Paragliding Day 7

The wind forecast this morning looked strong and gusty which made both kiting atop southside and launching off the training hill seem problematic. Ben and I thus decided to practice uphill kiting on the training hill which involves setting up as if for a reverse launch but then allowing the kite to gradually pull you uphill like a poorly behaved and very powerful dog.

Uphill kiting as a n00b is mentally grueling and especially so in gusty conditions. It involves a whole lot of everything you’ve already done but with the added messiness of standing on an incline which brings the possibility of a surprise launch. We discussed how if that happens you are welcome to jam on the brakes while your feet are still on the ground but once you cross that threshold “do nothing” is the order of the day as gravity will cause your crossed cables to naturally unwind. Your main task is simply to keep your head clear of the cables.

I managed to make my way up a good portion of the hill albeit with many collapsed wings along the way. One particular struggle involved things happening too fast for me to sense brake pressure quickly enough to react. I found myself tempted to revert to doing things by sight but that comes with its own array of problems. I also seemed to be at risk of stepping into the cables after a wing collapse which could make for a bad time if the wing suddenly relaunched. Lastly I think the fear of a surprise launch had me putting in brake pressure after the wing came up far too aggressively.

After playing this game for a while we found ourselves both high enough and in wind agreeable enough that attempting a launch seemed like a reasonable idea. I brought the wing up for a reverse launch and was almost tempted to turn around and make a go for it but aborted in a situation similar to last Friday where I wished I had aborted. The “be patient” lesson seemed to have stuck.

I brought the wing up once more for a reverse launch and this time things came together, I spun around, and I was off. Sort of. I quickly applied excessive brake pressure and found myself losing altitude and on track for doing a flying dropkick of another student preparing to launch and/or their instructor. I shouted “INCOMING!”, which caused them to scatter, but also had the presence of mind to back off on the brake pressure which allowed me to balloon to a safe height. This particular hurdle cleared I had lost awareness of my aiming point and found myself in a situation similar to my messy flight last Wednesday but the radio crackled with Ben’s voice saying “LOOK RIGHT!” which I did and things came back together. The rest of the flight felt pretty good thereon and I managed a pleasantly smooth landing.

Ball it up, hike it up, and let’s do this again. I stopped short of whence I might try to launch and did a little more uphill kiting practice until I was ready for another launch. The wind felt a little more sketchy, but not unreasonably so, and we decided we would do one more launch to get off the hill and then do some kiting practice in the parking lot below. Once I was running downhill I found myself dealing not only with substantial crosswind relative to the hill’s fall line but also an oscillatory wind strength that made getting off the ground messy. The first time my feet prematurely returned to the ground was my fault, the recurring mistake of excessive brake pressure the culprit, but I recall it happening an additional two or three times, per Ben these owing to the wind dying down. Each time I nonetheless succeeded in hitting the ground running and once I got properly into the air the actual flight felt really good. Continued gustiness made for a few sudden drops but I held fast to “do nothing”. Perhaps the most memorable thing was at the landing I effectively split my attention between the onrushing ground and my aiming point in a way that I had failed to do on the second of my two flights on Friday, the reward being a soft and straight approach and a gentle trot as I made contact. WIN.

Subsequent kiting practice in the parking lot offered opportunity to reinforce an assortment of lessons. In general my handling of the lines to get the wing into the air is beginning to feel more natural under a variety of circumstances. I did, however, repeatedly struggle with a situation where the wing angled up part way and put me in a wrestling match stalemate where I could neither walk backwards nor get the wing farther up. I imagine this means I need more momentum in the wing’s launch so it can carry through to a fully upright position with less effort on my part. An area of growth involved being more flexible and anticipatory of how I am going to leverage lines as I get the wing airborne, especially when the wing is in an imperfect layout on the ground. In one case the left side of the wing had folded over on itself and Ben remarked that I ought know that this will inevitably mean a huge excess of lift on the other side and so I ought only hold one brake line accordingly. As with so many things in life the likelihood of success has already been decided before you reach the key moment. Be prepared.

This was a great morning.

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