I got to the paragliding landing zone yesterday and realized that I had forgotten to bring sunscreen. When we got home almost twelve hours later, Russ took one look at my face and started humming "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".
By the end of last year's flying season, we were prepared. We had a cooler and reusable ice packs and Advil and bandaids and sunscreen and hats and extra clothing and bug spray and wet wipes and napkins and a variety of foods in a picnic bag with silverware and plates, all pre-packed and ready to toss in the car at 6 AM. The off-season has made us a bit lazy, however, and this weekend's paragliding activities had us scrambling just to make sure we had the basics: water and charged radios.
This weekend was a three-part adventure. Friday morning, we went to the park for slope soaring as a warm-up. Russ, Craig, and I arrived at about 7 AM and got almost 2 hours of practice in. I had my first reverse launch as well as a good forward launch. Russ and Craig both got some good airtime. Russ got about twenty feet off the ground a couple of times - very difficult in a park.
Friday afternoon, we were off to a different park for kiting. This year's new crop of students were there too, but I didn't get to chat with them much, as I was working hard. Kiting my paraglider hasn't quite clicked for me yet, but with a lot of Russ' help, I got the wing up and briefly stabilized a couple of times. Since Russ is interested in becoming an Apprentice Instructor for iParaglide, this was good practice for him and very helpful for me.
Me and my wing, momentarily in perfect balance:
Saturday morning, we were off to the mountain. It was a bit of a different day, where the new paragliding Apprentice Instructors-to-be were learning how to be landing instructors by taking turns pretending to be the student and being the landing coach on radio. Russ and three other pilots were doing the training under the Senior Paragliding Instructor's supervision. They got three or four flights in each. Unfortunately, I am not completely self-landing - a requirement for playing a student in case the instruction goes wonky - so I didn't get to fly, but I learned a lot watching all the landings. In addition to our group, there were probably a couple of dozen other wings in the air at any one time and several people landed near us, so we got to meet some more experienced pilots.
Russ guides fellow pilot Degas in to landing:
To be a landing coach you have to be able to accurately judge where the paraglider is in relationship to the edges of the field and how high the pilot is. You also have to figure out how fast they'll come down doing certain manoeuvres, so you can get them to where they need to be when they touch down. I can't imagine doing it myself, but all of the apprentice instructors were doing great by the end of the day. I think the next step is landing actual students under the supervision of an experienced landing coach, and they all seemed ready to do it. Weather permitting, some might be doing it as soon as next weekend.
Weather permitting, I'll be flying next weekend!
Spending the day on the landing zone also gave me an opportunity to watch a lot of paragliders in the air. Many people, including Russ, were getting lift off the ridge and catching thermals. It is very beautiful and peaceful to watch.
We had a really nice view of a very experienced local pilot showing off some superior gliding skills: