15 (!) years ago, I made my first solo flight on May 23, 1998. I had gone tandem on numerous occasions the previous spring & summer, but had to save up enough money for my first paragliding kit before I could actually fly. The first thing I bought was a second-hand Flight Design A4 (pictured below) which was delivered in the fall of 2007. While I was saving up for the rest of my gear I would borrow my instructor's tandem passenger harness and kite for hours on end, waiting for the day my feet would finally leave the ground and I would be free to soar the skies.
1998: Flight Design A4, donated kayaking helmet, and pink Sup-Air harness. Stylin'.
This year I will be celebrating my 15th year of paragliding by working a 12 hour shift at my new job. Not exactly what I had in mind, but (1) it's supposed to be raining anyway and (2) I'm actually really excited about working because May 23 is also the day of our store's Grand Opening! We've been preparing for this for the last month, and it will be the only time ever we'll be allowed to work overtime so I am grateful for the extra cash. I'm also really proud of myself for achieving what I have in my career and making it to this exact spot in life that I'm in here and now. Yay me!
I look forward to watching the up-and-coming pilots progress and hope to see them stick around for many more years too. My student Mark who took some coaching days with me last year (and is now an Intermediate Pilot) developed a local "Eaglet League" to help Novice pilots progress, a project I am super excited to be a part of. Information is on Mark's blog at this link and I'm hoping to see newer pilots take advantage of this free, fun and informal 'competition'.
But tonight I will celebrate my paragliding career so far (no crazy parties though with an early wake-up call tomorrow!) and think fondly of all the friends I've made over the last 15 years of paragliding, the places I've traveled and memories made, and then look forward to at least twice that many good flying years left ahead of me (yes, we have active pilots in their 70's so I'm good to go, tee hee).
Thanks to you all for being part of my journey so far!
2013: Still can't get enough...