Lessons learned hangin’ out at the Spectacular

Marc from the marketing department here. Since this was my first , and it’s likely that many of you haven’t had the chance to attend one either, I thought I’d post some of my personal take-homes from the weekend.

Dont’ wear flip flops on the dune. Every time I walked, the shoe’s flop action catapulted significant amounts of sand all over my back and down into my shirt collar. It looked like a jet ski’s waterspout, only with sand, not water. The poor Canadian journalist I was showing around on Sunday afternoon couldn’t figure out where the phantom sandblast was coming from; I acted equally perplexed. (“One of those weird natural anomalies particular to the dune, I guess.?.?”)

The sport of hang gliding is competitive, but collegial. There were sixty pilots competing, and it was clear that every last one of them was there to win. I mean, you don’t take vacation time from work and drive twelve (or more) hours in the car with a giant, not-so-fuel-economy-friendly glider strapped to the roof of your car for nothing. But amid all the seriousness a contest cooks up, I was surprised at how friendly the competition was. When a pilot pulled off a particularly impressive landing, his or her competitors on the launch hill would crank out accolades and attaboys (and several attagirls at our equal opportunity competition). And there was encouragement aplenty for pilots whose flights wound up being a tinge on the wrong side of underwhelming. Probably some of the finest examples of real sportsmanship I’ve seen in a very long time. Refreshing, really.

Sun screen is a really good thing.

Mother Nature is her own woman. When an entire competition relies entirely on wind speed and direction, you’re at Mother Nature’s mercy. And just when you think you know what she’s got up her sleeve, the windsock renders your prediction an epic failure.

There’s just something really, really cool about flight. When you see a pilot — a normal, run of the mill, everyday Joe — running into the wind, finding lift, and then — almost magically — soaring across the sky, it’s, well, an almost spiritual experience … like the need to fly, to soar, to be elevated is primal. After watching probably a couple of hundred flights this weekend, I think I understand a little better what fueled Orville and Wilbur way back in 1903 and what fuels today.

If you give a man a flight, he’ll get to where he wants to be; if you teach a man to fly, he’ll become what he wants to be.

So, put next year’s event on your calendar: it all starts up on the Thursday after Mother’s Day. And next year, the event will hit the big 4-0.

Lessons learned hangin out at the Spectacular