On Sunday evening I resolved to wake early enough to exploit what might prove a narrow band of fortuitous southerly wind just after dawn.
Come Monday morning, however, the wind looked wild and so I took my time, eventually arriving at FPS at 0830.
Seeing only a single lonely hang glider aloft I pulled into the bottom parking lot.
The wind up top was ripping sufficiently violently that I doubted even the safety of side-hill launches and so focused myself on simply kiting at the very bottom. And, if venturing into the wilder winds above felt inadequately foolhardy, the mob of students arrayed near the bottom of the training hill sealed my decision. Hard pass. I can appreciate why some of the more seasoned pilots have expressed a reticence to be at this flight park at all come Spring.
I was inflating my 37m at the bottom at 0845 when the wind at the top was 22G25. This is about the limit of what I can do comfortably on this size wing and I was on the cusp of being plucked more than once even at such a remove. And yet…
I had perhaps the best kiting session I have ever managed. I realized that, despite wind of wildly variable direction and intensity, I could keep my wing up indefinitely. In the end my bladder would prove the limiting factor. My hands danced between raw brakes and center As, my posture proactively adopted a seated stance, I employed opposite brake-and-A, and my legs danced both side-to-side and forward-and-backward in a way that ensured the wing always did my bidding. Whoah… I experienced this as a huge quantum of improvement. Just like that an assortment of techniques suddenly collectively crossed a critical threshold and the experience flowed.
At 0915 the wind briefly quiesced, my wing expressed a desire to descend, and I obliged it not just by staying off the As but also by running hard to the right to spoil its wind alignment while furthermore switching from raw brakes to brake toggles and subsequently spinning my wrists rapidly so they reeled in brakes like a trawler bringing in the nets.
Conditions were a bit wild and the wing was big but I always maintained full control and that felt really good. FPS is kind of awesome for the range of configurations it supports. What I was doing in this moment would have been reckless had I been at the top with the hoods of cars just tens of feet away but in this controlled environment at the bottom I could test and stretch the limits of my ability in a low-risk fashion. Win.