Welcome to Air Surfing (AKA Walkalong Gliding)!
Back to the sciencetoymaker main page ________"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." __Arthur C. Clarke

If YouTube is blocked at your school, try this 16MB MPEG file

The first time I encountered gliders levitated and controlled by an invisible wave of deflected air, it felt like magic! Surely this was going to take the world by storm, the way Mentos and Soda swept the world as a science activity a few years ago. But while researching the history of walkalong gliders, I was surprised to learn that the concept of surfing the gliders is decades old. Knowledge about them was cloistered within a few aerospace engineering and hang glider communities—definitely not in schools.

As an educator, I set about to make walkalong gliders accessible to regular people as a fun science activity by developing thin (1/2 mm) foam gliders that are an order of magnitude lighter than paper. Only a few times denser than air itself, they fly so slowly that beginners have time to think and react. If I walked beside you and we both held onto the board, then you could learn to fly in minutes because that way you gain a feel for flying. Soon you would be swooping around your house flying as easily as you ride a bicycle.

And the thin foam gliders are so efficient that advanced pilots (with practice) can levitate them with only their hands deflecting the air! The foam sheets are inexpensive to buy or slice your own--no one is excluded for lack of money. I find that kids around the age of 10 start having enough coordination to fly them.

So NOW the activity is going to catch fire, right? No. Any knucklehead can drop Mentos in soda, but walkalong gliders demand more. You don’t need to be flight savvy to start, but you have to pay attention to details. For one thing, the thin, light foam is also very delicate. The gliders won’t break from crashing into walls, but careless/nervous hands will wreck them in seconds. Even adults lack an analog for handling something that carefully--unless they’ve cuddled with a pet butterfly. Furthermore, the gliders need dead-still air, which usually means not outside except at dawn and dusk. Even aggressive HVAC systems and cause too much air turbulence inside. And although I can easily show people how to fly, being the first in your region with nobody to show you is more difficult.

Some people will be daunted by these eccentricities of walkalong gliders. But inspired pioneers--who care a little more about details and work a little harder to learn new things--are spreading walkalong flight in the world! Here are some tips for teaching groups to fly .


Learn to Fly.
Flying an already-made glider is the best way to begin. This video shows how (it's the same as the one embedded at above). If the YouTube video is blocked at your school, try this 16MB MPEG file. This text only page explains in detail what is going on in the video.

Alternately, here is a print-friendly, illustrated guide to flying, as a PDF document.

Teaching a group to fly? Here are some tips.


Get Gliders and Foam Sheets
Using gliders made from thin, low-density EPS (expanded polystyrene) is the best way to get started. Time Warp foam is extremely lightweight and slow-flying, so you have time to think and react. Get gliders and foam here. Gliders made of Time Warp foam are so efficient that they work great for advanced flying--like levitationg them with only your hands.

Paper gliders are heavier, therefore fly faster, so they are more difficult to learn with. Also, paper becomes limp in humid air. But if you are stubborn, here is a paper design to try (the video starts out showing it launched from a helicopter, but it is also a walkalong glider).


Make Mosquito Walkalong Gliders.
Here are video instructions for Making the Mosquito Glider on YouTube and here is the text explanation of the video. If YouTube is blocked, try this 12MB MPEG file). This text only page explains in detail what is going on in the video.

There is also a print-friendly illustrated guide as a PDF document. And here is the Mosquito Pattern (no shrink to fit page)

Mass-Producing Mosquito Gliders
Tools and techniques that make mass producing lots of gliders quick and easy.


Make the Giant Mama Bug Walkaong Glider
By using two pieces of foam taped together you can make a giant Mama Bug glider. Larger gliders are actually more efficient, and you can levitate Mama Bugs with only your hands. However, they are more difficult to make. Start with the smaller Mosquito gliders.Here are video instructions for the Mama Bug
Instructions for MAKING the giant Mama Bug Glider as a PDF document. And here is the Mama Bug Pattern

See People Like You Flying and Making Gliders.
Check out the flight gallery of people who have sent pictures or posted videos.

Teach Groups to Fly Walkalong Gliders
This is all the things that I learned the hard way.

  History and New Directions for Walkalong Flight
See the in +ventors and pioneers of Walkalong Gliders and, further down on the page, new directions.
  Archived Pages and Cool Stuff Related to Air-Surfing
Sort of interesting to see how I got into walkalong gliders and how it developed.
Stop Glider Static Cling
If the glider is attracted to the board, you just need a damp wipe.
  NEW: Hotwire Cut Foam for Walkalong Gliders webpage and video.   Creating Your Own Glider Designs and Bio-Mimicry
Design tips are coming soon. Check out some designs that people like you have created.
  Walkalong Glider Hoax Mean spirited and sleazy.

Do you want to see how "over the top" this activity can be? Watch this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxDC7YXFOvo They are controlling the flaps, but all lift is from the car!

head gliding

With practice you can surf gliders with only your hands or only your head. And you can have aerial dog fights, too!

Check out a new flying project from sciencetoymaker: Dragonfly Helicopters!