Friday, June 18, 2010

New guy - Bad day

So I recently came to this sport, and had hoped to post a few comments about life as latest newbie. You know the kind of stuff I mean, things like how being told, just after you paid for lessons, about your instructors massive back injury and how Jim managed to get rolled over by a bolder make you feel good about your investment. Or maybe something about how a teacher with the name “Reaper” is much better than, say, “professor” or “coach” for building your sense of safety and security in a potentially life threatening sport. But all of that can wait, because yesterday I had a near life experience, and those are a lot more fun than taking pot shots at such big targets.

To tell you about this brush with life a little background might be helpful. I now have a total of about 17 hrs ground handling the wing Reaper let me borrow, after he laughed that it would be plenty big for me. On my first day of practice it was perfect, conditions were very light, and everything went fine, but occasionally it still picked me up a bit, but nothing that felt dangerous or really out of control. There have been 4 sessions from that first attempt, and aside from some beginner frustrations and an apparently genetic inability to fold the wing (which extends to folding anything really, origami is my nemesis, and we wont mention laundry) things were good.

Reaper had told me I needed 50 hours of ground work to even consider walking up a hill, and I felt I was on my way. Further, during the weekend I had gotten some good tips from Doug and Tom. Doug had instructed me on watching wind speed, and that learning my limits on the ground was the way to go. Tom gave me a quick lesson on trying to handle with A’s and C’s, and help me get the wing folded up, showing me the most important tip… have someone work with you and roll on it for you. (Thanks to both you guys!). Little did I know… Doug is a prophet.

So, with that, yesterday I was feeling good about all things, and decided to slip away for some play time with my girlfriend and ground handling. She likes watching me look foolish, and I like watching her lay in the sun, it seemed like the perfect plan. I should have paid a little more attention to the details….

We went out to Kualoa park, and I looked out in the bay, and did not see the whitecaps I was told to look for, so I started setting up. Note, I did not see them. That does not mean they were not there. I just did not see them. Situational blindness can hurt…but we will get to that.

Once Everything was going okay, and I decided to give A’s and C’s a try. Not much luck there, I think another lesson might be necessary before I am ready for that. It was frustrating, which is point two, frustration should never drive a decision; much less make you unaware of your surroundings. With a little frustration fueling me, I was now determined to get some good kiting… wait… ground handling in, despite the fact that I could feel the wind picking up a bit. Some days I am none too smart.

I got the wing up a few times, and was getting comfortable again, struggling a bit with the wind, and move my sunglasses up to the top of my head because it was getting dark… did I mention I was not paying attention? Somehow I felt safe on the ground…

Did I know I was strapped to wing that could easily generate 600 lbs of lift? Yes.
Did I know that I was not prepared to respond if I was in the air suddenly? Yes.
Did I know it had just gotten dark and that wind was up? Yes.
Did I put these facts together despite my stubbornness? NOPE.

So you can guess what happened. All of a sudden, my feet left the ground, I did an instant 180, and slammed back into the ground on my left side, effectively face first, and started sliding across the ground. Fun City!

I managed to get turned back around, grabbed the C’s as I am sliding across the grass, and bring what I have now dubbed “the big blue monster” to a stop. Half the wing is grounded, the other half twisting back and forth like a prize marlin, and I am pulling C’s and Brakes for all I am worth. I glance over to see my girlfriend running over, clearly planning to grab me and try to hold me down, and had just enough time to think “that really sweet” when I hear the wind whistle wildly in my ears and think “oh crap, this will not go well.”

The prize fish promptly does its best incredible Hulk impression, growing despite my best efforts to ground it, and just as my personal version of Bo Derek beach scene gets close enough to grab me I am back to doing the back side sled ride… straight at the power lines… “this might go very badly indeed…”

Long story drawn to a close because this post is way too long already, I got the wing grounded (with some help) about 10 feet short of the power lines. The ride had started just at the beach line. No real harm, some bruises, very little blood. I got the wing back to point where I could try to fold it up, and of course, it stats to rain…

All things said and done, there was more damaged to the ego than anything. Limping a big today, but a bruised leg and deflated ego are a small price to pay for a good lesson or two. Funny thing is… I want to go practice again now…

Maybe I broke my common sense. Then again, I am studying a dangerous sport with a guy who answer to "Reaper" so maybe it was broke to begin with.


Thom said...

First Glad to hear your OK.
Second welcome to the dragged and tattered club. Everyone gets dragged once and some more than others.
Third Yup watch behind you, watch the wind and rain. I just got nailed on Lanikai a few days ago, had my back to the ocean waiting for some wind and when it came it came with rain, I got soaked and had to dry my gear on the hill before flying.
When you start you have 2 bags one is empty to fill with skills the other is filled with luck, the trick is to fill the bag of skills before the bag of luck is empty.

Thanks for sharing, Welcome to the Monkey Barrel


firedave2 said...

George, Sorry to hear about your tale of woe. You want to try to avoid them, that is why you pay an instructor so much.
On the otherhand, you weave an excellent tale. I can't wait to hear more from you in the positive way.

Mad Dog said...

I gave that nickname to Pete 15 years ago when he first moved here because he always told us we were going to kill ourselves, Your the grim Reaper aren't you? glad to hear you tried to do it on the ground because it really hurts you Kills)when you do it in the air. Best part about Hawaii is you always have the water to see the wind on. Pay attention to it's story as it tells it well. Good luck & see you in the air soon.
Aloha Mad Dog

Brazilian Ray said...

I also had a roller coaster ride when I was learning... just like yours, but I actually needed medical attention... :(
the good news is: you are learning!!! I can bet you won't make that mistake again ;)
glad to hear you're ok!
If you (or anybody) found yourself in that situation (being dragged), pull ONE line towards you (hand over hand, all the way), any line works. it will fold the wing and stop dragging you.
also, post on the chatterbox you are going kitting and you might find company...

Brazilian Ray

Waianae Jim said...

Glad to hear you made it through your ordeal o.k. As Brazilian Ray already noted the best option when getting dragged is to grab any line and reel it in until you're holding onto the wing fabric. And as FireDave already mentioned, can't wait to read your more positive future tales.

MauiDoug said...

Great to meet you the other day George and I'm happy to hear that your learning experience didn't involve a trip to the hospital. Here's a link to the inexpensive wind meter that I showed you.

It's important to know the max wind speed for being able to still control your wing! Once the wind speed is stronger on low launch than my comfort zone, I prefer to hike down instead of going for the lava rock drag session.

Kiting also gives you a chance to work on your active piloting skills. It's great to see someone so enthusiastic about kiting, it will help make you a better and safer pilot.
Much Aloha, MDoug

Alex said...

George, great post! Sorry to hear you got dragged in the gust front, but I'm glad it was a relatively easy and cheap lesson. I'm often up for some kiting at Kualoa, and these days I've got my 14-yr old son learning to kite too, so please give me a shout if you ever want some ground handling company. (Although I'm out of town until 7/3). Thanks again for the post - I look forward to more good stories from you!

Gravity said...

Great story George,
You got dragged, Awesome! Thats what I want to hear. Yes, hopefully you won't do that again. I'll be back next week and then we'll ramp up your lessons. I love to hear that the students are kiting and getting dragged...

Cya soon Dragster.

Unknown said...

I need to get my wing out too do some serious ground handling and would love to have a buddy so call or text me and i will join ya. my digits are 409-951-0800. i work the normal 8 to 4 Monday thru Friday so evening and weekend warrior I am. Cheree