Tandem Paragliding at Mt Woodside

Tandem Paragliding at Mt Woodside

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn Hike and Fly

Looking back, it's probably been at least 4 or 5 years since I've done a hike and fly off Elk Mountain.  It's something I would plan on doing each year but I'd always let other things get in the way. It's kind of ridiculous since the trail head is only a 10 minute drive from my house.

So when Kevin texted me to meet him at the landing field, I immediately went through my paragliding kit and got rid of anything extra I didn't want to hike up the mountain with me, filled up my water bottle and ran out the door.

The hike up is a little shorter than in years past thanks to a new logging road, but it still took an hour and a half for this non-hiker.  Kevin usually does it in about an hour so I have a goal to work towards! The hike is beautiful but steep, with sections of nice, rolling paths and then steep switchbacks.  I was sure grateful to Kevin for lending me his spare hiking harness & reserve, plus bringing along some extra hiking poles.

Last of the steep section before a nice stroll along the ridge to the launch meadow.

There was barely any wind, so we set up side by side to power off with forward launches into the glassy smooth air.

Ready to launch

My favourite thing ever - running off a mountain!

Twenty-five minutes later we were back at my beloved Toyota FJ.  I drove Kevin back to the trailhead to get his truck and was back home in 15 minutes.  With rain in the forecast every day for the rest of the month I'm stoked that we got to sneak this flight in!

My view of Kevin coming in to land.

Kevin's POV of someone a little bit excited about this hike and fly.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Small Business Month

I'm one of the lucky ones who gets to do what I love and also get paid for it.  Paragliding has been my only job since I went full-time in June which means as bizarre as it feels I'm officially an entrepreneur and small business owner.

And since October is now Small Business Month (read on to find out how I was one of the first to hear that news!) I wanted to share some of my stories as to how I have been growing my business as a paragliding instructor and tandem pilot.

As the cooler weather moves in, my focus is slowly switching from flying tandems off mountain tops to "inside" work (marketing, catching up on paperwork, etc).  I've been fortunate over the flying season to bring in a lot of business through word-of-mouth referrals.   People also began contacting me who had found Jet Set Paragliding through online searches.  That made me realize that there was a lot more to being an entrepreneur than hanging a virtual "open for business" sign up on Facebook.

So I decided to start running my business as a business and soon found a cool event put on by the Vancouver Board of Trade and Small Business BC.  I grabbed my friend Zoe who had recently started her own event planning business and we drove into the city on Monday for a night of schmoozing and swag bags.

Besides all the free resources and gifts (thanks Telus for the portable usb charger for my iPhone - how cool is that!) we were lucky enough to attend a panel discussion where successful small business owners from BC dispensed helpful advice and answered questions.  Before the panel spoke, the Minster of Tourism and Small Business read a very official sounding decree (complete with references to the Queen and terms like "therefore" and "let it be known that") which announced that October was officially Small Business Month.  That means more seminars, events and resources becoming available for those of us crazy enough to want to run our own businesses!

Free phone charger, advice and red wine…what more do you need as a business owner?

What did I get out of it...besides the aforementioned swag?  Inspiration (which makes sense since the event was titled "Inspire") and also validation that what I want to accomplish is completely possible.  I heard other stories that night of "niche" businesses that become successful and they made me realize…if someone else can do it then so can I!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Video Competition

Just a short post today!

Skywalk holds a video competition each year for pilots to share their flying experiences.  I entered this year, and would love if you would take a look on Vimeo or YouTube and give it a like or thumbs up if you enjoy it.  There are some great prizes like harnesses (!) and winners will be announced in the 2015 edition of Skywalk's "magalog".  Fingers crossed!

It's all about the camera angles

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why I love being a Team Pilot.

Being a Team Pilot can mean a lot of different things depending on what "Team" you're flying for.  As a Skywalk Team Pilot, my role consists mainly of educating pilots about the brand (as Skywalk is relatively new in Canada & the US, despite being a top brand in Europe).  Of course, promoting them goes along with that, but it's not a difficult job since I am thrilled with the performance of all my Skywalk gear.  My first top-landing at Woodside with my Cayenne 4 (solo wing) was the easiest I'd ever done, and my new tandem wing (the Join't 3) flies and lands like a dream.

Granted, they also love when I get a chance to compete and fly well (winning the trophy for top Canadian Female in 2013 was a good one!) but there is never a threat of their support being pulled if I don't bring home the gold.  They are just as happy to hear that I stood on the hill for an hour helping other pilots launch (regardless of what brand of paraglider they fly) as they would be with any competition I'm a part of.  It's one of the main reasons I accepted Skywalk's offer to fly for them, besides the fact that their products are so impressive of course.

If I lived in Europe I would get a chance to hang out with other Team Pilots, both on the hill and at the twice-annual Skywalk Team Pilots meeting.  As the only Canadian Team Pilot I mainly connect with my Team online, so when something special arrives in the mail it reinforces the fact that they find value in working with me just as I do with them.  Yesterday a goodie bag arrived with the new Skywalk T-shirts, along with some windsocks I'd requested to bring to my friends in Keremeos who have been supporting me all summer long (and for some local spots too).

Windsocks for various friends, tshirts for me!

The parcel also contained the brand new Range Air, Skywalk's hike-and-fly pod harness that only weighs in at about 2 kg!  Since it was raining yesterday George only got to try out the new backpack, but it easily fit the new harness with his "normal" Tequila 4 paraglider.  A dedicated hike and fly wing would result in an even smaller pack size!

Skywalk's new Pod Harness with "normal" sized paraglider packed inside.
Beer not included.

If the forecast holds out and it's sunny this weekend, be sure to look for George trying out the Range Air while I rock the new team colours.  To order your own (harness or tshirts) just let me know, or contact George or Lee direct at Thermal Addict Airsports, Skywalk's Western Canada importer.

Thank you Skywalk for your continued support and for making such great products!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stop Posting…Start Living!

By now we've all seen pictures like this going around the Internet.  Whether on Facebook, Pinterest or any other number of social media sites, we love posting these inspiring and motivational quotes.  And while you may get a rush when you read them, how often do you actually follow through and

Do. Something. Amazing.?

I'm lucky enough to experience adventure almost every day through my passion of paragliding and by taking others along as we run together off perfectly good mountains.  People come for a tandem flight for so many reasons - it's on the bucket list, to get over a fear of heights, to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, to shake up a life of sitting at a desk all day while hearing co-workers talk about the incredible things they did over the weekend while you watched whole seasons of who-knows-what on Netflix.  One of my favourites is when people share that they have had flying dreams ever since they were a kid and want to capture that feeling in real life.  And they do!

Whatever the reason, paragliding can be the catalyst for change that people are looking for.  "If I can run off a mountain, then I can definitely ask my boss for a raise!".  The lesson learned is that anxiousness is all in the anticipation, and once you've (literally) taken the first step and gone all in, the rest becomes an incredible and beautiful ride.

The time is now - stop talking and start doing!  Then you can post your own pictures of the moment you found that magic again, somewhere between 2000 feet up and the point your feet touched ground.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hike & Fly with the Skywalk Flex harness

George (from Thermal Addict Airsports) offered me his Skywalk Flex harness to demo when he heard I was planning a hike and fly up to Bridal Falls take off.  The hike up is 750 metres, so anything to make my pack lighter was a welcome idea, especially since I haven't done a hike and fly in about 4 years!

When he showed me how to reverse the harness to turn it into the back pack, I couldn't believe that both my wing and the front mount parachute would fit inside.  But by using all the pockets I fit my wing, reserve, full camelback of water and accessories (keys, wallet, phone)…plus I put my lunch, radio, gps and gloves in my helmet which easily strapped on top.  Awesome!

Luckily my friend Martin had already hiked 2 days in a row so he wanted to go slowly.  Perfect.  We stopped at a waterfall for a break about 2/3 of the way up, but that's the only time I took off my pack.  Even at the top I noticed my shoulders didn't hurt at all like they usually do after (or during) a hike - the shoulder and hip straps on the backpack were very comfortable, and the shape of the bag distributes the weight perfectly.

My little pack on the left.  Martin behind me filling up his bottle at the waterfall.

After a quick rest up top the wind started blowing in so it was time to launch.  I had my Skywalk Cayenne 4 to pair with the Flex, along with George's front mount reserve.  Launching was easy with the split leg harness and there was no fussing around to "get into" my harness after take-off.

The biggest (coolest) difference I noticed with the harness was the feedback on thermals - the split leg/hammock design makes it incredibly easy to know which way to turn when you hit a thermal.  My one hip would noticeably rise up while the other dropped so -boom- turn to the high side and you're in the thermal.  It was a stable day with an inversion not much higher than launch, so getting that immediate feedback helped me stay up over an hour.  In fact I could have stayed up for much longer, but after that hike…well…let's just say I'm not an X-Alps athlete and I was beat.  Easy landing and after an energy drink I even contemplated doing the hike again tomorrow (what was in that can? ha ha).

I'm excited to demo the Skywalk Range Air when they ship out, it's their hike and fly pod equipped with an airbag that folds down super small by the looks of the photo.  The Flex has a removable airbag as well, something that is missing from a lot of other hike and fly harnesses.  Personally I don't care how smooth the air is on a morning flight…I prefer to have back protection every time I fly.

With another hot streak of weather predicted, more hike and fly trips are definitely on the radar.  Leave a comment if you want to come along next time!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get high with my Join't

Skywalk has a fun sense of humour for naming their wings.  The first wing I heard of from them was the Tequila, then the Chili and now…the Join't.  How much fun will it be talking to people about "getting high with my Join't" and then pulling out a paraglider?

Anyway, I am bursting with excitement over my new tandem wing!  There's a whole ritual when unpacking a new paraglider.  Open the bag slowly to savour that new wing smell, then take a whole bunch of photos because it will never pack down that small again.

Step 1:  Look at the cool bag with the vents to let your wing breathe when packed

Step 2:  Open the bag just a little to peek at the blue sky/orange-yellow sun colour combo you picked.

Step 3:  Remove goodie bag filled with stickers, a bandana and manual

Today…today was Step 4:  Fly the new wing!  Oh my poor Join't3 sat patiently inside waiting for schedules and weather to match up and finally today we got airborne.  A hang gliding friend who wanted to see first hand what the differences were between our gliders got the chance today.  The weather was borderline…winds predicted to put a stop to flying by noon, yet barely a puff coming up at launch when we got there at 10:30.  Patience won out…eventually.  I wanted to do a reverse launch so I could inspect this brand new wing as it inflated, and we had to wait clipped in for 10 minutes until a light breeze came up the slope.

Inflation:  the wing came up just as nice and easy as my solo glider.  I was surprised since I bought a size lager (41 sq.m)  and thought it would take a lot more effort to inflate than my old size 38.  I'd flown another brand once and found the 41 a lot to manage.  But my Join't (tee hee) is actually lighter than my old tandem, thanks to new technology and lighter materials.

Flight:  I was going to pass the controls to my passenger & snap some photos, but hang glider pilots seem to find it difficult to trust our "flimsy" wings so he let me fly the whole time.  We were able to do a turn with only weight shift which surprised me since we were pretty lightly loaded.  Putting some brake into the turn got us into a nice 360 that I could have easily turned into a spiral, but we were already getting close to the landing field so no time for that. Oh, and the trimmer set-up is fantastic!  I will have to post pictures soon but for now will pass on that they are incredibly easy to adjust in flight.

Landing:  I'll admit I was nervous about landing this "big" wing.  I've been meaning to go to the gym or at least do some pushups to prepare for tandem season but…but…yeah, I didn't.  So I told Doug to look at the horizon and be prepared to run out the landing, then started pulling brakes to flare and...success!  A super easy stand up landing.  It must have everything to do with Skywalk's unique jet flaps wings because really, I've hardly done any tandems this season so I can't claim it's all skill.  Seriously, I credit those jet flaps with my improved top landings and just landings in general, so I'm excited to see if the same holds true with this Join't3.

Only one flight so far, but if this is an indication of things to come then I'm impressed with Skywalk's newest version of their tandem wing.  So come get high with me and my Join't but sorry, in-flight snacks are not included.

Doug the hang glider pilot and my Skywalk Join't 3