Marina & Paratoys
Sand Soaring and Valley Beautiful
The Enterprise continues its trek towards the Pacific Northwest, this
time getting to Sacramento, CA over a period of 5 days. I picked up the
trip at LAX's airport B lot, whose eastern edge is an interesting
arrangement of motorhomes and campers. Airline employees based at LAX
live there. Some are pilots and mechanics who commute to work,
meaning they live in another city, fly in to LAX, live aboard their
camper during work days and then go home. A few just live there full
time. It's really quite cool and my hat's off to the LAX airport
management for allowing it. I almost never overnight in airport lots
since I'm always in search of paramotor places.
This trip started by heading for Marina Beach, about 200 road miles up
the coast where I met up with Phil Russman, Sem and Nick. Sem is new to
paragliding and Nick is a P3 who also makes the world's coolest R/C
I've raved about dune soaring before and this was no exception. It
got off to a rocky start, though, when we arrived on what turned out to
be the windiest two days in 10 years. Just sitting in the motorhome was
turbulent, what with it rocking to and fro so wildly. Giving up on that
first day was easy but we docked at a campground right next to the
This is an official soaring site that allows P3 pilots, or others
under instructor supervision, to fly it's several miles of Dunes. There
is a wooden hang glider launch right next a water treatment plant and
administration building. You can kite up the walkway, launch off the
platform and soar a bulge in the ridge right there. Moreover, in a
strong wind, you can inflate, sit down on the shore-level beach, and
kite up backwards guiding the wing's pull to drag you up and into the
Day 1 was out of the question. Nobody even pulled a wing out. Day 2
started out OK and we did some flying. Unfortunately, one pilot, Nick,
sprained his ankle during a particularly nasty battle with the breeze.
We did get some good high-wind footage and dune-soaring footage.
We all got blown back to some degree but results were mild as long as
you stayed out of the buildings. One pilot did wind up getting a wing
draped over someone's roof. Bummer is, it was my Spice which will now
enjoy Elisabeth Guerin's repair work. Thankfully he wasn't hurt and I did
manage to get the whole thing on tape. Amazingly I ended up keeping the
camera on him as it went down.
Day 3 was nothing short of magical. It started out too light and I
continued to get lots of animating done. By 10am the windsock filled
with signs of life. I started getting ready. Next thing I know, Phil is
up soaring the bulge. Oooooh, gotta get going!
It was perfect the rest of the day. Magical actually. For part of the
afternoon Phil and I flew a cross country, kiting and flying probably 5
miles down the beach. Heading out was a bit upwind means that progress
was slow and, in the low areas, we'd sink out and have to kite up the
next hill. That was complicated because there are many fenced-off areas
we had to kite around. But on the way back, having a tailwind meant we
could traverse the low areas easily without landing. It didn't take long
to come back.
The winds picked up steadily through the afternoon but Sem, a new
free flyer, got in some great practice dealing with the stronger winds
and soaring. He also got to join the blowback bunch but executed a nice
landing without any drama.
At one point I "sat" next to nick, chatting on a low part of the
ridge. I was flying a few inches above the ground. That was incredible.
My arms were rubbery tired after the day dimmed. We flew right to sunset
and were well satiated.
Then it was off to Paratoys.
Valley of the Paratoys
arrived at Paratoys late morning on Day 4 and it was nice, light winds
and relatively warm. For the first time I had to take off all but one
layer of clothing. Pilots had been flying all morning and were still up
so I got in a quickie just to see the lay of the land. Wow. It was an
amazing scene, rich greens carpet rolling hills with a backdrop of
mountains, mammoth trees, rocks jutting out unnaturally and a lake just
north of it all.
Mike Robinson's little slice of heaven is among the top 5 most
beautiful places I've ever flown. Thanks for having us.
He's got a runway there big enough for a Cessna 182 to take off from
and it's plenty wide, probably 500 feet, where we were launching. It
slopes down towards the north so you'd really rather have a north wind
which, fortunately, we did. There are large trees all around, one of
which munched on a quad at about the 40 foot level. There's actually
enough room to fly between the northern trees and I did that on a couple
of my flights just for fun. Used 'em for pylons.
Phil and I worked together taping some of the shanigans from
different angles. We're now working together on our various projects.
He's making a beginner series of videos and a replacement for "Starting
Powered Paragliding." Although I've shot most of the Master PPG footage,
there'll be a lot that can be improved on and, any help from Phil will
only make the results better. Plus, it's just nice to work together. We
hope to make one final trip in a few months, maybe late summer or fall,
while the Enterprise is in the west, to finish up shooting any remaining
That evening I filled up, suited up, mounted the camera, put in a new
tape and headed off with Jeff Hamann to capture the beauty in high def.
Boy did that work out well! We got some great stuff and Jeff was busy
snapping what had to be gorgeous pictures. As the light got low, this
place absolutely came to its zenith of beauty.
On the way back from the lake, Phil called us to shoot the quad who
wound up on some treetops. Man was he way up there! Fortunately, the
pilot climbed down uneventfully with his cart and wing hanging forlornly
40 feet up. I don't know how they got that thing out of there.
It was great meeting up with many friends. Brian was working
interviews for www.WorldPPG.com
(the new Powered Paragliding Show) and I got to meet up with many west
coast pilots, including long-time friend Steve Tustison and the boys
from Sacramento and Portland.
I enjoyed, among others, talking with father of the "Acro Twins" and
accomplished flyer on his own. His is an interesting perspective on
being dad to such risk-taking son's. Nervously proud is how I'd describe
There was some towing there that hopefully everybody knows not to do
at home! Only highly experienced and risk tolerant types should do what
they were doing (towing with a vehicle). Even then it's a good way to
Two acro pilots from Torrey Pines were there, including son of the
new concession owner at Torrey Pines. They did some very nice SAT's
right over the field.
We had several impromptu kite wars which was fun. Just some great
Unfortunately, work beckoned and I had to leave that night. So now
the Enterprise will hang out in Sacramento for a few weeks while I carry
on with life back home in Chicago, hopefully practicing for the coming
World Air Games.
It was a great trip, great people as always, and lots of fabulous
flying. Oh, and those Scott's Chocolates were awesome. Thanks!