We met him at "The T", left his car behind and gathered into our rental SUV for the drive up to launch. (Yes, I know! Strange for Andrew and I to be driving anything but a Prius.) This is where we had our first mountain flight back in March so we were familiar with the area. On that occasion, winds were light and we just got a sled ride to the landing zone. We were hoping for something a bit longer this time.
Craig made sure Andrew and I got launched ok and then he joined us in the air. It was a bit bumpy but I managed to find a few little thermals along the ridge and started getting some height. I could see Andrew lower and further along the ridge. Despite the bumpy ride, I was feeling good about getting higher.
But .... there's that saying .... "Confidence is that feeling you get just before you fully understand the situation." Yep. Five minutes into the flight I made a turn and one side of my wing collapsed (at least I think that's what happened) and I was falling out of the sky. I managed to recover, my wing re-inflated and suddenly I was being flung upwards with my wing behind me. I remembered "hands up!!" and managed to recover a second time.
After that heart-racing experience (to put it mildly) I headed straight for the landing zone which was still quite some distance away. A few minutes later I was calm enough to get my camera out and take a couple photos but still felt just fine with my decision to run away and head in for landing. I ended with a 20 minute flight.
|Checking the wind speed.|
|Heading to the landing zone. That nice big flat open area on the left.|
The next day we met Craig at a coastal flying site about a 15-minute drive from Santa Barbara called More Mesa. He was already flying when we got there and, after coming in to land, said it was quite strong. Probably stronger than we were experienced for. But he gave us lots of advice on what to do and what to watch for if we did decide to try it.
We watched him and another pilot (an Instructor from Eagle Paragliding) fly for a while and eventually Andrew gave it a go. After a couple false starts (with me close by to help grab lines in case things really went south) he launched no problem. The flying itself was great. They all went quite fast in one direction but very slowly in the other direction. The wind was strong enough that they got quite a bit of lift. Definitely didn't have to worry about sinking out.
In addition to the launch, the difficult part was trying to top land. And even Craig, very experienced at coastal flying, didn't make it look easy! There was always the option to land on the beach and hike back up (about a 100 ft cliff) but after the previous day's "excitement" I wasn't feeling confident enough to give it a try.
There were a few tricks to top landing: slowly come in quite low, below the top of the cliff; then let the wind lift you up and over the ground; and then quickly land and immediately bring the glider down before the wind could take you up and out again.
Andrew very patiently made several tries before successfully landing under Craig's guidance over the radio. He'll tell you it wasn't the most graceful landing but I was impressed with his perseverance.
Hopefully we'll have another opportunity to get there and I'll join them in the air!
|Craig just after take off.|
|From left to right: the instructor from Eagle Paragliding, Andrew, Craig|