Paragliding Day 36

Morning

I began the day with optimism for the morning’s wind, then saw it blow past what I’m comfortable flying, then saw it attenuate to something reasonable. I hopped in my car and arrived to find conditions a bit light. Happily Chris was out with one of his students and so I was able to hitchhike on his trailer laps back to the top of the hill which afforded me the cycle time to squeeze in three sledders before the morning came to an end.

The first flight proved unremarkable. I had imagined I would kite for a little while but the wind was so light I opted to quickly spin around and launch. After a small number of turns I found myself at the bottom and touched down in vanilla fashion.

The second flight was also mostly unremarkable though the launch offered slight inelegance. My first inflation quickly collapsed for want of wind, I did not have much room to scoot backwards to keep it up short of going for an immediate launch, and I did not commit to that. On my second inflation things were smoother right up until a moment before launch when it started dumping left, I had exhausted my pre-lip runway, I briefly considered aborting, but I heard Chris shout “you got it!”, I simultaneously applied the necessary brake pressure and ran hard left and downward to both load the wing and square myself to it, and I was off. Nothing to report beyond that.

By the time I had set up for my third flight the wind had turned off and so I converted to a forward launch. By the time I had set up for that the wind had adopted the slightest tailward vector. These are marginal circumstances to launch but I’ve got a big wing that can handle it, I had done it once previously, and the consequences for screwing it up would be unpleasant but non-catastrophic. I heaved by body against the harness, felt the A’s come up alongside me, had a brief moment of horror as I found the wing carrying over my head before I had dumped the A’s, heard a guardian angel (Mark) shouting over my right shoulder “BRAKE! BRAKE! BRAKE!”, got them adequately applied in the nick of time, and then had a third and unremarkable flight. Well, except for my flare, which I put in just a little too early, which led to a slightly hard touchdown, my body cursing the jolt.

Evening

As I was journaling the morning’s exploits, anticipating a weaksauce northerly wind for the evening, I glanced at the WindAlert app and found that in fact a southerly wind had turned on again and so made my way back to the point for a southside twofer. In line with the morning’s experience the wind proved a bit of a tease and I could not replicate the experience of the one wing that had gone soaring just as I was arriving. Alas. And nonetheless I knocked out another three quality sledders in the time the wind cooperated thanks to generous community members and internal combustion engines.

My first flight proved unremarkable: a reverse inflation, a clean launch, a few smooth turns, and a touchdown roughly where I intended. I was satisfied with my performance but disappointed with the wind’s behavior. I stuffed the wing into its sack, strapped the sack to my back, and began my hike back up. No sooner than I had started my trek, however, I noted the pickup truck of another pilot making its way into the park bang a hard left into the lower parking lot, blaze over to where I was, and signal for me to get in. I tossed my pack into the back, jumped in next to it, and then held on for dear life and endeavored to use my legs as natural shock absorbers as Alex drove to the top like he was qualifying. Awwwww yeah. His generosity likely bought me the time for an extra flight this evening.

The start of my second flight offered a fair amount of excitement. The wind was getting light but I opted for a reverse inflation again then spun around and went for it. The wing started dumping to the right but I put in left brake, ran right and downward to load the wing and align myself with it, seemed to be getting things under control, then found myself dealing with the complexity of one of the park dogs running an intercept course and actually overtaking and somewhat boxing me in. In the course of navigating this situation my wing got uncomfortably ahead of me. I got in enough brakes to get going without incident, but yikes, twice in one day, so that’s something to ponder. The rest of the flight proved similar to the first flight and by the time I landed Chris was out with a student and the trailer was doing laps so I again returned to the top quickly.

By the time I was setting up for my final flight the windsock had died. I kicked the dirt and found just the slightest headwind. I performed a reverse inflation that I could probably have made work but I didn’t have the nerve to go for it. I reclaimed some runway to try for another reverse launch but this time I had not adequately unfurled my wing proactively to deal with so little wind and squandered my runway again to no effect. By this point I had resigned myself to having been too slow to make the current cycle of the trailer, took a few deep breaths to tamp down the frustration, carried my wing back to create adequate runway, made sure to fully unfurl it, and set myself up for a forward launch. I paused for a moment to put my head in the right place, then heaved my body against the harness, felt the wing become a wing, dropped the A’s, and sprinted over the lip of the hill while being super focused on maintaining reasonable brake pressure. Maybe I wanted a little more brake pressure, or maybe the wind was just the wind, but nonetheless I found myself whizzing over the ground with just inches to spare, then briefly “skiing” as I re-made contact with it, and finally lofting myself with a judicious addition of brakes. Woo! That was a little spicy but after getting going the rest of the flight was vanilla and undiscernible from the rest of the day’s flights.

Reflections

  1. A second wing would be valuable to ensure I always have a practice option at the hill
  2. The value of making mistakes in this controlled environment cannot be overstated
  3. I am grateful for the people whose attentiveness minimizes the expense of such lessons

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