Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Martinas Everywhere!

(picture taken last week on a cold sledder. little dot in the sky is an airplane way above me, maybe going somewhere warm & wonderful with a full load of gliders...)

Since it's supposedly gusting up to 70km/hr today (and has been all week) I'm obviously not flying. So it's immersing myself in all things paragliding online, and boy did I get tangled in the web today (what time is it? how long have I been in here?). I started snooping around the pages of the world governing body for paragliding and looking up who the top pilots in the world were. Then for fun I went through the list of top women pilots in the world. There were 6 "Martina"s listed, and yes one of them was me! An Italian, 2 Germans, a Czech, a Swiss and a kickass Canadian. Looks like my performance at the Rat Race, no matter how dismal, entered me into the world rankings. And I wasn't even last! Or even the lowest ranked Martina! For more fun I looked at the rankings of my fellow countrymen (& women) and found myself ranked above a local hotshot pilot. Oh, that was almost more fun than an actual flight! (wow...I've really spent far too much time online today...)

So maybe the Martina name will carry me farther in paragliding than it did with tennis. None of the Navratilova (sp?) or Hingus tennis prowess found its way to me, but I was never interested in it anyway. Paragliding is my passion, and I will live my passion to its fullest in 2009. Bring it on!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hallowe'en & Spooooky flights

After a bout of either rain, wind or ground-sucking stability I decided to go to Chelan for the annual Women's Hallowe'en Fly-In. The forecast looked good and I was desperate for a flight other than a sled ride. We got the carpool caravan in motion first thing Friday morning and had a colourful fall drive to central Washington.

One of my favourite things about flying in Chelan is the names of the launches. My favourite of course is Ants-in-the-Pants. Then there are the scary, Hallowe'en appropriate Green Monster and Between-the-Rocks. Anyway, we arrived up top late Friday afternoon to find light cycles from the Monster and about 7 of us had a gentle sled ride to the main LZ. Conditions are famous in Chelan for switching fast, and pilots who arrived 5 minutes after we landed couldn't fly as the wind had picked up and they were blown out. A bit freaky as there wasn't a breath of wind at the bottom. Our timing was perfect for another reason too - one of the pilots was celebrating her birthday and we were all cordially invited to celebrate at a local restaurant with her later that evening. Fun! I stopped to get her a card & some stick-on tattoos and boy-o-boy were those a hit! There were probably 30 people at the party & everyone got "inked" (of course the locations got more risque as the beers flowed throughout the night...). Next day at launch the birthday party attendees were easy to spot, and those who missed out were trying to figure out why everyone was plastered with Pink Punk Princess skull tats.

The flying was fun on Saturday with a bunch of pilots in costume. The "launch potato" did his job marvelously, teaching pilots to check their lines over and over and over and not to take off too quickly. A flying chicken, penguin, and wine table were all seen, along with some of the Canadian "Queen" contingent in the air - queen bee, queen of the undead and queen of the biker fairies. Great flying for this late in the year with people managing between 30 min and 2 hours.

The costume party that night was a blast as usual with people letting their alter-egos shine. The amazing thing was that people seemed to be talking about anything BUT flying! Usually when you get a group of pilots together all you hear is "I turned left, I turned right, I went up, I went down" but Saturday night was all about dancing and posing in costumes. We didn't do too much damage to the keg either as the forecast looked promising for the next day.

Sunday morning we got in a nice little ridge soaring flight after hiking down the North facing ridge by the satellite towers. I thought it might have been my last soaring flight of the year, but mother nature was feeling generous and a few days later in honour of Hallowe'en we were granted a spooky flight at home.

5 of us went up Mother Woodside, hoping the upper level wind forecast would work in our favour & dish out a multi-hour ridge soaring flight. But when Derek launched and started sinking our hopes were almost dashed. I launched a few minutes after since we had more drivers than vehicles & I'll take a sled ride if that's all I can get. Heading away from the hill about 100 metres below launch my vario let out a pitiful little beep. I held my breath, pulled some brake and weight shifted as quietly as I could so as not to wake the sleeping giant & let the thermal know I found it. I circled in '0' lift for about a minute, and saw Derek kicking treetops below me trying to get in the same un-sinking air. Finally the sporadic beeps got more consistant and I was hiting 1 m/sec up! Wohoo! At that moment it felt like the strongest thermal ever and soon I found myself 50 metres above launch. Derek saved himself nicely and our performance encouraged Rob to launch. Soon the eagles followed suit, and I found myself playing with about a dozen of them. We were chasing each other around the sky, eagles on my wingtips and all of us turning in different directions (those birds need to learn thermal etiquette!).

All of a sudden the air felt...weird. Like you're on the edge of a thermal and the air is disturbed, and you're looking for the smooth bit on the inside. But there wasn't any thermal. Rob was flying behind me and says he saw me just drop right in front of him. Derek sunk so low his boots actually kicked between some tree tops and if the slope wasn't steep there he'd have been hanging. Rob also had some spooky stuff happen to his wing & we all high-tailed it out of there. We landed safely and compared war stories, grateful to have gotten such a beautiful, exciting and extended flight at the end of October.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hangovers 'n Wingovers

It's been an interesting week. The good kind of interesting, nothing weird or creepy.

I think I'll start by talking about youth. There was a statistical study discussed at the Rat Race and one result stated the average age of a paraglider pilot is in their mid-forties. It makes total sense - looking around I realize that most of my flying friends are in their fifties. I never really thought much of it, you know, that whole "age doesn't matter when you have the same interests" thing. But after the Rat Race I looked around at my home site & wondered where everyone my age was.

The instructor I hang out with has gotten a pretty good influx of students this year & I've been making it a point to gravitate towards the other under-40's to re-invigorate myself. It's weird - it's like I've been living like a 50 year old & I'm nowhere near that. I go to bed early. I don't drink. I don't play loud music.

So that changed.

There was a paragliding party Saturday night & I decided to throw Little Miss Cautious to the wind (so to speak) and see if the old (young) me was still in there. Paying no attention to what anyone else thought I proceeded to have a few bevvies & dance like a monkey on speed. I had so much fun (some may say too much, judging by the random pictures popping up on the internet) and felt more like myself than I have in a long time. Not from the drinking, just from shaking off the boring old lady I'd somehow become.

Unfortunately hangovers tend to accompany bouts of boozin' so Sunday was a bit rough. But it didn't matter - I had so much fun hanging out with this abundance of 'young' pilots that seemed to be everywhere now. The weather was also OD'ing a bit so I just drove up & down the mountain with everyone & by the 3rd circuit I forced one of the guys to give me a tandem. He'd promised me a tandem weeks before, saying we could do acro - yay! I was excited until we were standing clipped in on launch with thunder rolling in the background. Noooo way would I have launched by myself. Eep!

We didn't catch a single thread of lift on the way out though, but had enough height for some big wingovers & a few spirals. I was having so much fun I screamed, which my pilot took for fear so he stopped. Damn. Oh well - it totally inspired me to stop talking about acro & just do it. It also magically cured my hangover. Hmmm, who knew adrenaline was the answer?

Anyway, on every flight I've had since then I've done some wingovers. They're not great yet or anything but definitely bigger than the lame little oscillations I've done before. Inspiration comes in many forms, but I've found now that I look back on my flying career that anytime I hang out with people my own age I get a jolt of energy that I don't get with my "age-less" friends. Lessons learned? Not to be apologetic of my youth when around older pilots and trying to blend in with them. Be ME, and me alone. So what if they don't want to compete or do acro or wear brightly coloured socks. I'm not growing old before my time any more.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Day!

Not to bemoan the point but the weather really hasn't been as good as say, last year. But today made up for yesterday's showers. (Where else does it sprinkle down in mid-August???) looked fabulous, cu's popping everywhere by 10 a.m. and of course I didn't finish with my last client til 2:30. I started making phone calls on the way home & had a ride secured for 3:15. Now that's efficient! My friend Monica & I launched in a hurry & made our way along the ridge to try & tag a local turnpoint about 5 km from the take-off.

I turned left, I turned right...blah blah blah. Monica was soaring around above me which made me determined to join her up there, despite all the lame little beeps I was getting. Then the SWEETEST thing happened. I was duking it out with a thermal, finding its edges & trying to stay in the core. All of a sudden I was in it - going up so smoothly and in the zone. It started getting hazy and I realized a cloud was forming around me. Cool! Not a big scary cloud, just a happy misty one.

I flew out and made a dash for the turnpoint but chickened out when I got low, despite watching the guy in front of me tiptoe over the tree tops (yes, he even made it to the next further point). Monica hung in there longer than me, caught some nice lift herself & made the turnpoint.

Someone (not mentioning any names) needs to cultivate more patience & then she too may finally make it. But what a fun lesson to learn. If tomorrow holds out & we get another sunny flying day me & my little sidekick patience will make it for sure.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Windy Days

My flying friend Alex & I came up with a term to describe the weather lately. We settled on rude, as in the air has no manners at all. You'll be flying along and then will be so impolitely grabbed, poked or shaken and then tossed aside and ignored for a few more minutes. Once you think the air is being nice again then it rudely shoves you once more. No amount of pleading or begging will change the air's mind, so it's a choice of dueling it out or conceding to the bully and flying out to land.

Today the weather looks especially moody, all dark & grey and lifting her cloudbase skirt just enough above launch to tease you. "Look," she says. "You can come up and play and ridge soar right next to my happy, puffy, dark & evil, er...I mean... gentle clouds."

No thanks, lady!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rat Race Rap Up


That's the best way to describe the week we spent in Oregon at the Rat Race. Cool people, amazing speakers and a supportive & educational mentorship program rolled into one.

My mentorship group (aka Team Awesome, see picture #1) was Peter Warren, Riss Estes and me. We'd meet each morning before the task was called & discuss the weather, strategies to the first waypoint (which was always one of the same 3) and talk about our goals for the day. We'd have another quick session after the pilots meeting to check our gps was set up properly and to recap the best line to take for the day. Then we'd meet at HQ at the end of the day and chat about how we did on reaching our personal goals. That combined with the nightly speakers about gps set-up, weather, flying skills, etc made this like a one-week paragliding university.

The race itself was tough for the non-competition pilots as we had a high-pressure system most of the week & couldn't get high. My personal goal was to make the first turnpoint at least once, and I sort of did. I made the 2nd turn point before the first (strategy to get high & glide downwind to 1st turnpoint). Sounds confusing but it basically means I made my goal of tagging a turnpoint but didn't get scored for it.

The results...I don't want to talk about that! Ok, realistically I knew I'd be near the bottom since it's my first comp & all, but you always hold a secret desire that you'll be the whiz kid who shows up and makes goal the first day.

That didn't happen.

I think I came in 2nd last out of everyone (like 87 out of 88 or something), appropriately humbled but overall happy since I learned so much. I've already noticed in my 2 or 3 flights I've had since coming home that I'm much more relaxed & confident in the sky. Which really was my goal when I signed up for the race. Well that and fortune & fame, but those will come later, ha ha.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rat Race Practice Day

I'm down in Oregon at the Rat Race. Yes, it's another competition and I thought I'd try & redeem myself after the disaster in Lumby, ha ha. The Rat Race is a learning comp though, with a mentorship program and lots of sessions taught by really good pilots. Hopefully I'll absorb some good karma from them!

It might be hard to see, but if you squint while looking at the first picture you'll see a few different columns of paragliders. I was in one just moments before (800 metres over the launch!), and then it shaded over and I sunk out behind the ridge(see picture #2). It turned out that most pilots lost it then too, with 3 others landing in the same field as me. I was *really* pouting a few minutes later when hiking out - all those weeds you see behind me are prickly starthistles. Ouch! I'm still picking the burrs out of my boots.

Tomorrow the real competition starts. I'm pretty excited about it - I never realized how much fun it was to fly in a big gaggle of gliders!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Big Daddy Retrieve Vehicle

Yes, you are looking at the new local champion. No, not me - the Unimog! Jim (the local instructor) had enough of beating up his trucks & vans on the 4 wheel drive road up to launch and decided to go all-out-extreme. Oh yeah baby!

It was a windy day of flying, gusts blowing through launch & people looking pretty close to parked in the air. I got out to the hill late (5-ish) & it hadn't calmed down by then. I waited an hour to launch, a little timid as there were still some good gusts blowing through but I finally pulled up my britches & just hucked off. The rest of Jim's crew was heading over the back to a calmer landing zone about 3 kms away, so I flew over with them. Still breezy over there, maybe 9 km/hr ground speed into the wind which of course made for super soft touchdowns.

The coolest part of the whole flight though had to be watching the Unimog in all it's camouflage glory barrelling down the highway on the way to retrieve us. The "air conditioning" is nice too, since you're in pretty close quarters back there. Maybe next time he'll take us through the drive-thru...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


My Ozone swag came in yesterday! Check it out: a tshirt, long sleeve t, vest, ninja cap (aka balaclava), calendar and kick-ass backpack. Perfect timing too, as I had a disappointing weekend of flying and needed the boost. Now that I can dress like a sponsored/comp pilot maybe I'll fly like one. Ha!

So this last weekend my flying was as ridiculous as I look in this picture. Seriously. I went to the Lumby Air Races, all excited to be signed up for my first comp and put my "improved" skills to use. I had 3 flights over the weekend, and the only good thing I can say about any of them is that I had beautiful launches & landed on my feet. Any time my feet left the ground my brain completely shut off and I flailed my way to the dirt.

Ok, I did have a couple nice low saves, but considering none of my flights were longer than 20 minutes they may not count as actual saves. Just a "there-I-was-100-metres-off-the-deck-and-I-climbed-back-up-200-metres-before-sinking-out-again" kind of story. Sigh.

But then...redemption came in the form of free stuff. I put all my new Ozone stuff on & ran around the house for luck and it paid off! Went for a flight at the local hill and didn't suck or sink out or anything. I was wind dummy & went straight up, flew around for an hour, and only came down to land when the boys did because the winds were forecasted to pick up & the thermals were starting to get blown apart & rough. Yay me!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I hit my 600th flight yesterday. I'm kind of a geek and record every one of my flights, even the 7 minute sled rides. So I went up to launch yesterday excited to celebrate #600, but didn't want to jinx myself so didn't tell anyone. The jinx monster found it's way to me anyway, and it was more like my 6th flight than 600th!

First of all I blew 2 launches. That was weird - I may not stay up the longest or get the highest, but launching is where I usually shine. On my second attempt the wing fell around me & I ended up stepping through my lines & had to unclip my risers to unwrap myself. It was completely embarrassing, and 2 of my friends ran over laughing & sorted me out as I was obviously a total moron by this point and couldn't do it myself. I got it right on "take 3" & flew away, only to see that my speed bar line was wrapped around my riser. Sigh. So I spent some time fiddling with that & flew off towards the LZ. At least it was just a morning sled ride & it wasn't like I was missing out on thermals.

Except the student in front of me was going up! I rushed over there only to hit sink, as the student merrily bobbed his way over to the landing. By now I was pretty mad but had to focus on landing, as the student was all over the place setting up his approach. I went to a different end of the field, towards the live webcam Jim has set up so people stuck at home can watch us all fly. At least I'd have a good landing & maybe that would be all anyone would see. HA! A gust blew through & I got shoved around on final & dumped unceremoniously on my butt.

The only thing that kept me from crying & screaming & throwing things when I got up & shuffled off must have been character - you know, that stuff you're supposed to be "building" when you're doing things you don't like? Maybe Mom was right.

But this story does have a happy ending. Flight 601 saved my pride. I launched (perfectly on the first try, thank you very much), climbed out right away & landed on my feet after an hour. #602 at Bridal later was a mellow, boaty, take-a-tour-around-the-valley kind of flight. So maybe #600 was just a reminder from my wing to say, "Hey you! Don't get too cocky just because of a statistic. Remember who's in charge here." Thanks Ms. Rush, I'm listening.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Starthistle 08

Drove down to Oregon for the Starthistle Fly-In, hoping for some sunnier weather & fun times. The sun didn't really come out, but it was flyable every day and definitely a good time.

The locals put together a fantastic event. Hayden (the launch monitor) would constantly give us weather updates while we were flying, and we were told the winds could pick up without much warning. Sure enough that happened one day & we were advised to bypass the usual LZ & head to one further west. Only problem was that it was upwind, so with full speed-bar I still wasn't going to make it. Hayden was advising all out-landers to try & pick a long field in case we couldn't penetrate or just got dragged back on landing, so I chose this nifty spot in the photo. What you can't see is the big stand of turbulence-producing trees behind the camera, which meant I had to hold on tight & get rotored all the way down. Luckily I had a smooth touchdown at the end & a local was standing at the gate to let me out. Turns out it was just a field of weeds, so no apologies were necessary for landing in crops. Derek & Pat followed me in as they weren't going to make it to the other LZ before the rain started either, so I gave Derek my camera and took the opportunity to pose for my extreme X-C photo. Wohoo! 2.8 km's! Not quite enough to win the Fly-In...

There were other contests to try for though. I took 3rd place in the beanbag drop, and also cleaned up during the raffle, walking away with lots of good swag (including a PTT headset & Segway rental). Meeting up with old friends & making new ones was, of course, the best part of the trip, and I can't wait to see them all again soon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back to Blogging

I figured it was time to blog again to give my non-flying friends somewhere to avoid when they're sick of hearing me talk about paragliding!

Paragliding has crossed the line from something that I loved to an all-out obsession. Funny enough this change occured during the past month in the midst of the torrential downpours we've been having. After the 4th day in a row of rain waking me MAY...I was overwhelmed by despair. I literally pulled the covers over my head & contemplated never leaving my bed again. That's when it hit me - I was addicted. My moods have now become completely intertwined with the weather. Is it flyable? I'm happy. No chance of flying? Don't come near me.

I forced myself out of bed & tried to focus on something else. Over to facebook where a flying friend from Europe said he just voted for me in a paragliding contest that I'd forgotten I'd entered and had actually had my entry nominated:

That's when I resigned to my addiction. I mean, when paragliding hunts you down at home and emails you that it's sending you prizes there's really no way out, right?

I felt a lot better when I accepted my fate. Since then I've happily flown sledders in the drizzle, blissfully scratched in light lift all the way to alternate landing zones and launched even when reports from the air said conditions were 'spicy' and 'interesting' (macho talk for 'Mommeee!'). My skills have really progressed over the past year or 2 and now I'm finally admitting that I'm a pretty good pilot. And isn't admitting something the first step in recovery? If you want to recover, that is...