The Hang Glider Lesson

Watching Derek standup out of the wreckage of the glider that only moments ago was slammed into the ground, was the best sigh of relief that I have exhaled in a very, very long time. That moment you exhale and realize
“wow, that could have been worse.”

As a kid, I didn’t always make the best decisions. In my head, what seemed like a great idea didn’t always pan out. I remember this one time, when I was about 10 years old, I thought I had engineered a way to get my remote control car battery to charge faster. I loved zipping this super fast car around my parents back yard, yet there was a serious flaw in the cars battery. It took nearly six hours of charging this yellow brick of a battery and in return, I got almost 25 minutes of cruising time. There had to be a better way, a faster way, to get my car charged and ready to conquer massive piles of leaves or go nose diving off of a jump and into our sandbox.

I had this idea that if I took apart the battery, and connected the positive and negative wires directly into an outlet that I would be able to put more power into battery much faster. I quickly learned how circuit breakers work, and needless to say, I’m thankful for their existence.

As an adult now, I make fewer choices that involve poorly thought through shortcuts. (Notice, I said fewer, not zero.) A few weeks ago my longtime friend Derek acquired a hang glider. He spent several days pretending to live as though he was the long lost relative of Orville and Wilbur. Derek took the glider down several hills and received some glide, but never enough lift to gain any actual flight time. He also jumped off of several large gravel piles, in which he learned that knee pads would be beneficial if he planned on continuing his conquest of flight.

After several failed attempts, the idea arose “what if we got a start by towing the glider behind a truck with some favorable wind conditions?” This seemed like a relatively thought out plan. I mean, it made perfect sense in my head, which was enough to convince me to join in and help the glider and it’s pilot take flight.


Early one Friday morning, we setup shop at an abandoned airfield. From the back of the truck, I was tied down with some rope and a belay device. From my harness, I was tied to Derek, who was getting ready to take flight. It seemed as though the wind was working with us perfectly.

With the excitement brewing, much like life back in my 10 year old mind, I was stoked to see my friend take flight and soar.

Our first attempt was promising, but our release mechanism broke from too much pressure.

We made a few minor adjustments, prepared for act two, and began slowly driving the truck down the runway. As tension grew on the the rope, it seemed plausible that this was going to work. Derek was hovering, for but a second, at about ten feet off of the ground. Suddenly a 30mph gust of wind slammed into the glider. In a fraction of a second, our tow line snapped free, and I sat jaw dropped in the bed of the truck, as my friend was lifted 40 or more feet off of the ground and blown 100 feet backwards. Watching in disbelief, as the glider became inverted and crashed to the ground.

It suddenly occurred to me that it was possible that we didn’t think this through all of the way.

From the upside down wreckage that once was the hang glider, amongst the flapping of nylon and mangled pieces of framing, we saw a thumbs up, and we were suddenly assured that Derek was alive and mostly well.

As it turns out, (hint of sarcasm here) the proper way to get a hang glider to fly is to take it down a gradually sloping hill… that is, after you have received proper training. (A truck and tow line is not advised and is apparently frowned upon in the hang gliding community.)

The moment the tow line snapped and the glider took off violently stirred up some emotions within me strikingly similar to my 10 year old moment with the remote control car. As the spark came shooting out of the wall and the circuit breaker popped… A sudden sinking feeling of “what did I just do!” came upon me all over again.

I am certain that those of us that were at the old airfield that morning could list a dozen life lessons we learned at Derek’s expense. But I think one of the biggest lessons learned was a lesson in patience. When an opportunity of fun and excitement presents itself, sometimes, we need to be reminded to wait. Whether you’re 10 years old and you can’t wait to get your remote control car back in the race, or you’re in your late 20’s and you want to take flight. You can’t rush good things. The battery on my race car never worked after that day, and sadly, the hang glider will never fly again after the crash that it took. When we rush life, bad things tend to happen. Life has proven to be like this over and over. Don’t rush. Without proper planning, forethought, and execution, we naturally tend to run into things, and one day, we awake in the wreckage of our life, and ask ourselves “what happened?” Maybe you’re seeking a new job, or trying to pick the right college, or you’ve given into the lie that you need a boyfriend or girlfriend to make your life complete. No matter the scenario, we can’t rush into life.

cleaning up the wreckage

An unknown author wrote “Patience is the ability to count down before you blast off.” I like this idea. Before you leap into your next big adventure, have you taken the time to countdown and consider the situation at hand? Again, we jump into jobs, relationships, colleges, adventures and rarely, do we look at what we are about to do from different angles and perspectives.

Todays lesson. Don’t rush life. Live adventurously, yet intentionally. Countdown before you blast off. Remember, it’s ok if you have to wait before the fun begins. Practice patience, and you will grow immensely in all areas of your life. Enjoy the GoPro footage of the crash.

Also, join the conversation. What was your best adventure story that could have used some counting down before blasting off?  Share below in the comment section. We’d love to hear your everbound story.

Note: The following day after the glider crash, Derek ran an astonishing 52.1 miles on the superior hiking trail for the Superior Endurance Runs. The day after, he played with two bands at the Radio Waves Music Festival. Derek is one of these guys who is truly incredible. He is what being “everbound” is all about. Thank you Derek for the inspiration you bring to the world. You can check out his band Whurl on iTunes by clicking here.

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