Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuesta Ridge XC Paragliding

Mike Harris, Jack Grisanti, Tim O'Neill and I got to Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo at around 10:15 to do some cross country paragliding. Making it to Mike Wilson's (Creston area) was the goal for the day. Tim and I launched our first flight around 10:30 into very smooth lifty air, though not a lot of sun showing through. Tim got high first and headed back towards Santa Margarita. I was getting high over launch as he was landing by the santa margarita airport. With the knowledge there was no lift for Tim, I decided to take a different route and went south of Launch towards East Cuesta. I got there at ridge height, but eventually climbed to base (probably around 4,000 at that point). In the wispies, I turned over the back (for a short while I couldn't really see anything, I must have had my eyes closed or something). I went on glide across the valley trying to connect with the hills to the east, but had to land on the other side of pozo rd. Jack came and picked us up.

TRY 2. We went for more, Tim set up his paraglider and was about to launch as we heard a shout, apparently John Hesch (hangglider pilot) had just launched, from where he parked on the road maybe? Anyway, Tim got in the air with him, and they climbed quickly.

I launched a little while after, and found lots of wind. I wasn't that motivated to go XC because I was parked in wind, but Tim said the wind was less at 3,500, and that he was going over the back again. Jack offered to retrieve again, so there went Tim, taking a similar route to his morning flight. I was low at that point, so I had to tank up for awhile. I finally caught a boomer, and with the strong wind, that thermal took me from in front of launch, all the way over east cuesta, I was turning the whole way. Didn't get to cloud base until East Cuesta, base was much higher this time (Tim reported base at 6000, just like John H reported).

Climbing to cloud base over the 101 freeway north of San Luis Obispo

Once I reached cloud base at East Cuesta, I was still drifiting pretty fast in the wind, so I immediately turned down wind over the back. Unfortunatley, I had nothing but sink when I went over this time, and came very low, within about 100ft of landing just on the other side of east cuesta. I found a small leeside thermal, the lift was violent at best, but I was motivated to try an catch up with Tim.

Almost sinking out

After several turns, and countless small collapses and one medium frontal, the core smoothed out, and was climbing steadily towards cloud base again. That climb lasted all the way across the valley into the next hills, these things were drifting fast!

After low save, looking back towards East Cuesta

I had not seen Tim since he left west Cuesta, and he reported that he would be landing soon, 7 miles short of Mike Wilson's (he was a good little xc pilot, and came prepared with GPS, and coordinates to follow, he'll have to post the exact locations of his flight). At that point, I was climbing just north of Lake Santa Margarita (I had taken a more southern route than Tim), and since I'm not really familiar with the area, I was trying to have Tim and Jack tell me over the radio which way to go to end up where Tim was...quite a comedy since neither one could see me, or tell exactly where I was. I climbed as high as I could, then turned back into the hills heading more North this time.

Heading Inland

As it turned out, neither Tim nor myself could pick up any more thermals in the small hills. It would only have been 1 or 2 more climbs to base to make it to Mikes, then the Valley beyond. There was lift, but the increasing winds were just making it disorganized.

We both landed near Park Hill Road, but never saw each other during the flight. Tim had made it to a landing area a little further along the road than where I ended up, and scored a ride for us back to 58 (good thing, because we both thought we were landing on 58). Wind was a little gusty on the ground, getting up to 15 or more at times. Made for an exciting landing for me...and I got it on video:)

Jack was nice enough to chase us around, even though we were giving him bad directions. Thanks Jack.

It wasn't a very far flight (though it felt far at the time), just new, over territory we hadn't been before. I find it very exciting to fly over new terrain, especially when I don't really know where I am, or where I headed, just going for it.

I think if we had waited another 40 or so minutes instead of launching the first time, we would have been able take advantage of the lifting cloudbase, and lighter winds, and we probably could have gone much further. But you just never know, so I'm STOKED with what we got. Beautiful day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strong Winds on the Central Coast

The wind has been CRANKIN' lately. The forecast for the last few days has been calling for gusts of up to 30mph or more. Not the best conditions for paragliding. BUT, we have still been managing to get some flying in!

Today and yesterday there was a group of really cool women that had all gone to college together at Syracuse in NY. They were reuniting for the weekend in San Luis Obispo. They found WingEnvy Paragliding on the Madonna Inn's website, and decided to come try flying. Honestly, with the wind forecasts, I told them it didn't look likely that we'd get in the air, but we could go check it out.

Both yesterday and today we showed up early at Cayucos. Yesterday it was slightly more wind early, so I flew my paraglider solo for a bit to test the air, then was able to get one tandem flight in. The wind was fairly strong for that flight, so we rescheduled the rest of the group for today. Again, it wasn't looking great, but we headed over there slightly before 9 am. As it turns out, it was AWESOME!! WE got 2 more tandem paragliding flights off of cayucos, landing on the beach for both. What a fun group to have as passengers. And, BIG thanks to Mike Harris for driving us up in his car, and driving my car back down.

Our timing could not have been better, just after our guest passengers headed off to celebrate over breakfast, the wind came blasting through. Love doing tandems...when the weather cooperates!

As a side note, if you're visiting our area, and looking for a place to stay, consider the Madonna Inn, in San Luis Obispo, it's a unique, beautiful, and fun place to stay.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paragliding in May on the Central Coast

It's been a great month so far! Yeah, lots of wind, lots of high temps, but still getting in the air!

Last week visiting pilot Jesse Boyd had his first high flight at Cayucos, a beautiful flight, along with local student Steve Johnson. Then student pilot Danny Heatherwick came out the next day with local Joshua Gwiazda, and visiting friend Bruce Bundy, those guys had like 5 awesome flights from Cayucos!

Monday I scored some pre-frontal paragliding magic, and flew from the main hill, to Hugh's Hill, to the Cayucos Pier, most of the time above 800 ft. Not bad for May.

Tuesday Jack and I scored a post frontal, pre fog flight at Cayucos, skimming along the edges of the fog bank. Didn't have my camera for that, but it was unreal imagery.

Wednesday Jack Grisanti and I played with the block. It was blowing about 20-25 on the water, and about 10 onshore, a big blockvergence was setting up. After working over highway 101 for awhile low, I finally heard that comforting smooth tone on my vario, I was going up, up, and away. I boated around over southern Cayucos for about an hour, then got low to surf the houses for a bit.

It didn't stop that day, I went back up and watched the hanggliders launch into beautiful air. The wind had come through by then, and those guys had a blast! So, it really has been a fun month here. Actually, so far, it's been a stellar paragliding year on the Central Coast of California!!

Bill Launching

Keith Emminger setting up to high five Sean Abellena (right corner)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

SLOSA Road Work at Cayucos

Saturday was SLOSA road work day at Cayucos. With lots of rain falling this year, and increased 4x4 traffic on the hill, lots of new ruts and canyons were created in the road. Though it was till passable, we wanted to fill in the large holes in an effort to keep the road stable, and prevent further erosion. Road work over the years has been mostly done by a few local Hangglider pilots like Bill, Dave De, Keith, Morgan and so on. There have been a few efforts by PG pilots as well, including a large project headed by Bob Osborn. But, as use decreases by Hang pilots, the work on the road has decreased as well. Mostly due to the fact that the paragliding pilots can, and often do hike up (and lack motivation to do road work). However, we ALL want and or need to drive up sometimes, so keeping the road in good condition is a worthwhile project.

I was stoked to see such a great turn out for the work day, everyone was very enthusiastic.

In attendance; Bill Hartwick, Joshua Gwiazda, Jim Wells, Jack Grisanti, Mike Harris, Adam Dobbs, Tim O'Neill, Patrick Eaves and even a visiting pilot, Bruce Bundy!! Keith Emminger also came later in the day to do work.

The crew, using Jack and Tim's vehicles, placed several loads of rock into the road. Later in the day, Keith and Bill worked to cut back the bushes and trees from the road. There is still work to do on the road, face it, it's a never ending job. But we made a lot of progress. Awesome guys, thanks for all the work!! And of course, thanks to everyone who has worked over the years to keep the road up.

After working for a few hours, several of us went to fly Cuesta. The inversion kept us from getting to high, but it was a ton of fun. Adam Dobbs and Bruce Bundy both had their first Cuesta flights, Adam was on his HG.

Oh, I forgot to mention, if you missed SLOSA road work day, you missed the awesome treats and Starbucks coffee!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Morning Thermals at Cayucos

When winds are forecasted to be over 25mph by 11's a good idea to show up early if you want to fly. I had a tandem scheduled for Cayucos on Sunday, so Mike and I showed up at 10am to try and get in the air before it blew out. To our surpise, there were no white caps, even on the horizon. Just nice texture. While setting up, there were five or six turkey vultures coring up a thermal on the south side. There wasn't really any wind at the top, just thermal cycles coming up.

Mike launched, and was staying up, so Christine and I launched the tandem, I was figuring it would just be a sled ride. Really, I was happy just to get off the ground, after looking at the weather the night before and assuming it would blow hard early. As it turns out, the thermals were quite large and lifty, keeping us boating about the south bowl for quite awhile. It did start getting a little weak at one point, so Christine and I headed to the beach to land, and she had a nice treat; her kids and husband and written "Happy Mother's Day" in large letters on the sand. We used the sign as a run way, landing a few feet from her family. It was a great tandem flight. Mike landed shortly after.

We went back up the hill with Timo, and found strong, but still flyable conditions. We got high, I flew down to the knob just for fun. After about 20 minutes though, the wind increased enough that it was work to penetrate, so we all landed. Then it really blew hard. Super glad to have gotten in the air.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Paragliding Nose Guard

Yup, a nose guard. Sure, it looks dorky, but better than having to get your nose removed due to cancer, right? The idea isn't new, mountaineers have used these for decades. A local Hangglider in my area was wearing them before I ever started flying, and I can't believe no one shared the idea with me!! A few years ago I was at a comp with Greg Babush, and some of the guys were giving him a hard time. I went to see what the fuss was about, and that's when I saw his nose guard. I instantly wanted one, it just makes great sense! When you're in the air for hours at a time, especially rowdy air, you may not want, or be able to keep reapplying sunscreen. Yes, a hat of some sort to block sun from your whole face would be better...but doesn't always work with your helmet. For me, brims block my view, both of the wing if it collapses, and other pilots I'm thermalling up to. So the nose guard was a brilliant solution. Not to mention, I don't have to slime my nose anymore!

Now Greg said his was made out of kangaroo scrotum, or some similar type of leather...and I didn't have access to that. So I experimented with a few types of leather from my local store. Finding leather that is light and soft so it's comfortable on the skin, and hanging from your glasses, but heavy enough not to flop in the wind is key. I finally figured out what worked. Unless I'm doing acro, it doesn't flop. I LOVE flying with this thing. It used to be an hour or two into a paragliding cross country flight, I would be very conscious of my big nose sticking out into the sun, now I'm relaxed knowing I have protection.

These are not hard to make, I copied my design from Greg's. I couldn't tell you the exact leather I use, because I just show the leather guy, and he supplies me with more, so do some experimenting. I am also selling these for a small amount. If you buy one from me, it will come a little larger than most people will need, and you can easily cut it to size.

Beyond paragliding, I've been using mine for snowboarding, backpacking, cycling, and most importantly, parawaiting:)

SORRY, WE SOLD OUT OF NOSE GUARDS!  THERE ARE NOW SEVERAL COMPANIES THAT SELL NOSE GUARDS ON-LINE THOUGH...and I still HIGHLY recommend using them.  I've heard Beakos are good, but haven't tried them myself.  Thanks to those who ordered, and I'm sorry I'm unable to send anymore out!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Will it Thermal Block, or Blow Out?

Unfortunately, Jack and I found only the sinking air behind the block today while paragliding at Cayucos. We both had moments while going over the houses and highway of wondering if we'd make the beach. That's the crazy thing about the block, it can drop you straight down at any time. We both made it though. Just in time too, the white caps on the water were growing quickly, and I'm sure the air was getting trashier. It's possible if we'd waited we would have caught the convergence line and been able to go to the rock...but it would have been howling when we landed.

I was stoked just to get off the planet for a bit, and even took my GoPro HD Chase Cam along for the ride.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Pictures from the Monterey Shoot

Here are some great shots Steve Leonard took during the shoot in Monterey!

Launching the Tandem with Francis

Francis and I soaring with Nicky

Steve Leonard, Harrison Freedman, Francis Manapul, Nicky Moss, Patrick Eaves

Filming in Monterey

Friend and fellow instructor Hugh Murphy was contacted by a production company working on a TV show to do some paragliding work. Hugh thought I'd enjoy working on the set as well, so he brought me in on it. Hugh coordinated with the producers, and chose Moneterey, California as the location for what they needed.

The idea behind the shoot was very cool. The stars of the show are Steve Leonard and Francis Manapul. Steve is a Vet and has been a wildlife presenter for tv shows around the world. Francis is a comic book artist, exploring the wildlife and adventure world with Steve. In this episode, they are exploring the world of large birds. As a segment of the program, they wanted to fly with Nicky Moss, and hear her story of being attacked by eagles while she was paragliding! Nicky is champion paraglider pilot, she holds several titles, and is a very accomplished XC pilot.

The first day was blocked, so sat in frustration all day. The crew decided to extend to a second day of shooting in hopes the wind would cooperate. Hugh couldn't make the second day, so the pressure was on me.

Standing in a tandem harness, sweating, with 6 cameras rolling, mics and radios recording, production crew standing by eagerly, and waiting for wind... Talk about stressful parawaiting! Francis was going tandem with me, and we were trying to get us in the air at the same time as Nicky on her solo wing, for the scene. Nicky anchored for Francis and I on the first launch, which went smoothly, but we found no lift and landed quickly.

Then we parawaited for what seemed like forever, while the tension was building in fear that we wouldn't get the shot. Finally it looked like wind was breaking through the block. We set up as quickly as we could (which is still slow while getting all cameras and mics set). Nicky anchored for us again, which was great because the wind was picking up QUICK!! Francis and I got in the air and immediately sky-ed out over the launch, and were almost parked. Unfortunately, the wind on the ground was cranking, and Nicky wasn't able to launch. We waited in the air as long as we could (now sliding down/crosswind slightly), after explaining dragging procedures to Francis, we went for a beach landing. As expected, we were pulled on to our backs after landing, but only drug a couple of feet. Luckily Nicky had told Steve we'd need a hand, and he sprinted over to grab a wing tip. ALL caught on cameraS...of course.

It looked like at that point the day was done, as even the hangglider that had been soaring was landing. We had some footage at least, but not the shots the crew wanted. An hour later, while the crew was working on some ground interview footage, I noticed the wind was dropping. At the very same time I saw Nicky's head turn around too, and we both jumped into action getting our gliders ready. The crew saw this, and they all raced to get everything set up and rolling. Within minutes, Nicky was airborne, and soaring nicely. Francis and I launched the tandem quickly behind her. We were finally in the air at the same time, what a beautiful thing. We were able to soar together for around 15-20 minutes while Francis and Nicky talked over the radio. Then, the wind started coming back and we decided it was time to land. Our landing this time was picture I'm sure that'll end up on the cutting room floor. Francis was a great tandem passenger though, his take offs and landings were perfect and committed each time, so it made my job much easier.

At the end of the day, we got out my Artik 2, and did some filler shots with DOP Geoff Lackner (incredible photographer and cinematagrapher- Check his work out). Nicky and I took turns flying my Artik and open harness, which is much easier to manage when flying high wind touch and go-s on the dunes than her pod. It was great to end the day with Nicky smiling from having fun flights, and the crew smiling because they finally had the shot (I hope)....

More pictures from the shoot to come...

Setting up the helmet and harness cams in the parking lot.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shell Beach, Great Views, oh, and some flying:)

Ah, Shell Beach. Dave Kornberg (picutred landing) had told me that it was on at Shell recently, so I decided to get there early today and give it a shot. It was relatively good today. And by that, I mean I drove all the way down there, and had several flights, so it's better than getting nothing. It was blocky, so flights were pretty short, 5-15 minutes at a time. And I wasn't really in the mood to venture south of the Cliffs hotel, and mainly just flew around the main ridge. At times, the convergence would build and I was able to get several hundred feet above the ridge, then it would of course get bumpy.

Dave Kornberg joined me after my first mini flight. We both took turns flying in between the blocks. My first flight was around 11:20, and my last flight close to 2pm. Jerry and Becky Elwood arrived just as I decided to call it a day, not sure if Jerry decided to launch. But it still looked do able.

Paragliding at Shell Beach has some really good things going for it, and some not so good things. I'll get some of the not so good points out of the way first. It blocks, and that in itself is a whole blog topic (or several). But basically, a warm bubble of air forms over the land, and prevents the cool ocean breeze from penetrating. It can come and go during the day. As this forms, it can get bumpy, and often very sinky meaning that you have to land unexpectedly. No problem if there is plenty of beach...but it can get sketchy at high tides and when the beach is packed with people. I've seen several pilots sink out in block, and run out of beach, having to land in water (very dangerous). It helps to be aware of the block forming, so you can keep your distance from the ridge and THE tree. In blocking conditions, you need to give yourself plenty of room since your controls will be dampened, and sink can cause you to drop quickly. And speaking of the tree, it has reached out and caught several of us, some with very unhappy endings. If you're a new or visiting pilot; I would HIGHLY recommend waiting to paraglide at Shell Beach until you've been flying for awhile, and had a chance to get some coaching from pilots who fly there often. It looks like an easy ridge, and for the most part it is, but knowing the bad stuff will save you lots of grief. Come check it out though, you'll learn a lot about the site just by watching.

Contact us if you're a visiting pilot and would like a site intro, and we'll get you hooked up!

So why do we love paragliding at Shell Beach? LOTS of reasons. We can drive right to launch, and walk about 20 ft from the car to set up in a beautiful grassy park. Assuming we don't get flushed to the beach in block, we land at the same spot we took off. Even if we do get flushed, the hike back up from the beach is just a few minutes. The view is amazing, ocean, hills, beautiful cliff top homes and resorts. On days when it's good, we can fly some, land to socialize, eat, take off for more, repeat ALL day! And probably my favorite reason to fly there, to see and be seen. Yeah, the people watching there is great (too great for some of us, distracting might be a better word), and it's always fun to have an audience!

Here's a video we took awhile back of the Shell Beach area, with Shell Beach itself featured in the second half. If you're craving more videos of Shell, Dave Kornberg has posted a couple as well, just search youtube for "lotusglider" to see his movies.