Gliders ready to take flight

It takes years of practice and a 65-pound set of wings, but it’s possible to fly from Fort Funston to Daly City in just two minutes.

Each year, professional hang gliders who are savvy enough to fly the stretch from the southwestern corner of San Francisco south across the county line take part in the Funston Air Races.

On Aug. 28, contestants will soar over the Pacific Ocean at 60 mph just feet from the cliff.

“I scared myself when I was next to the cliff and I thought, ‘Why do I do this again?’” said Enzo Fatica, who won last year’s competition by eight seconds. “I know everyone’s going to try to beat me this year. I just hope that I don’t end up somewhere on the beach.”

The battle starts at the sawdust landing near a parking lot off Skyline Boulevard around noon, wind permitting. If the wind is strong enough to suspend the fliers, about 15 mph, then the race proceeds. Otherwise, they have to wait for it to pick up.

Once the gliders take to the air, the clock starts ticking as contestants fly the 2-mile stretch to Daly City, turn around and fly back.

“It’s about 4 miles and it can be done in about four minutes,” said tandem instructor Steve Rodrigues of the hang gliding group Fellow Feathers, the main organizer of the event. “There’s really nothing like flying at Fort Funston.”

The winner gets inevitable bragging rights and a free membership to the Fellow Feathers, which is normally a $65 suggested donation.

But for the fearless fliers, the prize is not the motivation.

“I think I gave mine away,” said Fatica, who started flying 25 years ago.

The tight-knit group of friends is more excited about sharing the beauty of their haven with a pot-luck barbecue commemorating fellow flier Dan Murphy, who was shot to death in 2006 at Fort Funston for reasons that are still unknown.

“We’ve had this annual memorial for him every year since,” said Rodrigues, who will not be competing because he’s recovering after a hang glider chord sliced his arm. “It’s just a whole lot of fun, and of course everyone is welcome.”

Bay Area NewseventFort FunstonLocal

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen is known for providing personalized service at Charlie’s Pharmacy in the Fillmore.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Left: A Walgreens at 300 Gough St. is among San Francisco stores closing.
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City Councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco Councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio Lopez.<ins> (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)</ins>
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The Walgreens at 4645 Mission St. in The City is among those slated to close. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Walgreens says it’s closing five San Francisco stores due to crime. Where’s the data?

Walgreens should be transparent, enlighten San Francisco leaders about crime’s effect on business

Most Read