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AUGUST 2015 Volume 45 Issue 8 $6.95



ABOVE Over Long Reef, Sydney, Australia | photo by Alistair McIntosh.


Hang gliding and paragliding are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS activities. USHPA recommends pilots complete a pilot training program under the direct supervision of a USHPA-certified instructor, using safe equipment suitable for your level of experience. Many of the articles and photographs in the magazine depict advanced maneuvers being performed by experienced, or expert, pilots. These maneuvers should not be attempted without the prerequisite instruction and experience.

HANG GLIDING & PARAGLIDING magazine is published for footlaunched air-sports enthusiasts to create further interest in the sports of hang gliding and paragliding and to provide an educational forum to advance hang gliding and paragliding methods and safety.

SUBMISSIONS HANG GLIDING & PARAGLIDING magazine welcomes editorial submissions from our members and readers. All submissions of articles, artwork, photographs and or ideas for articles, artwork and photographs are made pursuant to and are subject to the USHPA Contributor's Agreement, a copy of which can be obtained from the USHPA by emailing the editor at or online at www. HANG GLIDING & PARAGLIDING magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions. We are always looking for well written articles and quality artwork. Feature stories generally run anywhere from 1500 to 3000 words. News releases are welcomed, but please do not send brochures, dealer newsletters or other extremely lengthy items.

Please edit news releases with our readership in mind, and keep them reasonably short without excessive sales hype. Calendar of events items may be sent via email to, as may letters to the editor. Please be concise and try to address a single topic in your letter. Your contributions are greatly appreciated. If you have an idea for an article you may discuss your topic with the editor either by email or telephone. Contact: Editor, Hang Gliding & Paragliding magazine, editor@ushpa. aero, (516) 816-1333.

ADVERTISING ALL ADVERTISING AND ADVERTISING INQUIRIES MUST BE SENT TO USHPA HEADQUARTERS IN COLORADO SPRINGS. All advertising is subject to the USHPA Advertising Policy, a copy of which may be obtained from the USHPA by emailing

HANG GLIDING & PARAGLIDING (ISSN 1543-5989) (USPS 17970) is published monthly by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding

Association, Inc., 1685 W. Uintah St., Colorado Springs, CO 80904, (719) 632-8300, FAX (719) 632-6417. PERIODICAL postage is paid at Colorado Springs, CO and at additional mailing offices.

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COPYRIGHT Copyright (c) 2014 United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Inc., All Rights Reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Inc.


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Picture: Thomas Ulrich / Location: Azores Islands


ABOVE Anna Eppink gets one last tow for a good view at the end of the day.





henever free flight is discussed, the fact that it takes all of one’s focus to participate in the sport is quick to come up in the list of why we choose to fly without an engine. The all-consuming nature of our pursuit is often referred to positively, as it allows us to leave everything behind and enjoy untethered participation in an activity. Some call it a flow state, while others who are a bit more “spiritual” call it Zen. But this purity of focus that enables us to leave all worries behind does not need to start only after your feet leave the ground. The ritual of the activity should encompass everything from getting to the hill, preparing one’s gear, taking off from launch, flying, and landing safely. We need to turn off our phones, push all distractions from our minds, zone out others, and focus on the endeavor we are about to embark on well before our feet leave the ground. Why not make the no-consequence extra bonus time of pre-flight preparation a part of the peak experience? The August issue’s cover features Jonas Lobitz, who is a member of the Rhythm of Flight road show. If you missed Jeff Shapiro’s roundup in the June issue about Wolfgang Seiss and Lobitz travelling through the US while filming the nature of hang gliding, check out their website for news and videos of their adventure. C.J. Sturtevant reports on the USHPA Free Flight Film Festival in a Box. This film festival is available from the USHPA office, replete with posters, an edited film festival, and social media assets. It’s available for any chapter and club to use when putting on an event at a location of their choosing. Patrick McGuiness is back with an insightful look into the psychology of flying. We all know that flying is a mental exercise, and McGuiness takes it one step further by putting pen to paper to discuss concepts that are rarely fleshed out—how to perform better mentally. Patrick Joyce checks in from an informative maneuvers clinic organized by David Prentice, and Richard Cobb reveals a hidden jewel in the US flying community— Big Walker Mountain in Virginia. Annette O’Neil has accepted a position as staff writer for the USHPA magazine and knocked her first assignment—How to Pick a Rescue Service—out of the park. While we don’t want to think about the possibility of getting injured in the field, it’s necessary to be prepared. We hope never to need medevac insurance, but since we often fly in remote areas, a solid yearly outlay for insurance will provide assistance on the remote chance that things don’t go your way one day. On a more mellow side, Sofia Puerta Webber reports back from the Yoga and Paragliding tour she leads every year in Colombia. And our professor of hang gliding, Dennis Pagen, is back with his latest installment of Thinking Outside the Blocks. The long days of summer will soon start to wane, so take my advice: Don’t rush through any of the valuable parts of each day that help produce a safe and successful flight. Enjoy all the moments that surround a day in the sky and I guarantee you will not only increase your performance, but also your safety.

Martin Palmaz, Executive Director Beth Van Eaton, Operations Manager Ashley Miller, Membership Coordinator Julie Spiegler, Program Manager

USHPA OFFICERS & EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Rich Hass, President Paul Murdoch, Vice President Steve Rodrigues, Secretary Mark Forbes, Treasurer

REGION 1: Rich Hass, Mark Forbes. REGION 2: Jugdeep Aggarwal, Josh Cohn, Jon James. REGION 3: Corey Caffrey, Pete Michelmore, Alan Crouse. REGION 4: Bill Belcourt, Ken Grubbs. REGION 5: Josh Pierce. REGION 6: Tiki Mashy. REGION 7: Paul Olson. REGION 8: Michael Holmes. REGION 9: Felipe Amunategui, Larry Dennis. REGION 10: Bruce Weaver, Steve Kroop, Matt Taber. REGION 11: Tiki Mashy. REGION 12: Paul Voight. DIRECTORS AT LARGE: Ryan Voight, Paul Murdoch, Steve Rodrigues, Dennis Pagen, Jamie Shelden. EX-OFFICIO DIRECTOR: Art Greenfield (NAA). The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association Inc. (USHPA) is an air sports organization affiliated with the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), which is the official representative of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), of the world governing body for sport aviation. The NAA, which represents the United States at FAI meetings, has delegated to the USHPA supervision of FAI-related hang gliding and paragliding activities such as record attempts and competition sanctions. For change of address or other USHPA business call (719) 632-8300, or email The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, a division of the National Aeronautic Association, is a representative of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale in the United States.



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USHPA’s Newest Member Benefit


ou’re reading this magazine, so odds are excellent that you are entitled to USHPA’s latest member benefit: the brand-new “Free Flight Film Festival—in a Box.” This spiffy little package provides USHPA members, chapters, and event or comp organizers with all the ingredients for an evening of free-flight-related entertainment, for fund raising or just for fun. The big-ticket item—an hour-long video of hang gliding and paragliding adventure, angst, exuberance and introspection—isn’t actually in the box (it’s downloadable from, and opening the box isn’t quite as satisfying as opening a birthday present from your best bud, but free is good, and some of the goodies are downright attractive. The festival’s five films are professional-quality documentaries that are truly a pleasure to watch. The choice of audience is totally flexible, as is the amount of pre-show preparation and advertising required. Use the festival as entertainment at a club meeting, or, with a bit more forethought and preparation, present it to the non-flying community as a chance to get a better idea of what all those brightly colored objects flying around the local hill are really about. Offer it as free entertainment, or bill it as a fundraiser to support a favorite charity or service group within the community.

Planning the party Option #1: Just beer and pizza

If your party style is a low-key gathering of friends and flying buddies, then this festival requires not much more effort than showing up for a club meeting or gathering for a post-flight pizza. The films are intended to be shown BIG, so you’ll want a large screen and a projector that can display a high-resolution



full-HD video, and a computer that can connect to the projector (preferably via HDMI) and has enough computing power to run the large video file smoothly. Download the video from (you’ll need to get the password from the office), preview it using the projector/computer/connections that you plan to have at the party, get the word out when and where the party is happening, make sure you have adequate refreshments at the ready, and you’re all set. There’s additional material in the box, such as film notes you can use to introduce each of the five videos, and information on how to enter USHPA’s festival-related sweepstakes with flying gear and electronics as prizes. You can request from USHPA a box of freebies—hats, T-shirts, calendars—to hand out as door prizes or raffle off. The films themselves showcase both hang gliding and paragliding, the “stars” of the films range from brand-new students to experienced pilots, and each film focuses on an aspect of free flight that both pilots and non-pilots can relate to. So it’d be appropriate to invite non-flying family and friends to join the party. Option #2: The full-meal deal

Included in the box is just about everything that you’d need to expand the party into a full-fledged extravaganza of free flight. USHPA offers several suggestions for using the Festival in a Box with a wider audience, and with a proportionally greater investment of time and, perhaps, money. If your site’s launch or landing puts free-flight right out there in the public’s eyes, the local ground-bound folks are probably curious about hang gliding and paragliding and the guys and gals who pilot those improbable-looking aircraft. The festival films showcase so many aspects of both hang gliding and paragliding from so many perspectives that those

who yearn for wings will be inspired, and those whose feet are firmly attached to the ground will, at least, be able to add, “Well, that’s interesting” to their emphatic “but it’s definitely not for me!” In the box are big, bright, eyecatching posters that you can customize to announce the when/where/why for the festival, as well as information on how to get the word out through social media, making advertising the festival almost a no-brainer. If you can score a rent-free venue, then you won’t even have to charge admission. Or collect a can or box of food at the door and help restock the local food bank. Or charge an admission fee and donate the proceeds to a local charity or school. Clear as mud? The creators of the Festival in a Box have done their best to make it easy on anyone wishing to take advantage of this free member benefit. Promotional materials are provided both as tangible posters (in the box) and as social-media images downloadable from Log in with your member number and password and you should be taken right to the film festival how-to page, but if not you can access the step-by-step directions at https:// asp. By the time you receive this maga-

zine, several chapters will already have used the Festival in a Box package, and several more have their festivals ready to roll in the fall. The Rocky Mountain Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association used the USHPA board members at the spring BOD meeting as the test audience for the festival, and the theater at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden as the venue. I was there for that party, and the films and other related activities were well received by the large audience of both pilots and non-pilots. The Jackson Hole Free Flight Association presented their festival at the Snow King Events Center in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just as this magazine was going to press. The Seattle-area Cloudbase Country Club is using the festival as evening entertainment for the pilots at the Chelan Cross-country Classic (which is also the hang gliding and paragliding open-distance nationals) in July, and the Cascade Paragliding Club plans to show the films to an audience of pilots and non-flying public at McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland, Oregon, in November. You can find the contacts for these clubs online at asp; the organizers will be happy to share their successes and challenges with whoever is organizing your event.

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The Film Festival in a Box is a member benefit designed for your club to enjoy. There’s no “right” or “intended” way to use the festival, but it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look at the information and suggestions at... _ filmfestival.asp



How well does all this work, really?

Courtney, the point person for the Jackson Hole group, sent me a couple emails the week before their festival, and David Le, the CPC president, spent some time chatting with me at the Rat Race so I could include some of their experiences with this article. On selecting a location to show the films, Courtney says her group went for the familiar: “We debated showing the films outside on the side of a building, and liked that idea, but we didn’t want to have to deal with the possibility of storms. So we chose the room next to where we meet regularly for evening flying; it already had a projector set up in it.“ David said his club did quite a bit of research on possible venues, narrowed it down to four with a theater large enough to accommodate their expected audience, and settled on McMenamins because they not only have a theater with the requisite projector and screen and the personnel to run it, but also because they’d serve food and beverages so the club won’t have to provide refreshments. If the audience purchases a pre-determined dollar amount of food and drinks, there’s no additional cost for renting the theater. Courtney had done a lot of preplanning for the festival, but she wasn’t aware of the resources on USHPA’s website until quite late in the process. “I am not the person the club mail goes to,

and so I did not get the original package for the Film in a Box,” she told me. She points out that the website “sparked some ideas for the event, and how to make it bigger and better,” including asking USHPA to send the schwag box, and details on the raffle. “We ended up deciding not to charge anyone for the film,” she says, but adds, “I kind of wish I’d sold tickets because I might have a better idea of how many people will be attending.” The club intends to have club shirts, stickers and raffle tickets for sale to help support the JHFFC, and, Courtney enthuses, “I’m so happy with the schwag box I got from USHPA! We are raffling off the box’s contents, plus a tandem paragliding trip, backpacking rental, and some free pizza/beer from local businesses.” Cloudbase Country Club decided to make their festival a low-key, rather intimate entertainment night for the pilots at the Chelan Cross-country Classic. Club members will provide the projectors and computers and the technological know-how to make sure it all goes smoothly. Organizer Lori has reserved the pilot lounge in the Lake Chelan Airport where the hang glider and paraglider pilots hold the annual Halloween fly-in and party, and intends to provide refreshments and make good use of the items in the schwag box. The bottom line: The Film Festival in a Box is a member benefit designed

for your club to enjoy. There’s no “right” or “intended” way to use the festival, but it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look at the information and suggestions on the website (https://www.ushpa. aero/member_filmfestival.asp) to be sure you haven’t missed out on any freebies or suggestions for added attractions, including a possible guest appearance of USHPA’s executive director, Martin Palmaz. When the flying shuts down for the winter, consider a Free Flight Film Festival as a perfect occasion to get the gang together for a night at the movies, starring hang gliding and paragliding pilots who are just like us or just like we wish we could be, and set in stunningly scenic sites you just may want to add to your list of future flying destinations. It’s free to you as a USHPA member, so what do you have to lose?



During the summer of 1975, pilots from cities in the surrounding, relatively flat country ventured into the Ouachita Mountains of SE Oklahoma in search of new flying sites. ABOVE Britton Shaw assists Ed Fogel on the

SW launch | photo by Rena Brown. RIGHT Jon Hudson just after launch from the SW launch. Part of the landing field where the 40acre easement is located can be seen toward the right. Photo by Robert Simpson.



EASEMENT AT HEAVENER by Easement Committee


n 1975, pilots from the Dallas area discovered Buffalo Mountain, a 1200’ south-facing five-mile ridge, with a forest road along the ridge top. From the Tulsa area, Bruce Mahoney, Roy Mahoney, and Gene Hobson discovered the west end of Poteau Mountain, with an 800’ west-and-southwest face, overlooking the town of Heavener, Oklahoma. The ridge continues west to east more than 20 miles into Arkansas. Launch access is through Heavener Runestone State Park, which was established a few years prior, when H.Z. Ward donated several acres to the state to create the park. Mr. Ward also owned the potential launch and huge pasture directly below and, having been a private pilot long ago, was curious enough to allow pilots to waiver up and make the site’s first flights. From that first day, the flying community has always had access to as many as three separate launches covering directions facing west, southwest, and south-southeast. However, the huge landing area directly below the most popular southwest-facing slope launch has not always been accessible. A couple of years after the 1977 US Hang Gliding Nationals were held at the site, permission for the main landing area was lost, and for the next couple of decades novice pilots’ use of the site was impacted, due to the soaring skills needed to reach alternate landing fields located farther away. Before the loss of the field, the site was probably the best in the region for pilots making their first mountain flights. Over a 20-year period the site eventually regained that status. Jean Tucker, who has worked at the park office for most of the years that the site’s been flown, has always been a friend to the pilot community. Several years ago, she gained ownership of the property, including the huge main landing field, and she and her husband Herbert immediately reopened the land for pilot use.

The site once again became popular with both experienced and novice hang glider pilots, and with the increasing popularity of paragliders, became not only a favorite first mountain site for all, but also a great soaring and cross-country site. In the summer of 2013, multi-wing pilot and paragliding instructor Britton Shaw learned that the Tuckers were putting the land up for sale. In years past, individual pilots had successfully purchased land in order to maintain and open access to launches and landing fields at Buffalo Mountain, as well as the launch at Little Yancy. But various scenarios for pilots to buy enough land to keep open the large main landing field at Heavener were not working out. The Buffalo Mountain Flyers’ USHPA chapter (BMF) manages landowner relations and site insurance for the four main sites in SE Oklahoma and through fundraisers, such as their annual 4th of July Fly-in, T-shirt sales (see www. ), and pilot donations, had money held in reserve for land acquisition, but not enough to buy the amount of land needed to secure the large landing field. Five years ago, BMF applied for and received a matching grant from the Foundation for Free Flight (FFF) for a multi-site improvement project that allowed BMF to make improvements to all four sites, as well as open a new paraglider-friendly launch near Panorama Vista on National Forest land, dubbed “PG Point.” Hoping to get more mileage for BMF’s money by purchasing a permanent easement for the Heavener main landing field, the BMF once more contacted the FFF to explore the possibility of being given another matching grant. They encouraged BMF to apply as soon as possible, if it appeared that was the direction they wanted to go. As soon as the BMF Board agreed to the proposed direction, the pursuit of the easement began. Britton Shaw and Roy Mahoney met with the Tuckers late that same summer and offered $10,000 for a permanent easement on a square 40 acres that en-

compasses most of the large main landing field. The Tuckers readily accepted, contingent upon agreement of formal terms. The next steps required putting the proposed terms into writing for review and applying for the FFF matching grant. By late fall the proposed terms were written for an easement consisting of the 40 acres, plus access through the existing road into the field. The FFF approved the grant request, contingent upon documentation of the agreement with the landowners. FFF Trustee/Treasurer Ross Wisdom visited the site on the weekend of BMF’s annual meeting in December 2013 and presented the $5000 check to BMF members. Ross provided contacts for land conservation organizations and attorneys, but BMF’s Easement Committee ultimately decided upon a non-conservation easement and, acting on BMF President Greg Chastain’s recommendation, attained the services of Lorrie Gray to draw up the final legal documentation. The legal process endured throughout most of 2014, with complications along the way, including landowner health issues and tentative buyers of the property each unable to complete their agreement for one reason or another. Finally, through the efforts of the BMF Easement Committee, Greg Chastain, Roy Mahoney, Robert Simpson, and Britton Shaw, and with the approval of BMF members, the permanent easement agreement was executed with the Tuckers on December 2, 2014. The land was surveyed and the easement document filed, much to everyone’s delight. The property has now been sold to a new owner, but thanks to generous donations from individuals, pilot participation in fundraising activities, the Foundation for Free Flight’s assistance in site preservation, members of the Buffalo Mountain Flyers doing the legwork, and, most of all, Herbert and Jean Tucker’s unending generosity toward the pilot community, free flying pilots will have the use of Heavener’s prime landing field forever!



Photo by Alistair McIntosh


ANxIETY and Flying

by Patrick McGuinness


ou walk to your glider feeling confident and enthusiastic. You’ve decided to finally soar the ridge. You’ve been told to turn your glider back toward the hill after launching and stay in the lift band, but you don’t quite understand how to find the sweet spot. A discussion with your instructor makes you feel prepared. While he was talking, you



imagined being able to execute the maneuver perfectly. You begin to smile and feel excited. As you buckle your harness and carry your wing to launch, however, the confidence begins to fade. When you step up to launch, thoughts of selfdoubt creep in. I could screw this up. I could pile in. As these thoughts run the gamut, you begin focusing on the

negative. The wind seems stronger and louder, the air traffic seems thicker, and your knees feel weaker. You find your opening and launch, but the accumulation of variables begins to overwhelm you. You go into “auto pilot,” flying out past the lift band and heading for the LZ. “Turn! Turn!“ other pilots yell from the ridge, as you sink out and set up your ap-

proach. When you meet up with your friends later that day, they ask, “Dude, why didn’t you turn?” You tell them that the strength and sound of the wind picked up and the turbulence had no lift and the air traffic…. but they look at you with blank stares.

What is performance anxiety? Performance anxiety is a normal emotional reaction to free flying. Anxiety can improve or deteriorate performance. It’s a feeling of nervousness that occurs before any event with an uncertain outcome. When you try something new, especially something with an element of risk, there’s an uneasy feeling attached to the experience. It’s a subjective feeling with several components working together to produce a psychological state. In this state of being, your mind and body work together to respond to stressful events in a manner that leads to a state of anxiety. Part of your brain responds with thoughts about the situation, while another part sends emotional signals. Your body and brain constantly interact to regulate heart rate, muscle tension, adrenaline production and the speed at which you breathe. Anxiety is a state of being arising from a combination of psychological experiences. If you perceive a situation to be of high risk, your body will respond accordingly. How does anxiety affect performance? A healthy dose of anxiety actually improves performance. Have you ever spot-landed perfectly because you had to? Anxiety can help you “dial in” like never before. Coming in for a tight

“Being psychologically overwhelmed often results in bad decision-making. Understanding this principle explains many of the odd behaviors that lead to accidents and near misses.” landing, for example, can heighten your perceptual acuity, lead to expert decision-making, and help provide mind-blowing accuracy. In fact, the more anxiety, the better you perform—up to a point, that is, the point at which you are psychologically overwhelmed and your performance actually deteriorates. At this time, you can quickly reach what is known as the catastrophe effect, a state of being when even the simplest task can seem impossible, resulting in your confidence plummeting and your attention becoming scattered. Awareness typically decreases when anxiety starts to overwhelm you. In many instances, students will report they heard no input from their instructor, even though the radio was working well and with sufficient volume. This type of anxiety can interfere with your performance in a number of ways. It can prevent you from trying new things that lead to learning and improving. Physically, it can lead to increased muscle tension, which reduces sensitivity to your glider’s input and leads to jerky movements. It can impact your thought process by causing you to second-guess yourself. And it also can lead to impulsive decisionmaking and take the fun out of flying. When anxiety interferes with having rewarding flights, you might experience frustration more often than a sense of accomplishment. It can increase your risk of making a bad decision or cause you to under- react.

Being psychologically overwhelmed often results in bad decision-making. Understanding this principle explains many of the odd behaviors that lead to accidents and near misses. For example, an experienced hang glider pilot in a heavily wooded New England landing zone set up an approach that left too little room for deceleration. His friends watched while the pilot flew straight, making no turns on final and took no measures, even an early flare, to prevent a collision with the trees. Another pilot decides it’s best to come in slow for a landing during the heat of the day. Still another pilot freezes up when launching or landing in crossed winds.

How do you know if you’re affected by performance anxiety? Many psychological challenges people face do not to make it into conscious awareness. In other words, we aren’t aware of how they affect us. Other times, people are aware there’s a problem, but don’t know what to do about it. A tandem hang gliding instructor gives examples of how people are unaware of their anxiety. Most first-time students react in a predictable manner. A tandem pilot instructs his passenger: “As we approach launch, I want you to remember two things. First, I want you to hold on to me, and second, I want you to run, run, run. OK? “ “Sure, that’s easy,” they say. Then he asks them if they’re nervous and they



“a handful of experienced free-flight pilots have shared with me they have fear of flying too high. Each one of them objectively knew he was safer at altitude but that realization didn’t make the fear go away.” respond, “No, not at all.” Next, he asks, “OK. What are those two things I want you to remember?” Hesitantly, they respond, “uhhh…. uhmm... uhmmm” “You’re going to hold on to me and run, run, run,” he prompts. Many of them take only a few steps, before they become completely overwhelmed with fear, stop running, and become deadweight. When the flight is over, David asks his students what they thought about the launch, and most of them say enthusiastically, “Oh, it was easy.“ If you have the sense that performance anxiety is a problem for you, examine its impact on your performance. Have you stopped improving at the rate you once did? Do you avoid certain aspects of flying, such as venturing to new sites? Do you have a fear of maneuvers or locations or risks that others typically do not fear?

Is anxiety interfering with your performance? Many pilots already acknowledge that it is. For example, a handful of experienced free-flight pilots have shared with me they have fear of flying too high. Each one of them objectively knew he was safer at altitude but that realization didn’t make the fear go away. They still began to panic at altitude. They all had experienced times in their flying career when altitude didn’t scare them. In each case, the pilot described the anxiety as an “irrational fear.” They knew the fear was



irrational, because it didn’t make sense to be afraid. “Knowing” something is a function of logic. Fear, anxiety, and panic are emotions. It’s interesting to compare other equally challenging pursuits these pilots engaged in without fear with paragliding. Two pilots who feared altitude launched well, landed well, and were experts at hooking thermals. How could they do so well with these skills and be fearful of something so seemingly random? Anxiety that reduces the pleasure one gets from flying or interferes with performance or restricts growth is often related to a life-threatening situation or frightening experience. A traumatic experience is one that is perceived as being life-threatening or ending in tragedy. If you’ve had a truly frightening experience in the past, you might continue to be affected by it. If your performance has hit a wall in all or part of your flying, you might be able to identify a precipitating event or a trauma that is related to the fear. Consider these real-life experiences that led to irrational fears and performance plateaus. A pilot who saw a jet coming directly toward him felt powerless to prevent a collision. A student witnessing a fatal crash had to act as a first responder on the scene. An experienced pilot got tumbled in big air and had to deploy the reserve. These experiences are so dreadful that our survival mechanisms kick in to protect us from future risk by instituting a phobic response to any-

thing that reminds us of the traumatic event. If you have this type of anxiety, you begin to worry about the chances of its happening again, every time you’re reminded of the original event. You may be consciously unaware of your fear, even though others around you see it in you. And you may unwittingly avoid situations that trigger memories of a threatening event.

How do you know when anxiety is holding you back? This isn’t an easy question to answer. If you’re anxious, there’s often a good reason. If your skills and experience are challenged by a situation, you should have anxiety. And your intuition needs to tell you to step it down a notch because you’re at risk. It’s best to listen to your intuition. In time, you will develop the expertise to complete the same tasks with increased skill, greater confidence, and less anxiety. On the other hand, some pilots clearly have the skills, but are held back only by fear and anxiety. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to talk with an instructor who is used to assessing flying skills. When your skills and ability exceed your performance, you’re probably being held back by anxiety. What can you do about it? Many instructors are skilled at having the student process the flight by asking them to describe it before giving input. As the student proceeds, he/she begins to link parts of the flight into a continuous chain. This helps develop awareness during future flights. Many pilots are reluctant to work with an instructor, because they no longer consider themselves students. Yet receiving coaching can instill confidence in a pilot by increasing and improving relevant skill sets. You can learn a number of mental

skills that will help you cope with anxiety. Breathing and relaxation techniques are successful when learned correctly and practiced regularly. Talking with someone who is skilled at working through mental challenges and performance goals can be surprisingly helpful. Many pilots explain that these discussions allowed them to put their fears in perspective and move beyond anxiety. Finally, modern advances in psychotherapy have allowed some mental-health clinicians to release the physiological activation that occurs when a person is reminded of the traumatic experience. If your flying performance is impacted by a past trauma, seek out a mental-health professional who is adept at using a technique known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing)

to treat the effects of psychological trauma. While anxiety can actually help you perform better, at a certain point it interferes with performance. Anxiety serves a purpose by letting you know when you’re intuitively at risk. Sometimes it occurs when the actual risk, given your level of skill, is low. This is sometimes referred to as an irrational fear. Irrational fears interfere with enjoyment of the sport you love as well as your ability to learn and progress. Irrational fears are sometimes the result of a difficult life experience or traumatic memory. There are a number of things you can do to address your anxiety in terms of how it affects your performance and enjoyment of the sport. It may help to hire an instructor to guide you through the physical skills

necessary to work through an impasse. It may help to learn sport psychology techniques to help you manage anxiety and improve focus. In the case of irrational fears, seek out a professional that can help relieve you of the impact trauma has left on your nervous system. If you have further questions about performance anxiety and free flight, contact Patrick McGuinness. Pat has a master’s degree in applied psychology. He offers hang gliding instruction, sport psychology training and life coaching. He’s also the owner of Wings Over Wasatch at the Point of the Mountain in Utah. For more information contact him at or



Simulation OR




by Patrick Joyce


aneuver 1 was a full stall. It was the first time my hands had driven the controls to places that formerly had been so adamantly forbidden in flight. I watched from above as the trailing edge was pulled lower and lower, and the wind noise slowly softened in my ears, when the wing eased back behind me. It was Day 2 of a three-day SIV clinic at Carlyle Lake, the biggest freshwater reservoir in the grand state of Illinois. Day 1 had been blown out, and Day 3 didn’t look as if it would be promising either, so today was the day. During the first three flights, we had built confidence and covered asymmetric collapses and full frontals in various stages of speed bar and weight shift, stabilo pulls, B-line stalls, and even a few wingovers for good measure. Now it was time for the big kahuna, the full stall. But even though my launch

from the boat dock parking lot began to feel routine, my flight turned out to be anything but. “All the way down, lock your arms,” came the calm instruction over the radio. At that moment, the glider was no longer in my sight. Briefly, I fell weightless; I was facing up, staring at the cloudless sky above me. Within a few seconds, however, I was abruptly pitched forward and feeling the pressure of the wing through my toggles, as it rose directly above me. “And half release…” Hands half-way up. The glider began to take shape. “And release.” With a thwack, the glider was once again flying so eagerly that it began diving towards the ground, as expected. “Check the surge.” Heavy brake pressure calmed down the kimchi-red fabric and forced it to fly steady again. “Goood,” with an elongated, reassur-

LEFT David Prentice and pilot Lindsay Matush. ABOVE

ing emphasis on the vowel sound. Take 2. Full stall. Once again, all went according to plan, but the glider came out with tip tucks, each end of the wing packed tightly within the cascading lines. Stabilo pull right, stabilo pull left, and the glider was clean. “OK, get ready for a spin.” Deep breath. “Sit up, as you do in the full stall, when you’re ready.” I slowed the glider to a creep. “Now!” The glider instantly responded to the sudden weight shift and deep control input to the right and began to spin overhead, spinning me with it. As the horizon blurred past, my world was reduced to a partially deflated paraglider, my arms in an opposing and somewhat unsettling position, and the sound of a mellow voice over the radio. “You’re in the spin…hold it…hold

Tow rig with tow operator and instructor Marc Radloff at the helm. Photos by Chris Lee.



it….” Blurs. “…and half-release.” With a release of the deep right turn and weight now centered, the spin slowed. “And full release.” With hands up, the glider shot forward, yearning for the ground, and would have headed there quickly if not told otherwise by my hands. With a short summary of uncanny wisdom over the radio, David suggested I might not have sufficiently checked the surge. I made a smooth entrance into my second spin. It is surprisingly easy to enter into such a severe maneuver as a spin, once you venture below the safety zone of the nipples. The wing rotated, spinning on an axis straight through the wing and my body that was dangling below it. A slight slowing of the rotation and dropping back of the wing brought the command: “Half release…” Get me outta this thing! “And full release.”



Hands up. The glider surged forward into territory I had never seen. As I observed the glider to be out in front of, slightly to the right of, and below, me, an out-of-body image instantaneously was seared into my mind. I saw myself from above, weightless, legs curled under, facing right, horizontal, hands up, the glider mostly inflated, lines beginning to slacken as I fell towards the left side of the wing, with the lake glistening behind it. My best explanation for the occurrence of this image is that I must have gone to “hands up” too quickly and failed to check the surge. From that moment on, I was instantly below the wing, with risers wrapped around each other like vines in front of my face. The left side was severely cravated, with the left tip snagged a good distance down the lines. My world was once again blurred and simplified: canopy, hand positions, risers, wind noise, rotating horizon, and a voice on the radio. A calm, cool, collected voice on the radio. “OK, man, you’ve got a pretty nasty

cravat. Let’s do a full stall; reset button. Go.” This was no longer a simulation. My wing was disabled, and I was falling out of the sky. The toggles were difficult to pull, due to the twists in the risers, and the full stall took more strength than before. I felt the glider drop back, which was suddenly a somewhat comforting feeling. Weightless. Quiet. Sky. Pressure returned to my arms, and the voice reminded me to release to the half-way point. “And release, all the way.” The wing returned overhead, but was still cravated. Reserve? I waited for the voice to tell me to throw the reserve. I knew where the handle was, and I was ready to use it. The momentum continued to spin me and twist the risers; however, at some point my rotation reversed direction—perhaps after the full stall. “OK, man, we’re going to do one more full stall. Go.” Shit. Trust. I put the brakes on as slowly as I could, attempting to recreate the motion that I had practiced success-


Pilot Jim Matush is ready to go, while David gives some tips to the boat crew. ABOVE Forward launching on boat tow. . Photos by Chris Lee.

fully only a few minutes before. While my hands covered the distance, I realized my risers were nearly clear of one another. I paused for a moment amongst the chaos and watched the risers take their parting ways. A grunt of determination slipped out as I buried my hands against the bottom of my harness. Weightless. Quiet. Sky. I dropped back under the wing, and the pressure returned to the brake toggles. “Half release.” The wing seemed to be oriented forward. “Hands up”. This surge, I caught. The wing wasn’t perfect, but it was mostly inflated and not spinning, diving, or cravated. What a glorious sight! With the glider’s tips perfectly, symmetrically tucked in, I emerged from the stall about 500’ over the water, facing the LZ. Just out of reach. David remind-

ed me that it was a down-wind glide, and there was a chance I could make it. Eager to save every foot of altitude, I began work on the tip tucks. Stabilo pull right. No change. Harder stabilo pull right. Got it. Lean right. Stabilo pull left. Got it. Clean wing. Skeptical that I’d make the LZ, I unclipped the small, unnecessary, sternum strap and began preparations for a water landing. In front of me lay a stretch of lake, a limestone cobble of man-made shoreline, and the asphalt LZ. Standing figures lined the LZ near the shore with attention focused in my direction. They were falling out of reach. “You dry faster than you heal, man, you don’t want to come in downwind on those rocks.” Good call. Definitely not worth it. Not going to make it anyway. I unbuckled my leg straps and went to best glide. With my radio buried below a life jacket, I decided it was not worth the effort to

turn off. Any last-minute inputs from the guardian-angel voice would be more valuable than a cheap radio. In the end, I actually had to slow my speed to ensure I would not accidentally and unfortunately land on the rocks. My body plunged forward into the water. With my hands in the up position, the harness was effortlessly plucked from behind me and was over my head once I was submerged. I kicked my feet to tread water, but found solid ground instead. I stood up, water at waist level, wing floating at the shoreline in front of me, and walked out of the water. The author would like to thank SIV instructor David Prentice for the invaluable knowledge he shared and his dedication during our clinic, from ground school to in-flight. David coaches SIV clinics in various locations around the country and can be reached at earthcog@



! I T I A H by Nick Gr







any people question why I keep going back to Haiti, and the answer, like the country, is complex. The easy answer is, “The flying is spectacular, and I like to fly paragliders.” The deeper yet canned response is, “I admire the rich culture and the strength of a people who have borne witness to numerous historic tragedies, yet still march firmly forward with hope of a better future to come.” However, the more often I return, the more hollow that response sounds, because only visiting the country can enlighten the curious as to the why. Rarely in this day and age of show-and-tell are photos and words not enough to sufficiently reflect an experience, and that is one of the draws of a place like Haiti. It’s a country filled with people who must work harder than anyone in the West can imagine in order to provide basic necessities for their families. It’s a country where Voodoo Art and RaRa music encapsulate the times and lives of the people as uncertainty permeates every step forward. Yet every day the people awaken and seize any available opportunity because they



must in order to thrive. Nothing is a “gimme,” including the flying. Haiti, the most mountainous country in the Caribbean, comprises the western three-eighths of the island of Hispaniola, and lies west of the Dominican Republic. In the past few years, we’ve begun to witness a contrast from a nation picking itself up from a cataclysmic event to one attempting to propel a young and burgeoning tourism industry that hopes to help bring a lifeline of capital in the form of tourism dollars to the country. And, oddly enough, free flight may be poised as a strong participant in this movement. A Haitian proverb, about the land and life, states there are “mountains beyond mountains,” and while in reality that means challenge after challenge, in paragliding terms that means a really good time. After several exploratory trips to Haiti, Chris Hilliard, Jim Chu, Simon Vacher and I determined that the most desirable flying locale in Haiti is located two hours from Port Au Prince on the Cotes des Arcadins, near Montrouis. However, a few other sites near the beautiful cities of Jacmel and Cap Haitien— where the Citadelle Laferriere still protects the coastline from foreign transgressions—are also appealing. Traveling in Haiti requires a pioneering spirit; there is little infrastructure. Being an adventure tourist anywhere in the country provides desperately needed income directly to communities and presents pilots with an interesting alternative for vacation-spending that may have

“as I could tell as we traversed the countryside, we were the closest thing Haiti had to conventional tourists.” eventually could employ Haitian pilots. But we were also there to fly the 4000-foot mountains that the country is named for! NGO and aid workers we met seemed amazed as they learned we were there to fly paragliders, explore the country, and enjoy a holiday. Our not having a driver, venturing wherever the wind took us for the next two weeks, and financing our own travel to locate flying sites baffled them. We drove countless hours over nearly impassable roads, with the goal of finding the perfect spot to someday host a flying festival. In truth, it wasn’t a pure vacation, but as far as I could tell as we traversed the countryside, we were the closest thing Haiti had to conventional tourists. Sports often arrive in locations without political, more impact than contributing directly to charities. Since adventure tourists are typically some of the first to venture into a developing country, we thought a suitable flying site might contribute to the local economy. Our goals were to utilize paragliding to bring adventure-sport enthusiasts to Haiti as well as to help start a tandem business that

ABOVE Simon Vacher launching a tandem near Jacmel. BELOW

Chris Hilliard hiking to launch. RIGHT Tandem flying near Montrois, with Erica Lloyd, where the team has established a viable launch. PREVIOUS PAGE Nick Greece flying over the Citadelle in Cap Haitien. LEFT





LEFT Gavin McClurg flying over Montrois. BELOW A man and his mule in the hills on the Cotes De Arcadins.

business, or strategic preconceptions. Because we are not competing for resources or espousing ideology, people are generally open to letting us in on whatever is happening in their lives. For example, I received an education on the competing theories behind straight foreign aid allotment versus free-market/for-profit resource community development. The former distributes resources directly to those in need, while for-profit development helps individuals or groups build businesses that provide needed resources to the community at a cost just below the free-market price. From a boots-on-the-ground level, I found our arrival within communities resulted in a shared joy, rather than the skepticism people in aid-riddled countries sometimes exhibit towards foreigners. Perhaps in landing a paraglider in a place where residents had never seen such a contraption, we became welcomed, celebratory, visitors—a break from daily drudgery—rather than someone entering with an aim to change their lives, which locals often witnessed with varied results. The Haitians seemed to relish their locale being highly prized by us. Of course, I’m not negating the positive effect that people working for change have had in Haiti. They are truly dedicated to their cause and the country’s eventual recovery. I am merely pointing out that we were able to bring them a bit of blissful exhilaration, while participating in our sport, paragliding.

After weeks on the road, we identified a half-dozen flying sites throughout the country, but none with easy access. However, during this journey, I became committed to raising awareness outside of Haiti that the country is not solely about natural disasters, relief work, and cholera. I wanted to promote Haiti not only as a beautiful and challenging spot for paragliding but also as a worthy destination for experiencing a vibrant culture, ripe with colorful, indigenous art and soul-filling music. Our group came up with a slogan: Vacation First Mandate, or VFM. We postulated that coming to Haiti on vacation could be a great way to help the country by providing income for communities that would sustain local economies. If the Dominican Republic could have a thriving paragliding and kite-surfing tourism network, why couldn’t Haiti? And how cool it would be to use sporting prowess to enable change in a country that is desperate to be uplifted! We travel for a variety of reasons— to enlarge our worldview, develop deeper and broader perspectives, seek adventure, take photos for Instagram, or increase our exposure to, and understanding of, the human condition. After I returned from my first trip to Haiti, I tried to evaluate my encounters there. I didn’t find it to be the most “fun” place to hangout, as it was expensive, difficult to navigate, sometimes dangerous, and historically down-



trodden. Yet it was intense, had a rich beauty, and fostered a perspective shift in me that is hard to explain. Much like driving through Port-Au-Prince, explaining a trip to Haiti takes a lot of time. I left Haiti simultaneously inspired and weary to continue the effort to host a festival and find a site that could sustain a tandem business. After the second two-week trip during the following fall, we established a solid tandem launch just 1.5 hours from the capital of Port-Au-Prince, surrounded by beautiful Caribbean beach resorts, replete with air conditioning, oceanfront rooms, five-star rum punch, and great beaches. In addition to helping establish tourism, I tried to determine how I could help on a deeper level. After a bit of a learning curve and my fifth trip to the island, I discovered an amazing community center in Cité Soleil run by Haitians for Haitians, called the SAKALA, and an excellent, successful education program named HELP, or the Haitian Education and Leadership Program. Cité Soleil is reputed to be among the poorest and most dangerous slums in the western hemisphere. This densely populated neighborhood suffers from decades of exploi-



tation, government neglect, and social stigmatization, and Cité Soleil youth bear the brunt of this marginalization. The founders and staff of SAKALA have consciously placed themselves there, working to transform children’s lives. Simultaneously, they are combatting outside stereotypes of Cité Soleil. SAKALA is a community center and organization that fosters and provides sports, education, urban gardening, community service and peace-building workshops for youth, in an effort to provide safe environments and empower them to become active members of their community engaged in building a society in which social justice can flourish. The term SAKALA is both an acronym and a word in and of itself. As an acronym, it stands for Sant Kominote Altenatif Ak Lape, which translates from Creole to English as The Community Center for Peace and Alternatives. As a word, it translates roughly to “acceptance.” Two hundred fifty youth from all four blocks of Cité Soleil are enrolled in SAKALA’s programs, and the community center’s playground, sports facilities, classrooms, library, computer lab, and urban garden also serve the

OPPOSITE Storming the Citadelle for the first time from the

air. LEFT, TOP to BOTTOM On the way to Cap Haitien. Carnivale in Jacmel. The Bob Marley is a famous concoction served at the Wahoo Bay Beach Resort. BELOW Fun and games in the LZ.



BELOW Chris Hilliard and Gavin McClurg watching the sunset with Barbancourt in hand.

community at large. On the last trip I took to Haiti, KEEN sent 35 pairs of shoes for the after-school soccer program based in the SAKALA. The kids from SAKALA can now play with a lot more ease on the hot, paved soccer pitch. Barry Barr, the owner of KAVU and long time USHPA member, also came along for the trip and brought a large amount of clothing for the community. HELP‘s mission is to create, through merit- and needsbased university scholarships, a community of young professionals and leaders who will promote a more just society in Haiti. This education program is attempting to grow the middle class in Haiti through higher education. They select the best and brightest from all over Haiti and provide academic and financial assistance to help them graduate from college and be prepared to enter the work force. As soon as the students graduate, they enter the middle class, bringing their entire family with them. The Cloudbase Foundation recently raised money to develop an urban gardening education and tool-lending center for Cité Soleil, based out of the SAKALA. This program will serve as the keystone of an effort to help locals in the neighborhood grow their own gardens in a space as small as a tire, be a self-sustaining business that will lend tools, and create a communal farming area to

work, sell compost, and promote Meringa to fight malnutrition. We have a long way to go, but we have confidence in our partners at the SAKALA. We are also working to sponsor several HELP students to run the program at the SAKALA, as well as provide funds for the HELP program in general.


didn’t go to Haiti with any intention except to go paragliding. But after numerous trips, I have found inspirational projects run by remarkable people who are dedicated to making this world a better place. It gives me great joy to assist the people on the ground who are doing the work to enact their dreams. Folks often ask, “How do you know if the money you raised is being put to good use?” It’s a good question. Sometimes the money is not being used as I thought it would. But, ultimately, the secret to reaching that goal is finding people who are trustworthy and establishing long-term relationships with them. I realize we must rely on Haitians to determine what their organization needs at a specific time and place. I rest well knowing that if one sends them what they request, they will make their world a better place. I think it is the least we can do as travelling air junkies who get to recreate all over the world flying contraptions made of nylon and string.









A Hidden Jewel by Richard Cobb




he cow pies are gone from the LZ, which most days more closely resembles a well-kept golf course than a country pasture. The launch is a wide, grassy slot with a park-like spacious setup area. And it is situated in some of the prettiest country in the eastern US—or the world, for that matter. On the drive down the lush green rural road to the Big Walker flying site, the locals have erected a sign: “Welcome to Big Walker Creek Valley—where hundreds live the way millions wish they could.” The landowner of both the launch and LZ is Jim Bogle, and he has a dream of a world-class flight park. He is building it in hopes that they will come. Big Walker is part of the Appalachian chain of mountains that extends from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Record sailplane flights have been made along these parallel ridges. If you pick the right fall day, you may be lucky enough to fly in the midst of the hawk migration—one hawk after another streaming past you on the ridge— all day long, as you soar above spectacular fall foliage. Big Walker Mountain has hosted legendary flying sites for 40 years. The 30-mile long, unbroken



ridge (100 miles if you jump several gaps) has had four different launches at different locations over that period of time. This is the area where the Skywackers Club formed around 1975, a place where would-be pilots attempted to launch between the passing cable cars of a scenic tram. Some of the launches were successful, while many ended up providing additional color for the tourists, after pilots flopped into the rhododendrons. From that beginning, Big Walker evolved into a legendary site, with pilots coming from many neighboring states on days with a NW forecast. On the right days now, anything is possible: a 30-mile easy ridge run, mile-plus altitude gains, or an over-the-back over beautiful farmland. Many XC flights have made it across the North Carolina border (at least 60 miles), or farther. Similar ridge soaring distances are possible, if you cross some gaps and marginal landing areas. In the late 1980s, the launch location moved a number of miles down the ridge after some timber clear-cutting opened up a new possibility. This is when Jim and Erma Bogle’s part of the Big Walker story begins. Jim and Erma owned the LZ property at the time, but not the launch, which was adjacent to one of the few roads that traverse Big Walker Mountain. They loved having pilots land in their LZ and were very welcoming hosts. When local work parties were scheduled,

everyone knew they could count on eating a delicious meal of Erma’s “southwest chili,” cornbread, and other goodies. When the elderly launch owner died, his family was not enthusiastic about continuing to allow their property to be used for flying, nor were they interested in selling even a small portion of it. And so Big Walker was lost as a flying site. But Jim and Erma loved hosting their pilots. They did own land all the way to the top of the mountain, but there was no access to it from the road. The Forest Service, however, owned the land on the back side of the mountain, so Jim went to work on them. Eventually, he obtained a road permit to allow him to harvest timber from his property at the top of the mountain (wink, wink). And harvest timber he did, resulting in a beautiful wide slot at a high point of the mountain, which

was even better than the previous location. The local flying community came together and contributed nearly $10,000 for equipment rental and supplies (bulldozer and other equipment, gravel for the road, grass seed). In 2003, the new launch was open for flying again. But sadly, there were few pilots to fly it. During the time Big Walker had been closed, other sites had opened, and many of the Big Walker regulars had either quit flying after lengthy flying careers, or LEFT The local Amish are frequent spectators. TOP How far do you

want to go? Ideal conditions on a long ridge. BOTTOM The gate into the LZ, with a paraglider on final. PREVIOUS PAGE A paraglider soars over the Big Walker launch. Photos by Richard Cobb.



BIG WALKER MOUNTAIN Faces NW (flyable W to N) Steep and wide slope launch for hang gliders and paragliders 900’ elevation above LZ, ~5:1 glide Large manicured LZ with up-slope landings in all directions, and two flat areas for wheel landings. The site has three port-a-johns, picnic tables, free firewood, fire-pit, free camping electricity, running water and heated shower. H-3/P-3 required, although experienced H-2/P-2 can fly in the right conditions and with an experienced local mentor. Must be current USHPA member and fly with helmet and reserve parachute. Daily flying fees are $30. Annual dues are $100. GPS (LZ): N37.13317047973985, W80.8973991620129 On I-77 in Virginia, take exit 52 onto Route 42 at Bland, Virginia. Travel east on Route 42 for 10 miles, then take a right fork on Route 738. Follow Route 738 for 3.7 miles. Take a left onto State Route 670 (Mt. Zion Rd.). The LZ is 0.5 miles on the left. Jim Bogle’s house is across the road from the LZ. Jim’s phone number: (276) 688-4969



moved away. With few pilots to fly and maintain the site, the brush grew and began to choke the launch slot, and the road was often overgrown. Jim was distressed that the site was not being maintained up to his high standards, so several years ago he took matters into his own hands. Anyone wishing to fly Big Walker now is required to join Jim’s club—The Soar Big Walker Sky Pirates—and pay an annual fee, in return for which Jim and some local Amish farmers he hires do all of the site maintenance. Day passes are also available. Jim’s dream is to create a world-class flight park, and he is well on his way to realizing that dream. He moved the cows from the LZ and keeps it mowed to carpet-like quality. The site provides an ample camping area, with water and a heated shower. Many hang gliders prefer to land on the side of a hill in the rolling LZ, so Jim provides an ATV and glider cart to pick them up and haul them back to the breakdown area. On days when a lot of pilots are present (such as one of the Big Walker fly-ins), Jim has a special trailer that can haul a dozen or more gliders up the mountain, freeing setup space on the top of the mountain and eliminating retrieve hassles. He has large storage containers in the LZ where pilots can congregate during a rain shower, and includes rental glider racks in them for long-term glider storage. For an

In 2014 Jim and Erma Bogle received USHPA’s Recognition of Special

LEFT Watching the sunset over the long ridge | photo by Richard Cobb. BELOW The author

Contribution Award, after overwhelm-

launching | photo by Jean Cobb.

ing support from the local flying community. Unfortunately, Erma did

annual fee, pilots can leave their gliders stored at the site, instead of hauling them back and forth each visit. The site is excellent for both hang gliding and paragliding. The launch faces a few degrees N of NW, but is flyable in W to N. The best days are post-cold-front passage with the unstable clear air that follows the passage. At some times of the year these conditions can be strong, with only the most daring willing to tackle the mid-day thermals. On those days, the rewards can be great, with 5000’+ gains and the opportunity to go as far as your skill, and luck, allow. For the more cautious, later on the same day can result in some spectacular evening flights in more mellow air that can still offer gains of three or four thousand feet. At other times of the year, or during milder fronts, conditions can be good for everyone all day long. Jim built it. Y’all need to come fly it. Watch for passage of cold fronts through the area (or NW wind patterns), bring your camping gear, and stay for a few days. If you come once, you’ll be back. Big Walker is located in the SW Virginia panhandle, just a few miles south of West Virginia.

not live to see the award. The flying community extended their deepest condolences when she died in 2013.




Evacuating the Heck


(Without Going Broke) by Annette O'Neil



You messed up.


his well-deserved vacation was going so well, and your confidence was so high—and that hike-andfly site looked so majestic up there, smooth and green above the trees. You spent all morning hoofing up to it; you didn’t want to hike down just because the winds had gotten a little funky. Now, you’re in a despairing pile at the foot of a tree. Here comes the big question: Are you hooped? Not too long ago, it wasn’t hard for an American to find an emergency evacuation plan. Now, these are becoming scarcer and scarcer. For instance: The very week I’m writing this, major carrier International Medical Group (IMG) announced the discontinuation of their popular Sky Rescue plan. BUPA, long a go-to for adventurous airsports athletes, no longer covers paragliding. So where have all the plans gone? At the end of the day, the hangup is the handoff. As you may know, emergency medical transport is responsible until the victim has been transferred. Lately, there’s been a disturbing trend: Transport arrives with a client to a care facility, only to be turned away when the patient’s insurance does not cover the care. This puts the medical transport company in a very awkward situation, so very few companies are willing to put themselves in the position of handling it—especially when the prospective insuree is involved in a sport they consider statistically dangerous. It’s a nail-biting gamble. The stats price a “typical” rescue anywhere between $15,000 and $125,000. That number varies so widely because there is a proliferation of moving parts involved. Costs depend on the severity of the accident, the remoteness of the accident location, the nature of

any specialized care and the expense involved in chartering flights. Even if an accident victim knows their precise location and is medically stable, the logistics are still messy. Even a “simple” emergency evacuation may require chartering a flight, clearing air space, obtaining all necessary permissions to cross international borders, assembling teams of experts, and a lot more. Most insurance providers are simply no longer willing to engage with this high-stakes, logistically fraught class of indemnity. What’s a smart pilot to do? Get creative, clearly. Define, to the extent that you can, where you’re going to fly—and exactly what level of help you’re likely to need in the event that you need rescuing. Offers remain on the table for pilots who need an escape plan—they just require a lot more creativity and close attention to the fine-print detail than they used to.

Traditional Air EvaC Plans Traditional air evac plans, or “air-medical transport memberships,” remain the standard-issue inclusion for medical evacuation and repatriation in sports-travel insurance plans. These operate essentially as an airborne hospital shuttle. Their job is simply to transport a member from one medical facility with inadequate treatment resources to another with the proper equipment and expertise. Depending on the coverage, this style of insurance plan may or may not move the patient across borders (or back home). These plans won’t work if you’re injured in your own backyard. Coverage begins once the member crosses an imaginary line that’s a set distance from their primary residence address—usually, around 100-150 miles. The oldest and best-known traditional air evacuation plan, MedJet Assist, works as a membership program. For around $300US per






year, it covers its members for medical transfer from one hospital to another. The company doesn’t maintain its own fleet of aircraft and medical staff. Instead, it acts as a fixer, contracting those services out. The other major traditional air-medical transport membership provider, International SOS, specifically excludes paragliding from coverage. It’s important to understand that this and all evacuation plans are not medical insurances. These are highly specific programs, designed to retrieve victims from any hospital in the world outside their local area, monitor the patient’s condition, coordinate with medical personnel and transport the patient safely to competent continuing care. Once the service hands the patient off to the destination medical facility, his/her domestic or international travel insurance takes the wheel to cover treatment and recovery. For adventuring pilots, traditional air evac plans carry one major hitch: To use a traditional air evac plan, you’ll need to be in a hospital already. These traditional plans will not send aircraft to retrieve victims from the field, as you might assume they do. For an injured pilot, this can make a profound difference in recovery



prognosis (and, sometimes, incident survivability).

Field-to-Facility Extraction Field-to-facility plans bridge the gap between air-medical transport and search-and-rescue. These plans are generally built for lifestyle expedition-

ers, operate on annual memberships, don’t carry exclusions for paragliding and function both within and outside the United States (as most travel insurance policies do not). Because they cover US pilots flying within the US, these assurances are the cornerstone of a safety-minded domestic pilot’s toolkit. The most unique of these is Global Rescue. Like MedJet Assist, Global Rescue operates as a membership and contracts out for planes and providers. However, beyond those basics, it’s a very different beast. The reason Global Rescue doesn’t blink an eye at ugly paragliding oopsies is that it was originally designed to do much gnarlier stuff. It specializes in feats of bravado—like extracting clients from war zones and disaster areas, sending hyperspecialized medics out into the Himalayas and coordinating emergency brain surgeries in Sarajevo. Global Rescue counts Geographic Expeditions, the US Ski Team and NASA among its clients. Founded by a former Wall Street banker and run by a staff of bullet-chewing ex-mils, the office staff do burpee sets at work. Global Rescue operates as a membership. Individual memberships

W o r ld’ s l o ng e s t flight on a n E N C glide r 457,73km 25.10.2014 North Brasil, Aspen5, Karel Vejchodsky

next generation of th e legen d USHPA_mag_charlie.indd 1

are issued in increments of for 7, 45, 90, 180 or 365 days, and cover the member when he/she is 160 miles or more from home. An annual Global Rescue medical membership costs around $329US. Global Rescue isn’t the only game in town. Another company, GEOS Alliance, offers both a traditional air-medical transport membership and a search-and-rescue membership, and can combine the two in a way that behaves similarly to Global Rescue’s plan. GEOS requires that the member activate a GPS device (for instance, a SPOT) so they can pinpoint a location for any forthcoming retrieval. Plan costs vary by level of service, but are comparable to Global Rescue. The biggest difference between GEOS and Global Rescue—for passport-toting pilots, specifically—is the former company’s list of excluded countries. While you may be unlikely

10. 4. 2015 12:43:42

to tote your paraglider to any of the 20 countries currently on the list (Somalia, anyone?), some hardened nylon expeditioners might—and then find themselves in a world of trouble when they discover they’re stuck.

Creative Plan Design If you’re taking your wing overseas— and you aren’t looking for an evacuation plan that comes to collect you from the boulders you cased into— you have more options. According to Mark Sequeira, an expert on the Adventure Sports team at Good Neighbor Insurance, you can work with a broker to tailor a sports-travel insurance plan to fit your specific needs. “We’ve been working with adventure athletes for 17 years,” Mark explains. “It’s been an interesting ride. We’ve watched the shifting horizons of the available benefits and developed a pretty creative battle plan.”

Mark suggests that outwardbound travelers get an international adventure-sports plan that specifically covers paragliding, then adjusting the plan to work like an “evac-only” plan. You do this by choosing a plan that includes emergency evacuation as a separate benefit, then maximizing the deductible and choosing the lowest maximum benefit. Usually, this nets you the cheapest rate for your trip. “This has an added benefit,” notes Mark. “Having a little extra medical insurance—even if there’s overlap—guarantees you coverage in a worst-case scenario. In these cases, the insurances will talk to each other and establish a ‘first-to-pay/second-to-pay’ relationship.” “In most cases,” he adds, “You’ll also gain additional travel benefits you otherwise wouldn’t have. Of course, the lost baggage benefit is usually small, covering clothing and your



bag—not the specialized gear you’re likely to be carrying. Work with an insurance agent to determine the best way to cover your gear.” One of Mark’s favorite options for paragliding pilots looking for evacuation insurance is a repurposed “sports travel plan” by Trawick that covers medical evacuation. Again, it only works for international travel, but that includes travelers coming into the US from abroad, and it offers emergency medical evacuation that covers 100% of costs up to $2,000,000. While technically a standard-issue travel medical insurance plan that can include adventure sports, the Trawick plan’s additional benefits cover lots of other travel oopsies in addition to hospital-to-hospital medical evacuation. (That means that if you biff in and head home, you might not have to pay for the rest of the month you booked at that swank Ölüdeniz swim-up palazzo.) As of publication, paraglid-



ing is one of Trawick’s listed activities under the banner of their “Hazardous Activity Coverage” rider (along with, somewhat hilariously, inline skating and zorbing). That rider—which you’ll need to purchase for the policy to cover you when you fly—raises the per-person, per-day rate by 25%. The Trawick plan is available in one-day increments for a term of 5 to 365 days. The policy only works for Americans who are traveling overseas; coverage does not cover the US for American citizens. Another option Mark suggests is the “GU Diplomat Sports” insurance plan, which carries a medical evacuation benefit of $500,000US, regardless of deductible and maximum medical benefit. It’s much like the Trawick plan, but with one major difference: non-medical evacuation. If you’re a very off-the-grid kinda pilot, you’ll be interested to know that the plan includes evacuation for both natural and

political disasters (and covers skydiving, as well). Minimalists, take note: the GU plan’s Medical Expense Benefit is reduced to $20,000 for any injury sustained during participation in its listed adventure sports. That shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve already got the medical insurance side of things covered, and simply want the evacuation benefit—but if you’ve trimmed coverages elsewhere, you might be vulnerable.

Times Are A-Changin’ “There is a lot of fine print at play here,” Mark warns. “And it’s easy to miss something.” Insurers change their minds—and coverages—a lot. The rate of change has markedly increased for sports participation over the course of the last few years, stranding many, many athletes in a place where they’re looking at a remortgage if they need to be rescued. To avoid serious issues, you’ll

need to read everything—and, ideally, consult an expert. Off-the-shelf plans purchased from the Internet don’t generally work well for us athletes. Specific sports participation remains, of course, a key sticking point with both evacuation membership services and traditional insurers. Insurers compulsively add and remove coverage for specific airsports, so the fact that your favorite, “familiar” plan once covered paragliding does not mean it’ll surely cover it for your next trip. That said, don’t let the near-magical appearance of “paragliding” on the coveredsports list dissuade you from reading the rest of the fine print. Age is another factor that can discontinue your coverage. Some companies deny older athletes sports coverage—or, rather sneakily, reduce the amount of coverage—at a certain age threshold. As a general rule, insurers don’t grant adventure sports coverage to persons over the age of 65.

If you celebrate a key birthday while you’re on your trip, it could easily leave you unprotected. These policies, too, flex according to insurers’ verbiage changes. One thing, unfortunately, doesn’t often change—lack of competition coverage. Comp pilots, beware: Competitions and events are almost always excluded from coverage. Disturbingly: even if the competition is casual—or even if it’s a non-competitive, organized event—you could find yourself outside of coverage for an injury if you appear on a list of participants. Yes: even on social media. So—my friend, distraught at the foot of a tree—you may not be doomed, after all, if you’ve really done your homework. I hope you did. (And that it’s not broken.) Chin up: While you’re on the sidelines, you just might have the time to research your next policy.

Don’t Go It Alone For help digging through the library of verbiage, turn to the Adventure Sports Insurance division of Good Neighbor Insurance. For 17 years, they’ve specialized in helping athletes choose a right-priced policy with the proper coverages from an extensive quiver of insurers. ASI can set you up with an evacuation-only membership, as well.

Doug Gulleson US: (480) 813.9100 Toll-free: (866) 636-9100 Skype: goodneighborinsurance




Paragliding &





by Sofia Puerta Webber


n enthusiastic group of yogi-pilots from all over the planet hauled their yoga mats and gliders to the rainbow land of Colombia. Pilots Mike Branger, Paul Webber, coach Kari Castle, Robin Cushman, Julie Spiegler and Pavlo Rudakevych came from California. Others who joined us were Jonathan Smith and Don Ikenberry from Hawaii, Chris Kirk from Miami, Linda McClary from Minnesota, Julie Williams from Seattle, Kent Hudson from Alaska, Jack Dennett from Canada, and Piet Human from South Africa. We all flew together in the first Paragliding and Yoga Tour offered to our flying community. Our adventure started in Medellín, where we downed a delicious welcome dinner at El Poblado, followed by some healthy drinks at Parque Lleras and a meeting with our guides. “We want to welcome you to this incredible experience. This is not just a flying trip; it is a cultural and paragliding family exchange. We want all of you to enjoy every moment while you are flying and beyond,” declared Lucho Jimenez, our friend, guide, talented local pilot and CEO of Airnomads Colombia. The next morning we went to the mall to equip our new Colombian phones, buy fatty bags, coffee, notebooks, and other necessities, including sweets for the van ride. We were eager to go straight to San Felix, a notable flying site where one can view the city of Medellín in all its splendor and where we were able to observe spectacular thermals and impressive takeoff areas. Due to a little rain in the morning, the wind was weak, so most of the pilots did a sled ride or “piano,” as it is called by

the locals. At the landing zone in Bello, the group had their first encounter with Colombian children, who are always willing to help the pilots, especially foreigners. One phrase pilots must learn to say in Colombia is uno, no más, indicating only one helper is needed for folding the glider. If no help is needed, kindly say: No, gracias. It seems to give the children great joy to walk with the “aliens” and guide them to the nearest shop or tienda for beer or juice. This simple phrase, uno, no más, is also very handy when you are partying and don’t want any more aguardiente, which is derived from the words agua, water, and ardiente, fiery. It is a traditional Colombian anise-flavored liqueur made from sugarcane that locals will share with you as a symbol of friendship and camaraderie. We loaded the van, greeted our driver, John Castaño, AKA Peluca, and headed towards Jericó, a two-and-a-half hour trip, during which time we listened to cumbia, salsa and merengue music. We arrived at the beautiful Hacienda Cauca Viejo, where traditional houses are situated around a central patio, an arrangement common in both colonial towns and rural haciendas throughout the country. We spent four nights in a traditional paisa, a red house with grounds that included two mango trees, a fountain, pool table, large swimming pool, picturesque balconies, and comfortable beds and hammocks. When it rained the next day, we took the opportunity to visit the town of Jericó, where we learned its history and were told the story about a humanistic nun and saint called Madre Laura who had lived there. The devotion and respect the people in town demonstrate towards their religion encour-

LEFT Paul Webber climbing a thermal right after taking off at Damasco, Antioquia. BELOW Pilots during the hour morning yoga session in the landing

zone in Cauca Viejo, Antioquia. Photos by Sofia Puerta Webber



aged us to visit the cathedral. They believe if one makes a wish upon entering the church, it might come true. I wished for all of us to be happy, safe and egoless. We were able to fly at Jericó for two days. After waking in the morning surrounded by birdsong, we made our way to invigorating, yet relaxing yoga classes. The morning sessions, which required concentration and devotion regardless of the heat and insects hidden in the grass, were a big hit on the tour. Some of the group learned how to perform headstands and the Crow and incorporated other poses into their daily regimen, both during practice and when para-waiting. After Jericó, we traveled to Damasco to enjoy an inspirational flight within the most dramatic landscape on our tour. Damasco welcomed us with good wind, great lift, and



a spectacular rainbow over the sky that followed most of us until we crossed the meseta towards two tall mountain peaks called The Teats. After two hours, most of the team landed in La Pintada beside the river, where excited children waited to help us fold the gliders. Our day turned even more magical with an amazing lunch/dinner at a restaurant on the road that allowed us to enjoy not only a great view of the Cauca River and a lizard in a tree, but also many vultures or chulos landing in the canopy of the tallest trees and a plethora of colorful birds and butterflies. Colombia offers many delightful foods—meats, rice, and beans served with the traditional arepa, along with all types of beer and natural fruit juices. Enough variety to satisfy any diet preferences.

View of the Cauca River at La Pintada, Antioquia | photo by Sofia Puerta Webber. BELOW By the pool in the tradicional Hacienda, beginners, intermediate and advance Yogis during the morning yoga classes as part of the healthy routine to prepare the pilots mentally and phisically for cross country | photo by Mike Branger. LEFT

The breakfasts were also outstanding. Everyone enjoyed tasting the unfamiliar fruits and delights that a traditional Colombian morning meal offers, from a variety of eggs, hot cocoa, and black coffee or tinto, to papaya, pineapple, homemade cheese and jam, butter, bread, arepa and new fruits, such as lulo, mora, guanábana, maracuyá and granadilla. Our next night was spent in lovely Anserma Nuevo, which sits at the gateway of Cauca Valley. This leg of the trip combined mystery with adventure. Two jeeps—1957 Willys—were waiting for us by the church in the square or plaza to give us a moonlight ride to our next accommodation, a traditional farm or finca, as well as to serve as our means of transportation for the next few days. What we liked best about the jeeps were the horns; they simulated a huge truck

as they struggled up the unlighted dirt road. The following morning we were happy to see a clear blue sky and launching area only a 10-minute walk away. The yoga session was held on a beautiful deck that offered us the view of three towns in the horizon and the opportunity to hear the town crier making daily announcements. In addition to offering a breathtakingly beautiful view, the finca was a good place for both beginning and advanced pilots. The flight in Anserma provided pilots with the wonderful thermals for which the Cauca Valley is known. Chulos, the local indigenous avions, also seemed to magically appear in the sky when we needed them most to show us where the thermals were. They eventually became our flying partners. There were a few chicken farms and fields, which were perfect landing zones where we sometimes had to dodge goats, dogs, cows or horses, as well as kids and curious locals. It was a satisfying day. Some pilots went cross-country, while others landed in the designated LZ. Some flew twice and decided to top land and go for a swim. We will definitely go back to Anserma for the next tour. Our team of drivers, hostess, and guides, Jaime Gardeazabal and Simón, made our stay unforgettable. Gracias, amigos! The last day we were in Anserma pilots decided to fly south towards our next destination. Our van retrieved the pilots along the way, the last being coach Kari Castle, who landed three miles north of Roldanillo. When we picked her up, smiling, she exclaimed, “I love Colombia, Sofía!” I was honored to bring Kari to Colombia; she is such an outstanding pilot and instructor. We had planned this trip for many years and now we were there, learning that margaritas are made very differently in Colombia, that tortillas are



not the same as arepas, that Colombian people like to drink instant coffee and shower with cold water, and that the thermals shown by chulos are easy to turn in and great to fly! Roldanillo is known as the paragliding mecca of Colombia. “Rolda” is a “must-go” destination for all paraglider and hang glider pilots. Despite the numerous pilots that visit Rolda this time of year, we had the good fortune to get accommodations in a very nice hotel with a beautiful deck that allowed us to see the takeoff every morning, while having a hearty breakfast. In the afternoon, after a great flight, we relaxed by resting in hammocks, reading our books and writing in our journals, and sending messages to our families and friends, while feeling the afternoon breeze that comes off the Pacific Coast every evening to cool and refresh the area. Some pilots enjoyed meditation walks; others went for runs or even hiked to the takeoff at Los Tanques. After our 20-minute van ride to launch base, we were met by sherpas with horses who offered to take our gliders up the steep trail to the site. Just off to the right of launch was one of the house thermals I decided to name “Sun Salutation” because it was the warmup spot, strong but fun, right above an electric tower. Turn, turn! If you caught that thermal, your flight was guaranteed, an easy climb to cloudbase and an opportunity to go for a nice cross-country. No competition, pure exploration and enjoyment. The first day we had a little crosswind, so some pilots decided not fly; others landed at the stadium in the town. The second day offered a little more friendly wind and everyone took off, headed south for a cross-country. The third day in Roldanillo the yogi-pilots decided to explore the northlands and crossed the valley, which turned out to be a great crosscountry for most. The pickup van, toting cold drinks for everyone, was not far behind. During this journey we enjoyed the company of great pilots from all over the world; some were training for com-

petitions, races, or the X-Alps. We all improved our skills as pilots and yogis and learned more of the Spanish language, which is rich in words and expressions. I was impressed by how much Spanish everyone learned in only two weeks. Many expressed themselves gracefully, were able to ask for directions and food and always used the expressions muchas gracias and por favor when appropriate. They also explored the culinary delights of the region, including panelitas, cholao, salpicón, cocadas, trucha, chorizo, arepa de chócolo and lechona and came back to me with great stories. Our last flight day in Roldanillo we went south, past Bolivar, almost to Buga; everyone had a great flight as we said goodbye to the thermal capital of Colombia. We were wearing our tour’s ponchos, designed by Kari who had been assisted by Gordo Gardeazabal and Simón. Our next stop was Piedechinche, where we were booked in a rustic hotel. We celebrated our arrival by feasting on a traditional meal at Santa Helena, a little village close to the official landing zone. Pilots really enjoyed the flights there; the majority beat their own cross-country records. Mike and Kari went over 80 km, across the valley and back. There was a great lift line where spectacular clouds took the pilots in an extraordinary journey above towns, freeways, and fields. Mike said: “This has been the best flight of my life!” Everyone rides amazing thermals in Colombia, surrounded by clouds, chulos and the smell of sugar cane. Gordo Gardeazabal told us that a pilot from Switzerland, named Hans, broke the Colombian crosscountry record by putting 165 kms under his wing in 2013. On February 18th, we took a plane from Cali to Bogotá to arrive at our final flying site, Sopó, a little town a one-hour drive from the capital city. We stayed in a traditional finca owned by an old couple that made our stay very cozy and enjoyable. Fireplace, aguapanela, (sugar cane’s hot drink) and ruana, a woolen poncho-type cover manufactured in ancient

ABOVE Pilots at take off in Anserma Nuevo, Valle del Cauca. From left to right: Mike Branger, JK, Simón, Julie S, Don, Julie W, Sofía, Paul, Jaime, Piet, Kari,

Jack, Kent, Linda, Pavlo and Robin. RIGHT Don Ikenberry taking off at San Felix, Medellín | photo by Sofia Puerta Webber.



times by the Muisca people, were enjoyed as part of our new “Bogotá Savannah style.” Sopó is located 2558m (8392 feet) above sea level; it is chilly. The air and the topography are different from the other towns. Colombia has an immense variety of climates; it has no seasons, only rainy and dry periods. We went to the flying site in Sopó at Voladero el Paraiso, where the Martinez brothers, the owners of the flying site, welcomed and apologized to us at same time for the downwind situation. “It is not your fault,” I said, while hugging my old friends I had known since they were seven years old. Nowadays they are the best pilots in the region, both for acrobatics and tandem, and are known nationwide. We all had hopes that the wind would change, but it didn’t. The next day the wind was the same and after a great “yoga play” and some empanadas, Colombian turnovers stuffed with meat and potatoes, the van took us to Zipaquirá to visit the Salt Cathedral, considered one of the most notable achievements of Colombian architecture. From thermals in Valle del Cauca to the bottom of the salt mine in Cundinamarca—this is the magic of Colombia! The last day in Sopó we enjoyed the magnificent view of the Guatavita reservoir. When the reservoir was created it

caused an elevation of the entire Pueblo. Guatavita is known for the legend of El Dorado. The wind still wasn’t good, so some pilots decided to go for a walk at the Pionono National Park, 10 minutes from the flying site. The rain came and we bade farewell to Sopó under a bright rainbow. We enjoyed our last supper at the most popular restaurant in Chia, Andrés Carne de Res. After dinner, it was off to the hotel or the airport, as some pilots had a redeye flight that night. Others were able to visit the Gold Museum in Bogotá the next day. Everyone arrived home safely, having learned to speak more Spanish and become more aware of their many talents as pilots and yogis, and having gained knowledge about the wonders of Colombia—a magic land full of flying sites, thermals, landing zones, great people, tasty food and opportunities to relax. We all made new friends and still carry in our hearts amazing memories, as well as our ponchos with the three colors of the Colombian flag: yellow, blue and red. May all of us remember to connect our thoughts, words, and deeds with our higher selves. Next Paragliding and Yoga tour August 10-25, 2015. Contact Sofia at or call 818-572-6350







Part XVII : Flying Sucks! by Dennis Pagen


lying sucks, but don’t yet turn the page. I’m not really dissing flying, but some of its effects. Read the article first; then turn the page. The slang term “sucks” has come to mean hopelessly bad. But here we’ll use it in its original form: a result of a vacuum, or an effect similar to that of a sucking



vacuum. Such phenomena are surprisingly common in our sports.

LAUNCH/RAMP SUCK This form of suck is what I mentioned in a recent article. This is the only type of suck that applies only to hang gliding, so para-readers may wish to

go to the next section. Ramp suck can occur when there is no ramp, of course, so we will just call this launch suck. The cause of launch suck is not hard to fathom. Figure 1 shows that a steep hill requires a lowered nose in stronger winds in order to avoid being close to a stall when the launch run begins. If

we keep our nose position (attitude) too high we may be stalled and turned to one side or even blown over backwards in really strong winds. I have seen it happen more than once. But the consequences of keeping the nose low are several. First, if the nose must be very low to be neutral, it is hard to hold the glider steady since you can’t keep your shoulders in the uprights and the base bar is so close to your shins that you can’t take a step. Fortunately, this extreme nose-down position normally is only required on a true vertical cliff launch, and then arrangements for a nose wire assist helps the pilot control. But there are steep sites (with slopes from about 35 and more degrees) where launch suck appears.



The two main things that happen on a steep slope with soaring wind is the wind will lift your tips because they are closer to the ground; and, the airflow over the wing’s upper surface will create lift that tends to pull you forward—ramp suck. Both of these affects are shown in figure 2. If you try to keep your nose higher to avoid the forward pull, your tips lift more and fight against you. Also, you must have your nose lower or you risk a stall. We don’t have room in this article for a detailed description of how to do a launch-suck launch, but the short run-down is to use a wire assist on your rear wires to hold you back and keep the glider at the right attitude. If a gust tries to lift the nose a

good rear-wire crewman can pull down on the lower part of the rear wires while his shoulders are supporting the upper part of the rear wires, thereby imparting a nosedown rotational force. Having a nose-wire person is not desirable unless the launch is essentially a cliff with a place for the nose man to duck down out of the way. The reason for this caveat is that with a steep windy launch you have to propel yourself away from the hill quickly so you establish flying speed and thus control. You really don’t want to stand there waiting for a nose-wire person to clear. Launch suck is normal on very steep launches, but can happen on narrow ramps if the glider’s center is a bit blocked from the wind while


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the tips extend beyond the sides of the ramp in the free flow. Be ready for launch suck at varied sites. Out of eight local sites I encounter launch suck at three of them on occasion.

GROUND SUCK Here we’re not speaking of gravity—we leave that to the end. We are talking about the tendency for some pilots, especially early pilots, to be focused on the ground. In the worse case, ground suck induces the suffering pilot to go out to land long before necessary. I have seen pilots leave a very promising thermal bubbling area only to find there’s nothing else to find and thus they end up on the ground in short order. Think of this: You have probably heard of the fixation focus, or the “lone-tree syndrome.” In these situations, a pilot (or even a car driver) looks/gazes/fixates on a feature they want to avoid, such as a lone tree in a field, an antenna on a ridge (or a big semi on the highway). But because our sense of vision is so powerful and often unconsciously controls our behavior, we often go right toward where our attention is focused. Thus, the overly fixated pilot or driver steers right toward what he/she is trying to avoid. As the obstruction gets closer, fear or panic increases and the pilots can no longer think rationally and loses the ability to overcome the “deer in the headlights” syndrome. It’s like a mouse being paralyzed by fear when a cat is ready to pounce. I have known pilots to hit trees and antennas in flight due to this factor. In conversations after the incidence, they indicated, “It just seemed to draw me in.” We have learned to



tell all pilots to “look where you want to go, not what you want to avoid.” The fixation is alive and well in our flying. I am sure a similar effect occurs when a pilot is overly focused on the ground. If all you are looking at 90% of the time is the ground, there’s a high chance that you are going to go to the ground. There are reasons for some pilots to be ground focused: fear of landing, inability to dwell in the moment, tiredness or simply never learning to pay attention to the surrounding airspace, rather than the ground. We’ll deal with fear below. Concerning being in the moment and space, part of the solution is simply awareness and focus. The best approach is to think about the situation before you launch. First, note where the landing field is and at what height or position you need to be at a minimum in order to safely reach the landing field with safe setup altitude. Then, file that info away and don’t worry about the landing field until you are approaching your safety limit. Now, once you are in the air, focus on the location, position and trajectory of the other pilots as well as where the thermals are and your feel for the lift. No real attention has to be paid to the ground, as long as the landing field is large enough that wind variations don’t present a big problem. Tiredness can also induce pilots to land early. Certainly pilots should not be flying if they are fatigued before the flight. The tiredness we are talking about is when arms or other functional parts get tired in the process of control. Mostly the reason for fatigue is poor technique. Three factors contribute to the fatigue.

One is not having an easily gripped surface on your base tube (for hang gliding). A bare aluminum tube requires too much grip to maintain control, especially in somewhat turbulent conditions. Also, as we have stated before, a bare tube requiring a firm grip reduces your sensitivity to the air. The second fatiguing factor is turning too flatly. The flatter you turn, the harder you have to muscle a glider to put it where you want it to be. The third factor is if you make your circles too wide you will be in the turbulent edges of a thermal, which again creates more struggle. All of these points will be discussed in a future article in more detail. Once you get tired, it is easy to fall into the habit of directing longing glances at the ground, and soon be headed that way. Break the vicious circle of fatigue by making a few corrections in your equipment and flying style. Otherwise your flights will be shorter, you will have less chance to gain experience to correct your technique, and so on. Ground suck can occur for a variety of complex reasons, but a little awareness, a little correction of habits and a lot of focus change can cure the syndrome.


Our next sucking syndrome, landingfield suck, can be quite similar to ground suck, but there are a few different wrinkles. Two factors are the main causes of landing-field suck: something of importance/attraction in the landing field, or fear of landing. Something of importance in the landing field can be a cooler of cold beer, a waiting girlfriend/ boyfriend/ wife, etc. If a six pack of waiting beer


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LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN HANG GLIDING • 1-800-688-5637 • WWW.HANGLIDE.COM is the reason you focus on the landing field rather than your flying, then your biggest problem isn’t losing airtime, it’s an addiction that probably needs attention. A waiting significant other can always be a distraction. If it is a onetime deal, well, deal with it. On the other had, if the sig-oth wants to come along on every flying outing, they must have some understanding that flying doesn’t adhere to a nine-to-five, or even a three-to-five clock. It took a while for me to realize that you can’t expect to drive to the site, set up in a half hour, fly for an hour, break down in a half hour and be home in time for romance. There always seems to be complications that compromise a tight timeline: adverse winds, serial launch potatoes, a slow squatting blue hole, an overdeveloping close-by cloud, a long line of hopeful pilots, a dead battery, a broken batten end, etc. The best solution for this form of landingfield-suck syndrome is to realize that you need a way lot of extra time for

contingencies, and do not let expectations of others impinge on reality. By providing a wide margin of time buffer, you will not feel pressure and everyone will be happier. In an extreme case, I remember a pilot who promised his wife he would be home for supper. Some grown-up brush and a bit of strong winds at this seldom-used site meant we weren’t finished with the day’s flying excursion until dark. The pilot had come along with another driver and never told anyone about his critical “Cinderella pumpkin” time. Who knows what went on behind closed doors, but we never saw that pilot fly again… A special case of landing field suck is when a pilot is reluctant to fly cross-country because they don’t want to leave the security blanket of the known designated landing field. There are two things that will help this common suck factor. First is the realization that most of our landing fields have been acquired as a secondary necessity after we have found a moun-

tain of the right height and shape with no cover or cover we are allowed to cut. So, often, landing fields are a bit of a compromise—they may be small, tree surrounded, power-line threatened, sloped, bordered or crossed by a ditch, hump, or whatever. But we use them out of necessity—that’s all we got. Because of this state of affairs, I teach my XC students that almost all the time when you fly cross-country you land in an easier, larger, safer landing field than your homeport. In fact, one of the challenges we give our students is to land in the best field in the area (we give them style points for doing so and talk about it in the debriefings). SO, the psychological landing-field suck in this regard is mostly a false phobia. Of course, later when a pilot has the desire to fly XC we have to train them not to fly directly to and linger around the largest, easiest field in the region. The second point to help allay the landing-field suck of a site’s known field is simply drive around the area

looking at as many fields as possible and scoping out the size, shapes, obstructions and ground cover. Then imagining the setup and approach for the expected wind conditions. If a common route exists at the given site, we drive along that route and look at fields for miles. Preparation in this manner followed by gradual practice in further and further fields help allay those early piloting cold-sweat nightmares where you are getting low over a sea of trees. If you obey the numberone rule of cross-country—always having an easily reachable safe field or two in your sights—the landing-field suck bugaboo will be vanquished.

RETRIEVE SUCK Since we are talking about cross-



country, we should mention retrieve suck. You can probably figure it out: You land because going further would add an hour, twenty dollars, an angry driver/wife/husband to the endeavor. Or, you see the vehicle or you know where it is and well, it’s so damn convenient. I am sure all veteran XC pilots have cut short flights for convenience sake. OK, once in a while we have to take life easy, but to really rack up the miles we have to be prepared for inconvenience and getting back late. In order to do this guilt-free, we have to have mental and logistical preparedness. The mental preparedness is mostly developing gumption and tenacity to focus on the task at hand—damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. This

doesn’t mean we neglect safety, but live in the moment and get into the joy (and wonder) of racking up miles, not thinking of the aftermath. If we constantly worry about retrieve, we will be missing some of this joy. The logistical preparation mainly involves all the little things like arranging rendezvous points and general tracks with the retrieve driver. Arranging to call home once you have landed, and arranging well ahead of time to (probably or hopefully) miss supper. Perhaps you need to arrange flower delivery too. As much arranging as you can muster ahead of time will be one less magnet calling you down. The better you arrange, the better you will range.

TIME SUCK/MENTAL SUCK Flying is very rewarding, but let’s get honest, it is a huge time suck. Maybe you have to drive for hours to get to a site, then there’s the shuffle of gliders on the car, unloading, setting up, etc. Oh no, a sled ride, or even worse, it starts to tail! Yeah, if we focus on the details or stop to count the hours spent trying to get that all-important magic-carpet ride, it can be disconcerting. But, think about all things in life that are worthwhile. Isn’t there a ton of preparation, care and feeding that results in the rewards? Think about your education. Think about your relation with your family, your wife/husband, your kids. Isn’t there a lot of down time or effort expended? What if you are an artist or a musician or some other creative person? What about the countless hours you spend at your job for what is often only enough reward to keep you alive in order to go back to work for another day? When put in this perspective, in my view, flying and its joys are well worth the total time we spend at it, including the down time, the driving time, the daydream time. Let’s face it, work is a time suck, family relations are a time suck, life is a time suck. As of this writing, the amount of time I have been on this earth multiplies out to almost exactly 600,000 hours. In 40 years if I have spent 3000 hours in flying mode—in the air, in the car, setting up—I have only devoted .5% of my life to getting airtime. I doubt if that extra 0.5% would have garnered me a Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Universe title or even the World’s Best Husband award. I’m glad I devoted 41 years to flying (so far). The only way forward is to have vision. As pilots we have to clear away some of the mists obscuring clarity of

purpose. Once you get past the adrenalin junky phase, flying is mostly peace and harmony. As such it is much cheaper and more rewarding than reclining on a psychiatrist’s couch. I still marvel at the beauty and amazing achievement that flying brings to us. And sitting on a hill enjoying nature is what sustains me when the rare tail or deteriorating conditions skunks my flying. The secret of serenity to all things in life is to live in the moment. The gurus and avatars tell us that. Set your block of flying time reasonably, and when you go flying, go flying. Forget everything else.

WEATHER/COMPUTER SUCK This form of flying suck starts at home, far from the flying site. It can most readily be characterized as similar to getting stuck in the mud with your yellow plastic boots. You ain’t going nowhere. It starts when you stretch out of bed and get the sudden urge to go flying. Your pilot friends sent an email around yesterday touting the possibilities. So you fire up the coffeemaker and fire up the computer. The coffee is good, but the weather sites aren’t. They show 80% cloud, light winds and 50% chance of sled ride. Moan. You keep searching and monitoring in hope of a change, but by the time the phones start ringing (OK, texts for you paraglider pilots), you are quite convinced the changeable weather has doomed you again to staying home and watching Oprah or some similar slow suicidal process. Meanwhile: Some friends with a bit more optimistic outlook went to the hill anyway and found a window of sunshine and good thermals; found weak lift that had them scratching for an hour; found an extended sled ride with one pilot learning a new

thermal trick; found a winning lottery ticket right there on launch, or some such scenario. The point is, well, two points: First, the weather service is less than reliable nowadays, and in my estimation about 50% of the days that look duff on the computer turn out to be fun flying days. Secondly, if you only go on the days predicted to be spectacular, you will never develop some of the more important flying skills, like reading condition, timing launch cycles, scratching, patience and scratching. I can’t begin to recount the stories of pilots who expected glides and got soars. I am also the first to aver that a successful scrabbling flight below or barely above launch can be as satisfying as a high flight floating around in marshmallow thermals. If you want to get good, simply go flying. Don’t get sucked in by negativity—it has a habit of spreading through the media. Don’t suffer paralysis from (over-) analysis.

GRAVITY SUCKS No way around it. Gravity sucks constantly and continuously. Many years ago Newton figured it out and Einstein tweaked it. It is the all-pervasive suck in our sports, but would we have it any other way? If there was no gravity or if gravity was greatly reduced, there would be no thermals. Any warm bubble on the ground would just sit there because the surrounding air would only be barely heavier than the thermal, so it wouldn’t dislodge. And if it did rise, it would be so anemic that all we would be able to do is flounder until we decked it. Always. So let’s be grateful for gravity’s suck. And yeah, in many ways, flying sucks.











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Craig Grossmann Jason Ament Mary Creighton Tinus Els Matleena Venable Chris Carolin Christopher Ryanshull Luke Stebick


Kevin Lee Marc Chirico Jon Malmberg Wallace Anderson Rob Sporrer Jesse Meyer Danielle Kinch Danielle Kinch


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Christopher Keesler Michael David Adam Reeder Rick Maddy Dane Sjoden Val Baughman Douglas Catharine Stephen Greenwald Eva Malikoua Brett Folske Steven Nevels Rachel Wagner Ian Jones Jason Lombard Keykhosro Zolfaghari Patrick Wong Hamidreza Shahnavaz Jafar Djoyaeian Abbasali Davoodabadi Abolfazl Sabet Ghadam Ali Golmakan Konrad Sierszen Amit Manektala Christian Walsh Karim Memarpour Ghiassi Jeremy Barr Kurt Leithe Craig Grossmann Nathan Mann Andy Shidner Dan Leary Drue Hollifield Nathaniel Mcclure Matthew Smith Wayne Boitz Tad Denning Chase Nebeker Kevin Kearns Diane Victoria Josh Sweeney Troy Bainbridge Marianna Eneeva Matleena Venable Urszula Clemins Gaston Nogues Christopher Keesler Michael David Adam Reeder William Abbott Rick Maddy Dane Sjoden Val Baughman John Strenio Cameron Greaves Brett Folske Patrick Mccarty Ian Jones


Rob Sporrer Christopher Grantham Daniel Ribas Jonathan Jefferies Aaron Cromer Christopher Grantham Ken Hudonjorgensen Charles (chuck) Woods Bill Heaner Rob Sporrer Granger Banks Bill Heaner Michele Mccullough Rob Sporrer Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Rob Sporrer Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Ron Kohn Rob Sporrer Stephen Mayer Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin David Hanning Ron Kohn Kevin Lee David (dexter) Binder Chris Santacroce Terry Hawkins Marc Chirico Denise Reed Marc Chirico William Brown Chris Santacroce Jeffrey Greenbaum Jeffrey Greenbaum Jesse Meyer Wallace Anderson Brian Kerr Jesse Meyer Rob Sporrer Gabriel Jebb Jerome Daoust Rob Sporrer Christopher Grantham Daniel Ribas David (dexter) Binder Jonathan Jefferies Aaron Cromer Christopher Grantham Gary Begley Chris Santacroce Rob Sporrer Granger Banks Michele Mccullough

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Don Schneider Nathan Santee Russell Spurlock Adam Dealoe Anil Phull Jean-marc Rozon Aleksandar Petrovic Jordan Stratton Noah Hurley Josh Gilberts Eric Casey Christopher Butler Nicholas Maass Conor Nimmo Michael Christian Alfred Fuller Flip Senn Don Schneider Nathan Santee Anil Phull Jean-marc Rozon Aleksandar Petrovic Josh Gilberts Eric Casey Christopher Butler Nicholas Maass David Pendzick Alfredo Moreno Jericho Sta Ana Kimly Do Ian Snowball Robert Laplume Malcolm Laplante Victoria Bates Oded Kalir Michael Jefferson



Rob Mckenzie Rob Mckenzie Joe Greblo Charles Glantz Joe Greblo Aaron Johnson Matthew Masters Nickolas Lopez Theodore Hurley Aaron Johnson Aaron Johnson Christian Thoreson Bart Weghorst Matthew Hickerson James Tibbs Eric Hinrichs Robert Booth Rob Mckenzie Rob Mckenzie Joe Greblo Aaron Johnson Matthew Masters Aaron Johnson Aaron Johnson Christian Thoreson Bart Weghorst James Tibbs Dale Sanderson Patrick Denevan Robert Booth David Sharp Christian Thoreson James Tindle David Sharp Malcolm Jones Jon James




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Jason Lombard Jeff Shapiro Keykhosro Zolfaghari William Gavin Yogesh Simpson David Sturn Byron Amerson Matthias Krantz Patrick Wong Hamidreza Shahnavaz Jafar Djoyaeian Abbasali Davoodabadi Ho Li Amit Manektala Christopher Rancont John Nichols Zev Glass Susan Smith Ryan Dunn Christian Walsh Joel Mediavilla Guzman Stephen Curgan John Tilstra Nicolas Botero Martin Hernandez Nicole Owens James King Vince Price Adam Evans Timothy Barber Konstantin Aptekarev Sophie Bourgoin Schuyler Heath Daniel Kelley Shawn Cordon Bryan Marincic Conor Garvie Paton Wongviboonsin Kristen Hutchinson Johann Ortner Feagil (dru) Katana Keykhosro Zolfaghari Eisse Veldthuis Saeid Homay Maxime Hacker Hamidreza Shahnavaz Abbasali Davoodabadi Fatih Sarikaya Joshua Groth Brock Slavens Dirk Walther Izumi Hopson Andrew Craig David Sacher Vin Conti Eric Bader Chelsea Paulus Maxime Hacker Mehmet Tuluoglu Kirsten Seeto Hamidreza Shahnavaz Okan Demir Marco Stelter Andres Solis





Rob Sporrer Joshua Winstead Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Andy Macrae Andy Macrae Andy Macrae Andy Macrae Rob Sporrer Rob Sporrer Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Ma Chiu Kit Rob Sporrer Robert Hastings Scott Harris Jordan Neidinger David Prentice Chris Santacroce Stephen Mayer Robert Hastings Victor Leshtaev Terry Bono Robert Hastings Robert Hastings Chris Santacroce Stephen Mayer John Kraske John Kraske Jesse Meyer Jesse Meyer Jesse Meyer Jesse Meyer Jerome Daoust Philip Russman Rob Sporrer Gabriel Jebb Gabriel Jebb Patrick Johnson Granger Banks Gabriel Jebb Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Murat Tuzer Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Peter Humes Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Murat Tuzer Nathan Pertuset Gabriel Jebb Ciaran Egan Terry Bono Jerome Daoust Rob Sporrer Pete Michelmore Granger Banks Max Marien Peter Humes Murat Tuzer Julie Spiegler Seyed Alireza Amidi Namin Murat Tuzer David Hanning Terry Bono

Haiti | photo by Nick Greece.

DIGITAL MEMBERSHIP CARDS Take your ratings and expiration date everywhere you fly. Download from the Members Only section of the USHPA website. Print, trim, and store in your wallet. Save to your mobile device for easy reference. Always available at

RENEW your membership at to participate in our Green initiative. Online renewal is only available to current members, and members who have been expired less than 3 years. Members who have been expired more than 3 years must contact the USHPA office.

CALENDAR clinics & tours


CALENDAR & CLASSIFIED CALENDAR, CLINIC & TOUR LISTINGS can be submitted online at _ events.asp. A minimum 3-month lead time is required on all submissions and tentative events will not be published. For more details on submissions, as well as complete information on the events listed, see our Calendar of Events at CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING RATES - The rate for classified

advertising is $10.00 for 25 words and $1.00 per word after 25. MINIMUM AD CHARGE $10.00. AD DEADLINES: All ad copy, instructions, changes, additions & cancellations must be received in writing 2 months preceding the cover date, i.e. September 15th is the deadline for the November issue. All classifieds are prepaid. If paying by check, please include the following with your payment: name, address, phone, category, how many months you want the ad to run and the classified ad. Please make checks payable to USHPA, P.O. Box 1330, Colorado Springs, CO 80901-1330. If paying with credit card, you may email the previous information and classified to For security reasons, please call your Visa/MC or Amex info to the office. No refunds will be given on ads cancelled that are scheduled to run multiple months. (719) 632-8300. Fax (719) 632-6417 HANG GLIDING ADVISORY: Used hang gliders should always

be disassembled before flying for the first time and inspected carefully for fatigued, bent or dented downtubes, ruined bushings, bent bolts (especially the heart bolt), re-used Nyloc nuts, loose thimbles, frayed or rusted cables, tangs with non-circular holes, and on flex wings, sails badly torn or torn loose from their anchor points front and back on the keel and leading edges. PARAGLIDING ADVISORY: Used paragliders should always be thoroughly inspected before flying for the first time. Annual inspections on paragliders should include sailcloth strength tests. Simply performing a porosity check isn’t sufficient. Some gliders pass porosity yet have very weak sailcloth.

If in doubt, many hang gliding and paragliding businesses will be happy to give an objective opinion on the condition of equipment you bring them to inspect. BUYERS SHOULD SELECT EQUIPMENT THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THEIR SKILL LEVEL OR RATING. NEW PILOTS SHOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION FROM A USHPA CERTIFIED INSTRUCTOR.

Aug 9-23 > Colombia. Come to fly with us in SEVEN sites along The Cauca Valley and Antioquia region includes: Piedechinche, Roldanillo, Anserma Nuevo, Jericó, Damasco, Santa Fé de Antioquia and San Felix. Coaching and guidance by Ruben Montoya (Rubenfly). $2100 includes 14 nights accommodation in traditional «fincas» or hotels, breakfast, ground transportation, yoga sessions, Spanish lessons, briefings, guidance and flying fees. Call Sofia at 818-572-6350, AUGUST 29, 30, 31 > Thermal Clinic. Utah sites with

Ken Hudonjorgensen. Learn your wing’s language and what it is telling you about the parcel of air it is in. More info: Phone 801- 971-3414, email twocanfly@gmail. com, or

SEP 5-9 > Cross-country and open-distance competition clinic with mentoring. Paragliding Intensive with Ken Hudonjorgensen and other mentors. Inspiration Point, Jupiter, West Mt. and Monroe, Utah, wherever the weather tells us to go. More info: Phone 801- 971-3414, email, or SEP 19-20 > Site Pioneering. Utah sites with Ken

Hudonjorgensen. More info: Phone 801- 971-3414, email, or

SEP 21 - Oct 1, Oct 2-12> Paracrane European

Tour. Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. "The Sound of Music" meets the X-Alps! Early summer and early fall are perfect times for flying in Austria, Slovenia and Italy. We’ll base in Zell am See, Austria, with tram access to excellent flying. Other great sites are close by. On to the Alps of Slovenia, plus a stop in Venice. After classic Meduno, we shift north to some of the most spectacular flying in the world, the Dolomites. More info: nick@paracrane. com, 541-840-8587, or

SEP 28 - OCT 3 > Red Rocks Fall Fly-in, Richfield Utah with Ken Hudonjorgensen and Stacy Whitmore. More info: Phone 801- 971-3414, email twocanfly@, or OCT 12-22, 23-29 & OCT 29 - NOV 9 > Iquique,

Chile - Iquique, Chile—the most consistent thermals on earth! Luis Rosenkjer and Todd Weigand have been winning competitions, leading trips, and working as local guide/tandem pilots in Iquique since 1992. With 22 years of combined guiding experience in Chile, nobody can lead new pilots to this region with the expertise that these USHPA certified, bilingual gentlemen provide. Four-star hotel overlooks beach landing. 115km flights possible. Improve flying skills, break personal records, enjoy the best of Iquique! More info:

OCT 31 - NOV 2 & NOV 7-9 > Sebring, Florida (SIV) maneuvers training over-the-water SIV maneuvers clinic, boat tow to 3000ft over white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters in Sebring, Florida. Gain priceless knowledge and experience under your wing. Advanced instructor/guide David Prentice, with more then 20 years of paragliding experience, will guide you through the full range of maneuvers from beginner to advanced as each pilot progresses at his or her own pace. More info: 505-720-5436 or earthcog@ NOV > Iquique Chili paragliding tour: This year we have

divided the tour into four different segments: Instructional Days, Iquique Days # 1, 2 and 3. Our Tour leaders are Todd Weigand, Luis Rosenkjer and Ken Hudonjorgensen. The entire tour will be packed with instruction for all levels of paragliding (including P-2 thru P-4). Check the web site for more details. For anyone wanting to fly, fly, fly... this is the tour to join. The last tour will focus more on XC. More info: Phone 801- 971-3414, email, or

Nov 12-14, 16-18 > Yelapa, Mexico. SIV/maneuvers clinic. Join us for another great learning and fun experience in beautiful tropical Yelapa. Tow up and land on the beach in a warm, friendly location with lots of great places to stay and eat. Brad Gunnuscio, world-class XC and acro pilot, will be teaching the courses. As Brad says, «Yelapa is by far the best place to do an SIV clinic.» More info: contact Les at or Brad at or 801 707-0508. More info: www, or NOV 28 - Jan 17 > Valle De Bravo, Mexico - Fly Cuervo! Fly south this winter! Fly Cuervo! The best-valued tour package available. World-class lodging and logistics in one of the most flyable winter destinations on planet Earth, Valle de Bravo, Mexico. Improve your thermal and XC skills with advanced instructor/master guide David Prentice, aka Cuervo, with more than 20 years of paragliding experience and 16 years guiding in Valle. We fly twice a day, every day! Valle de Bravo has something to offer for every skill level of pilot and is very family friendly. More info: call 505-720-5436 or email DEC 7-16> Brazil. Paraglide Brazil with Paracrane Tour.

We’ll start in magical Rio de Janeiro, flying over the tropical forest surrounded by granite domes and landing on the beach, or try a flight to the world-famous Christ statue! After 3 days we head to Governador Valadares, for incredible XC opportunities. Depending on conditions other sites we may visit include Pancas, Castelo and Alfredo Chavez in Espirito Santo. Brazil is a unique paragliding and cultural experience! Open to strong P-2’s and up. Please note, you will need a Brazilian Visa. More info: 541-840-8587, or nick@

Jan 17-24 & Jan 31 - Feb 7 > Tapalpa, Mexico.

Tapalpa, Mexico Fly Week. Parasoft has been guiding pilots to Mexico in January since 1990. In 2002 we discovered Tapalpa, site of a 2003 World Cup event. With big launch and landing areas and no crowds, this is the best in Mexico! With three other sites nearby, you soar in any wind direction. To guide our clients well, we limit our group size to four and offer tandem flights to improve flying skills. More info:, granger@ or 303-494-2820.

FLY-INS AUG 14-16 > Woodrat Mountain, Ruch, OR - Star

JAN 18-28 > Valle de Cauca, Colombia - Fly Cuervo! Fly Colombia! Fly south this winter! Fly Cuervo! The Valle del Cauca, Colombia, has quickly become one of the most popular winter vacation destinations for paragliding, with amazing XC potential and breath taking views, Valle del Cauca is world-class paragliding. Improve your thermal and XC skills with advanced instructor/master guide David Prentice with over 20 years of paragliding experience. Enjoy world-class lodging and logistics as we fly several sites along the Valle del Cauca, Colombia. More info: 505-720-5436 or email COMPETITION - SANCTIONED AUG 2-8 > Big Spring Nationals. The Big Spring Na-

tionals is the premier hang gliding competition in the US with the best and most consistent racing conditions.Tasks average 100 miles. Many days we are able to come back to the airport and your glider can rest the night in the hangar. We usually fly every day. No other city supports a hang gliding competition like Big Spring, with use of their air-conditioned terminal, hangar, free water and ice cream, golf carts, runway, welcome dinner, prize money, and much more. As a national competition, it will again be a high NTSS points meet and count toward the National Championship. More info: Belinda Boulter and Davis Straub,,, and 863-206-7707.

AUG 30 - SEP 5 > DINOSAUR 2015 More info: Terry, and Chris Reynolds,,, 970-245-7315.

Thistle Fly-in 2015 39th annual Star Thistle Flyin. No registration fee. Free with your RVHPA annual or seven-day temporary membership. Enjoy pilot breakfasts and charity spaghetti dinner for the Ruch School. Have fun flying Woodrat and meeting up with friends. Woodrat offers challenging midday flying and smooth glass-offs that can be some of the best in Oregon. More Info: events/star-thistle-fly-in/

SEP 3-7 > Mingus Mt., Central Arizona. 40th Annual Mingus Mt. Fly-In We're planning a big bash, Thursday through Labor Day! HG launch! PG launch! AZHPA campgrounds at launch! Details to follow. More Info: Bill Comstock 602-625-4550;; AZHPA.ORG. SEP 4-7 > Ellenville, NY. THE USHPA NATIONAL FLYIN! Calling all hang gliders and paragliders. Come one, come all–let's gather and fly and celebrate the sky! More info: at

SEP 4-7 > Pine Mountain, OR. The Annual Pine Mountain Fly-In has been high flying since 1991. Join the Desert Air Riders for midday and evening glass-off flights in the High Desert or Central Oregon. The fly-in is a fundraising event to generate revenue for site insurance, Pine Mt and Mt. Bachelor, and for site improvements. Past events included raffle prizes, breakfast, and BBQ, expect some of the same this year. This is a free event with free on-site camping (we do gladly accepts donations)! More info: index.php SEP 28 - OCT 3 > Richfield, Utah. Red Rocks Fall Flyin. Fall colors and beautiful mountains and flying activities for all levels and interests. Clinics, ridge-soaring task competition, morning sledders, distance challenges. Low pressure, fun-flying activities to give everyone a chance to mingle and enjoy flying from Central Utah’s many world-class flying sites.

OCT 2-4 > Craters, AZ - Dixon White Memorial

SEP 13-19 > Santa Cruz Flats Race - Mark Knight

Fly-in—The Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association is hosting another great event with the annual Dixon White Memorial Flyn-i! HGs and PGs, beginners to experts, the Craters offers almost 360 degrees of launching and landing. Saturday dinner, camping, and contests included. Hotels in nearby Flagstaff, AZ. Come join us for another amazing year! More Info: Call Gingher Leyendecker at 480688-2170 or visit for more info.

SEP 20-26 > OVXCC - Owens Valley Cross Country Classic 2015. More info: Kari Castle, KARICASTLE. COM,, or 760-920-0748 .


Memorial Competition . The Francisco Grande Resort is once again welcoming us back for another week of great flying. If you're up for 7 out of 7 days of awesome technical flying conditions, come join us for the 9th Annual Santa Cruz Flats Race. Registration opens at noon eastern time on April 11th. More info: Jamie Shelden,,, or 831-261-5444.

COMPETITION - NON-SANCTIONED AUG 16-22 > Dunlap, TN. Tennessee Tree Toppers Team Challenge is an instructional competition pioneered by the TTT for the cultivation of cross-country and competition skills. The unique scoring format awards more points to less experienced team members for the same distance, encouraging their more experienced team members to assist them along course. Teams are led by some of the finest XC and comp pilots in the country! Nightly seminars explore the finer points in greater detail, covering topics from forecasts to landings. More info:


CLINICS & TOURS ITALY - Fantastico! Great flying! Great food! Great

weather! ALL inclusive service suitable for all levels of pilots. Round topped grassy mountains and large flatlands. Flying with culture!

ParaglideShasta - Guided Paraglider tours in beautiful Northern California. Whaleback, Hat Creek Rim, Woodrat and more. Located in Mt. Shasta, Guided by Brian Kerr with 15 years experience in area! HANG GLIDING & PARAGLIDING MAGAZINE



-HARNESSES (trainer, cocoon, pod) -PARACHUTES (hg&pg) -WHEELS (new & used). Phone for latest inventory 262-473-8800,


affordable single line suspension harness available. Individually designed for a precise fit. Fly in comfort.; flycenterofgravity@gmail. com; 315-256-1522

PARTS & ACCESSORIES GUNNISON GLIDERS - X-C, Factory, heavy PVC HG gliderbags $149. Harness packs & zippers. New/used parts, equipment, tubes. 1549 CR 17 Gunnison, CO 81230 970-641-9315 SPECIALTY WHEELS for airfoil basetubes, round ba-

setubes, or tandem landing gear. 262-473-8800, www.

POWERED & TOWING Pilots: FREE Crossover Training when you

purchase your Miniplane Paramotor! Instructors: Add PPG to your offerings and watch the fun begin! Visit our website for more info: USHPA AZ Paragliding: The World Record setting SlingMachine air sports winch is available to address your towing needs. It is"The Mountain on Wheels". www., Sean @ 480-294-1887

REAL ESTATE Own a flying site 5 miles from the tourist mecca of Salida Colorado. Salida known for its " banana belt" weather, white water rafting and mountain biking in massive mountain ranges. An excellent place for a tandem operation. $299K Erik 970-209-8376


facilities, largest inventory, camping, swimming, volleyball, more. Wide range of accommodations. 877-HANGLIDE, 877-426-4543,


instruction, Southern California & Baja. Powered paragliding, clinics, tours, tandem, towing. Ken Baier 760-213-0063,


best year round flying in the nation. Award-winning instruction, excellent mountain and ridge sites. www., 805-968-0980



FLY ABOVE ALL - Year-round instruction in Santa Barbara & Ojai from the 2012 US Instructor of the Year! More students flying safely after 10 years than any other school in the nation. Mission Soaring Center LLC - Largest hang

gliding center in the West! Our deluxe retail shop showcases the latest equipment: Wills Wing, Moyes, AIR, High Energy, Flytec, Aeros, Northwing, Hero wide angle video camera. A.I.R. Atos rigid wings- demo the VQ-45’ span, 85 Lbs! Parts in stock. We stock new and used equipment. Trade-ins welcome. Complete lesson program. Best training park in the west, located just south of the San Francisco Bay Area. Pitman Hydraulic Winch System for Hang 1s and above. Launch and landing clinics for Hang 3s and Hang 4s. Wills Wing Falcons of all sizes and custom training harnesses. 1116 Wrigley Way, Milpitas, CA 95035. 408-262-1055, Fax 408-262-1388,, Mission Soaring Center LLC, leading the way since 1973.

WINDSPORTS - Train in sunny southern Cal. 325 fly-

able days each year. Learn modern flying skills safely and quickly. Train on sand with professionals at Dockweiler Beach training slopes (5 minutes from LA airport.) Fly any season in gentle coastal winds, soft sand and in a thorough program with 1 of the largest schools for over 40 years. 818-367-2430,



5 times as many pilots earn their wings at LMFP. Enjoy our 110 acre mountain resort., 1-877-HANGLIDE, 1-877-426-4543.


information about flying on Maui. Full-service school offering beginner to advanced instruction every day, year round. 808-874-5433,


time flight park: tandem instruction, solo aerotows and equipment sales and service. We carry Aeros, Airwave, Flight Design, Moyes, Wills Wing, High Energy Sports, Flytec and more. Two 115-HP Dragonfly tugs. Open fields as far as you can see. Only 1 to 1.5 hours from Rehoboth Beach, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia. Come Fly with US! 410-634-2700, Fax 410-634-2775, 24038 Race Track Rd, Ridgely, MD 21660,, hangglide@aerosports. net.


gliderbags. Accessories, parts, service, sewing. Instruction ratings, site-info. Rusty Whitley 1549 CR 17, Gunnison CO 81230. 970-641-9315.

dunes. Full time shop. Certified instruction, all levels. Sales, service and accessories for all major brands. Call Bill at 231-922-2844 or email at tchangglider@ Your USA & Canada Mosquito distributor,




Bozeman Paragliding - Montana’s full time connection for paragliding, speedflying, & paramotoring instruction & gear. Maneuvers courses, thermal tours abroad, online store.

GUNNISON GLIDERS - X-C to heavy waterproof HG

Road 80, Clewiston, Florida 863-805-0440, www.

GRAYBIRD AIRSPORTS — Paraglider & hang glider towing & training, Dragonfly aerotow training, XC, thermaling, instruction, equipment. Dunnellon Airport 352-245-8263, email, LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN FLIGHT PARK - Nearest

mountain training center to Orlando. Two training hills, novice mountain launch, aerotowing, great accommodations., 877-HANGLIDE, 877426-4543.

MIAMI HANG GLIDING - For year-round training fun in the sun. 305-285-8978, 2550 S Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove, Florida 33133, www.miamihanggliding. com. WALLABY RANCH – The original Aerotow flight park.

Best tandem instruction worldwide,7-days a week , 6 tugs, and equipment rental. Call:1-800-WALLABY 1805 Deen Still Road, Disney Area FL 33897

NEW HAMPSHIRE MORNINGSIDE - A Kitty Hawk Kites flight park. The

Northeast's premier hang gliding and paragliding training center, teaching since 1974. Hang gliding foot launch and tandem aerowtow training. Paragliding foot launch and tandem training. Powered Paragliding instruction. Dealer for all major manufacturers. Located in Charlestown, NH. Also visit our North Carolina location, Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School. 603-5424416,

NEW YORK AAA Hang Gliding Teaching since 1977, Three

training hills, certified, adv instruction with mtn launch, tandems, towing, pro shop, pilots lounge, camping. We carry North Wing and Moyes, 77 Hang Glider Rd Ellenville, NY 845-647-3377

Fly High HG Serving the tri-state area with beginner

and advanced instruction- the only school with THREE USHPA Instructor-of-the-Year recipients! Area's exclusive Wills Wing dealer. Superior customer service, lifelong support, the most competitive prices. Just 90-minutes from NYC. Come Fly High with us! www. 845.744.3317

TEXAS FLYTEXAS TEAM - training pilots in Central Texas for

25 years. Hang Gliding, Paragliding, Trikes. Hangar facilities Lake LBJ, Luling, Smithville www.flytexas. com 512-467-2529


Boek,Thailand's most awesome,highest flying site 5,200ASL.Open to P-2 and above.Come learn how to fly high and far! Very inexpensive! More info: pchumes@

CLOUD 9 PARAGLIDING - Come visit us and check out


NORTH CAROLINA KITTY HAWK KITES - The largest hang gliding school

in the world, teaching since 1974. Learn to hang glide and paraglide on the East Coast's largest sand dune. Year-round instruction, foot launch and tandem aerotow. Powered paragliding instruction. Dealer for all major manufacturers. Learn to fly where the Wright Brothers flew, located at the beach on NC's historic Outer Banks. Also visit our New Hampshire location, Morningside Flight Park. 252-441-2426, 1-877-FLYTHIS,

our huge selection of paragliding gear, traction kites, extreme toys, and any other fun things you can think of. If you aren’t near the Point of the Mountain, then head to for a full list of products and services. We are Utah’s only full time shop and repair facility, Give us a ring at 801-576-6460 if you have any questions.



BLUE SKY - Virginia's full time, year round HG School.

tours, rentals, tandems, HG and PG classes, H-2 and P-2 intensive Novice courses, full sales. 787-8500508,

Scooter, Platform and Aero Tow. Custom sewing, paragliding, powered harnesses, trikes, representing most major brands. 804-241-4324, www.blueskyhg. com



LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN FLIGHT PARK - Just outside Chattanooga. Become a complete pilot -foot launch, aerotow, mountain launch, ridge soar, thermal soar., 1-877-HANGLIDE, 877-426-4543.





Airsport Venue: PG, HG, PPG: by, He’ll hook you up! Site intros, tours, & rooms., 760-203-2658

GLIDING and PARAGLIDING. Gear, guiding, instruction, transportation, lodging - 512467-2529 / 1-800-861-7198 USA

SERVICE CLOUD 9 REPAIR DEPARTMENT - We staff and maintain a full service repair shop within Cloud 9 Paragliding; offering annual inspections, line replacement, sail repair of any kind (kites too!), harness repairs and reserve repacks. Our repair technicians are factory trained and certified to work on almost any paraglider or kite. Call today for an estimate 801-576-6460 or visit for more information. RISING AIR GLIDER REPAIR SERVICES – A full-

service shop, specializing in all types of paragliding repairs, annual inspections, reserve repacks, harness repairs. Hang gliding reserve repacks and repair. For information or repair estimate, call 208-554-2243, pricing and service request form available at www.,

Support the Cloudbase Foundation buy Keen bags through USHPA


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by Lucas Soler


hortly after securing my paragliding pilot license in late September of 2014, I was eager to fly, but the flying season in Vermont had passed. A good friend invited me to fly in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, in December, just a few months later. He reported that in Valle, the flying conditions are superb and extremely consistent, with just the right wind speed and hot sun to warm up the ground and generate large thermals. Once in Valle, I realized I had inadvertently arrived during the yearly celebration of the Virgin de Guadalupe. The entire first night I was kept awake by sporadic, ear-splitting fireworks. I finally resorted to devising a defense; I inserted earplugs, then tied a pillow around my head with a paragliding compression strap. (Unfortunately, this celebration continued for the entire week, forcing me to rely on my new headdress every night.) But while standing at the famous El Peñón launch site the next morning, I was in awe of the wide, unique terrain that appeared before me like a red carpet. This site gives a paraglider the thrill that children must get from an amusement park: It has air convergence areas for lift, deep valleys, strong thermal areas, huge cliffs, huge XC



There was a day when your training clicked, conditions were perfect, stars aligned, and you soared to new heights. Send in your tale of “The 1” flight you'll never forget. We'll print it here, and you'll be entered into the annual drawing for a USHPA soft-shell jacket.

potential, and a massive rock formation, El Peñón, towering 3000 feet above it all. I was instantly humbled by the view. As a beginner paraglider pilot with only two hours of flight time, I felt as if I were at the Tour de France wearing my training wheels. My first flight was a complete sledder, by choice. I sprinted through the amusement park without stopping at any of the rides. The fear of my glider’s collapsing and falling to the ground overwhelmed me. I couldn’t stop myself from looking down to calculate my height, which was around 2000 feet agl. I was so tense that I was sweating profusely. As I approached the landing zone from about 100 feet agl, I spotted a score of local children rushing to greet me at touchdown. And as soon as my feet hit the ground, these lively kids swarmed around me, each one signaling his eagerness for me to choose him to pack my glider, hoping to earn two or three bucks. In Spanish, I asked them to split into two groups: supporters of Barcelona versus supporters of their never-ending rival, Real Madrid. Immediately, the sea of kids shuffled to their preferred side, some of them calling out their favorite players, as if stepping to one side wasn’t enough to declare allegiance. I chose two kids from the Barcelona side

to pack my glider: the oldest and the youngest. They usually pack gliders alone, but I couldn’t think of a better way to bring experience to the young ones. (My future landings followed the same scenario as the first, but when it came time to choose a side, all the kids had become Barcelona supporters!) While lying on my packed glider waiting for the others to land, I reflected on my experience. That flight was NOT fun. It was off my bucket list. I wondered if this would be my exit from the sport… I realized I had to either let go of the fear or be grounded for the rest of the weeklong trip. And I decided I had to continue. My flight the following day was just over one hour. I’m glad to report that I was present during that flight. I released my tension and fear, embraced the techniques I had learned, and decided to trust my paraglider, deciding it really does want to fly. I think I was successful that day because I avoided constantly looking down at the ground. Instead, I focused on the enjoyment of the landscape nature offered, the feeling of the wind in my face, and the majesty of flight. With that flight, I took one small step away from thinking like a human and one step closer to thinking like a bird.

Profile for US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association

Hang Gliding & Paragliding Vol45/Iss08 Aug2015  

Official USHPA Magazine

Hang Gliding & Paragliding Vol45/Iss08 Aug2015  

Official USHPA Magazine