Torrey Pines


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Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines is a public park in San Diego, California. It provides coastal soaring year-round. The cliff is four miles long and faces west (the Pacific). The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is a half mile back from the cliff and it owns a glider (sailplane) runway there. (Sailplanes have soared the Torrey Pines cliff since the 1930s.) Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with its distinctive pier, marks the south end of the cliff. Whales, dolphins, and seals can be observed from the air. Jets from Naval Air Station Miramar (home of Top Gun) cross 2000 ft above. (Source: Torrey Pines 1979 by Don Betts and Bettina Gray.)

Cronkite at Torrey Pines, San Diego, California, in 1973 or 1974
Cronkite at Torrey Pines, San Diego, California, in 1973 or 1974

For more about the designer of the Cronkite and the first world champion Dave Cronk, see Cronk works. See also the short low-resolution digitized film by Carl Boenish on YouTube for Dave Cronk flying this wing at Torrey Pines, set to a 16th century English folk ballad instrumental under External links later on this page.

Bob Wills flew there on a post-storm day in 1974 with his mother Maralys, father Bob Sr., and brother Chris in attendance…

Gradually other bystanders arrived, and like us, they simply gaped. Ignoring us all, Bobby assembled his kite, talked Chris through the process of holding him down by the wires, and suddenly — whoosh — he was up! Straight up! Without warning or preliminaries. Up! And then higher still. As though an unseen being had grabbed his kingpost and hauled him up. I’d never seen anything like it.

Ghosts at Torrey Pines by Maralys Wills in Hang Gliding, August 1998


Art based on the Manta advert in Ground Skimmer
Art based on the 1974 Manta advert in Ground Skimmer

See also the Manta Products of California related topics menu.


Seagull 5 in flight at Torrey Pines, San Diego
Seagull 5 in flight at Torrey Pines, San Diego, by Stephen McCarroll

See also the Seagull Aircraft of Santa Monica, California, related topics menu.


Phoenix 8 launch by Bettina Gray
Phoenix 8 launch by Bettina Gray
Hang glider designer Dick Boone and top British pilot Graham Hobson rigging at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979. Photo by Bettina Gray.
Hang glider designer Dick Boone and top British pilot Graham Hobson with what looks to me like a Bennett Phoenix 12. Photo by Bettina Gray.

See also the Dick Boone, hang glider designer related topics menu.


Cmdr Levy lands his Eipper Antares
Cmdr Levy lands his Eipper Antares by Bettina Gray

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier is visible in this image.

For more about the Antares, see under Antares at Torrey Pines in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 1.


Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of Jon Lindberg flying an Electra Flyer Olympus at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979
Jon Lindberg flying an Electra Flyer Olympus by Bettina Gray

The rectangular object secured to Jon Lindberg’s left downtube is a radio/cassette player so he could listen to music. He was doing the same (with updated equipment) 40 years later: See the external video Dreaming Awake at The Point farther down this page.

See also the Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico related topics menu.

Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979
Hang glider pilots at rest by Bettina Gray
Art based on a photo by Bettina Gray of hang glider pilot, poet, teacher of English, and author W.A. Roecker at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1979
Hang glider pilot, poet, teacher of English, and author W.A. Roecker. Photo by Bettina Gray.

If you were going to stay on the cutting edge, if you were going to be competitive, if you were going to venture into those unflown spaces, you took those risks. A lot of good pilots and nice people paid for that with their lives. And that is probably the greatest sorrow that I carry.

— W.A. Roecker speaking in the documentary Big Blue Sky (see the external video link farther down this page)

Burke Ewing plans a formation flight
Burke Ewing plans a formation flight. Photo by Bettina Gray.
W.A. Roecker flying at Torrey Pines in 1979 by Bettina Gray
W.A. Roecker flying by Bettina Gray

Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines.  Photo by Bettina Gray.
Astronaut Wally Schirra (in tie) with hang glider pilots at Torrey Pines. Photo by Bettina Gray reprinted courtesy Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine.

Here, Burke Ewing, Wally Schirra, and W.A. ‘Pork’ Roecker are photographed at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in the late 1970s. Ewing was an early hang gliding film maker. (He was still flying hang gliders in 2018.) Schirra was an astronaut in projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Roecker taught creative writing and English at the universities of Oregon and Arizona and was a regular pilot at southern California hang gliding sites. (See also Space flight and hang gliding.)

Dave Beardslee launching at Torrey Pines. Photo by Bettina Gray.
Dave Beardslee launching at Torrey Pines. Photo by Bettina Gray.

UP Mosquitos at Torrey Pines by Pete Brock
UP Mosquitos at Torrey Pines by Pete Brock

See Developments 1978-9 in Hang gliding 1978 and 1979 part 2 for more about Tom Peghiny’s Eagle and the Ultralight Products Mosquito.

Tom Peghiny's Eagle
Tom Peghiny’s Eagle photographed at Torrey Pines by Bettina Gray

Art based of a photo of Leroy Grannis and Herb Fenner at Torrey Pines, San Diego
Art based of a photo of Leroy Grannis and Herb Fenner at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 1981

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier is visible in the image.


Art based on a photo by John Zurlinden of John Ryan in a Bennet Streak (designed by Bob England) at Torrey pines, Dan Diego
Art based on a photo by John Zurlinden of John Ryan in a Bennett Streak (designed by Bob England) at Torrey pines, Dan Diego

See also Bob England, hang glider designer.


'Topless' hang glider at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 2000. Photo by paraglider pilot Nick Greece.
‘Topless’ hang glider at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in 2000. Photo by paraglider pilot Nick Greece.

External links

1970s Found 8mm Film Home Movie – TORREY PINES HANG GLIDERS on the peahix YouTube Channel

Film by Bill Liscomb aboard a Quicksilver C at Torrey Pines, San Diego, California, on October 23rd, 1975, closing credits of his 2008 documentary Big Blue Sky on YouTube starting at 1 hour 14 minutes 51 seconds, and more, briefer starting at 1 hour, 11 minutes and 6 seconds with narration by Lloyd Licher, but it is not connected with this sequence

Playground In The Sky 1977 – Early Days Of Hang Gliding – Full Length Film 1977 documentary by Carl Boenish on the SPH Gliding YouTube channel, starting at 22 minutes 43 seconds; sequence featuring Bob Wills and others at Torrey Pines in about 1974

Playground in the Sky starting at 25 minutes 19 seconds for Dave Cronk flying his Cronkite (followed by Volmer Jensen in the VJ-23, then Taras in the Icarus 2 and Icarus 5…)

Torrey Pines Gliderport History by Bill Liscomb/LightWing Productions for La Jolla Historical Society, 2010, video on YouTube

W.A. Roecker on the dangers of the early days in Big Blue Sky, 2008, by Bill Liscomb on YouTube starting at 59 minutes 47 seconds, and on a sense of freedom starting at 49 minutes 41 seconds (followed by Taras Kiceniuk Jr.)

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