Posted by: cokenias | February 24, 2012

Feb 24 – Flight 2

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 12-14 mph W

Reverse launch from Tomcat, eight low beats and back again for a top landing, into the wind.

GoPro loaned to a friend, no video

0:10 Mussel Rock (Walker), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | February 24, 2012

Feb 24 – Flight 1

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 12-14 mph WSW

Took off from Walker ramp facing West, immediately turning SW to work the ridge. Rose almost to cliff height with one pass in front of Walker, crossing over launch to the first slide. I avoided the cliffs and spent a few minutes boating around in front of Walker. Landed gently on the high road, facing S.

GoPro loaned to a friend, no video

0:22 Mussel Rock (Walker), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | February 19, 2012

Blue Sky Soaring

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 14 mph WNW – Sunny, hazy with a few flattened cu on the SW and NW hz

Launched from Lemmings, partway down, kited nearly to the top. Crossed hwy 1 with plenty of height, finding lots of easy lift in all the usual places. Turned back at the church, well above cliff height. Beautiful day with only a few other gliders in the air. Landed on the middle road, slightly cross to the wind.

0:20 Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | February 19, 2012

OK, That’s More Like It

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 13 mph WNW – Sunny, hazy with a few flattened cu on the SW and NW hz

Launched from Lemmings properly this time and got up easily. Turned back at the first slide to play over the main park. Landed at Lemmings to take a phone call. Approached from the south (and well behind the ridge line), landed into the wind without incident.

21 minutes

Forgot to turn on camera, no video.

Posted by: cokenias | February 19, 2012

Walk of Shame

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 12 mph WNW – Sunny, hazy with a few flattened cu on the SW and NW hz

Set up partway down Lemmings, reverse launch. Kited to top and pushed off into the wind. Not having enough speed, I touched down a moment later and added a few running steps to get up again. Turned north and crossed over to the front of the first bowl, my wing not quite as high as hwy 1. I tucked in pretty close to the ridge and maintained height as I continued north. After a few hundred yards it became clear to me I wasn’t going to ascend and that I was just getting further from home. I turned back for a crosswind beach landing far from the surf.


  • Lazy launch, touch and go.

0:02 Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | February 19, 2012

Ridge Soaring is Easier

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 14 mph WNW – Sunny, hazy with a few flattened cu on the SW and NW hz

Lazy launch into a stiff W breeze, not the best kiting, dropped it once and was a bit lurchy in my forward progression. Nonetheless, instant, easy up in smooth cold air. Headed north, over the bowl and in front of the cliff. Smooth lift took me a few hundred feet above the ridge by the time I got to the church. Experimented with different hand grip on the controls. I’ve decided to break my habit of passing my whole hand through the toggle (I’ve been thinking more about being prepared to throw the reserve since my most recent mountain flight.) Fingers through the loop with line between thumb and index finger is comfy. Cruised the cliffs for a while with a few other PG and HG.

Came down over the Plateau and waited for a chance to top land near Tomcat. There were several gliders in the area, including faster-moving mini wings (very sharp wake coming off the minis), I couldn’t find an easy spot. Returned to the grassy area near Lemmings, landed in-wind, killing the wing promptly with Cs.


  • Lazy launch, upright posture and uneven speed.

0:39 Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | February 12, 2012

Welcome to Santa Barbara

The Alternator (3780′), Santa Barbara, 7 mph W 1:00pm.

25 minutes

Last day of a three day thermalling clinic in Santa Barbara. Having missed my only other opportunity on day one, I was eager to get in at least one flight before the weekend was over. This is a new site for me. I walked the LZ in the morning and looked at it from the side of the road on the drive up the mountain. From launch the LZ is invisible, blocked by a peak (West Bowl). Flight plan is to fly to West Bowl, arriving as high as possible, and play in the thermals rising off the mountain. Once low, head off to the LZ (visible from the front of West Bowl).

The first two gliders to launch were tandems. First takeoff was clean and casual. The second was much rougher; pilot and passenger crashed through a small tree and bounced off a boulder. That was the second scary launch I’d seen in as many days.

I reminded myself not to rush my launch, but since there was not enough wind for kiting, I needed to be in continuous motion. With plenty of hill behind me, I brought the wing up in a reverse launch. It was solid, I turned and ran, lifted off for a step, continued running with a bit more brake and took off. Wasn’t able to slip into seating position, too much friction. I was concerned that I might get in that situation I’ve found myself in a few times where I am forced to hang by my groin the whole time, but was able to get in by grabbing the risers and wiggling. (Thankfully I will soon have a footrest which connects to the carribeeners which I can use instead.) The riser grab and wiggling definitely affected my speed and course.

Following the general flight plan, with coaching by radio, I crossed over the West Bowl ridge with about 250 feet of clearance. I was a little surprised by the terrain on the other side, I had expected a sharp rocky face, but there was actually a bit more mountain before the sky opened up. I chose a route which (to my mind) split the difference between remaining high over the ground and staying high on the mountain. My goal was to cross one more ridge and come out one the front side of the mountain.

Suddenly I was very concerned about my altitude. The terrain I was flying over was very generic: shrub-like trees, tree-like shrubs, rocks and boulders, no man-made objects. It had been hard for me to get a sense of scale and distance. Then I saw my shadow, huge and crisp zipping along the ground and I got scared. The slope I was aiming to crest was rising under me quickly and I had been flying through sink to get there. I had an escape to the left, though I wasn’t sure what to do next if I went that way. My next thought was to wonder what landing on the peak would be like if it came to that. As I was about to peel left down a valley towards the open air, I hit a sunny patch and was yanked upward. I was lifted up the slope to the spine, which I followed to the sunny, rocky face of West Bowl. My track log says I was 150 feet over the terrain at my lowest, it seemed lower at the time.

Finally above the face of the mountain, and in lots of lift, I did a few 360s. My piloting was tense and jerky; I over-banked my turns, losing height. The thermal air was rougher than I have experienced before, but the turbulence was not as bad as I feared it might be. I still found it unnerving being jerked about. The bumps were coming quickly and from all sides. I tried to keep up with the air, moving my hands to maintain constant wing pressure, but for all I know I was making it worse with mistimed inputs.

I focused on the rocky face of West Bowl, turning sharply in areas of strong lift. My heart was racing, and I was looking for the LZ between maneuvers. From my vantage point, I wasn’t 100% sure I knew where it was. And I definitely wasn’t confident about where the preferred bailout LZs were. What seemed to be the LZ (it was) was a long way off (it was). I very much wanted to climb up but if that wasn’t going to happen I wanted to be sure I could make the landing. I wasn’t so sure.

My piloting was twitchy. I think I didn’t make much of the available lift because my turns were so frequent and aggressive. In my mind was the image of me spiraling upward in a small thermal with my wing severely banked– we’d talked about this in ground school. My attempts at making at happen just lost me height overall, I think I would have been better off with more patience and efficiency. Smoother inputs, fewer course changes. I would have had more time in front of the cliff face, and perhaps would have gotten a better sense of how large the thermals were. Also fresh in my mind was the advice that thermals tend to push the glider away and that strong weight shift and a committed turn was important to get in a thermal. I added a lot of weight shift to my turns, one leg lifted and my torso leaning deep to the inside.

At one point (07:00) I turned sharply to my right, probably near the boundary of a thermal. My vario reports 4500ft/min up. 180 degrees into my turn, with lots of brake and weight shift, I felt the right side go soft (like a stall) and heard a rustle, I immediately let up on the right and looked to the wing. It was diving in front of me with the right side depressurized. There was a moment of weightlessness which I reacted poorly to. With the brakes around my wrists I grabbed on to the risers to “keep from falling”. My body swung under the diving wing, which had recovered on the right but was getting soft on the left. At the bottom of my pendulum under the wing I mentally yelled at myself to HANDS UP!. I let go of the risers like they were on fire, let my hands rise all the way up and then pulled down, looking for some pressure.

Thankfully, it was there, the glider had straightened itself out and I was flying in a straight line away from the cliff. Some strong brake pulls to compensate for the post-collapse swooping and I was back to normal flight. The whole event was about 5 seconds, I lost about 100 feet and turned a bit more than 90 degrees. All-in-all, a mild collapse, but it was my first and I was frightened. After landing, I spoke with one of the tandem pilots who saw me from the air. She was concerned to see a collapse so low. As well she thought I could have handled the oscillation afterward much better. No doubt.

I continued flying in front of the cliff, but further from the face and with a lot less gusto. This would have been an ideal time to turn and head for home, I was flying scared and there was plenty more to do before the flight would be over. While low and facing the cliff, static from the radio sounded like rustling paraglider cloth and I thought I was having another collapse. (9:00)

My vario started making sad sinky sounds as I realized I was flying over a valley. I found lift again by returning to the ridges, but wasn’t able to exploit it beyond just barely maintaining altitude. I was still very stressed, though there was enough to keep me busy that I didn’t start panicking. A few thoughts like “what the hell am I doing here?” and “do I know how to do this?” and “am I going to land safely?” tried to take over my mind, I chased them off with “Shush! I am piloting!”

I half-heard a message to me over the radio, key words being “Damon” and “low”, so I headed off for home, my heel ready at the speed bar, as I was finding lots of sink. Reviewing my track log and video, I would have probably had a much better glide a bit more to my right, over a long ridge (in retrospect, I think that was the instruction I was getting on the radio). Instead I flew a bee line for the LZ, riding the bar over several valleys and braking for the few lifty bits. There was some amount of headwind, which I tried to compensate for with bar, but I think my overall glide angle ended up too steep. Probably too much bar combined with a route over sinking air.

Arrived over the LZ about 500 feet above the ground. I would have preferred twice that height. I couldn’t see the windsock (far end of the LZ) or any other indicators. I chose a straight in approach on the same heading as the glider that landed a minute before me. Because the ground gently slopes away I flared a bit early; but backed off and flared again for a clean landing. Happy to be down.


  • Research: I could have reviewed track logs and maps before arriving in SB, but instead relied on the geography lessons I got during the site intros.
  • Mental: 10 minutes of relaxation before takeoff would have helped a lot.
  • Preflight: right brake line routed between B and C riser.
  • Riser grab and wiggling wiggling into harness just after take off.
  • External radio: Never again with the speaker mics. I want in-helmet audio and radio within reach.
  • Aggressive piloting, scratching. I was at or below reserve-throw height at West Bowl, I should have been much more conservative.
  • Didn’t weight shift to the flying side during collapse, just swung like scared meat.
  • Riser grab during collapse.
  • Flew straight lines through sink instead of following the lift.

Next Time:

  • No more brakes on wrists. Even with thin gloves, it takes an extra moment to get my hands off the brakes. I need that time to grab the reserve. From now on, I only put my palms through.
  • No more grabbing. I almost never grab. Almost isn’t good enough.
  • SIV. Time to take a maneuvers clinic and practice collapses and other scary things over water. I’m overdue, really.
  • Practice active piloting and surge control.

25 minutes.


Posted by: cokenias | February 5, 2012

Super Sunday Sledder

Ed Levin, 300′ 0-2 mph W

Just a quick flight off the 300 at Sled Heaven. I was in the neighborhood meeting my instructor to pick up some things. Happy to see lots of instructors and students on the hill ignoring the football game. Good reverse launch with decent torpedo a few seconds into an uphill cycle. Immediately found lift but wasn’t able to make much of it. I flew slowly through a few more gentle bumps, then set up a spot landing with a carving S turn. Landed in-wind, short of the spot by about 10 feet, just outside the ring. Still, a good flight.

2 minutes
Ed Levin, 300′, reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | January 15, 2012

Never Ending LZ

Big Sur (Wild Cattle) 3200′, 2-4 mph W

Second flight at Big Sur (Wild Cattle). Reverse launch, wing came up cleanly and I was better on the speed control during the turn this time. Sat down a little early, should have cleared more terrain before coming out of torpedo position.

Immediately after launch got lifted by a thermal but didn’t find much more lift heading out. A few brief puffs, but none more than 2 seconds or so. Too low to follow the EW spine, I bore north crossing a shady valley of trees (sinky). A little trouble engaging my speed bar, instructor recommends I lean forward as though launching, to better find it with my heel. I also plan on getting a stirrup (foot rest). Was a little anxious flying in sink over a forest, but was never in danger. Should have been on bar earlier.

Cleared the ridge by a few hundred feet with additional bailout safety to the north. Found a bit of lift over the sun-facing coastal slopes but not enough to gain any height. Headed toward the LZ hoping to see the humpback whales spotted by another pilot. No luck.

Circled over the LZ a few times and set up a E,N,W DBF landing. Added an S turn to the Final, I was a little high. Landing was long, there’s a bit of lift in the LZ and the ground is deceptively sloped W. Lazy flare and gentle, no step landing. Didn’t kill the wing so much as drop it on my head.

  • Sat down too early.
  • Speed to fly, more speed bar when in sink.
  • Sloppy kill on landing.

12 minutes
Big Sur (Wild Cattle 3200′), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | January 15, 2012

Teasing the Clouds Over Big Sur

Big Sur (Wild Cattle) 3200′, 3-17 mph W

Afternoon flight at Big Sur (Wild Cattle). After a very nauseating drive up the hill, reverse launch with good torpedo. Found some good lift over the sping on the way out but also was fighting a headwind. My speed bar was not connected (probably should have waited a bit longer for the nausea to pass). I considered hooking it up in air but spent my energy flying instead. Lower over the spine than I wanted to be I bore to the right to have more clearance over the final ridge.

Crossed the ridge about 150 AGL and passed through the corner of a small cloud. I didn’t lose sight of the ground and it was always clear which direction I was facing. Circled in some lift, just enough to fight gravity. Headed out over the flats and found the wind much stronger and from NW. Had trouble penetrating to the LZ, very slow ground speed. Speed bar would have helped. Pulled the bar lines with my fingers a few times.

Landed with very little forward speed, in the wind. Practiced kiting for about 20 minutes.

  • Preflight fail! Speed bar not hooked up.

14 minutes
Big Sur (Wild Cattle 3200′), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | January 14, 2012

A (Glorious) Change of Scenery

Big Sur (Wild Cattle) 3200′, 0-4 mph W

After nearly one hundred consecutive flights at the Dumps, I’m at a new site for me: Big Sur. Launch is at 3200′, the LZ a field next to Hwy 1, about 100′.

Executed a decent nil-wind reverse launch. It would have been cleaner with more brakes during the turn, but I was able to keep the lines tight, gradually applied more brake and easily got airborne. My flight school instructor was on the radio, he organized the trip along with another instructor who took off before me.

Followed the normal Big Sur flight plan, a sled ride down the main spine, turning south once clear of the ridge to head for the LZ. I started a little to the right of the spine, feeling I would be too low over ground if I were any closer to it. But the hill falls away and I got several puffs of lift which made it easy to fly directly over the spine. Lots of lift there, I cleared the final ridge by hundreds of feet.

Did a few smooth, slow 360s over the flats north of the LZ. My radio coach directed me to the LZ where I came down slowly, finishing with a U-turn landing approach. Landed gently in the wind about 10 yards short of my target. Exhilarating, beautiful flight. I was a little nervous about following the flight plan and didn’t absorb all the scenery. Ready for another flight.

12 minutes
Big Sur (Wild Cattle 3200′), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | January 5, 2012

2012 Doesn’t Totally Suck So Far

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 9-11 mph SW-W 50 degrees F

Not much wind today, but I thought I’d give it a try. I had left my gloves at home, but decided to fly anyway. At least I *noticed* they were missing this time. I shouldn’t fly without gloves because the lines can cut me, and the ground and local plants can hurt.

Easily brought up the wing midway up Walkers and kited to the top. Lost my footing a bit on the slick grass but recovered. From the top of Walkers, headed south along the cliff, losing height. With the ground approaching faster than I liked, turned back and found lift a bit in front of the ridge. Continued north, found a bit of lift over the bowl but gave up and turned home for a landing. I intended to land on the middle road but changed my mind after exciting an off leash dog. I could hear him chasing me along the runway so I peeled away from the dog and landed crosswind with a few running steps just above the lowest road. I hate dropping the wing there because the fencing that keeps the rocks in place is very glider-hostile.

Dew started to form as the sun went down. Salty, Pacifica dew.

Took the wing home damp, fluffed it out indoors and packed away dry.

  • No gloves!

3 minutes
Mussel Rock (Walkers), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | November 6, 2011

Clean Kill

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 14-16 mph WNW 50 degrees F

Reverse launch from (northern) Lemmings, wing on the ledge, me partway downhill. I let the wing pull me to the top where I turned, paused, then torpedo launched back down the hill. The wing was very solid and I swung under and into the seat easily. Headed north and climbed steadily to about 800 feet in front of the cliffs. I turned back, still climbing, staying reasonably far in front of the cliff. I was above the lip and worried about potential blowback. There were no incidents, I did not need my speed bar and I was able to penetrate and still crab either direction.

Several times I was overtaken by hang gliders at similar altitudes. None on collision courses, but close enough to get my attention. There were several gliders around, sometimes hard to see at first because of the slim profile and low angle of the sun.

Not enough room to comfortably practice diving turns (can I even call it a spiral?) I played with the speed bar instead. I practiced steering with weight shift and C-riser pulls, quite effective when used together. 50-75% bar and slightly banked turns.

I did do one sharp 360 and eased out of it too early, with me pointing towards terrain. I reapplied inside brake to continue the turn and had to wait for the wing to find the right angle of attack. I turned back in plenty of time, more than plenty, but I was definitely further back than I intended to be. It’s important to commit to those turns and keep the energy up until I’m looking at my exit.

Used asymmetric big ears just north of Tomcat to get down, then S-turns over the Plateau. Some pedestrians with unleashed dogs were near the area I was landing, I focused on the unpopulated parts of the ground and avoided exciting dog or human as I headed toward an in-wind landing in the ice plants. There was a bit of lift and I landed long, almost forced to go back up for a second pass. I touched down on the gravel road at the front of the Plateau’s ridge.

As my feet touched ground I put most of my weight on the C risers and very cleanly dropped the wing behind me. Probably my prettiest windy landing yet.

22 minutes
Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | November 6, 2011


Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 13-15 mph WNW 50 degrees F

Reverse launch from Lemmings, further south than I usually do. The landscape has recently changed (a bunch of bushes were mowed) and there are now two large Lemmings launches. The southern one is a little lower and less lifty.

Decent takeoff, I had a bit of trouble penetrating and I ran a bit ahead of the glider, leading to a bit of swooping. I turned north and realized I had forgotten to put on my gloves. I started looking for an opportunity to turn back, there was some traffic making the timing a little tricky. I continued north and gained height over the Steps, heading for the bowl. I thought I saw a chance to turn back, executed a 90 degree turn and changed my mind, zagging north again. A pilot that had seemed far away and much higher suddenly seemed much closer and lower. At this point I realized my phone had become dislodged from the pocket on my shoulder strap. The device was dangling free by the headphones from my ears– it wouldn’t take much to pull the cord out and bye-bye phone. Very distracting. I turned back then reeled in the phone as I piloted one-handed. With the phone in my lap, and angry with myself, I used S-turns to set up a landing over the Plateau, a large, mostly-soft field. At about 40 feet AGL, I realized that when I stood to land, the phone would fall from my lap like a forgotten kitten. More one-handed piloting as I quickly grabbed the phone and dropped it down my shirt collar. I then lowered my landing gear, straightened into the wind and landed gently on the gravel path I was aiming for.

I hadn’t planned on flying with earphones. I had been listening to music while parawaiting. When it came time to prepare for launch, the music was over but I was still plugged in and I didn’t notice.

  • No gloves!
  • Electronics not properly stowed in a zip pocket.
  • Distracted by distracting gizmos.
  • Eager to fly, rushed preflight and launch.

3 minutes
Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

Posted by: cokenias | November 4, 2011

Last One of the Day

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, 15-17 mph WNW

Reverse launch downhill from Lemmings with the wing on edge of launch. The strong wind pulled me to the top of launch and pulled me off my feet when I turned forward. Perhaps it would have been better to launch backward (…or from a lower launch). I untwisted as I was lifted, and gave a lazy kick forward when I touched down, a second kick got me flying forward. Torpedo it wasn’t. Found myself a little low over the ground (I had turned rather sharply) so I drifted out a little further from the hill. Crossed the bowl with good height and continued along the cliffs. Turned back at the big Slide, about 900′ MSL. Did some high bank turns over the Plateau ’cause it’s fun. The wind has been getting stronger all afternoon and now I’m noticing it getting colder too. The little voice says time to think about landing and what a nice day it’s been already.

I landed facing NNW in the Saddle with a long straight-in approach. Adjusted final slightly by slowing and moving right when I noticed a pedestrian on a possible intercept path.

  • Got lifted while launching.
  • Sat down early.

12 minutes
Mussel Rock (Lemmings), reverse launch.

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