Spreading Her Wings: Sara Close, airborn

Last year, Seth Warren reached out to Sara Close, a friend he’d met through work in the outdoor industry in 2008, to ask if she’d be interested in learning to hang glide for the starring role in his latest film. It took her about 30 seconds to decide: oh hell yes.

But the 28-year-old still needed to contact the Oracle of Common Sense—her mom. Close was technically available, having just completed a 32-day transect by sailboat across the South Atlantic, from Namibia to Uruguay, as part of her contract with 5 Gyres, a non-profit dedicated to understanding plastic pollution. But she was also planning to move into an apartment in Buenos Aires, where she would work for the next few months to finish out her contract. A second opinion on her enthusiasm for Warren’s proposition was an order.

It turned out that Mom Close had just about the same reaction as her daughter. “She told me she couldn’t imagine a more perfect project for me,” Close says. “Both my dad and my granddad worked in aviation. Flight is in my blood.”

And maybe jet fuel too. Warren says Close learned quickly. She’d first master aerotowing, when a plane drags the glider up into the sky, at a place called Wallaby Ranch in Florida. Then the pair would head West, to Montana, so Close could get the hang of footlaunching, a technique that gets the glider into the air by running off a mountain and catching a thermal. They’d finish in Oregon, on the beach, where Close would learn to catch air from the ground and “surf” her way up into the clouds on a current that could keep her aloft for hours. In the end, Warren would have filmed every one of Close’s 108 flights, over a period of roughly six months.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Warren says. “The film was initially supposed to be much smaller; a view into what it feels like to fly. But Sara really fell in love with it and took it to another level.”

That wasn’t all she fell for. By the end of the filming, the two had become much more than friends. “That’s a whole other story,” Close says, “I’m saving it for the behind-the-scenes movie.”

The new couple put together a Kickstarter project to raise $9,500 to finish the film, and exceeded their fundraising expectation by more than $1,500. Warren hopes to release the film mid summer, with premier plans still in the works as of press time. He also hopes to show a different side of hang gliding. “I think the general public thinks hang gliding is this really insane crazy sport,” he says. “But it’s actually one of the safest ways to free fly.”

Close agrees. She says she never felt afraid, although she’ll always have butterflies in her stomach when she’s getting ready to go up. “I think it’s one of those sports where it’s okay to be nervous,” she says. “You are pretty much just running off a hill and jumping.”

Follow the film’s progress at:
elementstour.com

—Jayme Moye

$446 million

The amount of annual revenue generated by Colorado’s craft brewing industry in 2011, according to data compiled in a study by the University of Colorado for the Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG). As of March 2012, Colorado has 139 licensed craft brewers that create an estimated 5,800 jobs. coloradobeer.org