Paragliding In Santa Barbara:
By Irène Revenko
Santa Barbara is an attractive destination for paragliders, especially during winters, obviously because of the weather. And indeed, you can fly almost everyday here, mountain-style fly in winter (okay, it is only 3000ft high, call it what you want), and ridge soaring during summer. The training hill is also a major plus, a beautiful large hill facing the ocean, where you can kite and soar all year along.
The problem is that they are too many visiting pilots that land out (I am excluding here any issue with crashing and hurting yourself at the impact). Santa Barbara is not the easiest spot for paragliding and you should know it if you decide to come flying with us. I don’t want to give the impression that we don’t want visiting pilots, but it is a problem because our landing areas are pretty limited in number and they can disappear easily if the city decides to do so. Beside that, it gives a bad image of our sport to the public. Beside that, landing in the bushes in Santa Barbara is no fun. If you are lucky (and well skilled), you may target a trail and manage to land your glider on it. Otherwise, chances are that you will end up in the Chapparal (Pronunciation: "sha-p&-'ral, -'rel
Function: noun, Etymology: Spanish, from chaparro dwarf evergreen oak, from Basque txapar, 1: a thicket of dwarf evergreen oaks; broadly: a dense impenetrable thicket of shrubs or dwarf trees, 2: an ecological community composed of shrubby plants adapted to dry summers and moist winters that occurs especially in southern California). Imagine yourself immersed in tall (above your height), dense, spiky bushes, and even worse, think about your glider and lines in that. No fun. Not to mention Poison Oak, Rattle Snakes, Black Widows... People would spend the night there, or call helicopters for rescue on a regular base. It is expensive, not glorious, and of course potentially dangerous.
Most of the people do not like rules, but even in free flight we need to respect some. The local pilots in Santa Barbara will be happy to guide you through our sites if you just show up at launch. Please ask as many questions as you can think of. You can also choose a more professional guidance through our schools. You can find them on the web site of our local club: Santa Barbara Soaring Association, www.sbsa.info/. Please ask and respect the local rules, know the limitations of the sites and make sure you have the right level to fly them.
There are 4 principal flying sites in Santa Barbara: The “Eliminator” and the “Alternator” are in the mountains. “More Mesa” and the “Douglas Property” (also known as “Willcox”) are ridge soaring sites, by the ocean. Here are a few things you should know:
• It is an important rule, in agreement with the USHGA recommendations, that if you land out and you are not hurt, YOU DO NOT CALL 911. Very likely other pilots will know where you are. If you don’t have a radio contact with them, only a visual, make sure to move yourself or your glider to let them know that you are all right. Call 911 only if nobody knows you have landed out (which is very unlikely unless you are flying by yourself) and you are perched in a tree and cannot get down. Or you are hurt of course.
• If you take off from the “Eliminator” called also “Skyport”, respect the rules around the “Round House” (yes, this is a private home). 500 feet away, in all directions, it is easy to remember. You cannot go land on the beach if you don’t have a P4 rating (or P3+H4). Also, we are very lucky in Santa Barbara to have a great relation ship with hangliders. This means that you need to know how to fly with them, but also you will have to share the landing areas with them. Parma Park (where the primary LZ is) is small (with trees and boulders). You will need to ask the protocol regarding where to do your approach and where to land to avoid any bad interference with the hangies. This is important as we regularly have ‘sensitive’ interactions. I would also add that the Liminator is not easy for new pilots. It is at the end of a canyon and you can easily find yourself in sink and rotors when the wind direction is East or West. There are also some big power lines (easy to spot luckily) about 1 mile away from launch. If you don’t have enough altitude to pass them your flight will turn into an unpleasant ride down to we call the “snake pit” (pretty small grass area at the bottom of the canyon, surrounded by tall trees). If you pass the power lines but are still short to Parma (it is actually quite common for all of us since it requires a glide ratio of at least 7 to get there), you may land at the St Maries monastery, but it is only tolerated. So fold your glider fast and walk to the road. If you are a fresh P2, the Alternator is probably is a better site for you. Just make sure you don’t fly above the canyons as there is usually sink there. I know some of you may think it is obvious and you don’t deserve this kind of advice, but you would be surprised to know how many visiting pilots don’t make it to the LZ.
• To ridge soaring at the Douglas Property (Willcox) you need a P3 rating.
• From the Alternator, it is in practice difficult to fly to the training hill without violating some FAA regulation regarding the airport: you would have to fly bellow 1500 feet when crossing the highway, which makes it pretty much impossible for a paraglider to reach the training hill.
Again, the goal of this article is not to dissuade anyone from flying in Santa Barbara, on the contrary. To keep the sites open we need to maintain the number of incidents/accidents as low as possible, and show to the public that we are a population of responsible pilots.
© Circling Hawk Paragliding • Santa Barbara, California • Bo Criss • 805-403-5848 • Bo@CirclingHawk.com