All young children have dreamed of being able to fly at some point in their lives. For most kids, the dream was fleeting. However, junior Ryan Brady has turned it into a reality.
It happened by chance— he was browsing YouTube one day when a video caught his eye. A cop was chasing a man onto a bridge where it seemed he was going to be caught. But to Ryan’s surprise, the man just kept running, jumped off the bridge and flew away on a hang glider.
This video inspired him to take action and show his dad, Bill, the video. His dad instantly recognized the form of flight as hang gliding, which he had done and instructed when he was younger, and he reconnected with a friend that he wanted to be Ryan’s instructor.
Bill was excited when Ryan approached him because he had given up hang gliding many years before and never thought he would fly again.
“Airplanes are cool but you don’t get to feel the wind on your face,” Ryan said. “I love the feeling of being in control and weightless.”
In order to hang glide, it is necessary to go through a process outlined by the United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (USHPA). Each flyer is ranked from the lowest level P1 to the
highest level P5 based on their experience and training, and each takeoff site is ranked based on difficulty. A person’s ranking must match up with the rank of the site to be able to fly off that location.
“A lot of people think that paragliding is super dangerous, and it can be, but it’s not a super thrilling thing. It’s not an adrenaline junkie sport,” Ryan said. “It’s more meditative and calm. You’re just up in the air and it’s just you alone and the sky.”
At age 14, Ryan began to work with an instructor to get his license. The training took Ryan about three months to complete.
“I wanted to get [the license] as fast as I could, so I was going every weekend down to the South Bay from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Ryan said.
As Ryan began learning how to paraglide, his dad was inspired to fly again as well. Both father and son now have P2 rankings, which allow them to fly alone without an instructor. Ryan said the experience allowed him and his father to bond over their shared passion.
“I got to experience the joy of the learning experience all over again.” Bill said. “Not often do you get to make eye contact with your son 1,500 feet over the beach and that’s an experience that I don’t think many fathers and sons get
According to Galen Anderson, a membership coordinator at the USHPA, Ryan is one of 14 current member paragliding pilots in California under 18 years old.
Summer is the ideal season for paragliding, because the wind conditions are more desirable. During the school year, Ryan isn’t able to fly as much due to schoolwork, but he hopes to pick it back up in the spring.
Brady’s usual takeoff spot is called Mussel Rock, which is located two miles south of Ocean Beach.
“You have these huge cliffs and then the wind coming from the ocean. It hits the cliffs and goes up so you can just take off from the cliff and catch that wind that is going up,” Ryan said.
According to Ryan, the scariest part of hang gliding is taking off and landing, which is what most of the training focuses on.
“You have to be very aware and it can be dangerous,” Ryan said. “I always tell people ‘When you drive a car, that’s so much more dangerous because so many more people die in car accidents.’”
Ryan has flown up to about 5,000 feet in the air, but he’s never been afraid of heights.
“It’s hard to comprehend because you’re looking at a place like a satellite or Google Earth. But once I’m in the air it’s
blissful,” Ryan said. “It’s so exciting, especially on days where the sun is setting at Ocean Beach and I’m up in the air. It’s so beautiful.”
While paragliding, Ryan has met people of all age ranges who share his passion. According to Bill, the duo would go on mountain trips and Ryan would meet other fellow paragliders that Bill had known through his earlier years of
“He looked at me for advice in other ways than he might of usually asked me. He saw me in a different light.” Bill said. “I think he realized I was once a young man that used to do crazy things with other young men and what my life might of been like before he knew me.”
Seeing people 80 years old who still paraglide inspired Ryan to want to continue paragliding for as long as he can.