What Flying is for Me
By Irène Revenko
I just read an amazing book about the greatest adventures of all time. I was reading about the motivation of these amazing people. George Mallory, famous mountaineer who died on Mount Everest in 1924, explained the need of climbing mountains: “because it is there”. The authors of the book also explained how in the complex description of what adventures are, resides the notion of Adventure is what is left when cause and reason are not part of the equation. And then there was this quote from John Hunt, leader of a successful Everest expedition: “Adventure can be found in many spheres, not merely upon a mountain, and not necessarily physical”. And at that point I realized: “this is it, this is the best description of my paragliding motivation. It is my adventure. I am flying because I can”. There is no other deep reason. It is a tiny humble adventure compared to all other famous people, but it does not matter. I love the mental challenge of staying up and I don’t have any other good reason for paragliding.
I can certainly find a long list of things I like about flying, but profoundly, it is because it is fulfilling my need of adventure, in these days where every square foot on this planet has been stamped by a human foot. There are times in my life when I am completely obsessed with flying. I cannot stop thinking about it.
What I like about flying:
The things that I like the most about flying, beside the mental challenge are:
• The unusual sense of being suspended underneath a piece of fabric. I don’t think it is close to being a bird because of the sitting position in the harness and the fact that we are relatively far from the wing. Hang Gliders are probably better for that. But there is nothing else like it. And because there is nothing else like it, I cannot find the right vocabulary to describe this sort of flight.
• Sharing my flights with all kinds of people.
• Not using a motorized aircraft, which gives me some sense of communion with nature.
And don’t get me wrong about the mental challenge. I certainly love sled rides. There is nothing more peaceful to me, probably because there is no stress associated with this type of flight. This is when I can really enjoy the view, look around and watch the earth from another angle, spot wild animals in nature.
I often hear or read about the sensation of freedom that flying brings to pilots. I don’t feel this sense of freedom when I fly. I guess people refer here to the fact that they are in totally in charge and nobody can tell them what to do. Personally, when I am flying, I feel led by the conditions that surrond me rather than freedom to make my own decision.
I have been paragliding since 1993. I cannot say that I have been dreaming about flying before that. But I was watching some gliders in the Alps, and the desire was born. As soon as I began, the passion was anchored in me and it has accompanied me since then. But I didn’t succumb to it and I tried to build a life around it. It is only about 5 five years ago (2000) that I began to fly regularly, in Santa Barbara. That means that in the past 5 years I have been juggling between my job, my family and my passion for flying. I am trying to get as much as possible from every flight, watching and listening a lot of other pilots, trying to read as much as possible, because I cannot fly as much as I want. I get upset after a flight, when I am not doing as well as I would like. But I enjoy each of my flights. Some may be more memorable then others, but I cannot say I have my favorite ones.
I became an instructor in 2003. This was a logical continuation for me. It was part of my learning curve, part of my progression. And I do enjoy teaching a lot and love to share my experience. I particularly like to accompany new students for their first ‘real’ mountain flight. I am so happy for them when I see this big smile on their face, and proud to have helped make this new experience possible for them.
I also began competing in the US nationals in 2001. I certainly learned a lot from each competition, even though I think I was not ready for competing. Each time has been stressful and challenging for me. Disappointing also because I am competitive and would have liked to do better. I have been lucky to be on the female podium at few times, but that’s because there are much less female pilots than men and women don’t compete very much in general (this in true even in countries where paragliding is very popular).
A few other considerations about paragliding:
• Female pilots: It is too bad that there are so few female pilots. Sometimes I would like not to be the only one at launch worrying about strong winds because I am light. Small pilots would also have better equipment, more choice if there were a bigger market for small gliders (some advanced extra small and small gliders are not certified) and more small harnesses. XS gliders are sometimes too big. A better bag (adapted to our morphology) to carry the gear would be great too. The worse for me is not the weight to carry but the volume. A simple explanation for the lack of women is that in general they are more conservative, more scared of risky activities. And it is not easy to be a mom, to have a career, and to have a passion for a risky activity that is also time-consuming and selfish!
• Promoting paragliding: I usually do not promote paragliding. I am very supportive of anybody who expresses an interest in it. But I am not making the first move. It is a dangerous sport and the decision has to come from the person, not from me, so that she or he will be responsible. This is part of the safety issue with the sport. It is important to build new pilots that are safe. The main difficulty is that it is very difficult to stop our ego from interfering with good decisions. Most accidents come from our mistakes and the main objective here is to minimize the risks associated with our mistakes.
© Circling Hawk Paragliding • Santa Barbara, California • Bo Criss • 805-403-5848 • Bo@CirclingHawk.com