Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All work & no play...

Today was my first "play" day in a while.  It was cold but worth it, especially since it will probably be my last flight of the year.  That means it's time to look back on the adventures of 2012.

Cold at landing and happy to have gotten some airtime

I've taken on a 2nd job so am working close to 70 hours a week, plus keeping up with Jet Set Paragliding and the occasional writing gig.  I'm grateful for the work, and the weather has been mostly gloomy so I don't feel like I'm missing out on much.

The second job started a few weeks ago.  This spring and summer weather-wise weren't the greatest for fact I probably got the fewest flights in this year since I moved out to the valley 8 years ago!  I slacked off on recording flights in my log book (I'm usually really dedicated about it) but I did log 65 flights this year, and over half of those were tandems.  Compared to 200 total flights in 2011 it's no wonder I feel like I barely even touched my paraglider this year!

However, I had some amazing moments in and around those "few" flights.  The biggest and most awesome was my Skywalk ponsorship.  I'm really proud of was a new experience for me to prepare a paragliding "CV" and to have to tell someone about my accomplishments.  To have them come back & tell me they liked what I represented & then offer me a place among the Team Pilots was definitely one of the biggest highlights of 2012.

Then Flyte Park came on board when I went to compete in the paragliding nationals along with support from so many of my friends!  The competition was a bit of a bummer for me...with the loss of a pilot my confidence in my own skills disappeared, and some soul-searching was needed to get back on track.  Once again, support from my friends helped me clarify my own views on flying and I was up and running (flying?) again as usual within the week.

I also experienced having a new pilot tell me I was his mentor.  It was just dropped casually into conversation, but wow, that was humbling and awesome!  I remember being new to paragliding and having pilots I looked up to.  It's crazy to think I could be that person to someone else.

The year has had it's challenges of course...trying to run a flying business when working 2 jobs and waiting for weather windows can be dis-heartening sometimes, but I love paragliding with a passion and want to be involved however I can for as long as I can.  This sport has completely changed my life, introducing me to people, places and adventures I never would have experienced if it hadn't been for that magic cloth that takes me to the skies.

Launching as the snow started falling today...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coolest Helmets Ever

Wohoo!  I decided to become a dealer for Ruroc, who sell awesome helmet systems that look like this:

RG-1 Shadow Complete Helmet System from Ruroc

I entered a contest on Facebook to win one, then approached them about carrying their products.  Kind of like what I did with Flyte Park and selling the Microvario - I found a product I liked & believed in and wanted to help promote.  These helmets just look so cool I couldn't help but ask to work with them!

So after doing some research, I found they don't just look great but have fantastic safety features and innovative technology, like their goggles and lenses that have special vents that permanently prevent goggle fog.  The "ski mask" is detachable so you could wear it when flying (or skiing or boarding or speed riding) in the winter, and remove it when having a nice little summer flight.

I plan to promote these within the snow sports arenas as well as the paragliding community, although I think most people who fly also ski/board/speedride in the "off season" and would love a helmet they can switch between sports. 

This past year I've been trying to "think outside the box" for ways to make a living in paragliding without having to rely on things like tandems which are completely dependent on the weather.  So far I've started teaching intermediate classroom courses and will do so again as soon as flying stops for the year, and I think branching out and catering to sports connected with ours or that pilots like to do along side with flying is a solid step in the right direction.  I'm excited about this next venture and look forward to improving my snow skills so I can wear one of these helmets somewhere other than the bunny hill :)

If you'd like to buy one (or just want to see what's available) check them out on my website:

These pages are still "under construction" but I can start taking orders immediately.  Thanks for your support!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Keep Calm and Paraglide On?

This is somewhat of an anniversary for me.  Maybe more of a milestone, or a reminder to look at how far I've come.  About a year ago I moved into my own place, with nothing more than a pocket full of tandem money and the confidence I'd easily find a job to work over the winter so I could go back to paragliding full-time the following spring and summer.

But living close to a flying site often means you're living in a small town, and living in a small town can mean a struggle to find work.  Typical job ads read, "Experienced milker wanted" or  "Chicken catchers needed".  Not being proficient in any of these, I've kept my eye open for office jobs or retail or something else exciting from the "et cetera" column on the Craigslist job postings.  I spent my days applying for jobs and doing whatever contract work or odd jobs for friends I could find, and would "play" my nights away...getting lost for hours working on my website (although it never felt like work).

In February I was hired at my current retail job, which happily started out as full time as it was a new store and we were prepping it for opening.  The hours slowly dwindled down to very very very part time, and the frantic search for something to supplement it began.  I loved the job and didn't want to replace it with something else full time, especially since it was spring now and that meant tandems, right?

Wrong.  Mother Nature had other ideas, and I flew maybe 10 per cent the amount of tandems I had last year.  What was I thinking in trying to run a flying business?  But every time I considered putting my ambitions on hold, something pulled me back in.  A new student.  A group of tandems.  Media opportunities.  Great turn-outs at the paragliding courses I started teaching.  Becoming an authorized dealer for my Flyte Park microvarios and having such a positive response to them (and my tshirts too!).  Friends believing in me and sending me business.  Then the big one...the Skywalk paraglider sponsorship!  Every time I thought that this dream was just that - a silly dream - something else would pop up as if to say, "Don't you dare give up on this!"

So I've stubbornly carried on, even cutting down on my personal flying to save the money I'd have spent on gas to drive to the take-off to simply make ends meet.  Why?  I've talked it this before, but I HAVE to fly.  It's not an option, it's mandatory.  And if I can't fly I have to help others fly, or learn more about flying myself.  It's bigger than me, and it's what keeps pushing me through the challenging moments.

A few more job opportunities have been presenting themselves lately, and I'm confident that I can get back to a place where I'll feel more comfortable financially again.  It may be another lean winter, I may not get to join my friends on flying trips to sunny destinations, but I know I'm on the right path.  After reading so many inspirational books lately on success and those who struggled and made it, I know this is just part of the process...that this is the time to have the most faith and believe in myself and Just Keep Going.

In the meantime, I will search onwards for more fun things to sell on my website (shameless plug!  Buy something from me! ) and follow the signposts that keep popping into my life that tell me I'm doing the right thing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Radio flyer

Spring has finally arrived!  Ok, so it didn't get here until September but the last couple of weeks have been great and the week ahead looks beautiful too.  Tandem season looks like it will easily carry on through September...and hopefully beyond to help make up for the lackluster summer weather.

Last Saturday I took a local radio DJ and her brother on tandem flights.  Here's the video I made for Sadie that she posted on their website and you tube (thanks for the publicity Sadie!)

A group also came out a few weeks ago to celebrate their Dad's 60th...I got to take the birthday boy tandem and hired some friends to help fly all the family members who came along.  One of them is coming back for another flight this weekend, and today I got an email from an excited passenger who wants to fly again and is bringing along two more friends who want to try too.  Repeat business is a HUGE compliment, especially in an "extreme" sport like this where a lot of people tend to just want to try paragliding once.  I'm lucky enough to get paid in cash as well as hugs, smiles and referrals from happy customers.  If this isn't a rewarding job then I don't know what is!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aug 11: Final Day & Revelations

Back home with some time to reflect on the past week, and I've found a few answers to my question of why I was not flying with the ability I know I possess.

I wasn't going to talk about it on this blog, but it's been in some media already and around Facebook a bit, so I'll mention it now since it really affected me.  A pilot landed in the river on the 2nd day of the competition and lost his life.  After it happened we had a day off to talk about it and deal with it and frankly I thought I was okay.  From the stories I'd heard (I didn't see the incident) I could justify that he'd had enough warning to get out of the air earlier and avoid the developing weather conditions that led to this awful event.  I told myself that I'd never push that hard to keep flying if it wasn't safe, and through that built enough protection around me that I felt fine to continue on with the competition.

Problem was, the river is between the mountain and the landing fields.  You have to overfly it, and it's right there if you get low after take-off and end up at the lower launch.  I remember looking down at it our first flying day after the accident and feeling a moment of fear and overwhelming sadness thinking about what it must have felt like for him, and quickly began flying around aimlessly, looking for any lift to hang onto to get out of there.  I didn't find anything immediately so flew out much higher than I needed to and held my breath until I got to the (easily reachable from my point) bomb out landing field.

I just remembered that part now.  That was my food poisoning day, so I told everyone I couldn't concentrate (which was true) and convinced myself that's why I flew poorly.  But the next day I did the same thing.  I caught a thermal, climbed up nicely in it, my wing pointed me downrange but my brain wouldn't let me go.  I sabotaged my flying until I had to land in the bomb out again and then went through all those feelings from my previous post, wondering where my confidence had gone.

Funny how the brain can block things out.  I knew there was something else besides low confidence going on and went to talk to Sam.  He's a pro-athlete (X Games, etc) so I figured he knew a thing or 2 about sport psychology.  We had a fantastic talk and he gave me some great questions to ask myself and through talking to him and some other patient pilots (thank you for know who you are!) I simply said on the morning of the last task, "Maybe I'm more affected by that accident than I thought."  And that was it.

I didn't fly to goal, or even make the first turn point, but I dug into the thermals when my Microvario beeped, and I followed along when my Cayenne 4 said, "hey, let's go!" and I remembered how I got here, why Skywalk and Flyte Park believed in me enough to sponsor me, and more than anything why I love to fly.  I'll admit I was scared, but it was the good kind of fear - the kind that helps you grow - and I bobbed along 10-15 km downrange and landed with a grin at a field nowhere near adjacent to the bomb out.

I'm back baby!

photo by Veronica :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aug 10: 4th task

I have no idea why this is happening, but I am having the worst flights here.  Are curses real?  I've been skunked every time I've come to Pemberton, and I was hoping that since I would be here a whole week that I would get at least one XC flight in.  Tomorrow looks like the last day of the competition and I have yet to fly farther than the bail out field below launch!

This is obviously not how I imagined the Nationals going.  I'm pretty sure I'm in last place (!) and absolutely devastated.  I know I'm a much better pilot than this, and can't understand why I'm flying so poorly.  I can find excuses if I want.  There were about a dozen of us who took off at the same time today and we all landed at the same bomb-out field so I could blame bad timing and conditions.  I'd wanted to launch earlier but got stuck behind a pilot on a competition wing who was having trouble launching, then switched lines but just like at the supermarket now the pilot in front blew their launch, so "maybe" if I'd launched earlier I could have stuck it.  I could blame yesterday on the food poisoning but Matty had been sick too and he won the day!

So I'm back to blaming the Pemberton curse.  Seriously though, I'm frustrated and angry and a whole lot of other things right now.  Rationally I can see that it's not a big deal, and as one of my new friends explained tonight it doesn't change anything about my abilities as a pilot...I'm still the girl who reached goal in other competitions, and who flew over 100 tandems last summer, and the fact that I'm in some kind of slump doesn't take away the fact that I am a good pilot.  It just sucks that my "slump" had to happen here at the Nationals, on my only vacation this year, at an event I was really excited about and where I had so many people supporting and believing in me.

Challenges make you stronger.   Sayings like this and more (the kinds that friends post on their Facebook walls about overcoming hard times that you click "like" for) are running around my head tonight.  Trying to see the bright side and hoping tomorrow I can fly at least 10 km somewhere.  Oh!  There is one awesome thing that happened today.  One of the pilots I've been coaching did make it 10-15 km (he thinks) which is his personal best!  I am so proud of him and stoked that he did it, I'm sure he'll fly even farther tomorrow after tasting the sweetness of an XC flight.  Living vicariously through someone you've helped is pretty cool, and I hope he'll let me follow him around the sky now :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aug 9: 3rd task

Today was not a great one for me.  Last night as I was falling asleep my tummy started grumbling, and I spent all night coping with my dinner trying to escape from my body.  Needless to say I woke up sleepy and "off".  

Hoping that I'd feel better as the day went on, I headed up to launch prepared to fly today.  The weather conditions were perfect - no strong winds predicted and no big cumulous clouds building into thunder clouds like we had before.  My plan was to launch before priority launching started (which is where the top 20 pilots from the day before are allowed to budge in front of the line), get up and glide as far as possible down the course line.  My body had other plans, and after the 10th run to the out house and someone commenting that my skin looked green I had to concede that I'd be lucky just to launch.

The real kicker was the conditions.  I had been joking that if we had really light conditions that I would kick butt since it seems all of my solo flights this year have been like that.  And that's exactly what the sky looked like!  Pilots were scratching away, not getting super high and it even looked smooth for the first time this week.  I couldn't do anything about it the time my body let me launch I was  last of the mountain (so late that the sign-in guy thought I was a volunteer) and although I did catch one decent thermal I couldn't concentrate at all so made the decision to land instead of push on.  

So that's why I left HQ early and hid out in my room all night - I want to be back to normal tomorrow and to fly my best over these last few days.  Here's hoping that the rest of this week goes smoothly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aug 8: no task

The forecast for today showed wind and low clouds, so the organizers called the day early for us and about half the pilots scattered to go hiking, swimming, kayaking, mountain biking...this really is an outdoor playground.

The rest of us stuck around to hang out with Dennis Cortella who set up a simulator and showed us all some new tricks on how to react in turbulence and more effective body positions while flying in general.  He also helped pilots adjust their harnesses nice to have an actual harness designer tweaking your gear for you!

Having two days off from the competition has definitely given me a new perspective on my flying here.  I found the practice day turbulent, but probably since I hadn't done much flying in strong conditions this year.  Then during first two tasks I thermalled well but am still doubting myself so turned and landed back at the main landing zone that I knew rather than go explore the "unknown".  Having a couple of days off to reflect on why and talk to some of the more experienced competition pilots about self-confidence and the mental aspect of flying has been great, and I am really excited about competing again tomorrow.  Hoping for no wind, blue skies and happy thermals for the rest of the week!

Clouds hugging the mountain today

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aug 7: no task

It's late so just a quick post.  Dennis Cortella (of Kortel harnesses) gave a fantastic speech tonight on glider and harness design and how they work together.  He's offered to let pilots sit in his simulator and show us what different harness adjustments will do to affect our flying style, and as the thunder roars & rain hits my window right now I'm sure tomorrow will be a great day to do just that.

More updates tomorrow, and maybe a goofy picture if it surfaces.  A bunch of us took advantage of our day off to do some "recon" and drive to all of the potential goal fields to get ourselves familiar with the area, and there may or may not be incriminating photo evidence of this. Hilarious photo evidence in fact.  But for now...good night all!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Aug 6 - Day 2

Ah...the Whistler Express.  It's become a legend to those who travel here - a strong wind that pops up suddenly and lasts until after dark, so no hope for pilots stuck in the air in front of launch to wait it out until "later".  The only option is to run away downwind, but landing options are dicey with the reachable fields being too close, middle distance away fields mostly taken up by a no-land horse acreage and the good LZs past that.

On launch we started hearing rumours of a possible Whistler Express later in the day.  The task committee called a task and landing field further down the valley where it would be safe, but the start time was still a bit late at 2:45 for those without speedy wings to get high and down the valley before the projected arrival.  But this is a National competition, so of course the race is going to be geared more toward those who are top pilots on fast wings.  

I launched a bit earlier today and the conditions still looked ok.  Big clouds forming but I thought that could help me get high and downrange to where all the safe LZ's were in case the winds hit.  Unfortunately I got low in front of launch, and the winds had already started picking up from the north so the bowl in front was a rotor pit and I got worked a bit.  Got too low for my liking and pushed out front, where I found a scary thermal but turned tight in it anyway and went skyward as long as I dared.  I knew if the winds increased as fast as I'd heard that I would need a lot of extra height just to push out to the usual landing field.  My ground speed showed a 15 km/hr wind (still manageable) and since wind tends to increase with height I was hoping for a lighter wind at the bottom.  The air was pretty active, but I figured that was from the growing cumulous clouds (oh, did I mention the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast?) so I just hung on as I went through some rough bits and flew to areas that would be calmer. 

After getting upwind of the landing field I found some smooth air and initiated a spiral dive.  After a few turns I started picking up G's (good) and saw I wasn't drifting (good) and then something hit me (bad).  At first I thought I just hit a thermal but this was more violent than when I've done that in the past.  I wish I'd had my GoPro on my helmet because I can't tell you exactly what happened except I saw more bits of my wing in varying combinations than I generally like to see when flying.  As my wing settled happily over my head again I heard someone directly below me call on the radio that there were dust devils going off.

Holy Moly.  I just spiralled into a dust devil.

So that would explain how something was strong enough to bust up my spirals on my heavily loaded wing.  Interesting.

Not much time to think about that.  Flew 2 km away downwind where I saw someone land about 5 minutes before.  Was parked for a few minutes but eventually started moving forward.  The patch of air I chose was calm so I stood on my speedbar and smoothly penetrated to the middle of the field, was dealt five Aces by the hands of Fate and landed perfectly.  The wind stopped the second I touched down so my fear of getting dragged was averted, and I gathered up my wing and plunked it down at the edge of the field so happy to be down and safe.  

Then a 30 km/hr gust blew through and I had to dive on my wing to make sure it didn't blow away. 

So some new items were added to my paragliding toolbox today and I learned a lot.  I don't regret taking off, and on the other hand I'm not so cocky to think I landed safely due only to skill.  Luck was kind to me today, but I'm also proud of myself for sticking with that rough thermal so I was high enough to have more than one landing option when things got uncomfortable.  I'm accomplishing my goal of learning something every day here, growing my skills and discovering my strengths and weaknesses.  The rain from the thunderstorm is still falling but the forecast for tomorrow is still calling for "mainly sunny" so maybe we'll get a nice and happy day of flying and I'll get to expand my tour of this valley.

Looking toward the valley I'd been flying in earlier...

The other direction, darkness over HQ 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aug 5: Day 1

Got my short flight out of the way today...nowhere to go but up!  It was a really late start and I think I just got minimum points for the day.  I did try to hit the start cylinder which was across the valley, but it doesn't really matter since I ended up at the main landing field.

I launched about 15 minutes before the start.  Most pilots had launched earlier, but I'm not in the flying shape I was last year and my longest flights this year have only been around an hour.  Between the weather and doing mostly tandems I haven't had a chance to do a lot of thermal practice at home.  So I launched later and actually started off really well.  Hit a few good thermals, got to 1900 meters but the thermals started drifting me over the back.  I didn't really want to go back there since we'd been warned about not being able to make it out, and I'm glad I stayed out front even though it meant I didn't get as high.  

There were 2 reserve deployments that I know of, as well as a pilot who landed in a tree.  The winds started picking up quite strongly from the north (forecast was for southwest?) which made the air quite rough.  I'm so glad I got to work on my bump tolerance fact I found today less rough although other pilots said they found it worse today.  I'm really happy with how my wing felt in the air, I feel I'm getting to know it quickly even though I've only had a few flights on it.  The trick today was probably launching earlier and getting high, although by the time I landed I'm not sure pilots on anything less than the "new" EN-D rated wings could get very far.  It will be interesting to hear the stories at the welcome dinner tonight!

I was feeling pretty bummed when I realized I wasn't going to make even the first waypoint today.  Then I decided to just stay in the air for a while and fly around when I saw the 2nd reserve deployment.   After landing I heard about the tree landing, and then some good pilots had come to land at the same LZ, so by the time I'd packed up I didn't feel so bad.  I had a great launch, landing, came home in one piece and had fun in the air.  That's a successful day to me, and I'm learning more about this site every day.  6 more days to try for goal!

Task today: follow the zigzag :)

Aug 4 - Practice Day

Yay for practice days!  They're made for finding out what you need to change before the actual event.

Like when I forgot to ask the owners of my B&B for the wifi password and settled down to write, skype and check emails last night and couldn't get online.  Oops.  So that is why I'm a day off with blogging :)

My test flight was worth it too.  Originally I had planned to take the day off and relax before the week of flying.  But a seat became available for a ride up to launch and I took it, figuring I'd fiddle with my new radio mic arrangement and mini camera boom for my GoPro.  It looked stable, so figured I'd get a 15 minute flight in smooth air to play with my gear.  Wrong!  It was actually kind of rough and I found out pretty quick I'd have to change my radio and camera set up.  

Also found out the brake pressure on my Cayenne 4 is a lot firmer than my Delta in strong thermals, so I got to play with my new flying style for punchy air.  Even though I got a few collapses, I had complete confidence in my wing and soon learned how much brake I needed to keep it happy overhead.  I got about a 40 minute flight around launch which I was happy with, and am excited to fly above these beautiful mountains!

My B&B is wonderful too.  An older couple who used to run a B&B took me in (a pilot joked it was more like billeting).  They take good care of me, including giving me fresh carrots from the garden and filling me full of waffles for breakfast.  Best part mosquitoes!

washing carrots for me fresh from the garden 

Yup!  In the right place!

Mandatory Pilots Meeting, Pemberton Style (yeah, that's hacky-sack)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ready or I go

Everything is packed.  My wing and harness that I'm selling are sitting by the door, waiting to go to the Nationals and find a new home.  My shiny new Cayenne 4 is eager to get chasing thermals.  Oh, and my snazzy new helmet is all decorated with my sponsors stickers!


Flyte Park

Nothing left to do but finish loading my Jeep and hit the road!  I'm really looking forward to a week "off".  No work, no tandems...just flying for myself and seeing how much I can learn.   

Time to get outta here!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

4 days and counting!

Saturday morning I will be waking up bright and early to drive to the Canadian Paragliding Nationals in Pemberton, BC.  After deciding to compete a couple of months ago and waiting for this event it seems the last week has just flown by!

This will be the first time I will be competing with sponsors backing me.  The fact that I have supporters will push me when I feel like giving up and will help me go that extra distance.  Knowing myself, I won't be putting myself in any dangerous situations just because "I have to do well for my sponsors".  At the same time, I know that the better I perform, the more likely they will be to keep supporting me so that could be the extra kick I need if I'm having any moments of self-doubt.

I plan to blog every night after flying, even if it's just a quick note, and hope to have some personal bests to share.  It will be exciting to see old friends and make new ones, and share in the excitement of competition with 100 other pilots!

Wish me luck :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

More supporters!

When I decided I was going to compete at the Canadian National Paragliding Championships this year I wasn't sure how I would be able to do that without going into a whole lot of debt or even if I could get the time off.  Things are all coming together now and looking back at the past month I'm in a bit of disbelief and a feeling a lot of gratitude.

First off the management at my part-time retail job has been incredibly supportive.  They understand that paragliding (instructing, tandems) is actual work and have been so accommodating to my flying schedule.  They gave me the week off to go to this competition even though it's getting close to one of our busiest times (back to school and our end-of-summer sales).

Then of course Skywalk came along with a new wing and the offer to join them as a Team Pilot.  I began thinking about approaching more sponsors and started drafting request letters.  During this process I kept in touch with Flyte Park, the company who produces the Microvario.  I happened to buy a Microvario earlier this year as it was the best-priced one on the market and was so impressed with the quality and the service that I asked if I could be a dealer for them through Jet Set Paragliding here in Western Canada.  The owner and I have been working together ever since and bouncing ideas off each other as we both grow our companies.  When he found out I would be competing at the Nationals and was looking for support he offered to be a sponsor!

It's great to have companies standing behind you that have products you believe in.  As mentioned in previous posts, the flying weather here has been less than stellar, and my Microvario works so well in the light and "scratchy" lift we've been experiencing.  It's helped me to stay up longer and thermal more efficiently, and as this video shows it's a great learning tool for my tandem passengers as it helps them learn about lift and sink:

Thank you Flyte Park for your support!

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I am excited to announce that I am now a sponsored pilot!

Recently I was asked by Skywalk Paragliding if I would consider being a Team Pilot and fly one of their wings in the Canadian Nationals.  Of course they wanted me to try the wing out first so asked what size (and colour) I would like to demo, and I was delighted when it arrived only a few days later from their offices in Germany.

I had to wait to try out "my" new Skywalk Cayenne 4 (EN-C)...the weather was not cooperating, and by the third day I couldn't wait any longer and took it to the park to do some ground handling.  It inflated like a dream, and after kiting for a little while I was even more impatient to fly it!  Finally we had some sun and I was able to sneak in a quick flight before running off to my part-time job.

My new Skywalk Cayenne 4 
I couldn't have asked for a better day.  As I stood on the take off, the wind was blowing perfectly straight up the launch, small clouds were starting to form and I was going to have the whole sky to myself.  3-2-1...the wing came up smoothly overhead and I ran into the sky.  A thermal was waiting in front of take-off and I turned in circles until I was looking down on launch, waving thanks to my driver.  Some clouds were forming to the east, so I flew under them and soon found my view getting hazy.  A step on my speed bar and I was soon out of the mist from the cloud, giddy over the instant bond I felt with the Cayenne 4!  Sadly I had to go land and head to work, but a perfect touchdown in the landing circle made it easier to bear :)

Between work and the weather, I squeezed in a few more flights over the week.  To represent a brand fairly I wanted to make sure I had a good feel for my wing.  Other pilots flying with me those days must have wondered what I was doing!  I was flying in and out of thermals, turning sharp then flat, and letting wing tips collapse just to see what happened.  It reacted so smoothly - no scary moments at all - and the feedback from the wing was easy to understand and use.  I loved every moment of it and wrote to Skywalk telling them I'd be happy to join their Team.

I may not be a hard-core "comp pilot" (not yet anyway!) but I think that's part of the philosophy of Skywalk.  Not everyone wants to be a competition level pilot - but everyone wants to have fun, be safe and enjoy their time in the sky.  That's one of the reasons that Skywalk and I are a good fit for each other and why I'm happy to help promote Skywalk in Canada.  Let the new adventure begin!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Inspiration is one of those things in life that is as wonderful to give as to receive.  It seems I've been surrounded by inspiration lately and would like to share some of these stories.

Our flying community is still a small can show up anywhere there are pilots, announce that you are one of them and like magic you are instant friends.  This happens online too, and I now have flying friends around the world I haven't met in person (yet!).  One of these paragliding girls has been reading my blog and supporting my efforts to develop and grow my business.  She has impeccable timing, sending along a message that she "tweeted" about me or posted a link on Facebook just when I'm having a moment of self-doubt.  She recently wrote and said that through my blog postings I inspired her to follow her own big paragliding just go for it!  I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to be the one inspiring someone, when I have so many people I look up to myself, including her.

I've also begun paragliding coaching, which is where I work with pilots who are newly signed off that would like some one-on-one lessons on developing their skills.  Unfortunately in our little flying community there tends to be animosity between the different instructors, and just like in high school people end up in little 'cliques' hanging out only with the school they learned with.  One reason I decided to coach signed off pilots is so I can help break that barrier and encourage everyone to fly together.  When I taught my first course on how competitions work, I was really happy to see pilots from different schools and surrounding cities too.  I had 3 pilots who learned from separate instructors approach me afterwards about coaching, and am working with one of them now.

This particular student's goals were to improve on a variety of skills and be able to fly confidently in the Canadian Nationals in August.  We've been working together for 4 or 5 sessions and last month he went to his first small competition...and finished second!  I was so excited when I heard about it, more excited than if I had won myself!  We had a session shortly after that and he met another of his goals (a small xc at our local site) and when I went to pick him up I was bursting with pride again.  I see why people get into instructing, and hope to keep doing it for a long time.

My list of people who inspire me grows daily, and through their support I feel I can accomplish anything!  I'm incredibly lucky that my boss at my part-time job totally supports me and calls me on rainy days if they need someone to cover a shift (she knows me so well already!).  I have mentors in my everyday life who have skills in sales, marketing and design who help me with the business side of things.

Each and every pilot has something they can teach others, no matter if it's their first flight or they have been flying for twenty years.  You all rock :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dream big!

It feels like forever since I've posted any flying pictures.  It also feels like I haven't flown in a very long time...although honestly it was just last week.  We've had so much rain and wind and general gloominess this spring that it still feels like the flying season hasn't really started.

But that means more time to work on my business (yay!).  Luckily I came in a "close second" when applying for the full-time position at my part-time retail job.  Looking at my finances I had decided a full-time job was necessary (especially with no tandem money coming in) so applied and was really hoping to get the position.  It went to a girl with more experience, and after getting over the ego deflation of coming in 2nd, things started looking brighter.  Especially when I flew 5 tandems the weekend after I found out.  Then I was flat-out *relieved* I didn't get the job.

Then my first order of t-shirts and varios came in!  I was so excited I took a bunch of pictures.  Here's everything sorted with invoices:

Excited how the t-shirts turned out:

I still have to take proper pictures of both sides of the shirts and also product shots of the Microvario in action for my website but like I's been so yucky outside!

Even Bob misses paragliding

My mom lives about an hour away, so I drove in to see her and ended up visiting with 3 different friends who live in the area.  All of them were immensely supportive of what I'm doing and gave me great although I'm technically alone running my business there is such an amazing group of people surrounding me that I know I'll succeed.  It's hard sometimes to ask for help as I'm an only child who likes  doing things myself.  But you really can't do it alone!  I've met some fantastic new friends that I'm doing business with and it's wonderful being able to talk about our dreams of how we want our companies to grow.  Competition does exist in the paragliding world of course, just like anywhere else, but I'm lucky to have avoided that so far and just seen the other side, full of support and encouragement.  I think I'm going to like it here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Business Woman Emerging...

Here I go! I've been flying tandems for a couple of years now, and last summer I was lucky enough to work full-time at a paragliding school and flew over 150 tandems for them. Since my certification I have also worked for myself and wondered where exactly my tandem and instructor licenses would take me. Teaching students from scratch hasn't been my first focus, although I do love teaching the basics at ground school (ground handling, etc). It's also quite an expensive option, as the instructor needs training gear (school gliders, harnesses, helmets, etc) and besides, my friends have a good school already with all the facilities.

So this year I decided to focus on training pilots who were already signed off with their "novice" rating, but were looking for more guidance and information. I was approached last summer by a couple of pilots about this option, and this year decided to go ahead and DO IT! I put a note up on my website and started working on my plan.

In the mean time, a newer pilot approached me with some questions about competing and suggested I put on a course for those like him who had no idea what it was all about. He offered up a meeting room at his worksite and voila! About a dozen pilots attended, were really supportive of my idea of continuing to teach classes and courses and a handful asked about the intermediate coaching program they saw on my website.

In his now-famous Standford graduation speech, Steve Jobs talked about looking back through your life and seeing how all the dots connected to get you where you are today. I'm having one of those moments now, and am excited and feel I'm on the right path, even if it is currently a little crooked as I weave through financial hurdles, outside jobs and logistics.

In addition to my coaching and tandems, I'm setting up a web shop so I can offer cool flying items - things I've been looking for but often have trouble finding. The first items I'm selling are my company T-shirt and the Microvario, an audio only vario that only weighs an ounce! I bought it so I wouldn't have to keep switching my gear between my solo and tandem wings and was really happy with it so asked Flyte Park if I could carry their product.

Here's the link to my website, and even though I don't have web design experience I'm pretty proud of it. I'm still working on the shop & figuring out shipping costs and all but if you want to order something please fill out the contact form there & let me know. My first orders are going in soon!

Thanks so much for your support so far, I'm having a blast on this journey and hope you're all able to find that inner fire that pushes you to keep following your dreams,no matter how crazy they may seem to somebody else!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Making everything better

Life is constantly changing. Most of the time it's get a haircut, start taking a night class, meet different people and then one day see a picture of yourself with your shiny new hair and shiny new friends and think, "Wow, things have really changed". But some moments change everything in an instant. My little flying community recently had one of those moments. There was a bad hang gliding accident on Saturday morning that shook us all. I am grateful I didn't witness it directly but just hearing what happened & imagining it still makes me feel sick to my stomach. And even though it involved a hang glider and not a paraglider we're still such a small tight-knit group that having something like this happen at my mountain makes this personal and even more devastating than hearing about it happening somewhere else. Luckily it's been raining every day since and looks like it will be for the rest of the week, so having to even think about flying right now isn't something we have to deal with. My heart is warmed by comments made by pilots new & experienced, talking about how we're going to look out for each other more and put aside differences like what flying school or club you may be affiliated with or what type of glider you fly. No one ever wants anything bad to happen to those they share the air with, whether a close friend or mere acquaintance. As each day passes, it's a little easier to look forward and concentrate on what we can do better instead of dwelling on the nightmare of this unfortunate accident. Each day it's a little easier to look forward to a new direction in paragliding...teaching and sharing more, and rebuilding our sport from the ground up. You could even say we have a chance to renovate our sport. As much as we pride ourselves on being "free flyers" and "free" of all the rules & regulations present in other forms of aviation, I think a lot of what we do is because "it's how it's always been done". And as for a lot of things in life, that doesn't always mean it's the best way. I'm terribly guilty of this myself, and coincidentally have been working on changing these beliefs in my personal life...changing things I've done a certain way without ever questioning them. So now I'm waiting for the time I can be excited about flying again, and will start to build a better paragliding (& hang gliding) sport along with my fellow feathered friends. Soon I will be excited once again to experience the thrill of sharing the joy I get from flying with excited passengers on tandems, and to share my knowledge with pilots looking to improve themselves. Paragliding has completely shaped my life as I know it - I'm who I am today because of it - and I don't want that to change. I believe life is about finding what makes you happy, and despite everything, paragliding is that thing for me. I hope to share it with others again soon and even bring a little more happiness into their lives.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finding Direction

It's the beginning of April and I've only had 2 flights this year! I've missed a good day or two but mostly the weather just hasn't been playing nice, with high winds and then a big snowfall blocking the drive up to launch.

My blog has been also been quiet as I've been working a lot more outside the house so I can work less when tandem season starts. I should re-phrase that, I hope to be able to work less in my non-flying jobs when the sun shines. Flying tandems is so much fun that I forget it's a job most of the time! My business is also coming along nicely, recently I designed and taught a course for pilots called Introduction to Competitions since both the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Nationals are being held a couple of hours away from my main flying site this summer. A lot of pilots were interested in learning what exactly was involved in a competition, and a handful of them interested in becoming true competition pilots which is fantastic! I love seeing our competition scene grow. Canada needs to represent!

As for my own flying, a few things are still up in the air which will determine my path this upcoming season. I was really hoping to attend at least 2 FAI comps this year, but 2012 may have to be more about saving money, building a solid base and supporting others in realizing their flying dreams. As long as I can zoom around the sky on a sunny day, hopping from thermal to thermal I'm sure I'll make it. I'm not giving up yet though, life is definitely full of surprises!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Balance is a funny thing. People talk about how important it is, although some say true balance doesn't exist and striving to find balance is the point itself.

The definition of balance, or rather choosing which items are most important to us, constantly changes. If we discover an addictive sport or hobby we immediately find a way to include this newfound passion in our lives while still attempting to maintain the sense "balance" we had beforehand. If you're like me and find new interests all the time, the number of things you're attempting to fit in to your life keeps growing. Just thinking of how you're going to try and balance everything can get overwhelming.

There are a few new things on my plate right now, like a paragliding course I'm putting on (that I'm super excited about) plus a full-scale job hunt in the works. This has made me look at balance in a new way, since before I didn't really have any. My schedule was wake-up, fly, eat, sleep. Although I wouldn't say I felt "out of balance" before, I definitely felt like I was missing out on other things in my life. I was lucky to be a paragliding bum for sure, and if the weather cooperates I hope to have a spring and summer full of paragliding (cross-country, competitions and flying tandems), but this time I'll be sure to let other experiences into my life too.

Is there such a thing as balance then? I think things even themselves out in the long run and you'll go crazy trying to find that perfect balance across everything you want to do. Focus on what's important now, don't forget that living a full life and having fun is just as important as paying your rent and congratulate yourself when you get one more thing checked off your to-do list. Personally I recommend doing that with a nice glass of red wine.