Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wings over Whidbey

Written by Ashley Guberman:

Today was a great day flying at Whidbey once the winds died down just a tad from their more forceful morning gusts. I arrived around 12:30 in the afternoon to find that there were maybe 25 pilots either scattered about the launch area, else huddled in masses for warmth. Believing that it would take a while for the winds to calm, I went for a hike to the North towards lake Pondilla and back. When I returned, it was closer to flying conditions, but still quite strong for me.

At one point while trying to kite, I asked Jim Martin for some pointers with launching in the higher winds, as he had been up and down with several flights already that day. Despite some comments that he was a rather large fellow flying on a smaller “girls” wing, the truth is that he was flying while the rest of us mostly stood around and watched. Jim helped me out by suggesting I not even hold the brakes, but instead just use the D’s as sparingly as possible, and that I keep my butt on the ground longer rather than standing up when the wind pulls me forward. My first attempt in the higher winds was less than admirable, and he said that I might do better if I were blindfolded and just felt the wing rather than looking at it. I was not sure if that was a commentary on my poor performance, or if he was about to go Obe-Wan-Kenobe on me by pulling a visor over my head.

Fortunately it didn’t come to that, and his advice and coaching was highly valuable and quickly put to use on my next try. I got the wing over head by staying on my butt as long as I could, allowing my tush to be dragged rather than standing up with the pull of the wing. Then, still kiting from my keister, a gust came that took me to my feet and then airborne. Thanks to Jim’s coaching, I was able to remain in the reverse position rather than being twisted forwards like so often happened before with me.

Whereas I might have merely kited for a while before going over the edge of the cliff with the tide in so far, Jim then pushed me forward through the air, into the lift-band and at long last I was airborne again for my first flight of the year. This is only significant because just one week earlier I made a hike up Tiger mountain with my wing later in the day over a snow and ice covered trail because I was so desperate for a flight. But by the time I got up top, the still-air experienced by those who flew earlier had turned katabatic, forcing me to hike back down again over snow and ice covered trails and in the dark. So I was definitely ready for this flight on Whidbey.

Once airborne, staying aloft was quite easy and I made multiple trips up and down the coastline, making sure to keep myself up and away from the top of the ridge despite my discomfort with flying over the ocean. I had learned the importance of doing so during a previous trip to Whidbey last year when I managed to get a little too high and got blown backwards well over the trees. In that flight, I was extremely lucky to have sunk low enough with big-ears and penetrated forward enough to have narrowly escaped landing atop one of Whidbey’s very tall and pointy trees.

No, this flight was far more mundane by comparison with the exception of when one pilot whose name shall go unmentioned wanted to fly with our wingtips way too close for my comfort and kept following me to the South as I tried to move away. Other than that, I was airborne for probably 45 minutes of pure joy up until it was time to land. However, between the rotor on the south end of the field, many people milling around, some gliders spread out in piles, and many others over people’s head as they continued kiting, my approach on final was more like a three-dimensional game of Tetris than a runway. And once on the ground, the trick was to find a wind-sheltered spot that wasn’t covered in poop where I could fold the glider. Fortunately, most of the poop was surrounded by circles of rocks, making the piles easier to see. What I don’t understand is why dogs that have been trained to poop inside those tiny circles can’t learn to go directly into a plastic bag, but that’s another story that’s probably been visited more than once already.

So was it worth the almost two hour drive both ways for just 45 minutes of flying today? Well, when you factor in the time spent with so many of my fellow pilots, landing right around the time that the sun set to the west with a barely visible sliver of the moon on the east, learning a few things from some generous coaching, and just the chance to shake the dust from my wing, yes, it was definitely worth it.

Note: this story was originally published here:

Monday, January 15, 2007

2006 Awards Gala

The NW Paragliding Club 2006 Award Gala was held on January 5th at the Bellevue Meydenbauer Center. Many thanks goes out to Cheryl Cardwell who organized the event this year along with the help of many others.

The Awards
Cheryl is a creative mastermind. She came up with this idea to make the table top decorations out of the awards. Along with the help of a few others, she created the 2006 Award Snow Globes. They were very creative and definitely something to display on a desk, coffee table, or mantle. I’ve created the folder 2006 NWPC Awards Gala on the Yahoo Group list and I’ve posted a few of Chris Amonson’s photos. I hope you can catch a glimpse of a few of the snowglobe awards. And the winners are…

  • Tree Sticker – Dave Byrne
  • Top Gun – Meredyth Malocsay
  • Golden Snorkle – Ashley Guberman
  • Rookie of the Year – Andy Wood
  • Darwin Award – YOU! US! There were definitely a lot of Darwin moments in 2006.
  • Competitor of the Year – Andrei Akaikine
  • Flight of the Year – Dave Wheeler and Doug Stroop
  • Volunteer of the Year – Bob Hannah
  • President’s Award – Rich Hass

A special award, The Golden Eagle, was presented to Tom Allen for 10 years of service to the Northwest paragliding community.

The 2nd Annual Media Awards got a slow start this year but ended up with quite a few entries and some solid competition. The winners are:

  • Best “In Air” Image: “Me and my mate” by Matt Senior
  • Best People Image: “CJ about to launch at Patillos, Northern Chile” by George Sturtevant
  • Best Weather or Nature Image: “Kaikora Storm” by Matt Amend
  • Best “Manipulated” Image: “Mars Launch” by Karen Wallman
  • Best “Classic” Image: “Lawrence soaring under the sun after a day of fog at the Fort” by Dan Nelson
  • Best Short Video 2006 (People’s Choice): “Hardcore” by Matt Amend

You can see all the images submitted here:

Congratulations to all the award winners this year and thank you for coming out to celebrate a successful 2006 with us.

Again, thank you to everyone who contributed to putting the gala together this year!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Christmas in Hawaii, with Matt Cone

Stephanie and I took our first paragliding road trip. We have traveled to Hawaii many times before, but not since we became pilots this past summer. To make things interesting, we decided to camp for the two weeks on the North Shore of Oahu. Gear for family of four camping trip! There is some flying on Maui and the Big Island, but Oahu is the primary flying island with some 14 sites to fly. At least one site is working most days. As we are both newer P2 pilots, with limited experience flying without our posse of NW veteran pilots, we decided to hire a guide to help us navigate the various sites. We researched the Hawaii Paragliding site: and contacted one of the local guides “Brazilian Ray” who was perfect for our needs. Ray flies most days on the various Oahu sites after spending his mornings diving with tourists. On our first day in Hawaii, Ray met us at the incredible Kuaola Park for some kiting and basic refresher. We had not flown since the Chelan Halloween Fly in and needed to brush the rust off. The winds in this park are perfect for kiting. The famous “chinamen’s hat” island is just off shore. Our gliders made for great tourist shots from the many Japanese groups who stopped on their tour buses. We felt like celebrities posing for pictures here.
Steph kiting at Kualoa Park
After the kiting, Ray declared it was time to hit Kahana Valley for some airtime. I had had a picture of the Kahana valley with paragliders on my pc for several months as my screen saver as a way of picturing this moment. Kahana is considered the “easy site” and is where the locals take most visiting pilots for their first Oahu flights. The valley is amazingly beautiful. The launch is about a 15 minute hike up a spine. There isn’t much space at the launch, but with my kiting practice that morning, I managed a perfect launch. The winds were super smooth and with no time, I had climbed to about 1700 feet and was soaring back and forth along the amazing ridge. My longest flight to that point had been about an hour at Tiger, this flight lasted an hour and half and was simply perfect! The LZ is at the beach, which was a bit tricky but very doable.

Climbing above Kahana LaunchKahana LZ
On Christmas morning, Steph our two daughters and I woke at 6am to catch a boat to swim with sharks. Ray had hooked us up with a group that takes people out three miles off shore and drops a steel cage in the water. You jump into the cage and then they throw fish chum around the cage. In seconds, twelve 7 foot sharks were circling our cage and fighting over the fish chunks. A great way to spend Christmas morning.Christmas afternoon we were invited to join the local pilots for a BBQ Fly-in at Makapuu, the main Oahu site. Makapuu is fairly close to Honolulu and is a famous body surfing beach area. I had read about the crazy launches at this site and was a bit nervous about flying there, but figured we would check it out and at least meet the locals. Upon arrival at Makapuu, Ray brought us to see pilots launch from “Crazy Man Launch”. The locals really don’t like to hike to launch and Crazy Man is perfect for them. The launch is literally feet from the road; pilots set up their gliders on the guardrail below the power lines. The launch is about 60 feet above the water. Once launched, there is strong lift that allows them to climb quickly to the top ridge. My P2 status did not qualify for Crazy Man status!
Crazy Man’s Launch
Instead, we were sent to the “easy” launch, Tomato Patch. Getting to Tomato Patch was a very challenging 35 minute hike up a cliff face holding onto tree roots. Once at launch, which was 2 feet thick of bush, you find a clothesline to which you clip your leading edge with laundry clips. I watched one guy launch with little effort once setup, so I felt certain I could follow. My launch was a bit rough, but once out it was terrific. The air again was super smooth and ridge lift was very consistent. After an hour, I was feeling the need to hit the men’s room and have something to eat, so landed and met a lot of great local pilots at the BBQ.
Tomato Patch LaunchSoaring above Makapuu
The last few days of our stay on Oahu had very strong winds, which we didn’t feel comfortable flying in. So we surfed, watched the big waves at Bonsai Pipeline and Sunset beach and prepared for our return flight to Seattle. The day we were to leave was perfect for flying however. We were pretty bummed we had to leave on a early afternoon flight. The flying gods were with us however; in the morning, Hawaiian Airlines called to say that our flight had been pushed back to a red-eye and for our troubles they would give us free flight coupons for a future flight! We hung up, got on the phone with Brazilian Ray who informed us Kahana was working and that we should meet him for the day. Our two girls took wonderful tandems that day with Ray, and I managed 2 ½ hours of ridge soaring.
Flying in Kahana Valley
We definitely caught the flying vacation bug on this trip. We were able to weave flying in with great times surfing, hiking and sunning in the islands. We camped the two weeks at a terrific site Malaekahana Park. We met some wonderful local pilots as well as visiting pilots from British Columbia. If anyone needs some info on Oahu, feel free to contact me.
Our campsite at Malaekahana