No Turning Back  

warmandsexy52 66M
7186 posts
6/13/2006 11:28 pm

Last Read:
6/22/2006 11:57 am

No Turning Back

If you’ve read my blog you know I have a particular passion for paragliding. It’s an awesome sport, and beautiful to watch, like a regatta in the sky. If you asked me why I do it I couldn’t really give you an answer that would satisfy me that I had truly answered the question. It runs deep, and other free-flyers will tell you the same. Knowledge that an accident could kill you doesn’t alter the desire to fly. Witnessing accidents, doesn’t deter, only makes you want to figure out why it happened so it doesn’t have to happen to you.

The thing that makes flying particularly different is that there are no brakes ‒ you continue to go forward, so you can’t pull up if there’s something in your way. So from the moment you launch and take to the sky there’s no turning back. Every decision you make has real and present consequences, which might, all being well, take you hundreds, even thousands of feet into the sky, or being ill put you into truly precarious situations. And you can’t fully predict sky. Where there was a thermal only a couple of minutes ago might now be “sink”, a downward current of air, sometimes moving at fifteen feet a second or more, dropping you like a stone and even collapsing your wing. A bad decision in sink can land you in hospital before you know what’s hit you, or worse.

The last three times I’ve been flying since the start of the month have each held real dangers, each time very different. The first was the last flight of the day, heading back to the car after some soaring and hitting some real sink that lost me enough height to be caught in the lee of some tall trees near the bottom of the hill. Not only was I in sink, but the trees broke the flow of the wind creating real turbulence and I found myself on a real rollercoaster ride, my wing partially collapsing a couple of times within seconds of each other, and about sixty feet above the ground, thrown about like a feather in a breeze. This was real adrenaline. Was this my call? I honestly didn’t know and white-knuckled my way to a landing. Landed among sweet smelling wild mint, noticed I was out of eyeshot of everyone and smiled at the thought that my cred as a competent pilot wasn’t in question, even though an accident injury out of eyeshot is a worrying prospect. Just don’t think about it ‒ in one piece, some excitement and a decent day’s flying despite the scare at the end. Wasn’t far to the car either!

Then a couple of days later I find myself on a cliff run at Newhaven. Cliff soaring is awesome, but can be dangerous if you have to bale out onto jagged rocks, or even worse the open sea (90% of paraglider pilots who land in water without a rescue boat immediately available drown, tangled up in their canopy and lines and encumbered by their harness). The wind is light but the direction is good, so I launch and find I can stay airborne for the full run, but only just. Flying so close to the cliff edge at times I’m almost touching it. The tide is coming in and soon there is open water beneath me, a flock of seabirds fussing at the water’s edge just over two hundred feet below. It’s right at the edge. After twenty minutes or so I decide it would only take the tiniest decline in wind speed, or shift in direction to put me in precarious situation and head back to Newhaven. There was a real awareness of danger and perhaps I was dumb for chancing it, but I had a good insight into the conditions and was confident in my skills, and the challenge was exciting.

Then this last Sunday it’s a beautiful day and countless thousands head their way to the South Coast. The forecast tells me the wind will be South East and I look forward to some flying at a magnificent site overlooking Eastbourne called Beachy Head. But it isn’t to be so. The wind turns out differently and it’s a very definite West South West and there’s only one flyable site near Lewes, and guess what ‒ everyone who flies has turned up there, it seems. But I’ve come all the way from London, so what the hell, and I slog my way up the five hundred foot hill with 20 kilos on my back. It’s hot, but I grunt my way up like some old warhorse and make it eventually (it’s one of those horrible hills that get steeper and steeper as you approach the top and it’s the only hill without vehicle access at the top.). Nice air, quite thermic but there are simply too many flyers in the sky. There had already been a near miss at a “mid-air” - what we call sky collisions ‒ earlier in the day and there were a couple of dozen flyers in a relatively small space. A lot of novices too, who were cruising all over the place with little rhyme or reason. Anyhow I launch and it’s a game of ariel dodgems for much of the time and although it’s dead easy to stay up all the traffic is a bit disconcerting. A novice flies beneath me ‒ his wing is little more than ten feet below my boots and we’re about seven hundred feet up. I’m not happy about that, but he’s a nice enough guy who I’d chatted to before launching, so even if it is like looking death in the face I’m not going to lose my cool over it. Perhaps what’s most frustrating is that I am deterred from circling in thermals to a large extent because I’m aware of others and what we can do to each other. Nevertheless I have a long flight lasting the best part of an hour and I get my boots off the floor and that’s what matters.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that flying has given me very strong metaphors for life. If you have ever stepped into the void literally, then stepping into the unknown in a figurative sense somehow becomes easier. And no turning back becomes precisely that. It’s struck me that regret is a wasted emotion (unless you’re in a melodrama of Shakespearean proportions, and then only maybe) and wishful thinking doesn’t usually get you far. We live with the things we say and do because they shape things around us. We live with the decisions we make, because one way or another they set courses of action and have whatever consequences there are. And it can be wonderful, magnificent …… or it can be tough. It can delight …… or disappoint. Heal or hurt. So be it, that’s life and we live it………..

And there’s no turning back.

BenefitsFriend69 58M/62F

6/21/2006 10:36 pm

Wow! Enjoyed that, felt like I was there. Thanks.

I have to ask though, don't you carry a knife so you can cut the ties if you land in the water to keep you from frickin' drowing????

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/22/2006 12:07 pm:
BF my friend - great to see you back! What tends to happen is a nasty combination of things:

1. The air cushion in the harness that protects your back acts as a flotation device, pushing your face downwards.

2. The canopy, which in my case is almost 45 feet in span and 12 feet in chord lands on top of you and immediately fills with water, partially sinking around you.

3. There are about 160 fine lines that enmesh you like spaghetti.

4. You are not dressed for swimming!

The smart move is to get out of your harness when all looks hopeless and drop the last 20 feet or so.

People do try out risky manoevres over water, but there is always a rescue boat.


HBowt2 60F

6/17/2006 5:44 pm

was hanging over a cliff recently thinking....'warm would like this...'

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/18/2006 4:16 pm:
Oh I would sweetie, I really would. Thanks so for the thought. {=}

warm xx

Sulabula 46F
12659 posts
6/14/2006 5:29 pm

sounds wonderful

Sula xxx

come visit my blog

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 6:13 pm:
Awesome beyond words, dear Sula. Take a chance to try it. They do tandem flights.

warm xx

goodatpoetry2 68M
16569 posts
6/14/2006 1:43 pm

That sounds like so much fun. Maybe fun isn't the right word, but it sounds nice.
But I have to say, I worry for you. I know that YOU know what you're doing. But as you say, you DON'T have full control over the "elements" or other people.
Just be careful, my friend.
PS. Very nice descriptions.

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 5:21 pm:
Not fully knowing how the sky will interact with the land at any one time is part of the addictive quality of the sport. The same hill will have a completely different character depending on climatic conditions. Just like the same person can have different moods.

I'm as careful and respecting of the sky as I am with my fellow humans. Both have a capacity to hurt........


SweetDarlinAngel 41F
2996 posts
6/14/2006 8:07 am

I still think I stay on the ground and watch you fly from there ... I'm just more cozy here. Planted firmly where I'm not subjected to being treated like a feather. I'll leave the wind acrobatics to you my friend! *giggles*


warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 5:18 pm:
Will you drive me up to Apache Maid in your SUV, dearest angel, and there's a place to watch with a wonderful view, with the red rocks of Sedona in the background. Or if you don't fancy that trek there's always South Mountain. And I promise not to worry you by hitting a saguaro!

warm xx

smoothnjuicy4u 51F

6/14/2006 7:29 am

I have been testing my limits on many things lately trying to expand myself, I actually saw this on TV the other day and thought wow what a good way to get over my fear of heigths and let go of control.. Now you really have me thinking seriuosly about it.

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 5:14 pm:
It's about as dangerous as skiing and the experience of being in the sky is awesome beyond words. The sensation of height is completely different to being up a ladder or on the edge of a cliff, because you are being supported by your wing. You're certainly controlling your wing and it's a lifetime's venture to fly in all places and in many conditions. Do let me know if you take it up ..... please ....

warm xx

wickedeasy 68F  
31332 posts
6/14/2006 5:36 am

clinks this most amazing journey

You cannot conceive the many without the one.

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 5:06 pm:
it would have to be champagne, dear wicked.

warm xx

moonfire2u 71F
2602 posts
6/14/2006 4:57 am

I got are also a very insightful man...and wise man...wonderful post

kind thoughts,

warmandsexy52 replies on 6/14/2006 5:05 pm:
Thank you moonfire .... such kind thoughts.

warm xx

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