HUNTINGTON BEACH : City Hopes Glider Event Lifts Tourism

In an effort to bolster off-season tourism, the city plans to go fly a kite.

The city is co-sponsoring the Huntington Beach Power Flying Games scheduled March 2 and 3, the first of what officials hope will become an annual event, featuring an unusual, growing sport called “power gliding.”

The event, to be held on the municipal beach near Huntington Street, will include a variety of speed and maneuvering activities involving power gliders, something of a cross between a kite and a hang glider.

Officials from the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau, which is sharing the cost of putting on the games with the city and a corporate sponsor, hope the event will provide a long-sought attraction to bring thousands of visitors to the city during its annual tourism lull.


“We went out looking for an off-season event that we could hold annually, and one with potential for growth. And when we found this, it seemed ideal,” said Diane Baker, the bureau’s executive director.

A similar event held each year in Long Beach, Wash., attracts more than 100,000 visitors and generates an estimated $1 million for local merchants, promoters said.

The City Council has agreed to contribute $13,000 to this year’s Huntington Beach event.

Power gliding, in which a pilot operates the 10-foot-wide craft from the ground by tugging on lines affixed to each wing, is reportedly among the fastest-growing sports in the United States, Australia, Germany and other nations.


The sport was devised in 1969, using the technology that went into constructing parachutes for NASA space missions, but only in recent years has it attracted widespread popular appeal, said Shelagh Leland, spokeswoman for Air Force Corp., the event’s other co-sponsor. A worldwide professional circuit has developed, and about 300 competitions are now held each year, she said.

Huntington Beach officials are hopeful that if the games become popular locally, smaller power-gliding events in the area will branch off, sustaining a tourist draw throughout the winter and spring months.

Leland said the city’s beaches between November and May are particularly well-suited for the sport because of consistent winds, wide expanses of open space and mild temperatures. “This appears to be one of the most ideal spots in the whole country,” Leland said.