ever done. I think the first thing that you notice is how instantly quiet it is. The silence is incredible; it really adds to the moment.

After a few minutes of flying around, going up, down, turning, etc., my instructor tells me it is time for me to take over and passes me the bar. They are incredibly easy to fly, although, like most of these things, small movements are the way to go and the feeling is something very special.

I think my favorite part is that if you pull the bar towards you, the glider will angle down, and you pick up speed and head to the ground; that is not just fun, but the noise it makes is simply epic. It is not loud, but you hear the same noise you would hear watching a World War II movie when one of the fighter planes gets shot down and is heading into the ocean. I’m not sure why, but I loved this sound. It really was easy to fly around, and the feeling is totally unique.

The time goes pretty quickly, and the instructor guides me towards the beach a long way below where we have to land before he takes back control at the end. We land safely on the beach. We seemed to have an especially good landing; the guy who landed after us did a huge face plant kind of crash (he should have gone tandem), and a massive rush of endorphins hit me.

I loved it. There was a lot of emotion that is hard to articulate, and it is hard to describe, but having completed a lot of crazy things, this has to be described as totally unique and less high-octane and more good for the soul. If you get a chance to do this, take it, and trust me, the tension really does hold together the whole glider like cement (once you are airborne).

About Author

Steve Grace is the CEO & Founder of The Nudge Group; the Co-Founder of TNG Media; CEO of Balance the Grind; and the Creator and Host of the Give It A Nudge video podcast.