Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolution Time!

How embarrassing. I haven't flown for so long that when I looked at the picture on the top of my blog I didn't recognize my wing for a second! Considering I only have about 30 flights on it I suppose it's not that wait, that's just awful.

Luckily it's December 31st and that means we can all dream as big as we want and declare ridiculously massive goals & no one will laugh at us. I love the whole time around New Years, there's something about fresh starts that invigorates me. Maybe it comes from my childhood when we moved around a lot and each new home was a new beginning, guaranteed to be better than the last. Even though most places ended up being a step down instead of up, I still get excited thinking about moving, running away and/or starting over.

It's a good thing my boyfriend likes to travel so much because we've lived in the same place for over 5 years now and sometimes that makes me itchy. Traveling definitely helps but I still fantasize about putting my EU passport to use & moving to the Alps to become an even bigger paragliding junkie, especially when it's raining in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere that has nothing going on besides a view of the mountains. But instead of sitting around going crazy as the valley winds shake the house, it's time to list my flying goals for 2011:

- enter at least 2 FAI sanctioned competitions this year. Even though I tell people that I'm not competitive, seeing my name listed in the world rankings (even near the bottom) gives me a sense of accomplishment and a drive to do better.

- fly a lot more cross-country this year. This is another way to 'compete' to help increase my skills as there are worldwide online contests where you can post your flights and see what everyone else has been up to. By flying further & racking up points I can also increase our national standing, which helps me justify "wasting" a whole day playing in the sky.

- work on my paragliding business. This is a huge goal too, but easy to break into little steps. Come up with a name for my tandem business, create a website, etc. All stuff I can do now before the flying season actually starts.

Looking back at past goals I haven't done that badly at meeting them. In 2009 I resolved to blog more, and went from about 5 posts in one year to updating at least once a month. As for 2010's list, I didn't get to any SIV clinics like I wanted (to learn more about acro flying) but I did fly a little more cross-country than years past.

Besides, you're not actually supposed to accomplish all of your New Year's Resolutions, are you???

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Seeking Adrenaline

As paragliding is only happening in my mind right now (and vicariously through you-tube videos), I've been concentrating more on my other pursuits. Last month I talked about trying to land a handspring in martial arts and yesterday...I finally did it!

After joining my martial arts school I watched some videos on their website and immediately set a goal of wanting to do handsprings like they were doing in their demonstrations. It's taken a year (minus all the classes I skipped to go flying) which is a long time to hold on to a goal, especially in today's instant gratification world. But in that year I've also learned to use nun-chuks & other weapons, break boards with my hands & feet and can do some pretty cool self-defense take-downs.

Yesterday's class was tough! With the holidays coming up our instructor has stepped up the training and is working us until we're exhausted. I came "THIS CLOSE" to landing the handspring a few times yesterday (but always fell over backwards on my butt) and with 5 minutes left in class I didn't think it was going to happen. We took a minute to catch our breath, go over last minute tips & then were told, "Ok, one last try each! You're going to get it this time!" And somehow I did.

When it hit me that I'd landed perfectly on my feet I noticed something funny. My body was reacting in the same way it does when I'm doing something big at a paragliding SIV/acro course! When I did my first asymmetric spiral and was flying over the top of my wing looking down at the lake, it was the same adrenaline rush I got when I stood up after flipping upside down in my handspring. A few minutes later my legs felt like jelly and I had the post-adrenaline energy crash, just like after I landed back at the beach after a string of maneuvers in the air.

Building confidence, reaching goals and finding new ways to get an adrenaline rush. Not a bad way to spend the paragliding off-season!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Girl Power!

I usually don't give much thought to gender roles when I'm out paragliding. Maybe it's because I've always hung out with guys, been "one of the guys", hey - I was even invited along on "the guys" road trip to Vegas once. At my home site girls are accepted as equals and there are no differences between us. Well, not until it's time to ask the boys to please stand downwind because we don't think that farting is nearly as funny as they do. I barely notice anymore when I'm the only girl out flying, although I'll admit it's fun on those rare days when all of us girl pilots outnumber the boys on launch. We usually celebrate with a laugh, acknowledge the moment...and move on.

But today something really cool happened that made me look at all this in a different light. I was walking over to my jeep carrying my glider and a vehicle stopped on the side of the road to watch. The windows slid down and I put my wing on the ground but I hesitated for a moment before going over to talk to them. To be honest I was cold & tired from an hour long flight in 5 degree weather and wasn't in the mood to explain yet again what paragliding was to some stranger. But I said hi anyway and the woman's reply took me by surprise.

"I just wanted to show my 4 year old daughter how it was a girl who landed under that parachute!" she said proudly. And sure enough, a wide-eyed little girl was sitting in the back in her car seat, staring at me in wonder.

I was speechless. I mean...really, what do you say to that? What do you do with that kind of responsibility thrown onto your shoulders, standing there on the side of the road with helmet hair, actually watching the process of a little girl turning you into a role model?

So I did what I could do. I walked up to the car window with a big smile and introduced myself. I told them all about paragliding, I showed mom where to park at the paragliding school & where to get the best view to watch us land. I told that little girl of course girls can fly, in fact I even take other people flying, and when mom's eyes lit up I told them all about tandems. By the smiles on both of their faces I think I said the right thing. And by the smile I still have on my face I think that family brought the same amount of wonder into my life today as I must have into theirs. Maybe even more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A little dose of happiness

Lately I've noticed that I've lost some of my excitement about paragliding. It's cold outside & the flights are short. It's been easier to make excuses for not driving the 10 minutes for a 10 minute flight than to remember my usual excitement over any airtime at all. So today I decided to go fly, even if it meant I had to wear wool socks. And as life tends to do when you make the right decision, everything fell into place.

First a good friend called to meet me in the landing zone. I've been given the title of Membership Director of our local flying club for another year and he wanted to pay his dues, along with share some fun in the sky. The Site Director was on launch doing some maintenance & needed me to pick up some tools for him - he called right when I was about to leave the house & drive by the hardware store on the way over. As soon as I got to the landing zone a ride to the top was waiting for me, and I was pulled into a carload of enthusiasm as 4 of us were squished into the tiny backseat. The flight itself was smooth, calm...and soul-restoring. I didn't touch the brakes the whole 8 minutes (until I did some wingovers above the LZ, woohoo!), and after touching down I got to put on my instructor hat & guide a brand new pilot in over the radio to a stellar landing of his own.

Today was perfect. No records broken, or even any personal bests. Just a full day of reminders of why I love paragliding and a top-up on my tank of appreciation for the small things. Helping out, sharing the joy & embracing the tiny details in life makes every day amazing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Relating it all to flying

Once again paragliding season is pretty much over. Short little flights are still to be had of course, just enough airtime between take-off and landing to look around at the leaves changing colour and get a good whiff of that crisp fall air. So it's time to bring back those old pursuits that got pushed aside in the spring & summer, waiting patiently for the thermals to end and for me to come back down to earth.

Two fun things that I've thrown myself back into on these rainy, windy days are martial arts & yoga. They're a good compliment to each other...and paragliding too. I find myself relating all 3 of these disciplines lately, either when trying to stretch into a new yoga pose or land my first handspring. Handspring? Yes, I chose a branch of martial arts that includes gymnastics! We do something different each class - perfect for those of us with short attention spans. So we either learn patterns (like in karate), sparring, weapons (nun-chucks baby!) or my favourite...demonstration day. That's when we practice things like breaking boards, running up the walls and yes, gymnastics.

Back to the point I was getting at (did I mention my short attention span?) the other day we were attempting front handsprings. Now...the only thing I've been able to accomplish tumbling wise thus far in life is a half-decent cartwheel. So it was thrilling when I came oh-so-close last class to 'springing' right over! My instructor said I needed more strength in my shoulders, which is funny because I noticed that when I started flying tandems. Then at yoga during our spinal exercises (which I've struggled with too) I realized that the more I could bend my back, the easier I could land that handspring. Suddenly I found myself just that much stronger. When doing jumping kicks I could see how the added flexibility would benefit me at yoga, and back at yoga when my arms were burning from holding them forever in front of me, my thinking changed to how this was strengthening my shoulders for both handsprings and flying! I've come to appreciate this lovely circle that keeps me going in challenging times.

When I started both classes last year I figured they'd be a good distraction until I could go on a paragliding trip somewhere or make it through until spring. They've given me a lot more than that! The first theme I noticed woven through all these activities was meditation. I thought it was cool that meditating & visualizing were brought up so often in yoga & martial arts when I would often describe flying as meditative. Doing handstands made me think of acro flying and of looking at the world from a different angle, whether that be upside down on a gym mat or swinging overtop your glider on a wingover. While some things were obvious connections, the little things have been popping up and bringing a lot more satisfaction to my non-flying days. Setting & accomplishing new goals in class helps me gain more confidence, which will (hopefully) help when spring thermals start ripping through the sky. And if I end up upside down on some wicked acro trick someday then the world won't look quite so unfamiliar from that point of view anymore.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tough Canadian Girls

A female pilot friend I met in Oregon this year came & stayed with me for a couple of days. She lives overseas & had come to the US & Canada for a few months to do the comp circuit, a great way to travel somewhere new & have instant friends wherever you go. We got to talking about competitions & female pilots and our conversation went a little like this:

Her: "What is it with Canadian girls? You're all so must be something in the water!"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Her: "Well Canadian Girl #1 is just so brave. She was at all the US comps...she'll fly anywhere in any conditions & think nothing of it."
Me: "Yeah...she's really focused on being the best"
Her: "Then when I went to the Canadian Nationals I met Canadian Girl #2...that girl has no fear either! She'd launch when others were nervous & she flew over 100 km! Then at the Landing Zone I bumped into Canadian Girl #3. She said she'd just got released from the hospital where she had blood in her urine from her crash the day before and was told to take it easy, but she was preparing to go fly again anyway!"
Me: "Hmmm."

See...I'm a Canadian girl, but sheesh, I've been so ridiculously cautious in the air compared to my flying sisters that I was pretty embarrassed at this point in the conversation. We made a joke about trying to find this magic "Tough-Canadian-Girl water" and promptly made a deal with myself to "grow a pair".

When I first heard of and starting meeting talented female paraglider pilots they all seemed so in-your-face intense, and that's just not my style. I wondered if it was possible to be a girly-girl and still be a kick-ass pilot. It seemed all the top male pilots were laid-back, surfer-style guys and it was rare to meet any women like that. But as time went on and I traveled the world & met more cool women it was clear that yes, you could be yourself & be a great pilot. Being focused & driven is definitely a big part of the equation of all top pilots, but I think more women are realizing they don't have to *act* like tough guys to *beat* the tough guys. Case in point was my visiting friend, who speaks in a soft voice yet regularly flies huge distances and ends up on the podium at flying events.

So yesterday I found myself going up to launch from a fairly new advanced-rated site. I'd tried to fly cross-country from there before but had lost confidence in the air & ended up defeated at the closest landing zone. I was determined to fly tough and set a goal of flying 15 km back to the parking area. I knew if I made it there that day it would be the boost of Canadian-Tough-
Girl that I needed to help me become that kick-ass pilot I want to be. 2 guys launched ahead of me and 2 behind me. A few times I came close to giving up as I got low (cloudbase wasn't super high) but hung in there, determined to make the farthest landing field and not be the only one who sunk out...and definitely not be the GIRL that sunk out.

I ended up being in 2nd place almost the whole way out, taking the risks out front of 3 of the other guys! I made my goal, and maybe, just maybe, unlocked that pretty pink door in my soul where Tough Canadian Girl was hiding.

Halfway through my 15 km flight. The landing area is just around the corner at the end of the mountain range.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Big 5-0

4 months ago I did my first tandem flight as the pilot-in-command. Yesterday I flew my 50th passenger! It's been a blast so far & I'm so glad to have been able to pursue this facet of my favourite sport. Tandem flying has made me see things differently, given me more confidence in my flying, and brought me endless joy in living vicariously through everyone of one my passengers thrill of discovery on their first flight.

I had originally hesitated each time someone asked if I was going to get my tandem rating. I figured that turning my passion into my job would make it feel like "work" and kill my love for the sport. I thought that tandem flying would "cut into" my solo time and I'd start resenting it.

Of course now I've found that the opposite is true. Nothing beats a phone call or email from someone offering me money to fly! In fact, as the days get shorter & fall is approaching I'm sad to think tandem season is almost over.

My dream is to get enough experience so that I can work around the world flying tandems one day. Head to South America or New Zealand in the winter & fly tandems in their summer and basically get a paid vacation.

Dare to dream!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Delta flight report - a techy post

My new Delta taking me to cloudbase

Finally had a chance to soar my new paraglider - the Ozone Delta. I love it! Here's why:

Launching: Super sweet. In light winds or strong it inflates smoothly, then a quick tap of the brakes seems to tell it to stop overhead & stay there until you're ready to go. The risers are super tiny which took me some getting used to (just to look at!) but they help me go faster so I like them.

Flying: My first FOUR flights were sled rides (I already whined about the weather in an earlier post) but even from those short flights I could tell the glide was outstanding. When the sun finally broke through yesterday I got a chance to thermal it. I'm sad to say that it did not magically make me a better pilot (damn it!). My boyfriend with years more flying experience still out-flew me. I was hoping I wouldn't have to actually improve my skills and this wing would do it for me, sigh. That being said, I did out-thermal him a couple of times! The wing seems to love it when I turn really tight in the thermal, today I just went screaming up and felt completely stable the whole time. All I had to think about was staying in the core & boom, I was in the cloud mist. Instead of applying big ears right away to avoid the clouds I decided to play with my speed bar. First step I was still going up so went to full bar. Stayed on full bar for 30 seconds or so even though I was flying through transition areas I knew could be rough. My wing felt stable the whole time & never made me want to back off the bar, even with a little pitching.

Acro: It's not really designed to be an acro wing but from videos floating around the internet it seems to do the basics just fine. I haven't tried anything yet besides some spirals. More like spiral entries since I was too low by the time I thought about doing acro to really wind it up but after one 360 I could get the "whoosh" going. Whoosh whoosh.

Landing: I didn't realize how "hot" I used to come in to land on my old wing before until I floated in to my first landing on the Delta. However I did move from a small Addict 2 to a medium Delta so that accounts for some (I was a couple of kilos over the small & right in the middle of the medium). Anyway, setting up my approach is stress-free, lots more time to watch the wind sock from over the LZ as I float around waiting to come down :)

It's a "hybrid" 3 liner, which means 3 lines at the risers & 4 attached to the wing (C's split into D's up top) but in my flying I don't know what difference that makes to me. I've heard concern from coastal pilots who launch in strong winds that they prefer having 4 risers so they can launch with A's & D's, but since I'm a mountain pilot I can't comment on that. There is lots of talk in the manual (& on the wing placard!) not to drag your wing around the ground as it could damage the material, but I think that's just common sense. Most of the new "rules" regarding care of the wing seem to be from more of a liability/warranty place, as if someone tried to complain their wing didn't last after continuously dragging it through rocks or slamming it repeatedly on it's leading edge.

The official glide ratio hasn't come out yet (Thermik magazine is independently testing it & will release results soon) but it's projected to be similar to the M3 which I think is 9.8-1. I believe it.

So there's my techy/non-techy report. Feel free to contact me with more questions and as this week looks sunny I'll be able to get a better feel for it too.

2 thumbs way up on this one!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Wing

There's a hot new little number in town. It's called the Delta & it's the wing a lot of pilots have been waiting for. It's promising all kinds of technical stuff like increased performance & better glide and the hype surrounding it has gotten people all excited on the world wide paragliding forums.

I got one.

The only problem is, of course, the weather. The weather that is supposed to be awesome and flyable because it's summer. The weather that is supposed to be warm and sunny instead of rainy & windy. The weather that no matter how hard I plead with it will not cooperate & let me fly more than 20 minutes on my new wing. ARG!!!

Almost every day I get someone asking me on Facebook how I like my wing, does it live up to its reputation, have I flown 8 gazillion kilometres on it yet. Almost every day I cry as I look out the window at the weather and think about my new pretty wing sitting all along begging to come out and play.

I think it's time for a road trip. The neighbours aren't too keen with all the burning effigies on my front lawn to the weather gods and it might be a good idea to leave town for a while til things cool down.

Or warm up, as the case may be...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Look Mom! I'm on TV!

And I thought nothing exciting happened in this sleepy little town!

A couple of months ago I got an email from a girl (Tiffany) at our neighbourhood cable TV station. She wanted to do a human interest story on a local paraglider pilot so had contacted the president of our flying club and he'd recommended me. Since I'd just gotten my tandem rating they thought that could be a good part of the story. That, and I'm awesomely cool. Heh.

The day of filming was really fun. My friend Kevin came out to shoot it with me and we did a couple of solo flights in the morning then I took Tiffany tandem. They interviewed Kevin afterwards as well which I'm sure will turn out great (he is also awesomely cool) then we did all the close ups on my gear, clipping in, and various other shots. Now I just have to wait. Have I ever mentioned my issues with patience? Waiting is NOT my forte!

Unfortunately they don't give out copies of their stories so I won't be able to post my 5 minutes of fame. There's a chance it will be on their website some day, they're working on putting a local page together with their news stories but don't have anything up yet. In the meantime I'll be watching channel 4 whenever I'm at home and hunting down a blank tape to sick in the VCR - I knew I hung onto it for a reason!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Goofy grins

How can I not smile when getting paid to have this much fun???

My passengers have been using a camera to film us during our flights and there's one consistent thing I've noticed when watching the videos. There is always a huge goofy grin on my face for most of the flight. Not just here and there like when my passenger squeals with delight or we hit a nice thermal but throughout the whole flight. It got me wondering if it's just the infectious energy from my passenger or if I rock the dorky smile when flying alone, so I took the camera out on my solo flight last night. Besides some big grins cheesing it up for the camera, it seems I have a much saner face when flying by myself. So the task at hand is to practice looking serious & professional while the camera's rolling on tandem and leave the 5-year-old-on-too-much-sugar look for just a few precious moments during the flight. I mean really, flying tandems is my job and you're not supposed to have *that* much fun at work, are you?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Flying for money

Getting paid to do something you love is even better than it sounds. Getting paid to share what you love & getting others hooked on it is even better! My tandem yesterday (seen woo-hoo-ing above) was having so much fun it was hard not to be just as excited as if it was my own first flight.

It's also interesting to see where my flying addiction is taking me. Paragliding has many directions you can pursue, and I'm passionate about almost all of them. At first my goals were simple - safe launches and landings. Then I wanted to stay up for a whole hour instead of doing sled rides, so I'd practice coring thermals and staying up in the air even when it was rough & I wanted to land. When I got better at that I wanted to try flying cross-country and thought maybe that would be my focus - flying far, making personal bests every time I flew and the overall thrill of adventure. After attending a maneuvers course I decided to try my hand at acro and would finish every flight off with a spiral or wingovers...until I went to the Rat Race and turned my attention to competition flying. The strategy and sense of accomplishment were addictive! Last summer when I started kicking the idea of becoming a tandem pilot around I wondered if I would ever decide which direction to go. Would I have to give up flying cross-country to be an instructor? Would I forget how to fly solo after doing a bunch of tandems in a row?

Not to worry. As my friend Julian in Ecuador says, "Everything is possible". While I'm still fairly new at taking people up and sometimes feel awkward flying solo again after so much focus on my tandem flying, as I gain more experience I see a greater possibility for improvement everywhere. A tandem pilot needs to be confident and choose better launch & landing conditions that they may fly in solo. That confidence & decision-making transfers over to solo flying and (hopefully) helps you become a better pilot overall. I'm excited to see where this flying road leads me, but I'm happy to say that here and now is better than I thought it would ever be.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Giving Back

While at the Rat Race I was amazed at the efforts of all the volunteers. People came on their personal vacation time from work to drive us around, be safety checkers, feed us and help out in every way. It made me think about something I heard at a Fun Run once. A runner said it was common in the race circuit to volunteer one time for every few races you do.

So this year I've stepped up and started doing more for my sport. In the past I've joined some work parties to clean up the roads to our launches and volunteered for a couple of hours here and there for certain events. But recently I've gotten a few opportunities to really give back. A few months ago I was offered the position of membership director for our local flying club. Volunteer board positions are notoriously hard to fill, and the girl in charge of this position was having trouble & they needed someone to step in. So I signed up, and through that found myself volunteering to help with our local fundraiser this past weekend too. At first I thought I would just be helping to organize & plan the event but since my tandem rating came through in time I got to help in an even funner way. Each year our club offers discounted tandem flights to the public & the pilots donate their time and the funds to the club. I was lucky enough to do 2 tandems yesterday and couldn't care less that I wasn't paid for them. The joy of bringing people into the air is amazingly fulfilling!

I'm looking forward to helping out more. There are many competitions this summer that attract a much higher level of flying than I'm at (yet) and I'm thinking about heading to some of them for a few days & giving back. Funny that it should be referred to as "giving" since you end up "getting" so much out of it.

Letting my tandem passenger take the controls :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rat Race Finale

Was I just paragliding all week? Looking out my living room window & seeing nothing but grey clouds & rain it's hard to believe I was just cruising around the sky a few days ago.

Quick version of the Days 6 & 7 - Friday was blown out so the task was cancelled, Saturday was flyable and final results are in. In Sport class I was 53 out of 75, a bit better than last year's 35 out of 44. Yay for me.

I wish I would have written about both days immediately as there were so many good jokes & stories to share. This has probably been the funnest Rat Race yet, I think I laughed until I cried almost every day. We also ended up having really long days, between flights (& relaunches) and mentoring sessions & dinner afterwards I probably didn't get home til 11 most nights, which is why I missed a couple of days blogging.

Lessons learned? Sit at the back of the bus so you don't get prank'd, watch Talladega Nights before the comp so you get more of the jokes, and get high high high. Not the wacky-tabakky kind of high (for shame!) but the altitude kind. My impatience was really a factor in me sinking out early in the tasks each day. I have this fear that once I'm barely high enough I might not ever get that high again & just start flying to the next point. For example, look at the above photo taken when I looked back over my shoulder while gliding across the valley - I'm ahead of the paragliding armada even though I'm lower. With a hundred other pilots in the air it's easy to see that you CAN get higher, and there's no reason I wouldn't be able to get there when they're all a hundred feet above me. So my personal task this year is to milk every thermal for what it's worth, impatience be damned!

I'm gonna go all spider-monkey on those thermals. Because if you're not first, you're last. (Thanks Ricky Bobby)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Redemption! Rat Race Day 5

Wow - it was a close one today. It was another good-lookin' day, clouds everywhere & excitement in the air. Everyone was eager to fly & we were all in line ready to go when the launch window opened. I had a great launch & went up right away...for about 15 seconds. Then it was nothing but sink, sink, sink all the way to the landing. Since I wasn't the only one and we still had plenty of time to get back up for a re-launch, I didn't lose it completely. Only a little. But some other good pilots landed with me so we put on brave faces & drove back up.

It had gotten a lot stronger but the mood was a lot more relaxed. No stress about start windows & racing, and we agreed to all help each other. Sure enough...up we all went! I took a thermal up as close to the clouds as I dared, then mashed my speed bar like Jeff taught us at the mentoring session. Funnily enough, today the bumps didn't bother me. I lead out with one other pilot & we easily tagged the first 2 points at Rabies. The rest of the gang came over & we searched around for the next thermal further west, then back to Rabies & past the start to Burnt.

There were still lots of clouds & wispies showing the way and it was definitely rough in spots. Today I really made sure to override my natural impatience and not head out unless there was a climbing glider or growing cloud at the destination. I still left lower than most people, but if I had made it to goal I might have gotten extra points for being the leader, but since I landed sooner it doesn't matter. Guess I still need more patience (sigh).

Good news - I got 4 turnpoints plus the start cylinder across the valley (half the route) and I landed at Longsword! Longsword is a vineyard where the tasting room is outside, spectators applaud when you land & the owners walk out to you in the landing field with a free glass of wine. It's the happiest landing zone on earth! About a dozen of us landed there, and to top off the fun we invented some new yoga positions getting everyone & their gliders in the retrieve van. Needless to say we were all close, personal friends after arriving at headquarters.

Funny how intensely us pilots attach our moods to our recent flying performance. After my first flight today I wanted to hop in the car & drive home. Now, it's 11pm & I'm still bouncing off the walls from excitement.

Hi...My name's Martina and I'm a paraglide-oholic.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rat Race Day 4

I can't believe there are only 3 days left! Maybe it seems quick since 2 days were kind of a washout - Monday & Tuesday were both really windy & I didn't make it further than the main landing zone. I'm super bummed about it, but not as upset as I am about today.

This morning I felt overwhelmed before the task was even called. I guess 2 days of not tagging any waypoints made me question what I was even doing here. But I found a quiet place to sit & give myself a short pep talk and felt a little better. The sky today was showing promise of lots of lift from the big clouds everywhere and we were getting excited about the potential of the day. I launched a little later than I'd wanted to since there is a system where the top pilots get to officially "butt in" and launch whenever they want, and that happened when I was about 5 spots away from launching. The pilot in my line attempted to launch his competition wing numerous times without success and the rest of us in line were starting to get frustrated. Thankfully he finally stepped aside and let us minions huck ourselves off the mountain.

The task started out well, I tagged the start cylinder & first turnpoint and headed across the valley for the second one. I got there too low & it was rough, so I flew back & forth to the hill 2 more times til I got the height I needed. It was important to get high today because along with all the lift there was a lot rough air. People's gliders were collapsing all around-I saw someone get worked below me just before I got the 2nd turnpoint & then another pilot impacted the hill beside launch after losing half his wing. Even without seeing everyone else getting tossed around I was spooked today, I just felt nervous & couldn't shake it. Still I talked myself into attempting the third turnpoint but after a few tries I admitted defeat & skulked down to the same landing zone I've landed in every day this week. Grrr.

I was actually ok with my decision until everyone started the post-flight "How far did you fly today?" discussion at HQ. I realized that after all my hard work & tagging 2 turnpoints I got the same amount of points that I would have got if I'd flown straight down & done nothing. Of course good lessons were learned and hopefully my bump tolerance increased but part of me cares that this is a competition and sitting in last place in the women's division isn't the confidence boost I was hoping for when I signed up a few months ago & was imagining all that I'd learn.

But...tomorrow's another day - and 2 more after that to redeem myself. It's time to put together all the puzzle pieces of what I've learned so far this week. No more little miss scaredy-pants!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rat Race Day 2

Just a quick post today - almost everyone sunk out! Out of over 100 competitors, only 11 made goal. Most pilots ended up in the main landing zone but because so many of us were there the mood was pretty fun. I really enjoyed my flight today - caught a great thermal right off launch and then a beautiful one that took me right to cloudbase! I took it up just high enough that when I reached the top of the thermal my wing sliced through the bottom of the cloud as I went on glide across the valley. I sunk out on the other side along with almost everyone else, and after touching down it seemed as if the sky was raining down gliders. If it wasn't such a bummer that we all sunk out it would have been quite stunning. I think there were over 50 of us in there at one point!

Tomorrow's forecast looks similar, but it's supposed to improve as the week goes on. I'm definitely learning a lot this year - the mentorship programs kick butt and the pilots are so much fun. I can't wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rat Race-Day 1

Today was awesome. The weather was perfect, I had a great time flying plus I didn't come in last! Ok, I do have grander goals than that, and there were some hiccups today, and...I'll just start over.

The weather really was perfect today. My strategy was to launch early after being one of the last ones off the hill yesterday and then having such a short flight. As I merrily started setting up my gear and grabbed my flight deck I noticed that my gps was missing. The one piece of equipment that is VITAL to competing. I looked everywhere...then saw a mental image of it sitting in my laptop bag back in the rental house.

After calmly walking away to a quiet spot and hyperventilating for a couple of minutes to avoid a complete meltdown, I returned to my gear and found Derek had gotten a loaner GPS for me from one of the other pilots who had an extra as a backup. Gratitude is too small a word to describe my feelings for Chris, and happily karma prevailed & it looks like he came in 2nd place for the day!

So with the little voice in my head berating me constantly for such a stupid mistake I didn't hold much hope for a good flight. Beating yourself up is tiring and I was exhausted before I even launched! In spite of it all I ended up having a really nice launch and caught a great thermal right away. I flew around and just mellowed out for half an hour clearing my head before the race started. I got about half way through the course before landing, which is a personal best for me (not even counting the fact that the gps wasn't the same model as mine & I had to figure it out in the air!). With everyone else flying in the same great conditions my score ended up being 49 out of 68 in my glider class. That might not sound terribly impressive until you realize that my first year's overall score was second to dead last. Things are definitely improving.

Scores are here for those who like to follow along:
- open class is all paragliders, even the fast & shiny competition wings.
- sport is DHV 2 & lower (me)

For pilots who know the area the task was Woodrat LZ (exit start) - Rabies - Burnt - Woodrat - Rabies Peak (I sunk out trying to get this one) - Ruch - Purcell.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yahoo for Practice Days!

Well well well.

So there I the end of the comp pilot launch line on practice day. It was hot. I'd waited too long. Winds were switchy. Pilots were duffing launches as cycles switched their mind as they came up the north launch. I said to myself, "All I want is a good launch". I should have added something along the lines of "...and have a long flight".

I did have a super launch...and I'm also pretty sure I had the shortest flight ever. In fact, I did such a good job of finding that sweet, sweet sink that I began laughing out loud on my way in to land because of the ridiculously short time it took me to get from launch to landing. People were asking if I'd flown really well because of the big smile on my face while packing up, but really, I couldn't stop laughing about the abruptness of my flight!

But it's not funny enough to repeat. Not at all. Tomorrow I'll make sure to make a more specific wish in the launch line, and I'll have a better reason for having a huge grin on my face.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tandem Training

After two days at Woodrat I wonder how I stayed away for a whole year. I love this place more & more each time I come. And it seemed like every few hours today someone else I knew showed up for the Rat Race, and we'd laugh & hug & tell stories about the last time we flew together. It's no wonder that this spot is so popular for flying, there's really a fantastic energy here.

The tandem training was a blast too. Jeff from Superfly (aka Turbo...or was it Viper? heh heh) conducted a fantastic clinic. Locals Paul, Hayden & Scott were in my course, as well as visiting pilot Israel. Day one the weather wasn't conducive to flying, so it was ground school all day & practicing PLFs while attached to each other. A PLF is a Parachute Landing Fall and is used if you know you're going to have a hard landing, like when the wind switches just as you come in and now you're going to land downwind fast. So we put on our harnesses & clipped in to each other & ran and just hucked ourselves at the ground. I was paired up with Paul, and afterwards it looked like we had a grass-stain competition with the Hayden/Scott duo. I think they won, if won means the knees on their jeans were greener :)

Today the weather was fantastic so at 10:30 I took Paul tandem & we thermalled up almost to cloudbase! It was especially sweet as I didn't have my vario on, it's nice to know I can still fly without instruments. Paul took me flying next, then I took Hayden at glass-off for the last flight of the day.

After flying we hit HQ for early registration where we got to see more friends & get our loot bags! I think that's my favourite part of the whole comp. Free stuff rocks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Competition Time!

It's that time of year again! It's so exciting to be going to Oregon again for my 3rd "Rat Race". The Rat Race is a paragliding competition that combines mentorship, learning and actual competing. It's like a week-long stint at Paragliding University. Wouldn't it be awesome if that was a real thing? "Yes, I attend the University of Paragliding. I'm taking a double major in Thermals and Cross-Country, all though my prof says if I sink out one more time I'm off the XC team." Uh...where was I? Oh yeah. The Rat Race.

A few days before the race one of the instructors is putting on a Tandem Clinic which I'm going to attend. It's a mandatory step to receiving my US Tandem rating which I'd like to have in addition to my Canadian one, so I'm looking forward to that too. More knowledge is good!

I'll try to keep posting daily updates since the house we're renting with our friends is supposed to have wifi. Wish me luck for my best standing yet!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Newest Tandem Pilot - yours truly!

The video above denotes my entry into the world of rated tandem pilots! Basically that means I'm allowed to take anyone up in the air now (in Canada at least). It's been a fun learning experience, and I've been blessed by some great pilots offering to go with me as guinea pigs throughout my training. Besides doing 20 flights with rated pilots I've had to do instruction as well, which included teaching brand new students how to inflate their wings for the first time, and also guide them in to land via radio. It's amazing to share the passion that I have for flying with others, and I'm even more hooked on flying now...if that's possible. :)

This will be a short post tonight, I'm tired & happy & reliving that last flight over and over again. Thanks to everyone who helped me out, from driving to flying with me. You all rock!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back at it!

After going away to visit family and missing 2 weeks of amazing flying back home, I finally got some amazing air time yesterday. My first flight was a tandem with a pilot friend who'd never been on a tandem before, and we had the perfect flight. Takeoff was flawless, we caught a thermal that took us above launch when other people were sinking out, and ended with a one-step landing. Couldn't have asked for better. But the day kept improving!

I went back up to launch & some people were choosing to drive down instead of fly because the air looked punchy. For the first time in a long time I was actually nervous, maybe because I hadn't flown solo in almost a month! 3 of us decided we'd try to fly a small cross-country (XC) flight over the back together, so I took a deep breath & launched. As soon as my feet left the ground I was so excited to be in the air, caught a great thermal and rode it up to almost twice the height of launch & took off on my XC. The plan was to follow one of the pilots who'd done this route before, but I have a little problem with something called patience. So I pushed on ahead, leading the others along the mountain ridge.

My view heading over the back.

I tried to cross to a small hill that usually gives off thermals & lets you fly further (like across the valley) but as you can see from the next picture the sun was only on the far side, and I hit too much sink in the shade. I landed in one of the big light fields beside the intersection on the left side of the photo, quite pleased with myself. Luckily one of the other pilots came & picked us up, 3 of us ended up landing here.

We picked up another pilot who landed out & headed back up the mountain. I was pretty tired by now, feeling the crash after the adrenaline rush of a great tandem & fun XC. But Rob said he'd go tandem with me, and conditions looked mellow, so I figured a quick sled ride would be fine & get me one flight closer to being signed off. We set up our tandem, reviewed the launch procedure & I inflated my wing. Now my only instruction really was telling him to WAIT until I said run. But the problem with taking another pilot on a tandem is that sometimes they get their own ideas ;) So the wing came up crooked & I was just about to kill it when Rob started barrelling off launch! I think I squealed but all I could do was try and fly the wing as he charged off the hill. We made it (not at all gracefully) by the sheer force of will. A good lesson though, because you never know if your passenger will listen to you. So I need to make sure my instructions are very clear, that I abort the takeoff immediately if I don't like it, and stay calm & fly the wing no matter what, which thankfully I know I can already do. Our flight was fantastic though, we thermalled up over launch after everyone else had sunk out, and we had another perfect landing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Flying Away

I'm Flying Away again. This time it has nothing to do with paragliding (shocking, I know!) so the only flying I'll be doing is on an airplane. It's a visit-the-family kind of trip, so no paragliding whatsoever for 2 whole weeks. I don't know how I'm going to survive, ha ha.

The tandem training is going well, I have 11 of the 20 flights I need to get rated, plus I had my instructor/tandem ground school last weekend. I have some good articles to read while away, and there's always Youtube to keep you updated on the latest flying techniques. Well, realistically most posted videos tend to be what NOT to do but they're always amusing.

I've also taken over as membership director for our local soaring club so there are sure to be some flying-related emails coming my way while I'm gone. It'll almost be like I never even left!

See you again in a few weeks, hopefully my next post will be that I've finished my tandem rating and have been doing some wicked X-C spring flying!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Little Tandem Video

Just for those of you who aren't quite sure what a tandem paragliding flight looks like, here's one of my launches. (I'm the pilot-in-command, which means I'm flying the glider from the backseat.) Yeehaw!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lucky #5

Taking on this tandem adventure has taught me so much more than I expected, and that's with just 5 tandems under my belt. The biggest surprise has been the biggest compliment, which is the number of pilots volunteering to be my practice passengers. I hadn't expected so many people to offer to potentially be run over, surfed in or dragged around! Luckily all my tandems have been great, aside from a bit of excitement on the last one yesterday where the wing overshot us while launching. I slammed on the brakes to kill the wing as it had started dragging us down and across the hill, but it turns out that I didn't have nearly enough brake on originally and when I tried abort the launch it actually popped us up & got us airborne. So now I have an up-close and personal understanding of how much extra brake I need on that giant wing!

After doing 2 tandems Sunday morning I took a break to drive for others who had been kind enough to drive for me in the morning. While hanging out at launch I snapped a picture of this incredible cloud shaped like an eagle. It turned out way better than I thought (just used my iphone) and I'm pretty sure that it was a sign that the sky is happy with me :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tandem Girl!

Yesterday was my first tandem flight as the pilot-in-command. It was AWESOME! I'd been kicking around the idea of getting my tandem rating for about a year and now that I'm pursuing it I feel like I'm on the exact right path. Everything has been coming together for this and it's amazing. First, the tandem course was being held at a time I was actually going to be in town and secondly my friend Veronica decided to sell me her tandem gear which is my size & in mint condition (because she's a pretty girl & not a smelly boy and paragliding gear reflects that, you see). Also, my job as a personal trainer has taught me instructional skills so I'm comfortable relating information to passengers, plus I live about 10 minutes from my friend's paragliding school so I'll be able to work for him instructing & doing tandems all summer.

It's so cool when things fall into place, it seems we struggle more than we need to in life and to have something come together like this is like a gift. Ok enough hippy-dippy love talk, it's just that I'm so at one with all of this. Ha!

So my first tandem flight went off smoothly & better than I could have imagined. I thought we'd do a forward launch and have a pleasant little sledder, but instead there were strong cycles on launch so I got to reverse, kite the wing & thermal around for over half an hour! Plus we had a perfect landing thanks to the steady wind in the LZ. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

I had another fun first yesterday. On rainy days I take martial arts (a mix of different styles) and I recently signed up for the Black Belt Club. That means I get to start learning weapons and last night I got to play with nun-chuks for the first time. So fun! No pictures yet, maybe when I can do something cool with them I'll make a little video.

Hmmm....maybe I can incorporate them into my tandem flying. "I said RUN dammit! Hi-yaaa!"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cloud Nine

"If you don't like the weather...wait 5 minutes."

Jim's saying from yesterday was even more relevant this afternoon. Yesterday we waited for a hailstorm to pass and then got extended sled rides, but today's dash up the hill after launch *finally* cleared brought us amazing and exciting soaring to cloudbase (and beyond!..not mentioning any names...).

Jim flew tandem with Thomm's daughter who's been watching her dad fly for years but has never wanted to try. She changed her mind and after thermalling through cloud wisps I'd say Thomm's got a new flying addict on his hands! Anyway, when we saw the tandem gain height right after launching the rest of us got ready fast and started rushing off launch. The cycles felt strong but our wings were coming up cross and didn't feel loaded. Hmm...might have been the thermals, might have been the frenzy to get in the air. I grabbed a great launch cycle, then hit nothing but sink on the way to the thermal. I could see everyone else getting sucked up to the clouds and relied on Paragliding Faith alone that the thermal had to be on the other side of this monster sink. Sure enough the lift was there and soon I was adjusting my thermals to stay in the blue holes. Sweet! The edges of the thermals were drastic - I had a 50% collapse once - and after talking to the other pilots later found out I wasn't the only one.

My last thermal on the hill drifted me towards the LZ and then spit me out into sink. I could see Norm & Jim maintaining nearby so thought I'd be able to eke out a few extra minutes if I could just get to them. I passed by the LZ at a height I'd usually start thinking about landing at but knew I had enough height to fly under the boys' thermal, try one 360 while searching for lift & still clear the trees to make a safe landing if I didn't find anything. At 123 meters (!) I caught enough of that thermal to make a whole turn. And another. And another, yay! I hung onto that sucker and got back up to over 400 meters. But the weather was changing again, so after making my super sweet low save I spiralled down (wheee!) and packed up before the dark clouds got any closer.

p.s. One thing did suck today (besides the clouds, ha ha). My camera batteries died as soon as I turned it on so no pix of the awesome flying we had.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Thermals are back!

We've had a pretty mild winter here in BC. In paragliding terms that's meant easy access to the launch sites (no snow) but also only sledders for the last 2 months. Ok, that's a lie. I've actually had a couple of flights over an hour but they were serious work. Tight, tiny bullet thermals off the clearcuts that you hog because they're the only things keeping you from the LZ, and then you end up with fingers & toes that have turned blue from the cold.

Fortunately last Thursday reminded us what spring has in store for us. Although it was an east wind day (which means challenging launches and weird areas of rotor) I found my first Happy Thermal of the year. It was just lovely - easily defined edges that let you map the shape of the lift, it grew stronger and wider as it grew taller and I could even sit flat in my harness & still go up at over 2 metres per second! It was like a gift after all those scrawny sharp pre-spring thermals we've had to deal with over the last month. I was giddy by the time I climbed up 600 metres over launch thanks to Happy Thermal and tried a little x-c upwind. No luck on my attempt that day, but that one thermal made this one of my favourite flights of the year so far.

Bring on Spring!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ecuador 2010

Ah...Ecuador. I got my fix of heat, ridge soaring, mountain (Andes) flying and as much, or I should say as many varieties of corn that I could eat. I counted 4 types on one of my lunch plates: corn on the cob, popcorn, something they translate as hominy (puffy white boiled kernels) and a type of corn that was like the unpopped kernels at the bottom of your popcorn bowl but bigger and softer. But enough about corn...

The picture is from my first flight in Ecuador. It was a 3 hour soaring fest in Canoa, wearing shorts (which I paid for later with a nasty sunburn) where I only landed due to all the water I drank earlier. I still haven't gotten up the guts (if that's the right word) to wear the diaper Veronica convinced me to try, but I'm wishing now I would have. Anyway, it was an amazing flight & started the trip off beautifully.

I also kept up with my yoga (ok, maybe I just posed for the camera).

The paragliding on this trip was great, but everything else surrounding the flying was also amazing. We flew in the Chota valley (close to the Columbian border) and landed in this town that's inhabited by Afro-Ecuadorians. The whole town came out to watch us land, and these little girls would NOT let go of me. It was an overwhelming experience - we landed in a field that had been planted recently and when the kids ran over them to greet us the farmer came out swinging a machete! I froze & looked at my guides, but they weren't running so I just edged closer to them. We ended up going to Mr. Machete's modest 'house' for negotiations and the more of his homemade sugar cane liquor we drank the cheaper the price of the damaged crops got. When we had to leave & I finally peeled all my new best friends off of me and jumped in the truck, one of the local men pulled Julian (one of our guides) aside and asked if I was available! The actual word he used was "compromised", which loosely translates to engaged. That's the fastest I ever got a marriage proposal! Ha!

I had a couple of personal bests on this trip, but the coolest thing for me was that I finally got to be one of the "experienced" pilots. For years I'd be sitting on the hill, waiting for the Big Dogs to launch & let the rest of us know if the conditions were too strong. On this trip I was one of the 3 that our tour guide would send out first. As I've progressed over the years I haven't really paid attention to the moments where my skills increased but this was a nice marker for me, and a big compliment.

I'm in the process of writing my whole trip out and may update this post in the future. I'm happy my first flight of the year was in South America and 3 hours long - it's a great start to a great year!

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Year's Revolution

First things first. I stole the phrase New Year's Revolution from a friend of mine. I love it! I'm a list-maker kind of person anyway so I love resolutions, but 'revolution' is actually a lot more accurate. Especially since my biggest goal this year (this decade!) is to Stop Procrastinating. Talk about a revolution!

This means more blogging, more SIV courses, more flying cross-country NOW instead of waiting for the 'right' day, the 'right' flying partner, the 'right' chapstick. Yes, I said chapstick. When you're a professional procrastinator you can find a million things to blame that will keep you from action.

As the weather hasn't been conducive to paragliding lately there are no stories of exciting flights or emotional breakdowns. I've used the rainy season to take up martial arts & hot yoga instead. They complement each other nicely, and I'm sure mastering breaking boards with my bare hands (which I did last month, yay me) will help improve my paragliding. Exercising in the heat (a la hot yoga) will definitely come in handy when I go on my exotic paragliding trip to...Ecuador!

I'm not bringing a laptop with me so despite my good intentions on keeping up with the blog (damn!) I may have to wait until early March to post again. I'm actually upset by this since I'm so fired up about not procrastinating any more.

So Happy New Year to all, and to all a Fantastic Revolution!