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Learning to Fly: Day One at BlackHawk Paramotors

by Tara

I woke up to pee at about five o'clock this morning and when I returned to bed, I couldn't fall asleep. All kinds of nervous thoughts rattled around noisily in my brain: What if it turned out that I was afraid of flying? What if my fear of falling or jumping from heights turned into a fear of heights itself? What if I couldn't master the techniques we'd learn? How bad would my inopportunely-timed period be, and would a crampy, heavy flow prevent me from being able to really be present?

Powered Paragliding Accessories Ready to Go

But I did my best to ignore and silence the anxiety. In my heart of hearts, I knew everything would be fine. I had the end-game clear in my mind: expansive vistas, tootling around in the sky with Tyler, the sheer bliss of flying like a bird. I've done enough hard things to know this will play out.

First, there's the excitement that comes with committing to something big and wonderful and scary. Then, the ever-present nervousness as we try to take the idea from a dream to reality. Then the middle bit, when we're actually doing it and I'm floundering in an overwhelming onslaught of new experiences. Later, there's a moment when the new skill/gear/whatever "clicks" and my brain has assimilated it. Finally, if I'm lucky, all the hard bits become muscle memory and I am able to experience the sheer joy of acquiring a new hobby.

And so, though I was nervous this morning as we drove up the windy, hairpin-turn-filled-road from the town of Valley Springs to BlackHawk Ranch, I was keeping my anxiety in check. What I didn't expect was that it would evaporate entirely. We arrived at the ranch—a huge open field of red dust and pebbles surrounded by vast blue sky and dull green vegetation, the quiet picturesqueness of it filled my soul. As I watched other students "kiting" in the distance, practicing lifting and controlling their nylon gliders from terra firma, my nervousness lifted, too.

Tara Signing Powered Paragliding Waivers Joe Kiting Paraglider Wing

After introductions, the day became a blur as I immersed myself in our course. We went over the syllabus for the week, learned parts of the glider, and got harnessed up. We learned about all of our buckles and straps and lines. We practiced lifting the glider from a forward position, and from a reverse position. When I lifted my "A" risers and my glider suddenly unfurled completely and billowed aloft, it felt like a kind of magic.

Tara Untangling Paraglider Lines Joe Teaching Tara How to Kite a Paragliding Wing

We took a break for several hours during the hottest, windiest part of the day to eat lunch and rest. Then, we came back at 4:00 and headed to the BlackHawk shop, where we helped assemble a paramotor.

Rotating Glass Bottle Screw Storage BlackHawk Paramotor Frames BlackHawk AirMax 220 Paramotor Joe Cruz @ BlackHawk Paramotors Shop BlackHawk Paramotor's Hanger

After that, we practiced kiting. There wasn't much of a headwind—it was tiring as hell: running, running, running as fast as possible while maneuvering left and right, and using the various lines and toggles to keep the glider afloat.

Tyler with Rosetted Paragliding Wing Tyler Reverse Launching a Paragliding Wing Tara's Shadow Tyler "Building a Wall" w/ A Paragliding Wing

I had one really good run today, all the way across the field with the glider aloft the entire time! I only ended up stopping because I couldn't run any longer! And then Joe went to help other students, and I managed to royally tangle all of my lines. After that I had to rest and ended up calling it a night. Near the end of the day Joe gave us a demo, taking off and landing with ease. I hope I get to do the same in a few days. I'm so exhausted. We'll be up bright and early tomorrow—we've got to be at the Ranch at 5:30AM!

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Awesome! That looks like a ton of fun. As I'm sure your instructors already told you, just remember: any landing you walk away from is a *good landing.*
Posted by Jennifer on June 2nd, 2016 at 4:16 PM
It sounds amazing! (oh and also sunny! which would be very welcome over the ocean in the UK right now..)

PS I totally hear you on ill-timed periods. I reckon there is some cosmic law that one will always have one's period at the worst possible time.
Posted by Maria on June 3rd, 2016 at 1:02 PM
Jennifer - True. :)

Maria - Seriously, worst timing ever!
Posted by Tara on June 22nd, 2016 at 3:59 PM