Santa Barbara Hang Glider Emporium
Ken de Russy started a hang gliding school based in Santa Barbara, California, in 1974. (1)
These photos are from long time instructor Ken de Russy, who nowadays (2020) runs a hang gliding museum in the Pacific north-west. See under External links later on this page. In 2012, Ken sent me (the original author of this web site) several American hang gliding magazines and books pre-dating my own collection. They provided much information I drew on for this web site.
These color photos were taken in about January 1975. The tall gold rectangular objects next to each of the helmets in the glass display case in the second photo are Colver audio variometers. See the Variometers page for more.
Virtually all store activities are managed by Bonnie Nelson, Ken’s wife and partner.
— Dan Johnson (2)
However, the shop was too small and Ken relocated the store in the spring of 1975.
The Channel Islands Hang Glider Emporium Flight Team competed at the 1976 Hang Ten World Open at Escape Country on Robinson ranch in Santiago Canyon, Orange County, California. (See Winter escape: The 1974 U.S. nationals in Hang gliding 1974 part 2 for a bit about Escape Country.) Ken subsequently dropped the Channel Islands prefix. His business phone is the oldest phone number in the history of hang gliding. It is still in use and has rung to a hang gliding business without interruption since April 1974.
The Hang Glider Emporium serves Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities of Montecito, Carpinteria, Goleta, Santa Ynez and Lompoc (Vandenberg Air Force Base) with a total population of over 250,000.
— Dan Johnson (2)
The original photo from which the following image is derived was on the cover of Santa Barbara Wind & Water, December 1976. (3)
Here in Santa Barbara, the land wants to be an arid chaparral, but decades ago the city fathers dammed wilderness creeks and tunneled through mountains to bring water to thirsty lawns. During a recent drought, homeowners were so desperate for verdant vistas that they sprayed their dusty yards with green paint.
— Harvard University Professor Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, 1997
I’d rather be totally used up at the end of the day and know I’ve put out 100% than to sit around and take it easy.
— Bonnie Nelson (4)
The Santa Ynez mountains, an eastwest coastal range in the Los Padres National Forest, provides Santa Barbara with unlimited flying year round.
— Dan Johnson (2)
This was the center-spread in Santa Barbara Magazine March-April 1988.
These two photos by John Baird, a 1974 dealer and early club president in Santa Barbara, are of the 1974 Whitney Porta Wing, one of Ken’s museum collection of vintage hang gliders. The Porta Wing used cables instead of tubes in the leading edges. See it in flight under Trial and error in Hang gliding 1973 part 1.
Holding on to Hang Gliding History by C.J. Sturtevant in Hang Gliding & Paragliding, Jan-Feb 2016: Ken and Bonnie’s journey from instructing in California to collecting in Washington State
Ken de Russy’s Hang Gliding Museum on Google Photos
Ken de Russy Biographical Info on Google Photos
Ken de Russy talks about safety in Big Blue Sky, 2008, by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 58 minutes 41 seconds. (That is followed by film of Bob Keeler falling into the sea in a broken glider in 1976 with Tom Peghiny narrating.)
1. Erik Fair, Hang Gliding, July 1984
2. Dan Johnson, Whole Air, May/June 1982
3: Cover photo of Wind & Water volume 1 number 4, December 1976, from Santa Barbara Area Newspapers, SBHC Mss 50, Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara
4. Bonnie Nelson quoted by Carol Price, Hang Gliding, November 1980