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News Stories
Exhilarating Hang Gliding Lets You Fly Like an Eagle
Marin Visitor, October, 2000

Anyone who has ever dreamed of flying can live the fantasy by taking a hang gliding lesson in Marin County. San Francisco Hang Gliding Center (SFHGC), has opened Mt. Tamalpais State Park for commercial tandem hang gliding and paragliding instruction. Before SFHG came on the scene, going hang gliding in the area meant owning a glider and knowing how to fly. Now owner Bodhi Kroll teaches novices on a special tandem, or two-person, hang glider.

The gliders fly over Mt. Tamalpais, 10 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, over redwoods and homes, and land on the north end of Stinson Beach. Some have described the landing as so soft it was difficult to say when the flight was over.

Kroll says he was a child when he started having vivid dreams of flying. He also enjoyed bird-watching and was fascinated by their flight. He was a teenager when he saw a hang glider and recognized that hang gliding could allow him to live his dreams.

Kroll has been flying for about 17 years. He learned the trade by working for a hang gliding company in Australia. His students have included an eight-year-old boy and an 83-year-old man. Kroll explains that only 120 people in the United States are certified to perform tandem hang gliding, which takes more training and a special exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration. SFHG currently employs six instructors, all of whom are certified by the United States Hang Gliding Association.

Once at Mt. Tamalpais, the glider - which is collapsible for easy transport - is assembled. Slide rods in the wings keep the glider stable, although steady winds can appear to be tugging the glider from the pilot's hands. Solo hang gliders average 145 - 150 square feet, and tandem gliders are almost twice as large at 210 - 220 square feet with a 37-foot wingspan. Each student is fitted with a full-body harness, attached to both the instructor and the glider for safety.

In addition to hang gliding for beginners, SFHG offers paragliding - described as an experience more like floating than flying. A paraglider employs a parachute that is laid out on the ground. The pilot takes a few steps and the chute opens and lifts him or her into the air. A paraglider can initiate turns, but a hang glider can dive and climb and dip.

Kroll believes the majority of the public - even those who are afraid of heights - can learn to love hang gliding.

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