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 flying accessories.

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 flying site.

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 lift band.

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

We 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 footage.

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 that.

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 body-slam earth.

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 mid-day entertainment.

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!


1. Phil finishing a hand drag. We could scoot along the ridge, run up it kiting and generally have more fun than should be allowed. I'm glad few people know of the joy this brings--it would be way too crowded.

2. Self portrait above the dune on a 5 mile out and return.

3. Phil way out front but still in lift. When it was blowing straight in the lift went well out towards the water.

1. Waiting out the wind. Phil, Sem and Nick (with computer).

2. Acro pilot climbs up before starting his SAT's. He did some of the cleanest versions I've yet seen.

3. Looking north. This shot was taken near noon. Later that evening it became golden light. I was taking video but Jeff Hamann probably got some awesome stills!


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