Paragliding Day 77

On Sunday morning I arrived at FPS shortly after 0900, noted some seriously crack-a-lackin wind up top (20-25MPH), pulled into the parking lot below, preemptively dumped my tank at the porta-potty (which apparently went for a flight in today’s 50G60), and was hooked into my wing by ~0930 for some bottom-hill practice.

I have found that 20-25MPH wind atop reliably creates just barely manageable combat kiting conditions below for my P2-rated ~300lb body strapped to a 37m tandem wing. I spent an invigorating and exhausting hour kiting in conditions regularly on the verge of plucking me and continually trying to hurl my wing into the ground. I am happy to report that despite the turbulent conditions my wing only reached the ground when I chose to allow it for want of a break. I mostly stayed on raw brakes and by the end my abs were burning from how hard I had to pull to stay on the ground and how rapidly I had to dance to stay under the wing. These be some weird ass cross-fit shenanigans where the equipment has a mind of its own.

By ~1000 Joe had parlayed one of his side-hill launches into some out-front soaring that looked fun and reasonably safe but caused me some concern. He was maintaining good distance from the hill and substantial clearance from the ground but I did not love the confluence of signals I was seeing. Spring is a notoriously messy season to fly, we’re both without experience flying in the spring, we were 2.5 hours after sunrise on a clear-sky day, the wind was quite strong (19G21), I was getting micro-plucked even being at the very bottom, and the seven wings aloft consisted of six hang-gliders and one paraglider (him). Nothing noteworthy happened to him, and I’ll admit to being mildly jealous, but we spoke at length afterward about how both of us should be reasoning about risk.

It’s hard to know whether some of our occasional out-of-sync’ness stems from my having a lower baseline tolerance for risk, my having recently had an extremely unsettling experience, his having had more time under wing, or some combination thereof. We’re also flying quite a lot which pushes two factors in opposite directions to unknown relative degrees: flying a lot keeps you current and progressing but simultaneously piles onto cumulative risk. Three nines reliability for catastrophic outcomes seems pretty safe unless you log one thousand flights.

Meanwhile Ariel was beginning his drive back to WA after four glorious months sojourning in the area. I’m sad to see him go but grateful for the mentorship I received owing to his visit. He arrived just as my P2 training under Ben was wrapping and thus provided a continuity of tutelage that doubtless played an outsized role in keeping me on a good path. The handful of home cooked meals I could offer as recompense seem inadequate to his tirelessly good-natured support. He represents the very best of this community.

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