Log

Beach Blast 2011

2011-05-06 Update | 05/12 Entry | Airspace

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 be interesting!

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

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 Herald.

Friday

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 Japanese Slalom.

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 information.

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.

Kiting Challenge

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...

Alain, Marty (with hammer) and Rob holding the guide. Hmmm, does something seem wrong with this order?

Marty is a genius with setting up these courses and did a great job. Thanks to our volunteer judges who make competitions possible.

It's good for me that Eric Dufour is not competing on request of his wife because in casual flights of tasks and spot landings he would be cleaning up. I've watched him nail about the last 8 of 8 spot landings, sometimes stopping dead on the target. I'm about 5 out of 8 for the last week or so.

 

 

1. First place (center) Pavel Brazina of Nirvana, 2nd place Jeff Goin of FootFlyer.com and 3rd place Ryan Shaw of Paradrenalin.com.

Ryan Shaw also won the year's "Goin Above And Beyond" award which was the brown leather jacket that he's wearing here.

2 & 3. Competitors and, below, judges (in orange vests).

It was a great time, hope to see more faces join us for these competitions wherever they're run. Thanks soooo much for these judges that put on a great performance. David, Eric, Marty, Glen and company -- thanks!


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