Paragliding Days 16 + 17

Yesterday evening at northside blended chill with interesting, offering a wind light but fickle which made for frequent surprise collapses while kiting. I also flew a wing sized between my usual one and the tiny high-winds-day one. I appreciate how varying the wing you employ forces a more data driven adaptivity. Flying by feel versus by vision or rote provides the greatest universality of approach. After practicing with a wing I spent a little time in the simulator playing with harness strap configurations and convincing myself that I can readily transition between hanging and seated positions during flight. Among other things Ben and I discussed selecting which hand to use for an ancillary task on the basis of knowing which hand needs to be at the ready for an urgent task, e.g. use your hill-side hand to help wiggle deeper into the harness seat so that your hill-opposite hand remains ready for an urgent steering task.

This evening’s northside conditions provided winds strong, gusty, and variable. To throw another wrench into the mix I also used yet another wing, one similar to my usual one but subtly different that I had used briefly during the earliest days of my training. It seemed to handle differently but who knows to what extent that also stemmed from differing conditions or differing pilot mind state.

In any case the most interesting facet resulted from the wind suddenly swinging from square to the hill to substantially across while I practiced on the finger. This entailed being pulled uncomfortably close to the ditch on either side. On the first such occasion I had a “fuck, fuck, FUCK!” moment where I thought I would be dragged into it, but just managed to get things under control. Uncomfortably and grossly unintuitively, in this situation you often need to run toward the ditch while pumping the appropriate brake to counter the wing tilt that is dragging you to your doom. After recovering from this tense moment I made a point of ensuring I could execute an emergency deflation with the C’s and quickly brought the wing down with reassuring smoothness. Happily I got to wrestle with the ditch-related conundrum repeatedly until what seemed terrifying the first time became utterly mundane by the tenth. Practice, practice, practice…

Another useful element of this evening involved the wing wanting to get over my head while I reverse kited. After I got comfortable putting in enough brake to prevent a wing collapse we tweaked the speed straps to amplify the risk of this occurring to force even more practice. I appreciate how with the right deliberate reconfiguration one can induce circumstances that aggressively target skill gaps. I wonder what other opportunities I can leverage as learning accelerants.

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