We have returned to the hang gliding hills. The instructor, Dan, tells me to run like I’m on Baywatch. I try to channel David Hasselhoff as I take my next run down the hill, although I’m certain Dan had someone blonde and female in mind.
The rest of the morning, my flights seem to get better and better. Dan asks me if I want to start trying to land on my feet. I have seen many people land on their feet. They swoop in low and then allow the nose to reach trim, move their hands up on the bars, and then push up, tipping the nose back so that the glider is like a super-hero cape behind them. Then, they lower gently to the earth and land on their feet, just like any modern-day super hero should.
My first attempt, I get close, but when I try to flare, my arms go out fully extended and the glider is just barely tipped back. I get enough lift to almost put my feet down, but then I crash to the ground with a thud.
I go through several more attempts, making mistakes each time. My closest attempt culminates with me falling flat on my face. I didn’t think it was possible to actually hit your face on the ground while strapped into a hang glider, but I manage it. Pat pulls up on the Kubota and says, “Are you OK? You landed flat on your face!” I assure him I am aware I landed on my face.
After a final roll-in landing, I decide it’s time to call it quits for the day if I want to make sure I can get up tomorrow.
As I change into my dry clothes, I count the bruises. I have a scraped ankle, bruises on both knees and both hips. My shoulders are bruised, my arm is bruised, and my wrists and forearms ache. For a moment I wonder why I continue beating myself up. I smile to myself as I remember the feeling of having a really good flight. The feeling of being lifted up into the air and then riding the ground effect for that brief moment before the wheels touch down.
I look at my bruises a second time and smile knowing I earned them because I took a major step forward today. I think, “This is fun. I’ll stop when it’s not fun anymore.”
I’ve always believed the saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” but I’ve never really done anything that way. Learning to hang glide is the first time I’ve taken on learning something with no goal in mind. I don’t know if I will ever do a mountain launch. All I know is I really like the way it feels to glide off the training hill. I’m having a ball right where I am and I’m having a ball learning one small skill at a time. Why would I give that up?