The past week’s stubbornly uncooperative weather made for a maddening paragliding drought just as I felt multiple skills had fused at a new level. This morning’s wind seemed set to disappoint again but then mid-morning suddenly proved promising. When a strong and gusty northerly wind at southside finally spun around to a southerly direction and began picking up I jumped in my car and hurried over.
I arrived at the hill at 0930 and set up as fast as I could, knowing that the window of opportunity would likely be narrow, and after a couple of inflations that petered out I arrived at the edge, spun forward, and fought my way to a launch. I was in for a slump-breaking treat and probably spent the whole flight with a shit eating grin on my face. Later in the day I would find out that Ben had gotten some nice shots of the affair from the top of the hill as he played ATC for me and Steve.
The wind offered a fair amount of turbulence but I also repeatedly insinuated myself into thermals that buoyed me ever upward and well over my launch site.
After many rising turns the wind began both to pulse and get overall weaker so I found myself vectoring toward the bottom. Things got fairly interesting as I attempted to set up my landing. On one occasion when I imagined I was setting up for a final approach the wind lofted me substantially and so I cheated back toward the hill and made another circuit. On a subsequent occasion I found another pilot on the vector I wanted to take and so I endeavored to stay high and clear. Eventually I acquired what seemed to be a solid approach for the aiming point tarp but then had the wind suddenly quit on me. It cut out early enough that my approach still proved smooth, just short, and I hit the ground at a nice trot, continued running forward to stabilize the wing, spun around to face it, and then put it down as cleanly as I ever had. How wonderful this all felt.
When I arrived back at the top Ben pointed at my ridiculous grin and remarked to someone else “this is my job!”. What a wonderful feeling this was for both of us. Utah is a magical place to visit but living here unlocks a whole other plane of existence.
Having offered me this one glorious flight the wind abruptly went wonky and we decided that a good use of our time was a kiting demonstration by Ben. He strapped into Steve’s gear, repeatedly deliberately messed the wing up, and then demonstrated how to save it, playing the lines like a master harpist. This really drove home that on pretty much all the occasions I am losing the wing that the situation was quite recoverable and I simply need to level up my game.
As I think about things I would like to improve from today the following come to mind:
- Maintain more altitude on final approach and bleed it off at the last possible moment
- Be more self-reliant about traffic awareness on launch so I can launch safely alone
- Fight the wing less while kiting, running more proactively under it when it tilts way over
What a morning!