Paratoys 2010

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This was the biggest yet and, I have to admit, probably the best. For one thing, there were more vendors with lots cool new stuff for the sport. We owe a lot to these creative sorts who pour themselves into their passion, usually at the expense of some more-lucrative endeavor.

As to the number of people, there were probably quite a few more than the 290+ registered pilots. I personally know about 10 who came but didn't fly there, they just came to hang with friends and check out the gear, of which there was plenty.

The event let me get to know even more of the incredible people that come into PPG. Oh the stories they have to tell.

Kudos to Mike Robinson, his beautiful but microphone-shy wife, Michelle, who was a big part of the event's success and to a large number of volunteers to help out, everything from being safety officers to doing clinics, performing foot launch tandems to introduce new prospects, and probably the most loved volunteer was the fellow who makes this field much nicer than last year.


This year was won by Chad Bastian. Everything, it seems, was won by Chad! And he deserved it all.

Most notably, though, was the official competition in which we had more competitors than in a long time. I have to say, I was leery of doing this and thank Mike Robinson for suggesting it, for giving us the field for our time and then even competing. It was the first competition where we had a wheeled machine fly and it was Mike that did it.

We wanted to be respectful of the other pilots time so we worked out a short course comprised of just a launch, cloverleaf and spot landing with at least one pilot airborne at all times.

A HUGE bunch of thanks to our Judges. Eric was the Lead Judge, helped by his wife Elisabeth who is a bulldog about accuracy.  Steve Clyatt, an paramotor instructor and 757 Captain Brian, helped keep score on the cloverleaf, even backing up the timing. Leslie Britt and Brian Thivierge helped Elisabeth run the spot landing which is no small task. And John Rhule made sure we got the field set up with the requisite materials.

One cool thing is that now any of these people would not qualify to officiate their own sanctioned competition. Hopefully there will be others but I realize that it's a lot of work.

Our pilots were exceptional and I thank them for making the best of our tight schedule. We gave no penalties being ready, that is, everybody was ready to launch when asked. That was the key to having 12 competitors and finishing in 35 minutes. The field closed at 10 before 1pm and reopened at 1:35pm.

One thing that was cool were the number of spectators who watched. I was thrilled to hear that lots of people enjoyed watching. We kept it going quickly so someone was in the air at all times. My only regret is that there wasn't enough room to put the spot landing target closer to the crowd line but it just wouldn't have been safe. Maybe next time we'll figure out a layout that would allow doing so.

Kudos to Chad Bastian who won. And won, and won! He was part of our U.S. paramotor team in Italy last year and made another impressive showing here. He also won the kiting war, beating me, I might add. We were the last tow standing but I had to keep moving to keep my wing up in the light wind and he was able to kite his ultralight with nary a single step. That's a cool wing, by the way, with super lightweight everything, including its tiny rope-like risers. But he knows how to wield it.

We also had British Paramotor team pilot Dean Eldridge who took 2nd place. He's doesn't show up in the U.S. rankings but the prize money was doled out according to the winners so he got to take some Yankee prize money with him. We used all the entry fee to go into a pot that was then split 50/30/20 by the top three pilots.

The kiting war was not related to the USPPA competition and, just getting into the kiting war required catching a toy parachute of certain colors. There were probably 25 kiters. My deal was funny since I was not planning to go for one of the bears. While retrieving my video camera, I saw a crowd running towards me, looking up so I looked, too and right there, coming down near me, was one of the little fuzzy fallers—I just went out and nabbed it!

Shows, Clinics, & Acro

Mad Mike gave a phenomenal acro show, D-bagging out of a Trike and doing everything from SATs to an infinite tumble. It was fun to watch, a mini airshow and I don't think anybody minded taking a break from their all-day flying.

AirParamo instructor Mo Sheldon put on a kiting clinic and did tandems. Chad Bastian also did tandems and, get this, did them with a Top 80 Miniplane!


One of the reasons this place is so special is the typically beautiful warm weather and all-day flying in a hugely varied landscape. There are canyons to explore and miles of mountain-backed beach.

We dodged a bullet, though, at this event because southern California had been some of the wettest wildest weather in history. It ended mere days before Paratoys started and left in its wake a muddy mess that lingered, in spots, through the fly-in. Had that weather been a week later, the spot that I'm parked right now with the Enterprise would be underwater.

The People

It was a great treat to spend some time with my original PG instructor, Jeff Williams at dinner Friday night. We talked about everything from global warming to reminiscing about my training. Too bad he's not teaching anymore but his day job is a great gig since he gets to work from home and periodically soar his back yard.

I love the stories. So many people, so many passions, so many stories--way too many for my aging memory to recall here. One stands out, though, from Tom Scott of Olympic PPG. Tom has a fascinating background with many years as a cop. I'll not spill the beans, because I'm gonna put it in the magazine article, but suffice it to say that his props have an interesting "twist."

The Banquet

Short. Bob built a reputation for being a bit, shall we say, longer winded than some would want. So this year, Michael Purdy, who, by the way, did a brilliant job of helping Mike put everything together, got Paul Anthem and Michelle Daniele to MC the thing. They did a GREAT job.

Paul, of  "PPG for Morons" fame, and Michelle put on a great little show.

It was fun seeing Bob roasted by Michelle. Bob Armond has a sometimes deserved bad-boy reputation but Michelle and I have seen his other side in action and Michelle shared that with us in her typical, almost tear inducing, description of one particular example. Only Michelle could pull that off.

All in all a fantastic time. Lets hope we can keep doing the event here.

Thanks Mike for putting it on.

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