Hang Gliding at Jockey’s Ridge

Jockey’s Ridge has been witness to the entire evolution of hang gliding!

When hang gliding gained popularity in the 1970s, Jockey’s Ridge became one of the premier spots in the world for beginners to safely learn the sport. The combination of inspiring views, soft sand and ocean winds draws adventurers from all over the world to learn to fly.

hang gliding

In the first days of hang gliding, pilots could be seen walking out to Jockey’s Ridge with a roll of cellophane, an arm full of bamboo and a roll of duct tape, to build their glider and fly it. The sport was just beginning, and Jockey’s Ridge was a perfect place to practice. These dunes are still a perfect place to practice, although we have come a long way since the “Bamboo Butterfly.”

  • Gliders have become so efficient that:
  • Pilots can stay aloft for hours
  • It is now statistically safer than most other forms of personal recreation
  • It has become very popular
  • Is pursued by thousands of people in the United States alone

    The origins of hang gliding can be traced back to the 1950s, when Dr. Francis Rogallo (1912-2009) decided there must be a way for the general public to experience the joy of flying.

    At the time he was working for what would eventually be called NASA, and although they would not allow him to pursue his theory as an official project, they did authorize him to work on his concept on his own time.

    With the help of his wife Gertrude, Dr. Rogallo designed a flexible wing that could be steered and could glide forward through the air as it descended. All future hang gliders would be based on Rogallo’s patented design, giving Dr. Rogallo worldwide recognition as the “Father of Hang Gliding.”

    He was revered not only by all hang glider pilots, but also by the entire aviation community. Thousands of people a year flock to Jockey’s Ridge to understand what it felt like for the Wright Brothers, Rogallo, and others to take their first flight.

    The most common flights on the dunes are training flights (short flights from the top of the hill to the bottom).

    hang gliding


    Jockey’s Ridge’s resident hang gliding school, Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which is the largest hang gliding school in the world, offers these training flights daily. Kitty Hawk Kites has been teaching the world to fly on Jockey’s Ridge since 1974.

    The school has contributed to hang gliding history as the host to the longest running hang gliding competition, the Hang Gliding Spectacular, held on Jockey’s Ridge each May.

    Just as the dunes saw the dreams of Dr. Rogallo come to life, the dreams of thousands of people each year come true as their feet pull away from the earth and they glide over the sands of Jockey’s Ridge.


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