Hang gliding in Whitewater

By , August 5, 2013 9:48 am

I really like spending time in the air, so when a “Tandem Hang Gliding Adventure” via Amazon Local showed up in my inbox*, it was kind of a no brainer. Steven and I decided to sign up, and even convinced our friend Pete to sign up as well! His wife, Denise**, decided to be ground support. 

We hang glided out of Gutzmer’s Twin Oaks Airport in Whitewater, Wisconsin, which is just over an hour from my home. 


I didn’t really know, um, anything about hang gliding before going in to this. I was too lazy to read much on their website. I kind of looked in to what to wear, so I would be comfortable with the temperature drop… but, eh, I felt really “free spirited” about this, shall we say. I was really hoping I would just show up and not have to do any silly ground school, just strap up, and go!

And yay! It was mostly like that! I mean, show up, wait for our turns, then strap up, and go! Yippee. 

Anyway. So I was surprised when I got there and saw we are pulled up a couple thousand feet by a plane then released in the glider. I was wondering how we’d get up to the point where we’d be able to glide. It’s not like there are any cliffs to jump off of in Wisconsin. 


Let me tell you – it’s kind of nutso to be pulled through the air, behind an airplane. But! Let’s start at the beginning. 

There were a lot of different gliders there, and several people were taking off in solo rides between our tandem rides. 


It was interesting to see all the different gliders, and talk to the pilots. We learned a lot about hang gliding! You can actually stay up in the air for many hours – long enough that we were wondering what these people did to eat and use the rest room up there. The highest altitude flown at that site was 9000′ ( I think we got up to 2000′). The world record for longest flight (not sure of start site) is 440 miles. Whoa. 

On the contrary, our flights were about 20-30 minutes. And… that was enough time for me! Ha ha!

When it was my turn to fly, I strapped in to a suit to hook me in to the glider. Yeah. This suit, and the carabiner, is the only thing holding you in. 


And that purple carabiner is the only thing strapping me to my pilot, Paul. 


There is a special harness they put just under each knee so you can relax your legs and they don’t swing around (they recommended crossing the ankles during the flight, which I did). 

We attached to the plane by a long skinny, rope, and Paul let me give the “Go, go, go!” signal for the plane to take off!


And we were off the ground right away! 



So, you actually sway around quite a bit in the glider. And, it’s easy to forget that you are hooked in to it, from behind. By that one carabiner. You kind of just feel that if you let go (at this point, I was holding on to the pilot and my harness) that you will fall. 

Yeah. I’m not going to lie. It’s kind of freaky. 


It’s loud (because of the plane engine), and bumpy, the entire time you are being pulled by the plane. But you also feel kind of safe, because you are being pulled by a plane (WITH AN ENGINE), right?


So I ask Paul, “How do we know when the plane is going to release us?” He tells me, “Oh, the pilot will just wave his hand to signal we’ve gone high enough, then he’ll release us, we’ll turn right and go!”

Ugh, whaaa?! We don’t tell him?! Panic! I live in fear of unplanned things! Ha ha ha. I was wondering, when the plane let us go… will we glide?! Or plummet to our deaths?

Phew. We did glide. Ha ha.  


And gliding was peaceful, and quiet. You steer by lightly placing your hands on the bar and using your body weight to shift left, right, up or down. Paul let me steer right away! “Look! You are flying! All by yourself!” Um, that is cool and all, Paul, but “I think you’d do a better job flying!” Ha ha. 

We were actually having trouble finding the hot pockets of air that give you lift. I mean, not trouble, like we were going to fall – we just weren’t getting up much higher. We did find a few, but the actual gliding portion (sans plane) seemed shorter than being pulled by the plane! I definitely wasn’t up there long enough to understand why pilots would want to be up there for hours on end. Maybe I wasn’t in a “bird” frame of mind! I did have a little bit of “I’ll be happy to be back on the ground” thoughts going on. And a few “if I fell from this high up, would I die instantly?” thoughts. Yeah. 

Don’t worry. It’s actually completely safe! I think those thoughts are natural! Right?!

The landing was super soft. There are wheels on the glider, so we just landed right in the field and were able to stand up, unhook, and be on our merry way!

The pilots there kept talking about a “natural high” you get from hang gliding. I didn’t feel that jazzed! Not like when I jumped out of an airplane. Later on, we told people we went hang gliding, and they thought it was a big, scary, deal! I was like, “Oh yeah, we did do that earlier today.” Hmm, maybe I should have worked harder on getting myself pumped for this! It was an incredible experience, I am happy I got to try it, and my pilot was super cool… I guess it just wasn’t what I expected? Maybe I’ll have to try it again. 

Would YOU go hang gliding?

*All the way back on December 18th! I had this big long intro written about how anxious it makes me to have unused deals (Groupon, Living Social, whatever) like that for so long, but I am pretty sure I have written about that before…
**And she thought it looked so fun she decided to do it, too!

33 Responses to “Hang gliding in Whitewater”

  1. Valerie says:

    What an awesome experience! Sounds like fun..definitely something to cross off your bucket list! (I will live vicariously through your experience since I’m afraid of heights haha!)

  2. Looks AMAZING. I would definitely try it!!! I want to sky dive too. I’ve bungee jumped 3x.

  3. I would have crapped my pants. Seriously. And then puked. So I won’t be doing that.

    But, yay for you! I can see how some people with an incredible sense of adventure might enjoy it.

  4. Jacky says:

    Wow, amazing. Not sure I have the nerve to do this!

  5. Kiersten says:

    So cool! I think it might freak me out though because heights freak me out when I am not in control. I would have a hard time trusting the pilot and the glider. Now that I am older I always think about all the ways the equipment could fail whenever I go on a ride at the carnival!

  6. Declan says:

    I wouldn’t lol. My stomach is a wuss. But i’ll live through your adventures!
    This is how I imagined you really felt in your mind, after expecting a bigger rush

  7. Linda says:

    Looks like fun – something that you can always look back on and say you did it!
    Since it wasn’t the hottest day – maybe there were not as many updrafts to catch. I bet it was pretty looking over the country side. If I had known I would have kept my eyes glued to the skies! But if I had done that – I probably would have crashed my bike!

    • kilax says:

      Which way did you guys go through Whitewater? I do wonder if you would have seen us! 🙂 We were a bit north of town 🙂

      Hope you had a great ride!

  8. Yeah-this looks pretty awesome. I, too, would have the same strap up and go mentality. I think the release would be the most scary but if they do it for you and you have no control, you just have to do it! Sorry if it was disappointing but it is still pretty bada$s!

  9. What a cool experience and I’d never guess there were places to hang glide in the area haha. I think I’d rather skydive than hang glide though!

    • kilax says:

      We went skydiving a few years ago in WI, and it was a clear day so you could see Madison, Milwaukee AND Chicago! 🙂

  10. Gina says:

    Try it again with ME! OR hang glide to TX! Cheaper airfare, right?!

    • kilax says:

      Will Steve let you do this or does it have to be a secret?! 😉 Hee hee. They said there was a hang gliding competition in TX last weekend!

  11. How cool! It sounds scary but fun. I still think that airplanes can fly at all is a little crazy.

  12. Anne says:

    This looks so awesome! I think I’d be more inclined to try hang gliding than skydiving (though I did really want to go skydiving when I was in college!), I guess it seems a little safer? I’m so glad you got to do this though!

    And those are totally natural thoughts! I think that when I’m waiting in line for big roller coasters sometimes – obviously they wouldn’t operate this if it wasn’t safe, right? I’m only mildly afraid of heights 😉

  13. Erin says:

    I wonder how you would feel if you were able to jump off a cliff and soar through the air that way? Better or worse?

  14. What a fun experience, Kim. I love how you’re open minded and have such a sense of adventure. While I don’t think I’d ever go skydiving (zero interest in that free falling feeling), I would consider hang gliding. Seems so peaceful and gradual – something I could definitely handle (though, don’t go looking for the blog post where i actually do it – not sure that will ever happen. ha!).

  15. diane says:

    I tried. In Kitty Hawk, my bf at the time and I took hangliding lessons. They launched us off of what I would call the “Bunny Hill.” I couldn’t do it. I’d get to the edge of the ledge and my legs would just STOP. Could. Not. Go. Off. Ledge. I tried three times and told them just forget it.
    I did go parasailing once though and loved it!!

    • kilax says:

      They had a little hill like that at this place too! I bet my legs wouldn’t want me to go, either! I still want to try parasailing!

  16. Kandi says:

    That’s so cool! It looks so fun! When I went to Outer Banks, NC a few years ago we talked about going hang gliding. They have a huge dune where you can practice and jump off. It was fun to watch others try to do it (and a lot of them would face plant). I considered it but it didn’t look that fun for the cost. They also had the plane assisted hang gliding but we never got around to going.

  17. EmilyJ says:

    I actually think it would be really cool, but have never done anything up in the air! Major props to you!!

  18. Heidi Nicole says:

    This looks awesome! Actually looks to be more fun than sky diving because you have some control over your descent and can actually fly rather than freefall!

  19. Amy says:

    So cool! But I think I would be too scared to try it!

  20. bobbi says:

    This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I do wonder if it live up to my expectations tho – I’ve built it up so much! But I can’t even imagine flying around like a bird completely under my own power – SO FREAKING COOL!

  21. Stephany says:

    That looks like so much fun! I think I would opt for hang gliding over skydiving, though I do want to try skydiving someday! I’ve done parasailing, which was really fun. A bit nerve-wracking, but still really fun. I would totally want to try something like this!

  22. Kim says:

    I LOVE how adventurous you guys are and that you go for this stuff! We don’t have some of these opportunities around us, but I wouldn’t be as good as you are at taking advantage of them! I think that’s a really awesome part of your personality and lifestyle.

    • kilax says:

      Thank you!

      Man. You leave the nicest comments. And there I was commenting on farting in the bathtub on your blog. Ha!

  23. Bean says:

    Wow! You are braver than I. No way man. I am afraid of heights and don’t really even like flying in planes, let alone behind one!

  24. Maggie says:

    whoa, awesome. I also know what you mean about anxiety over unused Groupons. I have one for a jet ski rental and I wish it would get hot again!!

    • kilax says:

      Yeah, unless they are providing wet suits… wait until it’s warm! My mom suggested getting the jet skis out the last time I was in Iowa, but it was too dang cold and ridic to wear a wet suit in July!

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