White Cliffs of Dover

Here’s a quick video of Nigel and I flying The Warren in GB.

I showed up in England last year with high hopes of flying Dover, only to hear that it’s flyable but a handful of days a year, well maybe more than a handful, but I was told it would be “highly unlikely” that I would be flying Dover. However, while touring near Stonehenge I received a call from one of the local pilots, Nigel. A week or so earlier I had sent the local club an email letting them know when I’d be in the area and that I dearly wished to fly.

Nigel could hardly contain his excitement; the weather showed it was going to be “On” tomorrow and could I make it? Are you kidding, I’m on my way over right now!

Nigel couldn’t resist telling me how lucky I was (we were). The following day we had several great flights at The Warren and I was lucky to meet many of the local crew (who were all awesome!). The next day we took a trip up to Long Mynd and had another great day – almost a great XC flight too; one late thermal took us up 1000m only to spit most of us out downwind. This diabolical thermal did allow a lucky 3 (out of 20 pilots) an XC chance and they took it. Nigel and I just missed it and landed together slightly short of launch, but celebrated the fact that we both flew for hours and how awesome that was to us.

Back from Long Mynd we decided to just play around Thurnham. There wasn’t an XC opportunity on this day, but it was great being out in the country, the birds flying along with us, butterflies in the grass and all that stuff. Really, it was an amazing time at Thurnham and a great experience in GB all around!

So, to Nigel and the local club http://www.dfhgc.org/, thank you for your warm welcome and the wonderful flights we had. I can’t wait to return! And to Santana, thanks for the Persuasion.

I hope you enjoy the video!

ps, I did remove my helmet in flight, twice. I do not recommend you do this… ever!

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Top 10 Tips for New Pilots

Top 10 tips for new pilots

  1. NEVER fly alone

Anything can happen on launch or during a flight. It’s just fabric and string that hold us up and sometimes things go wrong. When they do go wrong you’re likely going to need help. Maybe you carry a Spot or maybe you’ll have cell reception… maybe not. Either way, you don’t want to be in a precarious position needing help while no one is watching or even knows you’re flying today. Be safe. Fly with your friends and always make sure other know where you are.

  1. Get to know the locals and fly well-established sites

The thrill of pioneering a new site or just showing up (without a proper site introduction) may be enticing, but this sport is all about minimizing risk. Getting to know the locals will help you learn all about the site(s) and will help prevent you from making common mistakes. You’ll also prevent yourself from flying alone and flying closed or jeopardized sites. Remember, most of the sites you fly will have been painstakingly pioneered by one or more people and may have taken a long while to gain approval by the landowner. Let’s be respectful and do our best to keep our launch and landing sites intact by getting to know the locals. A quick Google search should reveal the local club’s contact info.

  1. Bring drinking water

You never know what will happen out there and even the best-planned flight can end up with a landing “out”. While we can survive without food for 2 weeks, we cannot survive without water for more than 2 days. Save yourself the risk and be sure to pack an extra liter or 2 just in case. You can always feed the plants when you land if you’re not thirsty or don’t want to carry the extra weight.

  1. Check your reserve handle before each flight

Something easily overlooked is your reserve handle. It’s easily tugged out of position when removing your harness from its carry bag and you do not want your reserve popping out on launch or in the middle of that choice thermal you’ve been circling in. It takes only 2 seconds to check and make sure the handle is secure and its pins are in place. Also, if you haven’t learned how to pack your reserve into your harness, now’s a good time to ask your local expert.

  1. Check your lines carefully before each flight

Your lines can easily get tangled, knotted or catch on small branches or rocks, so right before you launch make sure you check each line to make sure it’s unknotted and clear of debris. I recently had a tree landing because I didn’t check my brake lines thoroughly – one of them was knotted and caused my wing to horseshoe right after launch. I’m lucky to be alive after making this common mistake.

  1. You don’t have to launch

Maybe the wind is a bit stronger than you’re used to or maybe the launch looks a little intimidating. Either way, you are the pilot in command and launching (or not) is entirely up to you. Trust me, no one will think less of you if you decide not to fly. You may not be only saving your life by avoiding an accident; you’ll be saving others from having to rescue you too. When in doubt, trust your instincts and err on the side of caution.

  1. Give yourself plenty of space

Whether flying in a gaggle of other pilots or searching for lift near the mountain terrain, make sure you give yourself a little extra room for error. Sometimes the other pilots are checking their electronics or looking the other way – you don’t want a mid-air collision, so act as if they don’t see you and fly cautiously.

When flying near the ground or mountain terrain you are at higher risk of collapse because the closer you are to the terrain, the less time you’ll have to react to a problem. Give yourself plenty of space to fly safely.

  1. Fly landing zone to landing zone (LZ)

An important tip for new pilots is to always keep a good landing zone in reach. As you branch out and begin to fly cross-country you should make sure that as you leave the reach of one LZ you gain the reach of another suitable LZ. Often while flying you’ll be surprised with heavy sink or a stiff headwind and may find yourself needing to land. If you’ve been paying attention and already have your LZ selected you’ll be calmer and more likely to land safely and in a good spot for retrieve.

  1. Keep tabs on the wind’s direction

These days many pilots use wind meters and varios that can determine wind direction, but there is no substitute to feeling the wind while you fly and watching the signs on the ground. In the air you should be able to tell the wind direction by your speed and your wing’s penetration (or lack thereof). When you’re setting up to land there may not be a windsock waiting for you. Well in advance of landing look for signs of the wind’s direction like bending branches or bushes. Keep an eye out for dust and smoke too. You should know the wind’s direction in advance to prevent a potentially dangerous down-wind landing.

  1. Respect the sport (and yourself)

Like it or not, you’re now an Ambassador for this wonderful sport. Enjoy yourself and help others enjoy themselves too. Keep in mind that what you do (or don’t do) in this sport will likely follow you and your paragliding career forever… it may even affect the flying of others or the sites you fly at. Be safe. Stay positive. Do your best to show others that paragliding is a fantastic sport and that together we can help this sport grow. Growth is good and means more money to research and build safer wings, harness and reserves. Growth also means new sites and more places to fly. So, let’s keep focused on the positives of growth and the benefits of safety.

I hope to see you in the air, on launch or at the LZ.

Fly Hapi!

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Here’s a quick video that shows what gliding high above the mountains looks like. Thoroughly dressed in cold weather gear, I was still forced to cut my flight short due to cold hands. I’ve since purchased better gloves and long to return to this amazing location in the Owens Valley.

I was invited here by my good friend Dave Turner. He is by far the best pilot in the area and it was a joy to fly with him. Follow him on his next journey, an epic 520 mile (835km) route that will take him from sea level in Santa Barbara, up through the coastal mountains, out to the dry desert peaks of the Mojave, and up to the cool, high Sierra Nevada. http://sierraparagliding.com/sierra-solo-vol-biv-2014/

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First Flights

As I gaze out at this year’s new students kiting on the hill, I’m reminded of my own humble beginnings here at Torrey Pines’ Gliderport. It was a happy Friday and I had left the office as early as I could. Having forgotten my tennis shoes I casually walked out onto the hill in my leather loafers and met my new instructor, Bryan Rice. I had signed up to learn how to fly under a GroupOn that Bryan put together and was excited to see what this sport was all about.

After Bryan set me up with a beginner wing, I spent the next 5 hours learning how to “kite”. Luckily, the wind was about 10mph, constant, westerly and steady. Occasionally Bryan would offer tidbits of advice, as did several of the other instructors around the hill. The world famous Max Marien (Infinite Tumble record holder) was quick to offer some subtle tips about “feeling” the wing vs. trying to muscle it into position. Ki Hong was there too and told me the wing was “like a lady”, that I needed to listen to it, respect it and to use more hip in my kiting.

It wasn’t long before I had the wing overhead and was facing out toward the Pacific Ocean. I heard Max behind me, “Are you ready?” Ready for what? “To go off the cliff of course”. Oh no, I don’t think I’m ready. I hadn’t even had a tandem flight yet; I had zero clue what I was getting myself into. My fears quickly subsided as the wind had shifted and it was too northerly to fly, but tomorrow was Saturday and the forecast was looking good. To be honest, I was scared, but a bit hopeful for what tomorrow would bring. I was ready… according to my instructors.

The following morning I resumed my kiting and by Noon the winds were complementary. Radio attached, I walked up to the edge and waited for Max to give his approval. “Off you go”, he said, so off I went. It was incredible. Somehow I thought I would just drop off the cliff face, but no, I was gliding! I headed up the North face of the cliff and found some lift. Soon Max’s voice was cracking on the radio again, “Okay, we’re going to make a nice left turn. I want you to look left, lean left and pull a little bit of left toggle.” I followed his directions closely. It was soooo much to absorb; with the ocean, the sun, the cool breeze and beautiful shoreline I was flying, but I had very little understanding of the wing and the wind. It was a magical feeling. Must keep focus, I thought to myself.

After just a few more passes, clearly outside the best part of the lift band, we decided to land on the beach rather than attempt a top landing. I remember gliding over the beachgoers smiling faces, the volleyball players and a few nudists before hearing Max say, “Flair”. I pulled both toggles like a skydiver does and tiptoed down onto the cool sand. There I was, a pilot after his first solo, heck, first ever flight. I was hooked. I thanked Max on the radio and began to pack my gear the best I could. While it was nice to be on the beautiful beach, I wanted more. I knew this was the sport for me and I wanted to get back up in the air as soon as possible. I quickly made my way up the trail to the glider port and immediately asked if I could fly again. A resounding “Yes” was the reply and that day I had 4 additional flights. I top landed each one and even performed my first touch-n-go. Damn, I was happy!

I thanked Max, I thanked Bryan, heck I think I even thanked a tourist who had no clue what I was talking about, but I didn’t care. I was becoming a paragliding pilot and I loved it. I immediately signed up for the next level, the P2 class, thus solidifying my place in this sport. I knew this was a one-way road with no turning back and I didn’t have to think about this decision; I knew this was my passion and I knew I had to continue…

Do you remember your first flight? I’d love to hear your story.

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Magical Mystery Tour

Here’s a fun video of the Green Wall in Pokhara, Nepal. After a couple attempts the weather finally cooperated and allowed a complete run of the circuit.

The sights, sounds and smells along the wall were incredible. It was very rain-forest like and I could hear the monkeys playing below me.

Toward the end you’ll see kids run out of the school atop the last ridge. They kept pouring out each time I thermalled overhead and I forced myself to leave them behind since I must have been interrupting their studies ;)

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Welcome to my new site/blog. I hope to use this space to post both interesting stories and useful information related to cross country flying and general paragliding hapiness.

Expect stories from my own experiences as well as occasional team updates relative to Triple Seven and HapiAcro.

Ideally, this will be a place to find helpful information for the new pilot as well as specs, insights and other useful data for the seasoned pilot.

Hapi flying!


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