þriðjudagur, apríl 28, 2009

learning to fly

Last month I wrote about the young sport of paragliding and its avid per-capita following here in the Land. Today I am pleased to bring you my first-ever helmet-cam video, shot yesterday. It was a glorious evening with a gentle sea breeze and birds thermaling out over the nearby plain. After I landed and was packing up my glider, I had the recurring thought that even just 3 minutes in the air rolls back a year of aging. It certainly makes me feel like a kid again, and maybe not in quite the same way as middle-aged women from rural Pennsylvania mean when they talk about why they make annual visits to Disney World.

The thing about this sport that makes it a challenge for an aspiring writer to describe is that we humans don't really possess a vocabulary for the feelings and sensations of flying. We're not flying animals. To paraphrase IR regular Biskupinn, it's a bit like asking someone how it feels to breathe underwater with their gills, to see in the dark, or to move their eight legs.

We think and act in two dimensions, living out our existence on a Cartesian plane. To be able to lift off of that plane and then land back on it, to turn around and look back to the top of the mountain that I climbed up with my feet but then came down some other way, is for me a profound experience.


Anonymous Biskupinn said...

Congratulations on a great flight yesterday. may you have many more such safe flights!

I think the only word that ever captures the feeling of flying -if one must choose just one word- is 'overwhelming'. The sensations are so very very strong, the lifting into that third dimension so surprising, then the realisation that one is actually *in control* of the flight... It's amazing.

I do geniunely worry about the addictive nature of the sport; I could so very easily let it completely destroy my life, just to be able to get fix after fix after fix.

Blogger Unknown said...

Looks amazing, and if I may say so, amazingly easy. Makes me want to try! How long does it take to prepare that sail?

Blogger JB said...

Biskupinn: Sometimes I worry about that too. Or just the way a good flight like that can make it almost impossible to sleep the next night.

Anyway I can think of worse problems.

Didier: It only looks easy when you've got the skillz to pay the billz. (And I have a long way to go, myself!) You should enroll yourself in a class where an instructor will get you started practicing with the wing on a big, level field. Only after you learn how to handle it (it's a huge bag of cloth, after all) well under those conditions would you be ready for a short "hop" flight off of a hill no more than 10-20 meters tall. And from there, upwards!

The wing has about 40 hours of labor in it (I think) so they ain't cheap. But I can think of worse ways to spend money.

Anonymous Biskupinn said...

Paragliding is indeed a great deal more accesible than hang-gliding, and many other forms of aviation. It's so accessible, in fact, that many people forget that it is a form of aviation and view it as a glorified form of powerkiting or windsurfing. The term I unkindly use for those people is 'statistics'.

One of the things I found interesting about learning PG was the old 'learning to play the piano' factor. I wanted to play the piano, but the teacher insisted on me learning to read music. I just wanted to play. I didn't know that reading music was a requisite.

In PG, there are two requisites: learn to ground handle: i.e. to control the wing very precisely whilst standing on the ground (that's what makes our take-offs safer) and learn, if not to fully understand the weather, then at least to read the data and do the most difficult part of paragliding: to decide *not* to fly.

Anonymous Get A Trip said...

Oh my God! You have done what I have always dreamed of doing. I am here in Southern California, but there are only a few places that offer paragliding. Your video is insane. You made it sure look easy, now I know I have to do this soon.

Blogger JB said...

SoCal ought to be a paragliding paradise. I know that Torrey Pines, for example, is world famous as a gliding site. And Santa Barbara has a great school called Eagle.

It should take you 8-12 hours of ground time (vængjaglíma) to be able to take your first short flights.

Here is my latest video:



Skrifa ummæli

<< Home