Monday, the Italian paragliding routine here in Bassano Del Grappa continues with one slight variation. The east wind from the evening before is persisting and requires a relocation in terms of launches.
Which brings us to...
This south east facing paragliding launch site is maybe five gliders wide and three gliders long with a steep grade, tall uncut grass, and framed at the bottom by thorned bushes and 10 meter tall trees.
What's there not to love about Costalunga?
Reality is, given a good wind, all I need is enough room to lay out and take two steps. That knowledge and confidence comes from experience. But experience gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.
Simply put, to the inexperienced, this site can be intimidating.
Costalunga is a test. One of many new pilots will face as they grow their experience base, reducing the need to fall though the overdraft flow of judgement->skill->luck->insurance. The test of the sort Costalunga provides has a. and b. answer options:
Do we trust our knowledge of wind interaction with terrain to chose the optimal layout location and orientation? Do we trust out knowledge of paraglider preparation to ensure the glider is laid out in such a manner that we have span wise tension on the leading edge and that the wing tips are arranged to ensure an even inflation? Do we trust our launch skills to the degree that we will bring glider up evenly, on heading, with surge check, and start an aggressive run. Do we trust our connection with the glider to the degree that we can sense something is off and have the ability to correct it or abort immediately?
If the answer to any of these is no, then fear begins to enter the equation. Fear, the insidious negator of skill, can quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy for a paraglider pilot.
Overcoming fear first requires identification. Is the fear rational or irrational. Irrational fear is a nervousness of the unknown masking our ability to accurately judge our skill level against the challenge standing before us.
This fear can be quickly crushed by one simple question, "Why am I afraid?"
With this question, we change the fear into a rational one by identifying short comings in our skill and go about correcting them. If there are shortcomings, we need to ground ourselves for this flight and head back to the more controlled environment of a training hill, so we can polish our skills and come back empowered. Or alternatively, we may negate the fear by realizing that our judgment and skill bases are up to the task, we simply hadn't synergized our toolset to face this particular type of challenge before.
Fear, fear is important. It allows us to find holes in our skill base and correct them. Filling these holes enables us to build trust both in ourselves and our equipment, so that when we face the test again, we can confidently chose a. and get on with having an amazing flight.
So when faced with the unknown and doubt begins to creep in, ask "Why am I afraid?".
As for Costalunga, not so intimidating anymore.