Friday, May 20, 2011


I am in love! At my advanced age, I'm surprised to find that I'm utterly enraptured after what I thought would be a quick fling. I met my new girlfriend today, and her name is S'Lide. She's 16. (What? No! Not years, square meters!) She is a smoking hot little number. So what if she's with Scot right now. I think she really likes me.

I haven't fully sorted through all my feelings and thoughts on speed flying. But after today's lucky test flight, I know one thing for certain: it's super fun, and it's not hard, nor is it scary. Okay, I admit I was a bit nervous as I strapped into Scot's crazy harness and wing, but after kiting it up the hill, and launching myself into the air, and making a couple of top landings, I realized I felt right at home. It seems to be all about wing control and handling, which is one of the things I like best about paragliding.

The experience was essentially identical to scratching a paraglider near the terrain, except for the fact that the wind was blowing quite a bit harder. Actually, it wasn't all that strong today - and it was still possible to climb out and soar high above the rhino horn on Scot's 16 meter S'Lide. Top landings felt exactly like they do on a larger wing, except perhaps a bit faster.

I hope Scot can do something with the helmet cam footage and the clips I shot with my phone. In the meantime I have cobbled together some of the footage of both Scot and Maui Doug flying their little wings today.

After I got home tonight, I made the mistake of telling Dorothy I was thinking about buying a new toy, somehow forgetting that we are deep in debt for last year's taxes, and about to take a huge family vacation we can't afford … so I guess I'll be waiting a while before consummating this new love affair. But I can wait as long as it takes. This is the real thing.

Thanks again to Scot for the chance to take his girlfriend for a spin. I am completely smitten. Maybe when she's tired of him I can earn her favor …


Travis said...

Looks awesome! You're making me want one too!

Thom said...

I just laughed my ass off. Nice analogy of the younger affair.

As we did speak on the phone about how easy you found this wing to be, does not mean that everyone should run out and get one.

All should remember that Alex has been flying for over 10 years and is flying a super hot 2/3 glider. He is used to the speed of that as shown by picutres of him buzzing launch attached to Thanks Bob Story. A transition from the 2/3 to this wing may be easy for him but should be taken into consideration prior to anyone else looking into one. Maui Doug has more kiting hours than most have flying and is at least a T-3 pilot, Scot has been flying for a long time and is presenlty under an R-10. Frank has been flying smaller wings low in the bowl for as long as I can remember.

Fly safe, and take the windy days off to do things like "Tile a Bathroom".

Alex said...

Those are good points, Thom - thanks for the warning sticker! We definitely need to realize that the action on these wings is happening a lot faster than usual, with typical downwind speeds of 50 mph or more. Also, applying even a little brake on one side rolls these things up on one ear and they corkscrew straight down. I barely used the brakes on Scot's wing after the first time I realized that, and just focused on flat turns with weight shift to maximize my climb! And finally, most of these rigs aren't set up with reserves. Maybe because they're always being flown so close to the terrain and the reserve wouldn't matter. But that terrain scraping at these speeds is another huge red flag.

So yeah, I didn't mean to suggest that "speed wings are the new paragliders!" Just that my skepticism about what I thought was a totally different aerial pastime was sort of misguided. There's no question in my mind that this is paragliding. It quacks like a duck, as it were. It's just a super fast duck with poor glide performance, but with insanely fun handling.

Anonymous said...

Nice one Alex, it really is a hoot and a half. Perfect song.


Duck said...

What's all this about ducks???

MauiDoug said...

Great editing Alex! Thanks for taking the time to put the video together! Kited the Little Cloud 18 today @ MPU LZ in very gusty rotor from the wind sock knoll. It was 17 avg. gusts to 25 and watched the LC fold up and turn into a tangled wad above my head :-O oh my! Definitely will be taking careful baby steps with this wing!

Puka Wai said...

I can see it now: Alex sneaking around on windy days, telling the missus that it's so windy out so he might as well work late. This will go on for a few months til Alex slips up and puts both the little underage number and Mrs. Peak in the trunk of the car.... then comes The Ultimatum.
Is biwinguamy legal?

JK said...

Great video, awesome action and nice flying... These mini wings really spice up the footage. And what a witty el presidente we have. The reference to the title was more than just the "younger affair", Thom (I believe). Twas a timely stab at the "end of the world". BTW Larry, you had me a little concerned with your early CBox entry this morning. Whew! Rapture

Anonymous said...


Awesome that your enjoying the smaller wings... BUT, THIS IS NOT SPEED FLYING/RIDING!!!

While small wing ridge soaring is awesome, it is NOT classic speed fly/riding where your on a 7m-10m wing and ripping DOWN a slope pointed mostly at ground...

I would fully recommend you getting a 14m-16m small wing so you can show them younguns how it is done on the windy days.

Good stuff, Jon

sandy said...

Hate to be a downer -- but can somebody explain to me why speedwing flyers don't use/need spinal protection? Is it just a moot point? Or they don't make mistakes?

Great vid Alex! Lovely shot of A!

Anonymous said...

Hey Sandy,

When you are really speed flying your usually not very high off the terrain and your ground speed is usually more than 40mph, and sometimes into the 70mph range when your tipping it up. No time to even think aboout reaching for a reserve, and the forward speed means that your back is the last thing making contact if you mess up.

With that said, the high wind variety of flying micro wings does not preclude the use of a standard harness with a reserve. In fact when I am flying these smaller wings on a ridge, I usually am in my Woody Valley Expression. But, throwing a reserve in those conditions has its own set of dangers.

Your last sentence is usually what I have going through my mind when both speed flying and high wind ridge soaring... Don't make a mistake, and leave the inverted stuff for towing over the lake.

Go try a small wing... you will be surprised at how easy it really is. And the awesome sensations of the high wing loading, fast speeds, and micro control will hook you in.

Throw high, throw often!
Jon Malmberg