Leanne takes to the skies リアンの初フライト
Watch a video of Leanne's first flying day!
Azaleas at the top of Mt. Kotohira. The resplendence of these blooming bushes is synonymous with spring in southern Japan.
I am not naturally athletic, and in fact, as a child, I was pretty pathetic in all physical endeavors. I was too uncoordinated to tie my sneakers, hit a baseball, tread water. Learning paragliding wasn’t much different. While practicing ground handling, my efforts to inflate the canopy failed repeatedly. Despite constant encouragement and suggestions from my teachers (don’t fight it, the wind is your friend!) I couldn’t fathom what I should do in order to get the silly thing to come up evenly over my head.
Reflexively angling her glider into a light crosswind, Leanne performs a picture-perfect takeoff. (photo:akaitori)
On weekends we kept going to Nagasaki, receiving coaching from some very talented paragliders. During the week I endured grueling practice sessions in an open field next to a local junior high school, not far from droves of kids undergoing their own regimented sports practice sessions. With the time commitment, hardship, and frustration involved, I have come to think of my training as boot camp. Finally after a month or so of military discipline, things seemed to be coming together. I could inflate the unruly sail over my head and even maneuver it somewhat. I began to think I was ready to fly.
And she's off! A great illustration of the 'torpedo position' where the arms are rotated back to avoid pulling too much brake, while the body is leaning forward for pulling power while still on the ground, and legs are ready for action just in case more running is needed. Six weeks of form training have come together very nicely at this key moment. (photo:akaitori)
Last Sunday, on the dawn of a perfect spring day, we packed up our car as usual and headed to Nagasaki for the weekend. As soon as we arrived at the landing field, we unpacked our gliders and started to practice. H-sensei, one of our teachers, appeared and instructed everyone to pack up and head for the top of the mountain. I tentatively went over to him and asked him in an unsteady voice ‘Me too?’ to which he replied rather gruffly ‘No, not yet!’ I was perhaps a little relieved not to have to do my long anticipated solo flight. I refocused on honing my ground handling skills once again.
Leanne glides away from the takeoff to place herself just downwind of the landing zone (about a kilometer away) where she will begin 'senkai': a series of 180 degree turns to shave off extra altitude. During this straight glide high over the landscape, there's not much to do but to enjoy the scenery. Knowing that an idle mind is more prone to panic, Sensei radios several reassuring messages at this time. (photo:akaitori)
One after another, paragliders seemed to take off effortlessly from the mountain above, floating down gently to the landing zone. In particular my husband was in his element, landing smoothly in the center of the LZ. Perhaps I am better off on land after all, I ruminated. Resigning myself to another day of ground training, I laid out my glider carefully on the ground, only to hear H-sensei declaring "Leanne, pack up your equipment, you’re going up". The time had come.
At just the right height, Sensei tells Leanne to turn onto the final approach. Leanne has followed his instructions perfectly, without rushing or panicking along the way, and is now in the perfect position to make a landing.
At the mountaintop launch, everyone seemed to be rushing me to set up and get going. I couldn’t seem to move quickly in spite of my best efforts. I hesitated; after all, did I really want to be flying off a mountain with only a big piece of nylon flapping over my head? My paragliding club mates gingerly set up my equipment for me, excited at the prospect of initiating yet another into their flock. Before I really had time to second guess myself, my canopy was inflated over my head, and I was off the mountaintop, soaring high in the air over trees, valleys, houses, fields, rivers. Below my feet, cars looked like ants creeping along their little curving tracks. Like in a dream, I felt the wind whistling in my ears. A cool breeze fanned across my face, snapping me back into reality.
テックオフに来て、皆Ｌｅｔ`s go, let`S goと急がせた。体が重く感じて、動きたくても体が固まってきました。本当に飛びたいのかな？と一瞬戸惑った。パラの仲間が皆優しく私の道具を準備してくれて、後悔する暇はないうちにパラは私の頭の上に立ちあがってきて、木、谷、畑、川の上に飛んでいた。夢の中のように耳に風を感じて、現実に戻ってきました。
Concentrating on the landing sequence, weight shifting and braking in coordination to effect a slight course adjustment. (photo:akaitori)
Soon the familiar voice of my teacher crackled reassuringly over the radio, ‘How are you doing, Leanne’, ‘Looking great up there, allright, now try and aim yourself toward the landing area.’ I felt my throat going dry as I focused on doing my best to obey his every command. I began to breathe deeply through my nose and out my mouth, like in yoga class. Whatever it took, I knew I had to keep things together until I had solid ground beneath my feet again.
Leanne lands near Sensei on one of her later flights. (photo:akaitori)
Soon I was closing in on the landing area, and I could see my teacher below waving his hand in the air. I had no time to panic or feel scared. Before I knew it I touched down on the soft turf right in front of my beaming teacher and my ecstatic husband. Don`t you worry Riki. I am just a couple of flights behind you.
'Cooling off' with a post-flight climbing session, letting a familiar activity relax the overexcited mind. Nodake area, Higashi Route, 5.11b