Paragliding Stanwell park – What goes up

grey Paragliding Stanwell park   What goes upWhat goes up, must come down, a fundamental cornerstone of all aviation…this is also true when Paragliding Stanwell park – What goes up…

To bring you up to speed I am currently based in Woolongong (Near Sydney), selling drugs 2 days a week (just enough to pay the rent and buy kebabs) and working towards my paragliding licence. Sadly in the almost 2 months I have been here the weather has not been playing ball and I have managed very little feet off ground time. Yesterday, however, looked good.

I drove up to Bald hill full of butterflies as Mitsi said that today is the day for the big boys hill. I should introduce Mitsi properly. Mitsi is the owner of Sydney Paragliding, he is completely bald apart from a little growth on his chin, very personable and constantly looks up at the clouds. Most people when they look up at clouds just think;

“Oh, there is a bunny rabbit raping a toad” or some such thing.

Not Mitsi, he is thinking;

 

 

“That cumulo-nimbus system out of the sea is creating squall pockets which will shift the conversion and increase precipitation, therefore….”

The man is a walking weather station, the amount I have learnt from him about the weather just through observation and discussion is astounding. Mitsi is trying to retire but his formidable reputation in the world of paragliding (he has a launch technique named after him, as do I but mine is called the “Benny-bum-slide”) means there is a steady stream of enthusiastic pilots to be, knocking on his door at all hours demanding lessons, I am one of them. It is very reassuring to be learning from the guy who taught most of the pilots now teaching paragliding at bald hill. Anyway, where am I? Okay…so driving up to bald hill full of nerves, I get there and count no less than 14 craft soaring about in the air, many with learner streamers slapping from the back (like with a car, “L” plate pilots have to make their inexperience known), Must be a good day for learners.

I find Mitsi looking at the clouds contemplatively with a mate and wait…and wait…. before finally Mitsi finishes his analysis of the conditions and we decide to do a tandem flight. I need to practice the landing approach, some people think that launching is the most important thing but truly landing is, power lines are not your friend! We lay out the tandem wing and ready to go, then Mitsi looks around one last time;

“See that cloud line coming along the escarpment Ben?”

“Yeah, miles away, what about it?”

“Well I think it will push that system over the water our way and kill the conditions, we should wait”

15 minutes later the wind not only dies to nothing but becomes sinking air. I will spare you the technical details (mainly because I don’t understand them myself) but in less than five minutes the whole area is ‘flushed’. Gliders and Hang gliders are landing one after the other down on the beach, I spot a Paraglider flying very low over trees,

“See that Mitsi, they’re not going to make it”

“They’ll be fine…oh  bugger”

We see feet brush tree-top then the wing settles gracefully on to the upper canopy. A lady has not made it over the forest, she will go on to spend about five hours unhurt dangling 40 feet up in a tree while rescue services try to find a big enough ladder. I have it on good authority that getting a paraglider out of a tree takes hours with all their lines and floppiness.

We listen on the radio and hear that another crash (or altered-landing-zone-decision) has occurred, a Chinese man has had to put his hang glider down on the lower sea-shelf and is currently running about recruiting helpers to retrieve it before the tide comes in.

grey Paragliding Stanwell park   What goes up We unanimously decide that today will not be a flying day, pack up our gear and head for the cafe. Drinking coffee we spot a lone Paraglider making his way towards us (the cafe lies near the beach, under the cliffs where you launch) He disappears from view and Mitsi remarks “Must have gone to land on the beach…”

When everyone leaves I decide to take a stroll along the beach. While walking I recognise two pilots from the heads rush past, then another two I follow curiously.

It turns out the man who Mitsi said would make it didn’t, the seventy-something year old pilot ended up in the water. Waves wrapped the lines around his legs making it impossible to swim and he went under. Thankfully two surfers saw the incident, pulling him and his wet rig out of the ocean. We helped the soggy pilot along the beach, carrying his wet glider complete with ensnared shoes to the van. At the van the fellow seemed to be in a bit of shock, he was shaking terribly and looking very rattled. When the ambulance arrived to check on him I left and drove back home glad that Mitsi is such a cautious teacher. I can’t wait to join in the fun!

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