Soaring on the ocean breezes Don't look down, says hang-gliding instructor Jody Lazaro. All that's down there is the beach, a little water and up to 5,000 feet of air.

September 04, 1998|By Rob Hiaasen

OCEAN CITY -- Picture this.

Instructor Jody Lazaro tells his client, Alex Karlsen of Wilmington, to look straight ahead. "Don't look down," Lazaro says. Just relax. You're only dangling from a mutant, 90-pound hang glider 1,500 feet above the Atlantic. High adventure, mister.

Lazaro, of FlyTec WaterSports, is in the center of the picture, with Karlsen attached to his right shoulder, looking straight ahead -- as instructed.

The ocean is the big, blue portion in the picture. The hang glider lands in the ocean on its pontoons. Just like a sea plane. The

white, serrated strip is the land, of course. But you've already seen land pictures of Ocean City; you know what that place looks like.

Lazaro talks about catching a thermal, that hot column of rising air. You ride it up 5,000 feet to the cloud base, the billowy bottom of cumulus clouds. "Then, you shoot down wind and find another thermal."

But that's hard to picture. It's harder to picture strapping yourself to one of these gliders. But people do it ($70 for eight minutes aloft). FlyTec takes out about 500 people a season, Lazaro says. Paraplegics, blind people, all people.

And they all try to look straight ahead -- but at what? The back of Lazaro's head? The curvature of the earth? Dots of sails out in front of them? Or do they peek down to see schools of porpoises, maybe a pod of pilot whales? Or do they keep their eyes closed and howl into the thinning air?

I don't know. I wouldn't dare hang-glide.

But it's one helluva picture.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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