Painful Soaring

Dec 2, 2007 Florida's greatest PG/PPG Trip

My legs hurt when I walk. It's a good pain, though—muscle soarness.

It started at Brad's beach. Brad Weiss, controller of the Melbourne Matrix, had turned up just enough onshore wind to soar the 8 foot ridge. Just enough.

There is no flight more magical than running along the beach and being lifted aloft. Quietly you rise into flight. Not very far, mind you, but still aloft. And it takes a lot of running with weak winds. A good day is 15 mph, the minimum is about 13 mph and this day saw just over 11 mph. Being lightweight with a largish high performance glider made it possible.

Inflate your glider, walk it back towards the 8-foot ridge, then turn and guide it ridgewise as you run underneath. Lift increases which allows you to run faster which begets more lift. Snuggle closer to the ridge. Running within inches of the vegetation it happens—levitation. Long strides get longer and lighter until you're skimming along the sand, sometimes inches high, tweaking the wing to stay in the narrow lift band and have minimum sink. Mind the plants and enjoy. What a rush.

When it gets weak, though, you settle sandward and must either slide or run. If you think there's a chance you'll get back into the lift band, you run. I'm an optimist, I almost always ran.

The wind was angling out of the north so sinking in that direction was easy—ground speed was manageable. But going southbound, look out. I'd still try to get back in the lift band, running my little legs nearly off. Frequently I did get back up and into flight. Man was that rewarding.

Even more rewarding, though, was making both turns and not having to run at all. The best ridge is only a few hundred yards so an altitude robbing turn is required. That's nearly always where you'd sink out.

Kiting into the lift band is interesting. You know the wing is in rising air when it starts pulling hard and wants to fly forward. It takes nearly full brakes to prevent being dragging away from the ridge. Turning to parallel the beach makes it help pull you along, though.

It's a fine dance of energy management, especially the turns.

You'd rather have a straight-in wind at about 13 mph. This day it was light and 30° cross which makes the turn from downwind to upwind tough since you have farther to turn.  When it angles it's tough because the

Weak conditions meant that it just barely worked. Everything had to be just right, especially the turns. Most of the time I had to lift my feet to keep from scraping sand.

There was no pain then, of course. That didn't come until the next day and I still abused them during 5 inflations at GDC (motoring site). So I do thank my muscles for enduring their abuse—that was pure pleasure and well worth my current agony.

Brad was true gentleman. He had two high-performance soaring wings and let me fly the larger one. I didn't realize how much difference there was until he let me try his smaller mount which was unable to sustain me. I can only think that he figured that I needed it more than he. It's his ridge, after all, and he soars it all the time. He sacrificed. Thanks man.


1. Yours truly with Brad soaring behind me. He's north of me headed south with an angling tailwind. OK, enough with the camera, come aloft!

2. This was another way into the lift. Kite up the path then launch down the beach. We were careful not to disturb the Dune vegetation.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!