I woke at 0600 to wind that looked light and swirly but held onto hope and flowed through my morning routine. By 0730 conditions had settled on a nicely building southerly wind. We dialed in an 0845 southside meetup and… when I arrived the wind had attenuated to just a hint of south and there were no wings in the air. Wah. At first I thought the trip may have been a bust as yesterday afternoon had been, albeit in that case because the wind went too spicy for sensible humans, but in fact I managed to get in three nice “sled rides” that offered solid practice for spot landings.
During each flight I got going pretty quickly, followed a right-left-right track, landed in the left half of the parking lot where I intended, and hit the ground in a smooth run. The consistency felt great. On each flight Ben kept his radio communications close to zero to see how I did on my own and that proved a fine and satisfying thing.
Post landing I experienced some variance in collapsing the wing, on one occasion nailing it flawlessly, on another occasion putting it down messily to one side, and on yet another occasion tripping over a rock while struggling to outrun the deflating wing and almost faceplanting. Likely the biggest takeaway here involves the need to maintain quality brake pressure all the way to the end, much like as in powered flight you ought maintain back-pressure on the yoke post-touchdown.
The main portion of the flights were all very similar with the crux being letting myself be a bit uncomfortable, firstly holding my base leg until my brain was screaming at me to turn so I would not end up on a final leg with a glut of altitude, and secondly flaring harder than I had every done previously to bleed off speed quickly, in both cases to deal with the minimal wind yielding a relatively high ground speed.
Where I experienced the most meaningful variance were my take-offs. On the first one it actually went entirely smoothly but I was unsure if I was being smart in the moment. I had reverse inflated, spun around, gotten to the ledge, found the wing starting to tip to the left, and slammed on the gas in a commitment to launch. Ben remarked that in that situation the key is to commit either 100% or 0% to launching and that my choice of the former had looked reasonable. On the second one I did not maintain enough lift on the A’s and/or commit to running, let the wing fall, had to reset, then had to deal with a short runway, but subsequently did fine. On the third launch I performed the most messily, finding the wing dumping to the right, and finding myself doing pretty much the opposite of what I needed, both applying exacerbating right brake pressure as well as starting to shuffle laterally to the right, but I had just enough bandwidth to process Ben shouting “ease off the right brake!”, did as much and started running hard downhill, got my feet off the ground, and then had a final solid flight.
Back at the top the wind sock had collapsed and a kick of the dirt revealed that the wind had gone subtly northerly. Since launching with a tailwind is a recipe for a bad time we called it done.
Clearly decoupling hand inputs from leg-and-torso circumstances offers a huge area of potential improvement for me. I need to remedy issues there to prevent small problems from becoming self-reinforcing.
At first the afternoon forecast proffered nice looking wind but as the appointed time approached the expected outcome converged on some northside sled rides to hone the spot landing skills, doubtless a worthy use of my time, but soaring would not be in the offing, much less benching.
I arrived at the hill ~1545, set up in a timely but unhurried fashion, performed a reverse inflation, then spun around and launched without note. I swung right, then left, then right, then performed repeating S-turns to converge on my landing spot. There really wasn’t much to it. I landed a tad long of my aiming point, but not much, performed a solidly vanilla deflation of the wing, and then waited for Steve to come in and gave him a high-five as he touched down slightly short of where I did.
Back at the top I set up and got going again in an utterly banal fashion. Drama free launches for the win. After a few turns, however, I found myself in a somewhat complex situation. Steve had launched after me and yet found himself sinking far more aggressively than me. As I executed a rightward turn to set myself up for a final-ish approach I saw Steve, having recently completed a similar turn but ahead of me, on an uncomfortably close trajectory and so I curtailed my turn at ninety degrees and held a course perpendicular and away from the hill momentarily to give him clearance. Looking over my right should I waited for him to pass my position then swung ~135 degrees rightward back toward the hill. I saw Steve sinking well below what would be an issue for me and thus returned my focus solely to myself. After some time I swung ~135 degrees leftward to line myself up for my desired landing spot and… yikes, it got a little bit spicy owing to some variable uphill wind. For a moment I found myself whizzing over a downhill segment with a trivial bit of altitude but I applied just enough brake to stay clear of a premature and down-slope landing. To do so I then found myself a bit uncomfortably lofted at the very end of my approach but I stayed calm, maintained a steady break pressure until a just-in-time aggressive flare, and hit the ground running hard and but smoothly. There was a LOT going on during this landing setup but I never felt like I was in over my head and that felt pretty awesome.
Afterward Ben asked me to come over to his house to complete some paperwork. And just like that I had my P2 Paragliding Certification. BOOM.