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Hang gliding in Duluth

Have you ever seen someone hang glide in Duluth?

I think I did once, but it might just be a weird dream I had back when I was kid. What I remember is that I was at the Little League baseball end-of-season carnival/Olympics, or whatever it was, at Wheeler Fields. It would have been about 1984. I think I saw some guy launch off the hillside where “The Wall” is on Skyline Drive, and then land on one of the baseball fields at Wheeler.

Is hang gliding just a dying sport in general, or is there something about Duluth — maybe the lake winds are too unpredictable and strong or the hills aren’t high enough to produce a good “ridge lift” or whatever — that makes hang gliding here rare or impossible?

And whatever happened to the guy with the hot-air balloon?

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8 Comment(s)

  1. I hang glided from above Skyline Drive down to near Wheeler Field around 1975, when I was in high school. Made the silk screen T Shirts for our loose club, the skyline sky dogs. Pretty much did what was called “sled rides” (I think), meaning just going down hill, not catching updrafts or thermals. The kites, or “wings” were not nearly as sophisticated back then. Duluth doesn’t have the best conditions for actual soaring on updrafts of thermals. My friend who taught me how went on to be a serious hang glider pilot out in Washington state and many places around the world, as did his older brother. They fly up as high as cloud base and travel like 70 miles or more cross-country. I will email him a link to this post in case he wants to comment.

    DaVe | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  2. Here I am jumping off a dinky little hill in Billings Park. It was more fun above Skyline Drive.

    DaVe | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  3. Just read online that the guy who brought hang gliding to Duluth had his first flight on Skyline Drive in 1973. He formed the Skyline Sky Dogs one year later.

    DaVe | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  4. I thought I made the whole thing up … now it turns out folks were winter hang gliding across the bay.

    That is just … mint.

    Paul Lundgren | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  5. I found this video of some guy being launched above the St. Louis River behind a snowmobile.

    DaVe | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  6. Wow! PDD just brought back long forgotten memories I have of seeing hang-gliders launch from above Wheeler Field in the late 1970s. Was there watching my sister play in a softball tournament. I was maybe 10 years old and couldn’t believe my eyes.

    Rij | Jul 5, 2012 | New Comment
  7. I am happy to report the Skyline SkyDogs are alive and well, and most are still flying. We flew our beloved launch “The Rock” above Skyline Drive, and other flyable sites in the area such as Bardon’s Peak and Wisconsin Point. I still hold the local foot-launched “Time Aloft” duration record with a 2 hour 45 minute flight at a site east of Wisconsin Point, “Becks Road,” and hope some local fellow or lady would please exceed that time aloft record. We are all in our 50s and 60s now, but still enjoy all the good things that come with flying hang gliders.

    There are still some SkyDogs in the Duluth area (Dan O’Hara, Doug Johnson, Malcolm MacAulay, Craig Austin), but many have moved out to Washington state for the better flying conditions.

    We still get together every year for “SkyDog Week,” where we all fly together in Chelan, WA. The SkyDogs are known worldwide now, as Gerry Uchytil and Lee Fisher are former National Champions, and Larry Majchrzak and Dan Uchytil were the directors of the 1994 Women’s World Hang Gliding Championships held in Chelan, WA. You can read the story of the Skyline SkyDogs in a chapter of the book Sky Adventures, Fantasies of Free Flight written by Jim Palmieri (ISBN 1-57502-268-0). It is worth a read just to learn about the SkyDog’s elaborate Rating System, and Dan O’Hara’s epic poem of how to earn the rating “Order of the Gull”.

    When the SkyDogs get together for some adult beverages, we often express sorrow of how the next generation of young folks don’t “pick up where we left off” … so here I am “calling you out!” With all the extreme sports etc. in our media, we don’t understand why the local Duluth-Superior folks don’t fly hang gliders or paragliders.

    Here’s a cool video of Doug Johnson recently soaring Wisconsin Point.

    In the interest of preserving Skyline SkyDogs history in Duluth, I’ve attached a few photos.

    Jon Solon
    Chelan, WA

    jon | Jul 9, 2012 | New Comment
  8. So how do I start? Have wanted to learn to hang glide ever since I was a kid. Thought living in Duluth it was impossible. Any contact info?

    xterrabuzz | Jul 10, 2012 | New Comment

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