This last Labor Day was a big celebration for Marina, CA. It was the cities 40th anniversary. For you math challenged folks that would be 1975 when the small commuter town near Monterey took on its own governance. Labor Day has annually been a big event with a parade running down the main street of downtown on Reservation Rd. As many of you pilots in the 'Know' know it is also the exit a hang glider pilot takes off Hwy 1 to get to the famous dune soaring flying site 'Marina State Beach'.
One of the more exciting aspects of coastal ridge soaring is the fact that ofter throughout your entire flight you are right above the ground. Non-pilots assume there is much more safety being so low and flying over a softer terrain compared to hard compacted dry soil of inland sites but the reality is very much the opposite. There is saftey with distance between you and the ground when hang gliding.
When two air masses meet their is a compression zone where the air is mixing. The two air masses are likely to have both different air density's and direction of movement. The less dense air, typically the air coming from the ocean hits the inland air which might be backing up. The less dense air typically slides above the more dense air and if your a lucky pilot will find the sweet line to fly to join that rising air and with it reach heights well above what ridge soaring alone could never provide.
The beach is no doubt a tough environment for gliders. A common concern is the sand getting in and grinding away at the seams of the sail. A greater impact on a sails is the sun and the higher reflectivity of both the sand and water and how it how it prematurely ages the dacron and or mylar of the sail. There haven't been many wings that have fallen apart from seam failure but cloth failure is the most common reason for a gliders demise. An even more pressing concern for a wing at the beach is damage by the forces exerted upon it by wind during set-up or take down and/or the wing being flung into the terrain. With the latter, even more pressing would be how you fair.
At Marina the primary place to both launch and land is the set-up area. It's a relatively gradual sloped bowl but one sloped enough that a pilot can easily glide into the ocean if they're not being attentive. Back in the day with the old Rogallo wings this wasn't a huge problem but with even today's beginner gliders with their superior glide it is a concern. This is particularly true on light days when there isn't the same drag induced on the glider and pilot. So how do you land at the top of the set-up area and not at the bottom.