Torrance Beach


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Torrance Beach

Art based on the Sky Sports advert in Ground Skimmer, December, 1973

Quicksilver at Torrance Beach in Ground Skimmer, December, 1973

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.

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…


A 'Hang Loose' passes Falcon Rock in the sandy draw below the bluffs

A ‘Hang Loose’ passes Falcon Rock in the sandy draw below the bluffs

This photo was taken after 1971. Note the fences along the top. Similarly with the next photo, which provides a fairly good indication of the location of the bluffs too.

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

Reverse of postcard Dave Cronk flying his Cronkite at Torrance Beach in about 1971

Reverse of postcard Dave Cronk flying his Cronkite at Torrance Beach, California, in about 1971


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 (*)

The Ultralight Products workshop at El Segundo — part of the Los Angeles sprawl — was a short distance north of Torrance Beach — by the Los Angeles airport. (See Ultralight Products of California and Utah.) The Eipper-Formance factory was a short way inland from Torrance Beach. (See High-performance in Hang gliding 1974 part 3.)


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 back ground.

— 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


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 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


By 1973 fences had been erected along the edge in front of the sandstone bluffs, but the hang gliders still 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…


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 invention 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)


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 a 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. 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. 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.


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.


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

Hang gliding 1973 part 1

Pushing the outside of the envelope in Hang gliding 1974 part 3 for a bit about Point Fermin, a few klicks south of Palos Verdes

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

External links

History of Torrance by Bruce and Maureen Megowan

Palos Verdes Secrets and Little Known Facts on the Mareen 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

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

Reference

Neil Larson on U.S. Hawks

2 Responses to Torrance Beach

  1. Frank Colver says:

    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

    • 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.

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