Welcome to Air Surfing (AKA Walkalong Gliding)!
Gallery of people like you air-surfing.
Where to buy thin foam or DIY.
Links to all patterns here.
If you are teaching a group how to fly here are some ideas.
History of air-surfing .
Walkalong glider bio-mimicry.
Hang gliders stay up the same way, here's how. Alternate SchoolTube link.
Back to the sciencetoymaker main page


It looks like magic! Un-powered gliders are levitated and controlled without any visible means of support. Is it magnetism? Static electricity? It’s a science mystery waiting to be explored. The concept of Walkalong flight has been known among creative aerospace scientists for a generation, yet it remains the coolest thing you’ve never seen. Now, a handful of people around the world are collaborating to make air surfing accessible—especially to students.

Air surfing is not expensive. You will have to follow directions at first and practice, but it’s no more difficult than, say, learning to cook. And like cooking, once you learn the basics there are endless possibilities for creative innovation.


To get started flying yourself, here are 3 glider designs that are good to start with. Click on the name or the picture.

With the Spinny Bug, you get two tumbling gliders out of each piece of foam. They are the easiest to make and slowest flying—perfect for crowded house; a bit tricky to launch at first.. Click here or the picture. The Thompson Jagwing is also a good design to start with. Invented by college student Michael Thompson, it’s easy to build and has great turn and pitch stability. Click here or the picture. The Baby Bug is so efficient that you might learn to fly with only hands or head deflecting air. It’s a little more challenging to adjust, but from the scrap from foam sheet you can make two more good flying gliders. Click here.


You need thin-sliced foam for these beginning designs. At first, everybody wants to use familiar paper, but paper is much heavier and difficult to work with—not a good choice for starting out with. You can buy the thin-sliced foam for as little as 25 cents a sheet. Or if you’re handy, make it yourself. I’ve said that paper is difficult and heavy. It becomes limp and useless in humid weather, but if you are determined that you must use paper, here is a paper design to try. This video explains why I started woth paper gliders, but switched to foam.


Once you are flying, there are so many directions to go with it. You can learn how to fly with only your hands or head deflecting the air. That really looks like science fiction! Use the Force! Some of my students have learned to engage in aerial combat: “dogfighting”, three dimensional jousting.


The Mama Bug is a much larger, advanced design (seen here compared to smaller gliders). The Mama Bug has a 35 cm wing span. Bigger gliders are actually more efficient flyers and they work well for both new pilots and advanced (hands-only flight, aerial combat). Building the Mama Bug is similar to the Baby Bug, but it's 2 pieces of foam taped together. That's the tricky part. Click here or on the picture.


You can also unleash your engineering and artistic self by designing new air-surf flying creatures. Bio-mimicry is imitating biological life forms, and you can dream up some whimsical creations. Here is what some people are creating.


Like all good science discovery stories, walkalong gliding history is full of people with unconventional ways of looking at the world, catastrophic and fortuitous accidents, serendipitous insights, cross-pollination, community and collaboration. Air surfing history is here and you can see interviews with the historical innovators here. And you can see links to YouTube videos of other people doning interesting things with walkalong gliders.