Torrance Beach


Home (contents) Miscellaneous Torrance Beach

Torrance Beach

Most of the images on this page are artistic derivations of contemporary photos. See Copyright of early hang gliding photos.

Pioneers

Art based on the Sky Sports advert in Ground Skimmer, December, 1973
Quicksilver at Torrance Beach in Ground Skimmer, December, 1973

Much early 1970s development flight test of hang gliders was carried out at Torrance Beach in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, California.

Remember we are talking about the whole Hippie culture, Hollywood empire, Underground Surfer Counter-culture & the US Space Race Military Complex all rolled into one dot on the globe of earth…

— Neil Larson (1)

As an example of the latter, TRW in the Redondo Beach district south of Los Angeles International Airport (it adjoins Torrance Beach district) designed and built the Apollo lunar module descent engine. Douglas Aircraft, which 30 years earlier built the SBD Dauntless dive bomber of World War 2 and just 10 years earlier the A-4 Skyhawk attack jet of the Vietnam War (among other airplanes) was situated in El Segundo; another part of the industrial sprawl adjacent to the south side of the airport.

Quicksilver hang glider at Torrance in May 1973
Jim Diffenderfer, assisted by Dave Cronk, launches in a Quicksilver at Torrance in May 1973. Photo by W.A. Allen.

The apparent absence of fences in this image might be caused by its low quality of reproduction. However, notice the glider rigged on top of the bluffs. The fences at this time seemed to be only on the right of this short stretch of cliff.


Dave Cronk testing a Cronkite destined for  Francois Dedisheim (in Switzerland) in 1972
Dave Cronk testing a Cronkite destined for Francois Dedisheim (in Switzerland) in 1972

The short cliff edge (sandstone presumably) from which the early hang gliders launched above Torrance Beach is, as far as I can determine, long gone.

Seagull 3 hang gliders with their distinctive curved leading edges at Torrance Beach, California
Seagull 3s with their distinctive curved leading edges
Eddie Paul in the Whitney Enterprises PortaWing hang glider at Torrance Beach, early 1970s
Eddie Paul in the PortaWing at Torrance Beach

Eddie Paul’s Whitney Enterprises, manufacturer of the Portawing, and Peter Brock’s Ultralight Products workshop were both sited in El Segundo a short distance north of Torrance Beach. (See the Ultralight Products of California and Utah related topics menu.) The Eipper-Formance factory, which manufactured the Quicksilver, was a short way inland from Torrance Beach. (See the Eipper-Formance of Torrance, California related topics menu.)


Dave Cronk launches from the bluffs at Torrance Beach in the first prototype Quicksilver as its designer, Bob Lovejoy, moves clear in 1971. Photo by George Uveges.
Dave Cronk launches from the bluffs at Torrance Beach in the first prototype Quicksilver as its designer, Bob Lovejoy, moves clear in 1971. Photo by George Uveges.

For more about this early hang glider, incidentally, see Dave Cronk, Bob Lovejoy, and the Quicksilver in Cronk works.

Leroy was here…


Doug Privitt flies the Phoenix, a third generation Hang Loose
Doug Privitt flies the Phoenix, a third generation Hang Loose, into a crossing wind

See under External links later on this page for the history of the Privitt family Hang Loose.

Early color images

Taras Kiceniuk Jr. designed and built the Icarus 2, flying here at Torrance Beach, Los Angeles County, California
Taras Kiceniuk Jr. flying his Icarus 2 at Torrance Beach in 1971

This is looking south towards Palos Verdes peninsula. The building visible just above the center of the upper wing is the Palos Verdes Beach & Athletic Club, which is also visible in the following photo from the zoom lens of Leroy Grannis. Behind its low wall is a large swimming pool.

Danny Bostwick lands on the beach in 1974 by Leroy Grannis
Danny Bostwick lands on the beach in 1973 or 1974. Photo by Leroy Grannis.

The building still exists as the Palos Verdes Beach & Athletic Club, but it was rebuilt in 1988. See under External links for more about it. Danny Bostwick and his wing appear in the photo set up by Carl Boenish from Dave Cronk’s keel tube later on this page.


Dave Cronk flying his Cronkite at Torrance Beach in about 1971. Photo by W.A. Allen.
Art based on a photo by W.A. Allen of Dave Cronk flying his Cronkite at Torrance Beach in about 1971
A 'Hang Loose' passes Falcon Rock in the sandy draw below the bluffs
The Privitt family Phoenix (third generation Hang Loose) passes Falcon Rock in the sandy draw below the bluffs
Powered Rogallo in front of the bluffs. Still from Playground in the Sky by Carl Boenish.
Powered Rogallo in front of the bluffs. Still frame from Playground in the Sky by Carl Boenish.
Standard Rogallo failing to launch beside Falcon Rock
Standard Rogallo failing to launch beside Falcon Rock. Still frame from Playground in the Sky by Carl Boenish.

See under External links later on this page for the segment of Playground in the Sky by Carl Boenish from which the preceding two screenshots are taken. The apparent absence of fences around the bluffs and the build quality of the gliders dates it at about 1971.

Flying with seagulls

The screenshots in this section are from the promotional film With Seagulls Flying (yeah, that way round) by James Budge on Box.com (see under External links). Individuals identified in it together with their gliders date it as almost certainly 1973. The digitized film is dark in places and some of the lightened screenshots here have very distorted dark colors.

Pat Conniry launching  from the bluffs at Torrance Beach in a Seagull 3 hang glider in 1973
Pat Conniry launching from the bluffs in a Seagull 3 (no larger image available)
Pat Conniry launching  from the bluffs at Torrance Beach in a Seagull 3 hang glider in 1973
Lift off (no larger image available)

Pat Conniry flying  at Torrance Beach in a Seagull 3 hang glider in 1973
Pat Conniry turns in the lift… (no larger image available)

This Seagull 3 with a white and dark blue sail and red SEAGULL lettering at the trailing edges is, arguably, smarter looking than many hang gliders then and now. See also the Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California related topics menu.

Pat Conniry flying  at Torrance Beach in a Seagull 3 hang glider in 1973
…and heads toward Redondo Beach (no larger image available)
Composite of two screenshots from camera pan on Torrance Beach
Composite of two screenshots from camera pan on the beach (click for larger image)

Volmer Jensen in his VJ-23 rigid hang glider beyond the bluffs, Torrance Beach, in 1973
Volmer Jensen in his VJ-23 beyond the bluffs (no larger image available)

For more of Volmer Jensen and the VJ-23, see the VJ day related topics menu.


Hall Brock, age 10, adjusts his helmet before launching in a hang glider at Torrance Beach in 1973
Hall Brock, age 10, adjusts his helmet before launching (no larger image available)

Hall Brock’s glider here is a standard Rogallo with an Eipper frame (note the control frame corner fittings) and a dark blue (or purple) and white Brock-pattern sail. For more of Brock, see the Ultralight Products of California and Utah related topics menu. In particular, the John Elwell video part of its External links accesses digitized film of Hall Brock flying this wing and also the one that he flew the following year.

Esplanade escapade

Dave Cronk in his Cronkite 2 at Redondo Beach Esplanade in about 1970. Photo by Tony Abbott.
Dave Cronk in his Cronkite 2 at Redondo Beach Esplanade in about 1970. Photo by Tony Abbott.

Along the Esplanade in Redondo Beach, CA. The Torrance Beach Bluffs can be seen in the background.

— Dave Cronk (e-mail correspondence, 2020)

Zooming in to the distance, I have attempted to identify the bluffs, Falcon Rock, and the lifeguard shack in this photo by Tony Abbott.

Zoomed and annotated
Zoomed and annotated
Hang gliders soaring Torrance beach in the early 1970s
View from the beach by George Uveges

Note the trees on the sky line (on Palos Verdes) in these two photos. This is looking in about the same direction as the preceding zoomed-in and cropped image, but from a lower point on Torrance Beach itself. The bluffs are just out of view at lower left of the second photo, I reckon. (The highest flying glider is a VJ-23 rigid type.)


Louis Dart's 'flotsam house' on Torrance Beach in about 1924
Louis Dart’s ‘flotsam house’ on Torrance Beach in about 1924

This photo, taken nearly a half century before hang gliders flew here, more clearly locates those bluffs. They were above where Louis Dart built his ‘flotsam castle’ on the beach in about 1920. See History of Torrance by Bruce and Maureen Megowan (linked later on this page) for more.


Dave Cronk flying the Quicksilver third prototype at Torrance in 1972 or 1973
Dave Cronk flying the Quicksilver third prototype at Torrance looking north onto Redondo Beach

Looking north at the background, the ridge height diminishes (along the Esplanade). We would take off on windy days along the Esplanade, soar above the condos, then fly South to the Torrance Beach bluffs. It had become illegal to fly in Torrance, so sometimes we would take off in Redondo Beach, get elevation above the condos, fly the Torrance Beach bluffs, then return to Redondo in the dark, to avoid trouble with the police. Very surreal.

— Dave Cronk


Dave Cronk 500 ft over Torrance Beach in about 1973. Photo by Carl Boenish.
Dave Cronk 500 ft over Torrance Beach in about 1973. Photo by Carl Boenish.

Torrance Beach, about 1973 or so. Carl Boenish set up a keel mounted camera, and we got this great shot. Jack Schroeder and Danny Bostwick flank both sides on a beautiful, post-storm day.

— Dave Cronk

Danny Bostwick’s keel is in line with the Palos Verdes Beach & Athletic Club built just above the rocky beach.

Grannis photos

Hang gliders flew from in front of the fences until hang gliding was finally banned entirely from Torrance and Redondo beaches in I think early 1975.

Big Blue Sky composite screenshot of panoramic photo by Leroy Grannis
Big Blue Sky composite screenshot of panoramic photo by Leroy Grannis

This messy composite of screenshots from Bill Liscomb’s 2008 documentary Big Blue Sky (linked later on this page) would be better if the original photo by Leroy Grannis was available. Please let me know if you anything about it…

Leroy Grannis took these photos in February 1974. He had only one roll of film with a 50 millimetre lens, so he had his wife go home and collect the rest of his gear while he started shooting. That was the start of his hang gliding photography. (2)

Torrance Beach, looking toward Palos Verdes, screenshot from Big Blue Sky
Torrance Beach, looking south toward Palos Verdes, screenshot from Big Blue Sky

This screenshot from the 2008 documentary Big Blue Sky by Bill Liscomb originated as another still photo by Leroy Grannis. The hillside in the distance is the north side of the Palos Verdes peninsula. The photo appears during the Grannis interview in the video immediately after the earlier panoramic view looking north. The position of the fence at left and the lifeguard shack in both photos are further evidence that Grannis took them on the same day; his first ever hang glider shoot in February 1974. See the photo by Steven Mansouri taken nearly a half century later in 2020 (linked later on this page) for comparison.

Torrance Beach, looking toward Palos Verdes, about 1973, screenshot from Big Blue Sky
Zoomed in

Here, the lifeguard shack is clearer, although not as obvious as in the screenshot of Francis Rogallo passing near it (farther on). Those things are light blue. I have noticed over the years that objects of that bright color, when in shadow, can disappear into a grey background, as here.

See Photographers of early hang gliding for more of Leroy Grannis.

Brock teaches Rogallo to fly

The following images are screenshots from a low resolution digitization of Playground in the Sky by Carl Boenish (linked later on this page). Carl was brother of Carol Boenish-Price, editor of the USHGA magazine Ground Skimmer for a term. The photos are of Francis Rogallo, one of the contributors to the development of the flex-wing that bears his name, under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973. I include them here to assist with identifying the exact location.

Starting with ground handling:

Francis Rogallo ground handling under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Francis Rogallo ground handling under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973 (no larger image available)

Compare this view with the preceding composite image. I think they are views of the same place, but from slightly different elevations and at different ranges. (Beware the foreshortening effect of Leroy Grannis’ telephoto lens, even in his wide angle shots!)

Francis Rogallo ground handling under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
That’s Mrs. Gertrude Rogallo, sailmaker of the very first Rogallo wing kites (on strings) (no larger image available)
Francis Rogallo ground handling under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Lifeguard shack (no larger image available)
Francis Rogallo ground handling under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Cliff with north side of Palos Verdes in the distance (no larger image available)

That’s the ground handling training done. Time to fly:

Francis Rogallo preparing to launch under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Rogallo preparing to launch with the shadowed side of Falcon Rock as a backdrop (no larger image available)
Francis Rogallo about to launch under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Rogallo about to launch in a Rogallo… (no larger image available)
Francis Rogallo about to launch under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
Note the fence running diagonally behind Rogallo to the top.
Francis Rogallo about to launch under instruction from Pete Brock of Ultralight Products in about 1973
“Are you sure these things really fly?”
Francis Rogallo first flights, Torrance Beach, about 1973
Airborne while passing Falcon Rock…

Louis Dart's flotsam palace in about 1920
Louis Dart’s flotsam palace in about 1920 again

Given a half century of erosion, I believe it reasonable to conclude that the preceding photos are of the same place.

1974

Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a hang glider launching at Torrance Beach, likely in early 1974
Art based on a photo by Leroy Grannis of a hang glider launching at Torrance Beach, likely in early 1974

It looks as though building work behind the fences was underway by 1974. The telephone pole here is just visible at upper left in the next (color) photo.

Photo by Leroy Grannis of a hang glider launching at Torrance Beach, likely in early 1974
Photo by Leroy Grannis of a hang glider launching at Torrance Beach, likely in early 1974. This was the center page in Hang Glider, summer 1974 edition.

The pilot here (possibly Laverne DeJan?) was known as ‘Spoon’ and the guy watching from in front of his glider is Dave Meyers.


Torrance Beach Google Maps satellite image grabbed in early 2020
Torrance Beach Google Maps satellite image grabbed in early 2020

The green Torrance County Beach label — the one about two-thirds up, containing an umbrella — is where I think the bluffs began.

Related

Cronk works, David Cronk’s hang gliders

Domes, Palos Verdes related topics menu — the flying site on the south side of Palos Verdes

Point Fermin — a bit farther south from Palos Verdes

Space flight and hang gliding for more of NASA engineer Francis Rogallo

Ultralight Products of California and Utah for more of Peter Brock

External links

From the sub-optimal landings segment of Playground in the Sky, 1977, by Carl Boenish on YouTube (low resolution) starting at 42 minutes 27 seconds: First a standard Rogallo fails to become airborne on the slope alongside Falcon Rock. That is immediately followed by an Eipper standard with a power pack attached to the seated pilot, which I think might be Dick Eipper himself, in front of the bluffs.

History of Torrance by Bruce and Maureen Megowan

History of the Palos Verdes Beach & Athletic Club by Maureen Megowan

Palos Verdes Secrets and Little Known Facts on the Maureen Megowan (realtor) web site, that page containing an outstandingly clear image of Torrance and Redondo beaches looking north from high on Palos Verdes, with Los Angeles center in the distance, taken in 2019

Panoramic photo of Torrance beach by Leroy Grannis, from which I obtained the composite screenshot: Big Blue Sky, 2008, by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 46 minutes 25 seconds

Pete Brock teaches Francis Rogallo to fly the invention that bears his name, at Torrance beach in the early 1970s: Playground in the Sky, 1977, by Carl Boenish digitized film on YouTube (low resolution) starting at 40 minutes 29 seconds

The “Hang Loose” Bi-plane hang glider and the birth of a movement… on the Privitt family web site

Torrance Beach, Torrance, CA 90277, USA, photo in Google Maps by Steven Mansouri taken in February 2020, looking south towards Palos Verdes

With Seagulls Flying promotional film made in 1973 by James Budge and digitized by Mark Langenfeld on Box.com

References

1. Neil Larson on U.S. Hawks

2. Interview with Hang Gliding Photography Legend LeRoy Grannis by John Heiney on Upshots, John’s web site

2 thoughts on “Torrance Beach

  1. I think the brief shot of me “wing running” (as Joe Faust calls it) my Skysail on the beach, shown in Big Blue Sky, was at Torrance Beach but it may have been Dockweiler, I’m not sure. Maybe another look at the background would determine the location. It’s been quite a while since i have viewed the video.

    Frank Colver

    Like

    1. I notice another place in Big Blue Sky where the narration is about Torrance beach, but the film is of Playa Del Rey (Dockweiler). In addition, where Dave Cronk soars his Cronkite at Torrey Pines (film from Playground in the Sky) the narration is about Torrance Beach. It seems to me that, in creating a fast-paced documentary, Bill Liscomb used the best images to illustrate the narrative, even when the correlation between the two is not exact. One sand dune looks much like another, I guess.

      Like

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s