So to start off with a quick update – we’re opening our own Air Sports business out here near Clinton, MO. I know you want details, but that post will follow shortly. Since our business will be starting off with scenic air rides and paramotoring, I’m going to tell you about my experience learning to paraglide.
After bouncing back and forth in communication with a couple of schools out near Salt Lake City, we wound up in contact with Cloud 9 in Draper, Utah. After speaking with the instructors, we arranged for three of us to attend a 10 day paragliding course, and get the boys some further motor training.
Being skydivers, I assumed we had this in the bag. Paraglider – that’s a canopy, right? It must be like skydiving, without the freefall!
…Wrong – As I discovered during my introductory tandem flight. As I sat in my harness with my instructor, Billy, flying with all of the paragliders in the air, I was in awe. It was beautiful! Being a part of a dozen pilots doing this amazing dance under these big, powerful wings was amazing! I learned really quickly that this was NOT skydiving. There was something about it that was so alluring that I couldn’t wait to strap myself into my own funny looking, butt enlarging, harness and fly away!
The next day, I did just that. As we worked our way up the hill on the South Side of the Point, each solo flight down was more thrilling than the last.
Now being a skydiver, flying down to the ground under my Sabre mainly consisted of either: A) holding into the wind and praying not to be blown backwards (I’m tiny and still under a 150, not even 1.1 wing loading!), or B) my favorite- spiraling down to the landing area on those lovely light wind days! But either way – forward, backward, or spirals – there was no doubt about it, that skydiving canopy was going down!
With paragliding, everything is different. You can stay at the same altitude and just glide back and forth. And while spirals might be fun under my Sabre, with my paraglider, yanking on a brake and burying it was a big no-no. Unless you want to spiral your face into the mountain.
However, being a beginner paraglider, who needs spirals? My first time doing a little bit of ridge soaring was 10x more thrilling than spiraling down under canopy. With a paragliding wing, you use thermals to gain altitude and stay airborne! These wings don’t always come straight down, they glide – cutting smoothly through the air. I stayed airborne longer under my paragliding wing after launching from 300 feet than I ever have under my Sabre 150 on a hop n pop!
Spending 10 days in Utah doing nothing but paragliding was amazing. Some days were frustrating – kiting a paragliding wing was a challenge. After excelling at landing (we were familiar with flaring, after all, it just took a different, smoother flare than I was used to), kiting was a bit if an issue due to us having notorious “skydiver hands”. I’m so used to burying toggles and flaring strongly, and I had to forget everything I knew about skydiving and re-train my hands to move the brakes slowly and smoothly in order to kite properly. After lots of cuss words, some foot stomping and maybe a couple tears (I know, I’m a brat), I just sort of “got it”. It was like a light bulb went off and all of a sudden, kiting wasn’t really so difficult after all.
And of course, it wouldn’t really be my type of air sports if there wasn’t at least ONE face plant. On one of my North side launches, I kind of face planted and rolled down the side of the mountain. As I came to a stop about 20 feet down with my glider tangled in bushes and a bunch of thorny twigs in my hair, I looked up the ridge to see my instructor Kevin, looking back at me, smiling. After I gave him a thumbs up, and “I’m OK” he chuckled and hiked down to help me untangle my mess. It didn’t hurt physically, just bruised my ego a bit. Of course I was known amongst some as “Faceplant” and “Twiggy” after that event!
Overall, the entire experience with Cloud 9 was fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for better instructors. Kevin and Steve even entertained us with some speed flying, which was amazing to watch! I even got to experience it a bit myself on a speed wing tandem with Steve. We zipped back and forth across the ridge, swooping down past the boys and passing the camera back and forth. It was more fun than any flying I have ever done under canopy!
When it was too windy for me to fly, I equally enjoyed sitting on the hill with my camera and watching the experienced guys buzz by. Even more fun was watching the guys do their motor training.
So from here, the next chapter in our lives is about to begin. With a new warehouse, a new paraglider wing, and our very own paramotor – our own new air sports business is beginning to take shape! We should be open for business later this year :).
As a skydiver, I’d highly recommend to any jumpers who have the opportunity – try out paragliding! If you like a canopy ride, you’ll love soaring underneath a paragliding wing. It’s a longer flight, a new challenge, and there’s just nothing like it! Contact Cloud 9 (www.cloud9toys.com) – they were fantastic and I can’t wait to return to Utah for even more training!