It was the hype that my friends made about skydiving that got me into hang gliding. I think it was the summer of 2013 and I have a couple of buddies that wanted to do something for their birthdays. There was a skydiving establishment on the beach in Port Aransas, Tx. We spent countless days on the ground watching the jumpers under canopies cruising in to land on the beach.
Sure enough the day came and all my buddies decided on a day that they were going to jump. I was continually harassed about not wanting to join them. I told them that I’d rather learn how to fly than fall. Anyways, they went on to jump and had an awesome time with an awesome gopro video to prove it…now in last month of 2015, they have not made any other jumps. For them I guess sky diving was a one time thing. I remember the night that we watched their gopro videos of their jumps and it made me want to fly even more.
Hang gliding fit the bill perfectly for me, an affordable way to fly. I remember searching the internet for a place where I could HG in Texas…then a memory from when I was a younger kid…our family was in Austin visiting my grandparents. I think we were on 71 in Lakeway near the airport and I remember looking up from the car and seeing a Hang Glider flying in breeze, seemingly floating. So my first place to look for Hang Gliding was Austin and I found Jeff Hunt and FlyTexas. I was determined to show my buddies that I could fly instead of fall and I got a lesson lined up with Jeff. Thats where it all started for me.
Here I am now with 21 hours of flying and my very own Hang Glider. I am still trying to get my buddies who sky dived to come out and get a taste of HG, even offering to pay for their flight…but still no initiative on their part. I guess you have to want to fly.
Anyways, enough about me. I have to write about Niki and Efrain, Hazem, Makbule, Mick, Jeff, Ingo, Mark, Rich D, Rich 2, Sir Rich and everyone that got to fly in some really awesome condition a couple of Saturdays ago… Yeah yall know which day I’m talking about. That Saturday everyone and their mother came out to go fly and it was thermalling and there was about 10 HG’s in one thermal. Bald eagle sightings. I just needed to write about that day and how super special that was for such nice conditions to line up on a Saturday like that. Just perfect. I learned so much about thermalling that day when I was basically wing tip to wing tip with Mick and Ingo. I wasn’t watching the vario but instead looking around at all the other pilots and I wanted to keep Mick on my wing tip as we circled up. Feeling every input that the glider was giving me as I scanned around me, I could feel myself gaining experience. There must have been at least a dozen circles like that…I was smiling ear to ear the whole time. Bart, you were right, it just keeps getting better and better.
That Saturday led me into a what I call flying fever. I was running a bad fever to the point I was calling Cowboy Up on their day off seeing if I could get another tow. This fever got worse and I had to call in to work last Wednesday and take a sick day. Since the only cure for flying fever is more flying I was at the airport by 9 o’clock “sick as a dog”. There was Niki, in her abductor van that seems to have a never ending supply of cold beer and snacks, with her bad ass Icaro glider glistening in the mid morning dew. We waited for the day to warm up and at 12:45 I was coming back from JR’s with lunch I could see the Tiki-Niki combo going up. There was a West wind at 5-8mph and there were a few cumulus forming up low and getting blown downwind. It wan’t another Sat. but damn for December it was downright gorgeous. Anyways, I set my self up in the cart so that I was ready to go by the time Tiki got down from the tow. If your not in the cart ready to go, you don’t get no tow…So …Tiki takes me right up to this banging thermal and I released at 2300, I was frothing to get into that thermal. But as I released I got maybe 1/2 a turn in that thermal and it was GONE. Then a Bald Eagle glides right in front of me, maybe 20 yards in front of me. I was STOKED, but the eagle was just effortlessly gliding upwind and I was sinking… I thought, well ill just look around and find Niki and sure enough there she was downwind and higher than me. Son of a …..no matter where I went I couldn’t find any lift, but she could. I was on the deck to get another tow…Niki was still up there doing these little turns with finesse and sticking. Did I mention the low save Niki had?
The rumors are true Niki had a fantastic low save that Saturday. I know because I was there with here at 300′ and we were both working that scrappy little thermal. I was literally trying to follow Niki everywhere she went to get into her thermal because you know she can see the thermals. Anyways, I am really trying to work this thermal but I glance again at the vario and im thinking like….I really don’t want to land in the other field again…so I shout out to Niki who is close by in the thermal “C’ya!” she gave me a little wave and said “OK”. As I was walking my glider back after landing I was thinking to myself, OK keep my eyes open Niki is going to be landing here any minute. But ill be damned she was at 250′ and in this search pattern looking for lift over the hangars and fields. Then she started to get some gains…by no means was she taking off like a rocket, but she was getting slow gains. “No way!”, Henry and I said out loud as we headed out to go get BBQ sandwiches. There she was now at 1000’…we drove to the store both of us with our necks crooked trying to see out the window on her climb out. We get lunch and come back to the airport… there she is back at 2 thou something…Un-Be-Liev-ABLE!
I am so happy to see our flying community taking advantage of the good flying conditions, and the overall vibe at the airport is so positive!!! People like to be surrounded by good people. I think that is what also keeps us coming back for more, we have a place where we are surrounded by friendly, positive, funny, caring people.