Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel, Social Media, Learning to Fly

I haven't been
writing lately because I've been traveling a ton, trying to finish my private pilot's license (maybe by December at this rate!), training a bit despite a really gimpy foot, etc. Plus writing about four articles for various publications, prepping for shows, climbing (went drytooling yesterday!), planning for 2011 and some other stuff like being a dad and finishing house projects. Life is great really, but sometimes there's a lot of it to wrestle all at once. I feel incredibly lucky every damn day to be alive.

Social Media:
I've been on Facebook for a year, and it's a fun combination of voyeurism, communication, posing and public heckling. I've also got this Twitter feed thing, Linkedin, and some other stuff I can't figure out what the hell to do with. But at some point I have to ask this: Is all of this communication making my or your life better? More fulfilling? I'm still working through that one, and while I do there's this cool vid on Facebook I've got to watch... Attention Deficit Disorder and the internet just had to be made for each other, it's brilliant. What were we talking about?


Over the years I've had a lot of people ask, "How do I learn to fly paragliders?" I wrote the following over the years to answer that question, here's what I generally send back.

What I tell everyone who wants to fly is this:

-Flying is "time expensive," especially when you're learning. It's going to eat about a minimum of 100 hours of your time to get going, plus dicking about driving to and from the hill etc. Once you've got basic skills it's about the same entry cost as skiing without the lift ticket prices.

-Flying is the only sport I've ever done where you absolutely must complete a good instruction course or you will die. You may die even with good instruction. The risk is comparable to riding a motorcycle, but as the air is invisible the dangers just aren't apparent without some good schooling. You'll likely survive learning how to climb, kayak, cave, even maybe ride a motorcycle, but good instruction is critical to staying on the right side of the odds bet in the air.

-It's very addictive. You may quit your other sports, spend money on tickets to warm places with thermals, and generally squander all kinds of time and money. In fact, you'll need to do this for a couple of years to get a solid base level of skill.

-Don't buy equipment until you have your basic ratings. Even then use the school's stuff for as long as possible, and then either buy used from the school if you've got Moroccan bargaining skills, or have an experienced friend help you buy stuff off the web. You can get a solid used setup that will get you through your first two years of flying for about $2-3,000, and which will actually be worth something when you sell it 'cause you will want to upgrade, maybe $1500. If you have a fat wallet then by all means drop the $6K on new gear, your school will love you as they often make more money on gear than on instruction, good to understand this.

-If it's sumer and the weather is reliable in your local area learn there. If the weather is not super reliable in your local area then go someplace where it is more reliable for two weeks and fly your brains out, get the basic ratings done, then continue your training locally. I like Point of the Mountain, Utah, and Santa Barbara, California in general. Lots of other good schools out there too and this is not meant to slight anyone, just that these two places have a selection of schools so you can find one that fits your personality, and the weather is generally reliable in both places. A good relationship with your local operator is important; even if you get your ratings somewhere else you'll still want to get onside with your local school/shop/guru. Paragliding likely has the most retarded politics of any sport I've ever been involved with at the school level, it's insane, but there it is, better to just recognize it and do your best to work with it.

-Your learning is really just starting when you get your basic ratings; if you can find a good local crew of pilots to fly with you will progress faster, have more fun, and be safer. I owe a huge debt to the all the "crows on the fence" at the two places I really learned to fly, everyone does. Do NOT be the guy who knows it all, you suck and will for some time. On the other hand some very good pilots are also idiots, you'll likely figure out who is helpful and who isn't pretty quick. Buy the guys who are helpful beer, they will become more helpful. If someone yells at you in the air figure out why, and remember that in the US a significant percentage of the pilots are armed. In Canada they're just fierce and don't need guns.

-I do not regret one hour of time I've ever spent in the air. It's great, have fun, stay open, learn, yeah!

Right, I'm back on the blogging train, yeah! I hope your fall is going well, it's finally Indian Summer here in Canmore, which is gorgeous after a truly horrendous August and September. If we hadn't had the last two weeks of good weather I'd be booking tickets to Vegas or something, it was truly a dire late summer here in the Canadian Rockies. But now it's perfect, stoke!