Friday, June 29, 2007

2007 Bali Paragliding Tour, with Matty Senior

This September I am organizing a paragliding trip to Bali. Of all the places in the world I have flown, Bali is by far my favorite. It’s flyable about 28 out of 30 days during the dry season and is warm, tropical and cheap. There are three flying sites in Bali: Timbis, Candi Dasa and Mt Batur. Timbis is a 20km long ridge soaring site (Almost twice as long as Saddle Mt) that is flyable for about 6 hours a day. Candi Dasa is a 1000 foot high coastal mountain that also works on the trade winds of the dry season. Flying here usually involves soaring up to cloud base in butter smooth air and flying out over the ocean sometimes as high as 2000 feet. Mt Batur is a volcano in the center of the island and involves an early morning 1 hour hike to the summit. Flying from here will be an experience you’ll never forget. To see more about these flying sites check out the movies I made on YouTube. Enter mattysenior to find them.


The dates for the trip will be the 14th - 25th of September actually in Bali. China Airlines has the best price for the most efficient route to Bali, connecting through Taipei. It is possible to fly with 4 or 5 other airlines to Bali, but I think you’ll find they will either cost you more, or have you make more layovers on the way.

The cost of the trip is $750 per person and $550 for a second person sharing the same room. This includes:

  • Your own air conditioned room at the Puri Jimbaran for 7 nights.
  • 3 nights at the Pondok Bambu Seaside Bungalows in Candi Dasa. Sharing three person bungalows between two.
  • 1 night in a hotel at the base of Mt Batur.
  • At least one tandem flight at Timbis.
  • Pickup and drop off from the Denpasar Airport.
  • Vehicles, drivers and retrieval service.
  • Site guidance, and launch assistance from at least two instructors.
  • Breakfast everyday.
  • Optional side trips to some cool things to see in Bali:
  • Uluwatu Temple and Kecap Fire-Dancing ceremony
  • Dreamland beach
  • Ubud craft markets
  • Monkey Forest
  • Traditional Village
  • Snorkel or dive a wreck covered with reef and fish
  • Seafood banquet on the beach
  • World famous Uluwatu surfing beach

The max number of people will be twenty and a $200 deposit is required to secure a spot. I will be arriving in Bali at least 1 week ahead of schedule to organize the logistics and fly a little; if anyone wants or needs to arrive early, then that option is also available.

If anyone has any further questions about the trip, please feel free to contact me via email at



The Hazards and Solutions of Fort Ebey

Part one of a series

Story by John Kraske

Photographs by Karen Wallman.
When the weather fronts push in from the Pacific, load the western face of the Cascade Mountains with soggy, wet-wool looking clouds, and the rain gods give’m a tenacious ringing out, I find that my hopes are on the rise. These are the conditions that can be perfect for flying at Fort Ebey State Park on the western exposure of Whidbey Island. Yeah, I know you hardcore mountain pilots with the raging bull sized gonads probably wouldn’t be caught dead flying in the passive, laminar ridge lift at a kiddy fly site like Fort Ebey. But let me tell you that I’d rather be flying ridge lift than playing computer games or channel surfing the television. A flying wing gathers no mold. And, after a long wet off-season in the northwest, any kind of flying is a welcome relief. Whidbey Island isn’t that far of a drive. And I wouldn’t necessarily discount a flyable Fort Ebey as hazard free; there are challenges and hazards at The Fort as well. There are a few club members you could probably ask.
HAZARD: Probably the greatest hazard is that you drive all the way out there, including a twenty minute ferry ride and there is no wind, too little wind, too much wind, or wind from the wrong direction. If you’re riding with a chronically suffering cynic and it’s spring time, pull over to the side of the highway and kick’m out into one of the nettle patches that grow thick along the roadsides. Man, am I ever tired of hearing, “Whidbey sucks! I’ve been out there twenty times and never flown there once.” Whiners!
SOLUTION: There are several solutions. Bring along your mountain bike, your kayak, your family, your friends, a picnic lunch. ‘The Fort’ is one of those experiences that make me think of the term Halcyon Days of Summer. Regardless if it’s flyable or not, it’s a beautiful place.
Enjoying the parawaiting: Gordon, Mike, Darla, Andrei, Irina, John, Kevin, Bonnie and Bryce.
HAZARD: The second greatest hazard is when there is too much velocity in the wind, but it’s from the right direction, and you’re there with your paragliding pal with the big huevos and you want big ones too. You just might try to fly anyway and end up sorry that you succumbed to that adolescent-minded peer pressure. I know, I’ve done it. Nothing like a fourteen year old brain in a fifty year old body. Bad combination!
SOLUTION: Testosterone repression therapy requires the use of a leather mallet and a vise. Or maybe surgery would be better? Drugs?
HAZARD: When the westerlies blow into the cliffs at Partridge Point (that’s the name of this pristine piece of geography that Fort Ebey State Park is on) and parts, creating a headwind from the northwest until you cross the point where the U.S. Coast Guard navigational light sits. From there north you have a tail wind. Partridge Point has nothing to do with that Yule Tide bird in a Pear Tree. The third hazard is when the wind picks up. If this happens and you find yourself being blown back it is best to get low and out front, and go for a beach or side hill landing. I’ve witnessed pilots going into the trees because they were too high when the winds picked up. The wind gradient can be amazing here, despite how laminar and smooth it feels. Keep in mind that when the wind doubles in speed it quadruples in force. Basically, what that means is if you are flying in an 8 mph wind and it increases to 16 mph, the force will be four times greater than it was at 8 mph. Do the math; that’s 32 mph. If you’re flying in a 32 mph wind and going higher, you’re going to go backwards. There’s trees, bushes and rotor back there.
Still parawaiting
Still parawaiting.
SOLUTION: Remember you can always fly cross wind and penetrate when you can’t penetrate directly into the wind. Remember your speed system. Big ears can be great for speeding up your descent but on some wings they also can create drag, making your wing’s penetration even less. I’ve found that if I’m out in front and over the water I can pull ears to descend, then get on my speed bar and attempt to land close to the edge. There have been times when I’ve been out front of launch, pointed into the increasing wind at about twenty or thirty feet above the launch, put on full speed bar and pulled in ears letting the wind blow me in reverse until I’m sitting on the ground where I disable my wing.
During strong conditions, as you approach the landing zone from the west you hit a lift band that wants to take you up. If you approach this band slowly you will experience more lift. When the wind is strong I usually jam my speed bar to the max, bank hard into a downwind turn and penetrate this band of lift as fast as possible, banking around to face into the wind once I’m over my landing zone. If you come in too high you will experience the stronger wind that can push you back into the trees behind your proposed landing zone. This penetrating technique has worked well for me; it’s as if the ridge lift creates a protective wall once you are low and behind it. The stronger wind tends to push hard above this protective wall of lift. Some refer to the wind passing over the lift band as venturi or shear. Whatever you call it, it can be strong.
During one of my first flights at Fort Ebey the wind had picked up and I had to run south and around the corner of the upper bench. I landed on the side of the hill facing southwest on a sandy slide area. The next time I attempted this, the wind changed to even more cross from the north and I experienced horizontal rotor close in to the southwest facing cliff face. That’s what happens when the wind hits the cliff face at a cross angle of 45 degrees or less. I’d recommend watching out for rotor once you round the corner of the southern bench. It can be a real problem when there is more north than west in the wind.
A word of warning: Do not attempt more than one new maneuver at a time. Become familiar with your speed system and doing “big ears” before you attempt combining the two. And, certainly never fly when you are anxious. Anxiety is an accident looking for a place to happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tiger Pilot Wins North American Vol Bivy Championship

Submitted by an anonymous sports writer loosely affiliated with major sports magazine.

In spite of some pre-competition confusion regarding television coverage and an apparent boycott by the Canadian VB team, the North American Vol Bivy Championship (NAVBC) came off without a hitch over the three day Memorial Day weekend. The relatively new sport of Vol Bivy involves a combination of paragliding, hiking, and camping. The camping is generally done in a minimalist fashion that can involve as little as a bivouac sack (large nylon bag) and a couple of Power Bars. Scoring involves a complex formula that combines hiking times, distance flown, number of launch points attained, successful launches, safe landings, hitchhiking adventures, flying with animals, bivouac cooking, and bivouac story telling. The rumor of extra points being awarded for flying in loincloths proved to be unfounded.
Pic 1

Saturday morning registration. Photo by Rich McManus.

Registration was held at the Mazama General Store with the support of local volunteers. An enthusiastic crowd of onlookers showed up to check out this new sport. However, when all was said and done only five competitors completed the lengthy release form, paid the insurance premium, and picked up the list of waypoints. The official registrants were Bob Rinker, Stefan Mitrovich, Mark Heckler, Rich McManus, and John Clifford.

The race started at Washington Pass and included launches from Early Winter Spires, Goat Peak, Bowen Peak, and two unnamed peaks in the Methow Valley. After the first leg of the competition, the hike up snow slopes to the crest of a glacial circ just north of the Early Winter Spires, Bob and Stefan were in the lead. But that quickly changed when Rich tossed out his wing and took to the sky ahead of the pack.

Pic 2

Early NAVBC leaders. Photo by Rich McManus.

Rich picked up successful launch and safe landing points to cement his early lead, but that quickly changed when Stefan bagged extra points for a landing that attracted spectator attention. Stefan’s lead lasted only minutes when John caught a thermal and made a bold XC flight over remote and rugged terrain to Mazama. Bob closed on John’s lead by picking up hitchhiking adventure points. The race committee awarded points for his story about being picked up by the two midgets with the monkey, but openly discussed changing the rules for next year’s competition to require documentation of all hitchhiking stories.

Pic 3

Looks safe to me… Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

Pic 4

Run! Run! Run! Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

Pic 5

High over the Cascades. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The competition continued with a flight from Goat Peak. All competitors picked up safe launch and landing points. Bob and Stefan caught thermals and flew to the first bivy waypoint. Mark chose to employ an unusual paragliding competition strategy. He chose not to fly – deftly guaranteeing his survival to compete in the first night bivy and the second flying day.

Mark’s unusual strategy proved genius. Early into the evening of the first bivouac Mark’s cooking and stories moved him into a solid lead. His grilling skill and superior story telling abilities were too much for John, who packed it in and chose not to compete in days two and three. The field was down to four.

Pic 6

Bivouac site. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The second day of the competition started at 5:30 am. Bob, Stefan, and Mark hiked off toward an unnamed peak. Rich chose to pick up additional bivouac points and stayed in bed. Safe launch and landing points were picked up by the fliers. Mark picked up bonus points for flying animals – he flew with his dog, Toby.

Pic 7

Landing with Toby. Photo by Rich McManus.

The afternoon flight on day two was winded-out and gave the competitors some time off. The action shifted to the evening bivouac. Mark, again, dominated the bivouac competition on day two. He picked up solid points for his stories about having attended the Winthrop Rodeo that afternoon, and bivouac cooking points for his famous barbeque chicken. After the day two bivy, Bob had the lead with Mark close behind.

Pic 8

Bivy hardships. Photo by Rich McManus.

Day three again started at 5:30 am. The pilots employed their strategies from day two. Bob, Stefan, and Mark hiked off to another unnamed peak. Rich chose to pick up additional bivouac points and stayed in bed. Those who flew picked up safe launch and landing points. Mark’s canine flying abilities led to another lead change. He edged ahead of Bob in total points.

Pic 9

Bob Rinker landing at goal after an early morning flight from an unnamed peak. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The competition came down to the last flight; an afternoon launch from Bowen Peak. Mark’s lead held after all competitors completed their hike to the launch point. In less than ideal launch conditions Bob took off. In a flight reminiscent of Mark’s rodeo stories, Bob bounced XC in gusty winds toward the final waypoint. Not knowing the exact scoring algorithm and whether a safe landing was necessary to take the lead, and fearing for his life, Bob reportedly debated throwing his reserve over a small lake to bring the flight to an end. But chose instead to ride it out and bag those safe landing points if possible.

Pic 10

Mark Heckler documenting the final flight of the competition. Photo by Rich McManus.

Pic 11

Bob Rinker waiting for the right turbulent cross-wind conditions for launch. Photo by Rich McManus.

Pic 12

Bob Rinker’s NABVC winning flight. Photo by Rich McManus.

Bob’s strategy worked. Mark could not find any animals willing to make a flight in the gusty conditions that prevailed. Rich and Stefan were out of the running. Bob Rinker was the first North American Vol Bivy Champion. Mark Heckler was a close second. Stefan Mitrovich third.

Planning has already begun for next year’s event.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cross Country in Turkey

Story by Matty Senior:

I think the thing I love about cross country flying the most is that every flight is like taking a holiday, an excursion to a place you have never visited. As a perpetual traveler I love arriving in a strange country, a place surrounded by the unfamiliar and the challenges involved with communicating with the people and finding your way around a foreign land. When your feet touch the ground after a cross country flight, whether it’s in your own back yard or somewhere new, the adventure is normally only just beginning.

Turkey 1

I have been in Turkey two weeks now and have had some amazing cross country adventures. One day the mountains began to over develop so I pushed out in to the flat lands of this massive valley to keep a safe distance between me and the cumulus nimbus cloud, and the subsequent rain. As the flat lands were working well I had a pleasant flight, landing about 25 miles away. The area I landed in was all rural and a mixture of wheat and other crops, and a few farm houses.

But with four hours of light remaining I wasn’t too worried. After folding up my wing I began my walk along a dusty farmers’ road; within minutes I was greeted by a smiley old guy on a tractor who then offered me a ride on the back of his tractor (or at least that’s what I think he said). For about six or seven miles I stood with one foot on his tow hitch and the other dangling in the air, alternating feet every few minutes for comfort. He eventually dropped me at the intersection of a not so busy sealed road, where I sat there for about half an hour watching the cumulus clouds in the distance decay as the day began to dry up.

Turkey 2

Although a few cars passed by, none stopped to the wave of my thumb, not because they didn’t want to; none seemed to have room. Eventually three young guys on two small motor bikes passed me, going the opposite direction. After circling back and asking me a few friendly questions in some very broken English they offered me a ride. I rode on the back of the bike for about 45 minutes as they worked together to try and put a few more words of English together they had obviously learnt at school and forgotten, asking me various questions along the way. After dropping me at the door to my hotel I tried to give them money for gas, buy them a beer, anything at all to show my appreciation for taking me so far out of their way, but they refused to take anything and just seemed happy to help out a stranger.