Soaring over Cape Cod's dunes

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 15-21, 1996
Soaring over Cape Cod's dunes
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Soaring over Cape Cod's dunes
Question: Have to spend a week on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, (ugh--too many people) with the family. I was out sailing by P-town/Wellfleet and saw paragliders sailing over the dunes. I used to hang glide and want to get into paragliding. Do you know if there's a school on the outer Cape? Thanks.

Ben Wisely
Boston, MA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Gee, Ben, it looks like you may have to get your game face on and resign yourself to a week on the beach rubbing elbows with the Cape's dreaded, oil-slathered summer crowds. Unless, of course, you enroll in paragliding school before you head out to be with the family. The paragliders you saw had most likely already completed the required Class 1 training to be qualified as beginner pilots. I've done some digging and of the few accredited schools I've come up with, none are on the Cape.

But don't despair: Morningside Flight Park offers lessons out of its Claremont, New Hampshire, school, which is an easy two-hour drive from Boston. The one-day introductory lesson starts with a one-hour classroom seminar on aerodynamics, followed by on-site training and several flight attempts from the grass training slope--all for $125. But you sound like you're pretty serious about this, Ben, so you'll want to go for their Class 1 accreditation program, a four-course, $500 package that will get you beginner pilot status.

Once you have that, head out to one of two legal paragliding sites on the Cape and launch away. Choose between either the Seascape Site at the Seascape Motel in West Truro, with its 75-foot bluffs and launch platform, or the east-facing Wellfleet site, one of the most famous coastal flying sites in the country. If you opt for Seaside, be aware that you'll need to first check in with Chuck Nyland at the Seascape Motel, sign a waiver, be a current member of the United States Hang Gliding Association, and fly with a helmet and a local New England Paragliding Club member. Keep in mind, too, that strong south and west prevailing winds make launching somewhat challenging and--thanks to a set of rather formidable beachfront power lines south of the launch--you'll only get about a mile of flying.

At Wellfleet, on the other hand, it's possible to fly several miles in one direction, between the north Cape lighthouse, north of Truro, and the mid Cape lighthouse in Orleans. Be forewarned: The land around the Wellfleet site belongs to the Cape Cod National Seashore and is an ecologically sensitive area, so you'll need to avoid landing or walking on the dunes or risk facing a $75 fine.

Finally, the site is closed from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so you might as well plan on spending your days playing badminton on the beach with your family. In any case, if you're looking for more details, call the New England Paragliding Club (617-491-5480) or Morningside Flight Park (603-542-4416).

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