Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beginner Speed Flying. My 60 seconds of simple bliss

By Steph Cone:

If you were anywhere near Seattle on MLK Day, no matter what you were doing you will remember it was one of those crisp, sunny days that we Seattleites consider a fragile gift in the month of January. Chances are, if you were fortunate enough to see off in the distance to the east, west or south you stopped for a moment and said “WOW!” as those stunning mountains presented themselves in all their magnificent glory. I’ll never forget what I was doing that day. Under that crystal clear blue sky, surrounded by the idyllic snow covered rolling hills, breathing in the fresh cold air, bright sunshine kissing my face. I had the opportunity to try speed flying at “The Ranch” in Cashmere, WA.

Apparently there are only a few folks speed flying in the US and an even smaller handful of women. I’ve never done anything to be just one of a few doing it…although for some reason lately, that is happening more and more. Under the tutelage of paragliding instructors Doug Stroop and Denise Reed, I felt safe and confident that this was going to be one of the most fun things I’d ever done. Along with two other speed flying newbies, Sinead Pollom and my life adventure partner Matt Cone I set out for an afternoon of pure, unadulterated fun in the sun, snow and air.

Two at a time, we get pulled up to the top of Glory on our skis, holding onto a rope behind a snowmobile water ski style. Heck, this was exhilarating in itself. Here you have one of those situations where you just hold on and trust that you can do this. We needed some decent speed on the incline to breakthrough the fresh powder. Once at the top, I unpacked my crinkly blue, green and white, 12 meter Ozone Bullet, harnessed up, hooked in, set up for a forward launch, gawked at breathtaking view, and waited for instruction. I’d never actually seen speed flying in person, just on youtube, and well, you have to start somewhere. The set up process certainly felt familiar, and being a competent skier and a P2 pilot with about a hundred flights, I was by far more excited than nervous. Sinead went first as she had done this before, and its usually a good idea to watch someone else go first when you’ve never ski-hucked yourself off a hill under a 12 meter canopy.
Ozone Bullet

Site briefing. Light to no wind. Soaking it all in, my senses nearly on overload. Doug gives me the pre-flight once over, some useful advice and asks me if I’m ready. Some helpful instructions from Denise, and I am ready. Since our launch begins on a slight slope, Doug gives me a little extra umpf by pulling me forward by the harness, skis pointed straight, canopy comes up fast and I’m on my way down the hill. Under the canopy, making ever so slight brake adjustments, or at least trying to, getting a feel for the wing overhead, still on the ground, picking up speed, the swoosh and crunch of my skis on the hard packed snow, picking up more speed, hearing the secure steady sound of the air moving through my canopy, hill slopes into a dip, I’m off the ground a few inches for a few seconds, skis touch down, picking up more speed, edge of the hill approaching, slight left turn, once final audible swoosh and then only the sound of air.

Once I feel that everything is technically working and ok, absolutely all I’m thinking is how fun this all feels. Time stands still. I am. Purely, I simply am. Weightless under my skis, flying through the air. Flying. I am. Heading towards the LZ I am flying and descending at a pretty good clip, the ground comes up much faster than with my Ozone Buzz…but that’s just fine, ‘cuz I’ve got skis on! A few feet off the ground, a bit of a flare of the brakes and I ride it out as my skis touch down at a brisk ground speed of about 20mph. My flight time off the hill was about a minute, maybe 50 feet off the ground max, but I’d embraced every second, allowing the sensations fully surf my body and soul. Whether a minute, hours, days or years, might as well enjoy every single moment of the ride, no matter what mode of allegorical transport takes me there. And now, visions of the big hills twirling in my mind. Whether or not I ever speed fly Baker or the Eiger, I’ll enjoy those visions just as they are.To glimpse a view of what it was like take a look at the You Tube video

Friday, January 25, 2008

2007 Media Award Winners

The results are in!!!! 111 entries were received plus 5 videos.

In Air: 1st - Chasing the Sun - I. Starikova, 2nd - Smooth as Glass - D. Decker, 3rd - Heather on top..again - I. Frew

People: 1st - Pre-Flight Checklist - L. Moore, 2nd - Balsa Man - E. Friesen, 3rd - Reflections - P. Sharpe

Manipulated: 1st - Get your own - S. Acord, 2nd - Tricky Launch - P. Sharpe, 3rd - Touchdown - I. Frew

Weather/Nature: 1st - Eva…She likes clouds - J. Wilson, 2nd Glory Rainbow - J. Clifford, 3rd - Which Way is the wind blowing - C. Kreick

Classic: 1st - The Start Gaggle - C. Kreick, 2nd - Little Red Trees - C. Amonson, 3rd Michael “Snuffy” Smith - R. Leonard

Media - 1st Let me entertain you - I. Frew

Go check out the winning pictures and videos. Winners receive a mounted print of their winning entry and a hardback book of all the photos submitted. Winners can collect their prizes at the next club meeting on the 12th February.

Many thanks to those who took the time and effort to submit and especially to our judges:

Stephanie Hicks (Photographer & studio consultant)
Rob Resing (Photographer & president of Seattle Professional Photographer’s Association)
Chris Podwin (Videographer & media graduate)
Jared Lyman
Christopher Throop


Iain Frew

Monday, January 14, 2008

Prez-Sez, January 2008

Greetings from your incoming president, Tom Allen.

At the December club meeting and the Gala, our new board of directors was announced. I would like to make sure all our club membership knows who their representatives are as we move toward the flying season in 2008.

Our Directors at Large are Gordon Grice, Beth Friesen, and Arun Moorthy. Both Gordon and Beth bring valued experience, and Arum needed energy. Newsletter Editor is the irrepressible Iain Frew, again with boundless energy. Secretary is a succinct and positive Joanne Blanchard, and Treasurer is our own conservative banker, Jared Lyman. Ashley Guberman fills VP with a conciliatory no nonsense style, bringing experience running our elections in the past and our web page.

They will all work to keep me in line this year as we move into a more structured relationship with the Department of Natural Resources at Tiger Mountain.

I feel lucky to have such a talented group of pilots to work with. It’s a group that I think represents all the interests of our club and who, based on our first meeting, are not hesitant to bring those ideas into play.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the NWPC and Kingsley for the President’s Award for contributions to the community. I feel I gain much more than I give to the NWPC and the flying community, both in the friendships I enjoy and the freedom of flight that brings us all together. Thanks to all of you for the friendships and to many of you that have tried to help me become a more proficient pilot.

I encourage you all to post details of your flights, accounts of your winter flying trips, and your opinions.

And lastly, this year we will have each board member write a Prez Sez or monthly message. This allows each to put into writing what is important to them, and for our membership to gain insight into your representatives for the year.
Call me if you see some sun.