Day at the beach
These three paintings, acrylic on canvas, portray a hang gliding competition held on June 29th to July 6th, 1974 at the Elberta dune on the shore of Lake Michigan, near Frankfort. I completed them in February 2022.
The action is copied from films taken by two cameramen, Robert E. Lorey and John Elwell, and subsequently digitized and uploaded to YouTube. I obtained additional visual and factual information from photos and articles published in contemporary and modern hang gliding magazines. See under External links later on this page for an account of the event on my hang gliding history web site, which includes links to the YouTube videos.
Our view point is where the guy on front wires on nearest glider (dark blue and white) is in the Grannis photo.
Feel free to create prints of these three paintings for your own non-commercial use.
Sky surfing was an alternative name for hang gliding in the mid 1970s. It imparted an idea that hang gliding was equivalent to surfing in terms of equipment and risk to life and limb. As far as I am aware, there were no injuries during this event, a remarkable statistic in light of the number of ditchings in the lake and encounters with strong turbulence, as portrayed here. The dive recovery characteristic of the standard Rogallo was questionable, especially in a side-slip.
Closest to the view point is former NASA engineer Chuck Slusarczyk fighting turbulence in his Brock standard Rogallo, made by Ultralight Products of El Segundo, Los Angeles, California. The dark patch high on the back of his shirt is the Ultralight Products logo, which is actually red in the painting although it looks black in the photo. A version of it is still (in 2022) used by hang glider manufacturer UP Gliders.
The yellow and dark blue wing turning close to the hill is a Flexi Flier standard Rogallo made by Dick Eipper’s Eipper Formance Inc., of Torrance, Los Angeles, California. It can be seen flying in part 2 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
The monoplane hang glider on final approach to the beach is a Quicksilver, also manufactured by Eipper-Formance. At least two of these ‘semi rigid’ gliders flew at the competition. The yellow one with blue tips, blue rudder, and I think a blue stripe in the center of the wing, is carried up the stairway of old car tires in part 1 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
The glider having ground looped at the edge of the surf is a Sun standard made by Sun Sail of Denver, Colorado. (Not to be confused with manufacturers Sunbird or Sailbird!) The guy in the yellow t-shirt going to the pilot’s aid is one of the landing marshals. He carried a two-way radio in his right hand.
The largest of the boats is the TIKI III, according to a contributor (clearly a sailor) in the comments on part 3 of the Bob Lorey film on YouTube.
In contrast to the method arguably implied by the once common advice to ‘lean into it and go’, the launch method of ‘towing’ the glider into the air with the hang strap is preferable to that of pushing on the control frame. Notice the pilot’s hands are on the base tube anyway and he certainly is leaning into it and pulling from his shoulders: He is in a seat harness.
His wing is a standard Rogallo made by Manta Products of Oakland, San Francisco.
The lady pilot nearest the view point can be seen flying in the film by John Elwell. She was almost ground-looped on the beach after touching down. See under External links later on this page for the film on YouTube.
The glider at left is a Wills Wing Swallowtail. The colors and sail pattern are from its several appearances in the film by John Elwell, which shows it flying and parked nose-down into wind at various times. I based my instance of it on a photo that Leroy Grannis took of Bob Wills’ Swallowtail, which appears identical except for the blue tips, at a competition held in the following December and January. However, I am not certain the glider at the Elberta competition in July was a Swallowtail. It might have been a Wills Wing Standard.
Eighteen year old Tom Peghiny won the competition in his Bobcat, which he designed for Sky Sports of Ellington, Connecticut.
The parked glider nearest the viewpoint is a standard Rogallo flown by the lady pilot in the middle painting. I do not know its make, but she can be seen flying it in the film by John Elwell on YouTube.
The red glider is a standard Rogallo made by Manta Products of Oakland, San Francisco. It can be seen flying in part 2 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
The guy with the big hair can be seen on final to the beach and landing a blue and white standard Rogallo in part 1 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
The parked glider on the top of the hill is an Arrow Wing (a standard Rogallo with distinctive sail panel layout, yellow and green with orange tips in this example) made by Solo Flight Systems Inc, in Orange, California. It can be seen flying in part 3 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
The sailplane at upper right is (presumably) part of the overall event, of which the hang gliding competition was only a part; the Second Annual National Soaring and Hang Gliding Festival. It appears in part 2 of the film by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube.
I used screenshots of the digitized films on YouTube to construct a mock up of the paintings and a composite of the three paintings. (I use the Irfanview image editor.)
I scaled up the mock ups of the individual paintings to fit my canvasses. The design/prototype/mock-up process took at least as long as the actual task of drawing and painting. I then measured (with a plastic ruler) from the image on screen to the canvas, marking points at the drawing stage. (My monitor is about the same size as the canvas.)
Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976 — painting of a Sky Sports Merlin, another Tom Peghiny design
Chuck Slusarczyk flying a Brock 82 in Soaring and Gliding Festivals 1973-1974, a digitized ‘Super 8’ (8 millimetre) film on YouTube by John Elwell, starting at 35 minutes 1 second. That is immediately followed by the lady pilot depicted in the middle painting, as in the next link.
Lady pilot depicted in the middle painting, in the film on YouTube by John Elwell starting at 35 minutes 43 seconds, walking on the hillside and then flying down to a landing on the beach, where she is almost ground-looped
Lady pilot interview (no recorded speech though) on a different day during the event in 1974 Hang Gliding Frankfort Michigan Part 2 of 4 by Robert E. Lorey on YouTube starting at 2 minutes 13 seconds
Elberta Dune, Michigan, July 1974 in Hang Gliding History