The Dynasoarers

Hang gliding & Paragliding on the Surf Coast

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My first one

By Harry Buckle


I'm sure that everyone remembers their first one and how sweet memories flood back when you look back on that “special” moment.


I'd like to share my “first one” with you.


For me it wasn't in the back seat of a car or at home when the oldies were away but in a hot, dusty paddock at Birchip on Sunday the 15th. of December 2002.


I went to Birchip to fly in a 2-day comp. but arrived late on Saturday and whilst driving to the tow paddock I came upon Sam Prest who was breaking down his glider in a paddock so I stopped, gave him a hand and then we both set out to the tow paddock. Went about 2 k's when we found another pilot sitting on the side of the road reading a book, so we stopped and retrieved him as well, subsequently arrived at the paddock a bit late for a tow so put it off to the next day.


I was going to fly in the comp. but I decided to join up with Rohan, Paul & Steve from Dynamic and paid for a days instruction in thermalling as I had only “felt” a few little ones during my tow endorsement and I wasn't confident that I'd know what to do if I found one (a bit like a dog chasing a car … he catches one and then doesn't know what to do with it !)


Set up in the paddock at around 10 : 00 AM and then waited and waited till the wind came in from the South West end of the paddock. Watched the “dustys” prowling down the paddock and marvelled at how they always seemed to make a beeline for any un attended gliders that they would then beat up as the hapless pilot ran to hold it down.


Rohan and Paul told us stories of people who had flown into dustys at low level and what the consequences were so we all crossed them off our list of things we would like to fly into. Waiting, waiting, sweating, sweating as the temperature climbed – I hadn't brought a hat with me and Rohan told me if I didn't keep in the shade then I wouldn't be in any fit condition to fly as I'd probably get heat stroke. Sitting in the shade under the wing of my Fun 190 (the glider was the only fun part of the day at this stage) and knocking back heaps of water. The wind finally settled at around 4:00 PM and pilots started to tow out. Helped the other pilots and in between launches ran back under the shade, everyone launched well and it was great laying back (in the dust with the friendly flies as company) watching a few lucky ones who soared up out of site … no one seemed to be having any dramas so my expectations were high that I'd get my first one without any problems.


Sitting there I again went through many of the words of advice that Mum & Dad had given me:  Never do it without protection  … yep, got the helmet. It's better if it's wet  … yep, got the camel back. Size isn't really important, but a bit on the big size is generally better than being a bit small … yep; the Fun 190 is just the right size.  Be prepared to pull out at any time … Yep, I knew how to exit a thermal.    Only do it with “nice” people … yep, everyone looks OK to me … Everything checked off so I was ready to go.  


Sitting hooked up with Vanessa Sparke alongside on the next tow word came through on the radio that there had been an accident in the comp. paddock. Bruce Butterworth had come down and broken both arms. Fear surged through me and as I looked across to Vanessa I'm sure we were both sharing the same thoughts about getting mangled. Vanessa is a Nurse and she unhooked and went off to give assistance till the ambulance arrived; I was left there all alone on tow.


I was really thinking about pulling the pin, but I'd waited so long and Rohan didn't looked concerned so I held in there. The wind puffed in and Rohan gave me the nod. Wings level, tension came on (tow line tension, not mine) a few steps and then I was off … Ahhh!!!  That wonderful feeling as the wings fill, the glider rises and you are lifted away from the earth and into the sky … People ask me what hang gliding “feels like” and I always wish that l could translate the sensations into words so they could understand. Instead I babble a few words about it being“un real” and “indescribable” and then go all glassy eyed and retire to a corner until my wife comes over and beats me about the ears and brings me back to “reality”.


I towed up to 1200', pinned off and then set off on a nice glide back down the paddock … After my crash at Tawonga Gap in November I just wanted to get into the air with wide open space all around me and get the “feel” of the glider, I looked on getting a thermal just as a bonus to a good day.  Back at the launch end of the paddock I found I had actually climbed to1600' feet  and Rohan radioed in that if I went across to my left about 100 meters I should find ONE – Glided across and exactly where Rohan said it would be it was (How does this guy do it ?) Felt a bump under the left wing,  weight shifted across to that side and eased the bar out slightly …. BEEP BEEP BEEP went the  vario. and away I went !


No dramas, no getting tipped upside down, just soft and smooth (just like the way the first one should be) Gee, this works just like it says in the book … “You hold your weight over the side and ease out the bar and up you go”


Went up to 2800' and started to feel a bit ordinary … it wasn't air sickness, just a feeling of being a bit “flat”. I radioed this in to Rohan and he said that it was probably the combination of a bit of heat exhaustion and my adrenalin levels coming back down after launch, he said just to take it easy and glide back to the landing area so I “pulled out” (is this what's known in hang gliding circles as “premature ejection”?) and headed back to the landing area.


It was everything I had thought it would be … The world looks absolutely beautiful when viewed from a wing tip. There I was, gliding along, slowly loosing height when the nose lifted and I was into another one … Two on the first try? Took this one up to 4000' with Rohan giving me feedback on my bank angle and technique, that flat feeling returned so I pulled out again and flew back for a landing with the pilot behind me taking this thermal to over 8000'! Should have stayed in it … next time !


Set up a nice landing and landed right between the 2 windsocks where Rohan directed me to. Walked back to the set up area with pats on the backs and congrats. from everyone.


I was bursting with excitement so I just had to stop on the way home and share the magic of the moment with someone, so I rang Chook and told him that I'd just had my first one and he congratulated me on my loss of “virginity & innocence”


Where to from here ? Well, I've heard about “glider swapping” & “group thermalling” but I don't think I'm really ready to try these just yet, so I'll just keep moving along at my own pace and see what happens next … I'm really enjoying going down to Spion and doing it there, especially with that lovely salty taste it leaves in my mouth.


     Catch up with you on a hill somewhere … Harry Buckle (Harry the Happy Hangie !)