The assignment of the day was to get it up – and by it, I mean the parachute. It was a gusty day that turned out to be a gutsy one as well. We learned how to unfold the canopy, attach the entire body harness and then the parachute onto the harness. Once that was achieved, you had to sort out all the risers (cords) and pulleys, figure out the direction of the wind and then run against the wind in order to the the canopy up in the air.
These are the most basic ground exercises of paragliding. Without them, there is no way you can be allowed in the air. It is truly fascinating how 30 square meters of light material can drain every ounce of strength from you, and then some. It looks so easy when the instructors do it, but everything is new and feels unnatural. Just getting the right settings for the harness alone and battling with the helmet was a nightmare for me, since the harness I practiced with was far too long for me. The closed helmet, though safer, prevented me from gauging any direction of the canopy and I felt like a clumsy Galapagos turtle with a borrowed shell.
Yes, we all stumble and rolled around, and got dragged far and away by the wind. It was life-changing for me to experience first-hand how much power the wind has over you, and what a work of art it is to learn to move with it. You will never master the wind, because it will always be in charge, but you learn to go with the flow. Literally!
Everything is new, unfamiliar, and very frustrating. Because the skies were overcast and the winds were too strong in the afternoon, we had another long theoretical lesson on a topic that made my hair stand up: all the things that can go wrong when being towed up, which is what we will be doing tomorrow.
Paragliding is an elegant ballet between pilot, wind and canopy. There are three dancers involved, and finding the equilibrium, your true center, and the right direction is a life lesson unto itself. Sudden movements will ruin the flight and get you into trouble, so the trick is not to hurry or rush into anything.
So, tomorrow I have my first lift-off. Stay tuned!