Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn Hike and Fly

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to launch

My favourite thing ever - running off a mountain!

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

My view of Kevin coming in to land.

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Small Business Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Video Competition

Just a short post today!

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

It's all about the camera angles

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why I love being a Team Pilot.

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

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

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

Windsocks for various friends, tshirts for me!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stop Posting…Start Living!

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

Do. Something. Amazing.?

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hike & Fly with the Skywalk Flex harness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get high with my Join't

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No more Gin…needing a hammock and looking to Impress

I love word games.  

The title of this post makes me giggle, but it does say everything going on with my epic harness search.

After setting up the Gin Genie Light in a simulator hanging from a tree in my boyfriend's backyard, I went up to launch with it on Sunday to fly on a 'guaranteed' XC flight.  Clouds/winds/birds all indicated a wonderfully thermic day and I was ready to be all warm and streamlined in my new pod and to explore the airways.

I elected to go first since patience is not exactly one of my virtues.  My launch was perfect, and getting my legs inside the pod was super easy.  I settled back and WHAM!  Into the first snotty little thermal and WHOOSH! I slid over to the right side of the pod.  Which caused my left wingtip to collapse and me to immediately slide over to the left side of the pod.

Huh.  By now I know I should've found some patience (that stuff I don't have much of) and waited for a size small to come in to try instead of convincing myself that a medium fit snug enough.  Crap.  I flew away from the hill a little to find some smoother air to make some adjustments, especially since I was reclining farther back than I wanted & still sliding around inside the pod. The air was a bit too active to start fiddling around so I just headed for the landing zone to try the simulator again even though I knew in my heart that the harness was just too big for me.

Determined not to give up, I asked to borrow a friend's Impress 3 pod (which has a hammock seat instead of a seatboard).  I wanted to get up into the same snotty air to do a direct comparison, and make sure it wasn't just the air or the experience of flying a pod. I've test flown a few others but it had always been in fairly smooth conditions.  So back up to take off, another clean launch and I headed right back to where I knew the air would be active.  I caught a screamer of a thermal and…OMG-I-love-this-harness.

A few weeks ago when I went to Brett's to check out the Gin, he did encourage me to try a hammock-style pod first to compare since pilots tend to love one style over the other (that lack of patience thing wouldn't let me wait).  A disadvantage of living in Canada though is our tiny pilot population, so there are very few chances to actually "try before you buy".  Borrowing from friends like I did is usually all you can do, and now that I tried them side by side, I know I'm definitely a hammock girl.  Despite the Gin being very well constructed with excellent storage space as well as loads of other fantastic features, it's just not the harness for me.  Boo.

So back to square one.  I've wanted an Impress 3 since I sat in the prototype at the Ozone Chabre in 2011 and of course its the most expensive one out there.  But for me, there's no more compromise.  A less expensive harness that doesn't fit properly isn't worth the savings.

Good thing my new tandem arrived yesterday!  Only 4 business days from the day I paid (delayed one day due to UPS…don't get me started!!!) and my sweet new Skywalk Join't 3 Tandem was in my hands.  Time to book some tandems and pay for all this gear!

Flowers courtesy of Ava from Quik Pik Flowers  who made this delivery extra special :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Year for Gear

As a team pilot for Skywalk, I am lucky enough to get ridiculously good prices on my personal gear, and after 4 years of flying my trusty old Advance Bibeta 4 tandem wing…I am excited to be upgrading to the new Skywalk Join't 3!

What my new baby will look like :)

I am curious to see how my old wing has held up to the hundreds of tandem flights it's been on and am planning to get a porosity check done on it this weekend.  One of the other flying schools in town has a porosity meter that sucks air through the material and measures how many seconds it takes to do so, thereby letting you know how much life is left in your wing.  Watch for pictures soon here on my blog.

And after many hours of research over which competitions I could manage to get to this year, the fact that my solo harness was sadly on it's last legs kept popping up along with the obligations of a new job in which vacation days have not yet been discussed (I know, I know).  So I decided to go all in and get a new harness too.  I'm an incredibly lucky person - after asking on Facebook for harness recommendations I received so many offers of help and special comp pilot/instructor pricing that I was blown away.  It was a hard choice to make, but I made a short list after all the advice and as much reading of forums that I could handle and went with the Gin Genie Light. It was the only harness that I was actually able to sit in prior to plunking down my hard-earned dollars for (as I ambushed our new Gin importer in Canada at his house - thanks Brett - when the local dealer was out of town).   Say hello to my new pod harness:

My harness has been patiently sitting in my glider bag for over a week but the weather has been cruel on my days off.  My shiny new tandem wing was ordered 2 days ago and it should be here next week. Now I just have to cross every finger that the forecasted sun appears this weekend and you will be subject to a babbling review and pictures.  

See you in the sky!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Women of Aviation Week

International Women's Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8.  That is also the anniversary of the first woman pilot license, which was the inspiration for Women of Aviation Worldwide week.

Paragliding (and hang gliding too) is a sport that attracts a lot more men than women, especially here in North America.  Reasons for this are debated over beer at the end of epic flying days, but one possible explanation that never seems to be brought up is lack of role models.

A lot of women start lessons because their boyfriends fly, and because it's not their own passion most of them drop out.  But would more of them stay in the sport if there were a greater number of women pilots overall?

I for one had never thought about instructing and flying tandems until I met a young female pilot who was training for her license.  Up until then almost every tandem pilot I met was a male in his late 40's or 50's, so not only a different gender but also not in my age group.  So seeing Veronica doing her tandem training totally changed my perspective and within a year of meeting her I got my own tandem rating and haven't looked back since.

So to "Fly it Forward" I'm doing my part to celebrate Women of Aviation week by (1) giving away a free instructional tandem to a female through my Facebook page and (2) joining in the festivities at the Langley Regional Airport on the weekend of March 8-9.  I have donated a tandem flight to their raffle as well, and will be set up at the airport with some gear to show the participants.  I'm thrilled to be a part of this effort to encourage women to consider careers in all types of aviation and hope to inspire some girls to take to the skies and discover how amazing flying can be!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prepping for the 2014 flying season

Happy New Year!

Jet Set Paragliding had another successful HAGAR course over the first weekend in January, and after some great questions and discussions during class I came up with a prep list for the 2014 flying season:

1.  Ensure all paperwork and licenses are up to date

- Ham Radio License
There are a number of comps that require this so make sure you have yours before signing up.  And even though you don't need to renew your license after passing the exam, you are required to send a change of address to Industry Canada.  If you've moved or aren't sure if they have your current address on file, send an email to:

with your call sign, mailing address and phone number.

You may also want to look into aircraft radios if you are planning on flying through certain airspace, now would be a good time to do some research on cost and options.

- Local waivers signed and dues paid

The West Coast Soaring Club's season runs from November 1-October 31, and this year all members have to sign the new waiver.  Being all paid & waiver-ed up now means you don't have to worry about it when a great flying day coincides with a day off!

HPAC now sends an email reminder when your membership is up, but as an instructor I also have to ensure that both my first aid and instructor rating are up-to-date.  Check!

If you're interested in competing, you'll need to get an FAI Sporting License every year from the aeroclub website.  Well, you technically don't *need* one, but it gets you listed on the FAI world ranking among other benefits.

2.  Local Cross-Country route planning

At our HAGAR course we learned about some changes over our favourite flying site.  That dotted arrow starting from the middle of the right side of the map below shows some possible issues.

Right where the plane starts is pretty much over our launch.  The airspace we can legally fly in goes up to 6000 ft, and a few months ago this route for a commercial airliner was added to the map.  This dotted line starts at 6500 ft (which we shouldn't be flying at anyway) but as you follow the dotted line the jets descend to the Abbotsford Airport.  Just to the north of the dotted line is our westbound cross country route, so considering the planes will be descending along this route and we will be trying to do the opposite, good planning is in order before attempting this flight in the spring of 2014.  Safe landing zones along the way should be scouted out, marked with a GPS and compared to the new airspace map.  A good rainy day activity.

3.  Competition Listings and Vacation Plans

Another fun thing to do when you're working every day or the weather is awful is to plan your trips!  This year there are 3 big week-long competitions in a row (Rat Race, Chelan, and Canadian Nats).  There are also lots of fun fly-ins and informal comps to choose from, road trips to consider and if you only get 2 weeks vacation per calendar year, you might also just want to save a week to get away in rainy November.

A couple of the websites I use to plan out my year are:
and I put a selection on my own website of course:

Instead of going away, maybe you want to plan out a few days to work with an instructor to check off the skill demonstrations to achieve your next level HPAC rating, or do some coaching to improve your thermaling ability or attempt a first XC.  Contact your instructor now to discuss your goals and decide how you want to better your flying skills this year.

4. Gear Prep

Don't forget the usual - reserve repack, take your wing out kiting and carefully inspect all lines & the canopy for wear and tear and look over your whole harness.  Empty out the smelly socks and stale granola bars, charge up your radios and batteries for your instruments, and stash some cash in your flight deck so you're not caught empty handed when it's time for a ride up to launch.  Visualize yourself having flawless launches and landings at night while you fall asleep to feel more confident on that first flight of the season!

Feel free to leave comments with any other prep you do before the flying starts. Above all, have fun this year!