Beach Blast 2011
2011-05-06 Update | 05/12 Entry |
2011-05-06 Wow. What a crowd.
When I got here on Wed it was a blowout. But then seeing and meeting
the people of PPG is an immense part of these events, and boy are there
a lot of people here. Numbers are hard to guess but Saturday Night will
Michael Campbell Jones, originator and designer of the first
paraglider reflex wing, has given several talks about reflex wings and
how to fly them.
Wed evening we had the competition briefing by Director David Rogers.
About 20 pilots attended and we wound up with 13 competitors. We
expected a smaller number this year because we closed off the
registration on 7:30pm Wed. There was one pilot who we were unable to
accommodate because his flight got in late. I'll recommend we accept
pilots up until the briefing ends. It was my good friend, great pilot and
the Top 80 Engine KING, Lance Marczak.
Thursday morning dawned with bending branches from strong
winds--there would not likely be a competition today. We dutifully met
at the field for David's trademark whistle blow and role call. They
called off flying competition (wisely) but we *DID* get one task done:
the kiting war.
What a hoot. For some reason, the rules no longer limited body
contact (something I'll recommend changing). But thankfully there was,
in fact, no body contact. It came down to a battle between super
in-shape Marine Andrew Salano and I that I was barely able to win. He
just about wore me out. Then we ran several more kiting wars just for
fun and for the local media that came out to tape and photograph.
Back to the beach where, by 1pm, it was blowing onshore. And it was
perfect! The winds remained perfect for the rest of the evening. I flew
my Blackhawk to dial in the speedbar.
A sidenote — my Black Devil 172 had become difficult to start.
So when I arrived this week, I tightened the belt and voila, it's
now starting quite easily--usually on the 1st pull. I realize there
are a million reasons why these things can be cantankerous but
wanted to mention this one.
Thursday evening Chris Santacroce led an Instructor Symposium focused
mostly on the business aspect of teaching paramotors with discussion
from the 20+ participants. Chris (and others) had some great tips and a
couple of suggestions that will be implemented on the USPPA site. Eric
Dufour was also present. Eric and Chris are two of three of the USPPA
training committee. Chad Bastian, the committee chair, was unable to
attend Beach Blast this year do to a really cool commitment that we will
eventually be hearing about.
USPPA provided Pizza and drink.
One of the main gists was to concentrate on the positive of your own
business and to be very upfront with customers. Everybody realizes there
are a very unscrupulous parties in this sport but they will always be
there. There will always be someone willing to sell the wrong gear, lie,
and generally be irresponsible, but we must concentrate on doing what's
right for the students. Chris has offered to share his tips on various
topic with others and some of them will be added to the USPPA website.
These suggestions, to the degree they are followed by both new pilots
and instructors, will improve the experience for everybody combined.
A video report from Terry Barner of Panama City News Herald captured
the gist of Thursday's kiting war:
Kite Wars from
Terry Barner of the News
Conditions looked much better so we ran the competition. But what was
ok on the ground turned out to be quite turbulent aloft. I wound up
pulling back on how aggressive I was to just make sure I didn't miss any
sticks -- it was that turbulent. Pavel Brezina probably took first place
since he beat me on the spot landing and cleaned my clock on the
The coolest moment of the competition was provided by Steve Reed, 2nd
place finisher at the Salton Sea. On his 10-step touch and go, he wound
up going to his knees. Did I mention how bumpy it was? But Steve
wouldn't give up. His wing was still up so he wound up running on his
knees, standing up, and relaunching. And I *THINK* I got it on video.
A few pilots wisely begged off flying owing to the bumps. Good
judgment. Who knows, that decision may have spared them unwanted drama.
As it was, nobody wound up with even any damaged gear and this was a
challenging competition. My only hope for winning is that I got points
in the kiting war but it doesn't count for much. We'll see. The results
will be given Sat night. Thanks to the judges, pilots, and Scorekeeper
Boyd. Once the scoring is done the results will be posted on USPPA
within a week or so.
Pavel made a suggestion that Eric agreed with and we're going to
implement. It will make for a more spectator-friendly event and be more
interesting to the pilot participants. If Dave Fore aggrees, we're going
to test it at the next competition near Ft. Smith Arkansas. Pilots will
launch and fly just one task. For example the slow-fast. Spectators and
pilots will be able to watch from as safely close as possible. They will
land. After everybody finishes, another round will start right away with
pilots launching and flying another task. For one thing, you'll get
quite a few takeoffs which will show consistency in launching. Now,
pilots who can simply launch consistently, will get far more points. Of
course this will require updating our scoring software but that
shouldn't be too difficult since we already allow for multiple rounds.
That brings me to 0938 am and an entire afternoon and evening of
flying. Ahhhh. It's good to have that comp in the bag.
Saturday & The New Project
Sat is always the biggest day if good conditions prevail and prevail
they did. Instead of flying, though, I used the good weather to start on
a new project. Yeah, I know, I need a new project like I need a hole in
my gas tank. I'm still working feverishly to get the Master Powered
Paragliding Series completed but this new effort will, I hope, provide
some long-term benefit, a history of sorts, as well as current
My goal is to interview pilots of note in a positive way.
I want to preserve, for as long as possible, their ideas and a bit of
who they are in their own words. The new channel will be "GoPoweredParagliding"
and the primary show will be "Powered Paragliding News and Reviews."
I interviewed probably 10 pilots, from Emily Plak to a Panama City
Beach Councilman. I interviewed dealers, importers and others. Sadly, I
didn't get to everybody but will try to do so as my travels allow. Lets
face it, we all won't be around forever and it might be nice to have a
record of their presence in their own words. Plus, I want the public to
see a balanced view of our sport since, right now, they get splashed in
the face with dellshit (DS).
There are a many great people and products in this sport, even when
they're not perfect — it'll be my mission to help get the news out
there. I'll try, whenever possible, to cover timely events, too. It's
faster than writing, I think, but will consider it an experiment. I've
got projects enough already, so this will have to wait its turn.
There were two parts to the kiting challenge. Paul
Czarnecki won the kiting war by being the last one standing and I
managed to win the slalom, where you run through a slalom course while
kiting. The fastest time wins. I was aided by two things: a lull in the
wind and a small wing.
This picture, a thumbnail of the Denell Riggin
McClure (Blue Sky
Photography) shot, shows what my kiting war excuse was: I got ganged
up on! You can see I was already in the water and had wings come at me
from each side and behind. Clearly a different strategy was called for
since my usual method of avoiding battles was not going to work here.
But Paul did a great job as did the other kiters.
Banquet and Results
Banquet food has always been good but
this year was better than I remember. Nice going. John Black always goes
out of his way to have cool-looking awards and this year was no
different. I was thrilled to get 2nd place in the USPPA competition and
1st place in the Kiting Slalom. Pavel Brazina of
Nirvana won the USPPA
competition and Paul Czarnecki of PlanetPPG.com won the kiting war. He
was on a new ultralight wing by Mac Para.
It was a good time with
great people and I look forward to the next one. The weather was nearly
perfect excepting Wednesday when a strong offshore blow prevented flying
and blew over tents but that was the only day that nobody flew and,
apparently, even then a few people flew at a different inland site.
John and company already have some great ideas to improve even more on
next year. We can make it better, stronger, faster...