I have never felt fear like it.
Not nervousness about going to a party or running away from a spider.
Gut-wrenching, wretch-inducing, sweaty everywhere, can’t listen to anyone else’s inane chatter, curling up in a ball and hiding to putt off the inevitable.
In Turkey I learnt to do Full Stalls and Spins on my Paraglider.
This was something that I have been scared to do since I learnt what it was.
Why would you collapse the only thing that is keeping you in the sky?
What if it all goes wrong? I’ll have to pull my reserve… I should have bought a harness with more reserves, maybe a BASE system.
What if the reserve goes into the lines and it doesn’t open? I’ll have to try and pull it back out…
What if I can’t reach? Am I strong enough? What if I end up in the ocean? I don’t want to drown… I’m wearing a life jacket for a reason, and it self inflates so even if I pass out it
should will work, and my instructor is in a boat and will pick me out again in moments…
I came to Turkey because Babadag mountain is directly next to the sea. It’s one of the highest altitude places over water that exists with the infrastructure to get you up there in a reasonable length of time. This is the safest place to learn. I am learning these things because it will teach me fundamental control of my glider which will ultimately make me a better pilot. These are also get out of jail free moves in the case I get myself into trouble while learning acrobatics.
I fly out to the box with all these thoughts rushing around my head. My stomach churning at the thought of what might be about to happen. Then, on the radio, I can hear my instructor telling the person before me to do. They are working on other things, so I spot them and just watch, taking myself out of my own thoughts for a few minutes. Next he’s talking to me, telling me what I will do in such a manner of fact way that it makes it sound quite simple really. You are going to do X, Y, Z.
“Off you go”
In that moment when there has been so much chatter before, I just did what I was told. There is so much focus to make sure I do it as good as I can that there is no longer room for emotions. I am operating in the red zone of my capacity and right now only the basics of XYZ are functioning. I hardly breathe. I hardly blink. The wing collapses behind me and I wait for the jolt in my tummy as I feel like I’ve been kicked off a chair, like I have been told to expect. It never comes, its much slower than that on my wing, the only jolt is when I swing back underneath and the wing catches me again. But now I’m in backfly, still falling faster than usual but the wing looks weird and my hair starts getting in my face.
“Keep it Stable”. I concentrate on keeping my arms strong and hands symmetrical, I don’t want to get twisted. I don’t want to pull my reserve. I don’t wan’t it to shoot when I exit. Eventually the pendulum slows down and the wing and I are a team. I let go and catch the shoot.
There is relief. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Do it again.
Spins on the other hand confused me. I don’t think I was as scared going into it, ultimately I’m stalling half the glider I was before. But the riser twist fear was very much still there.
“Off you go”
I push one hand to the bottom of my reach and bring it back up in the hope it will stop spinning.
I see it come in front of me and try to stop the chute.
I didn’t use enough force and the wing comes low in front of me, the front edge curling under and is heading towards me pretty quickly now.
In my head the answer to this mess is backfly and I try desperately to keep my hands at backfly point but also grabbing the risers whenever I fall forward in the hope of stopping myself getting twisted or flipped.
It feels like an eternity of thrashing around.
Please make this stop. I’m tired of fighting this.
I manage to get the wing to stabilise in the air through pure stubbornness but for whatever reason I’m still swinging around underneath without really being able to stop it.
Eventually the swinging stops and and I’m stable but still in backfly.
I just need to release it slowly so it doesn’t shoot too much, I think
It shoots too much and frontals again.
I’m becoming immune to seeing the top side of my wing in front of my face. It doesn’t scare me anymore.
Because now the wing is flying as it should.
There is relief. There is sobbing. I don’t hear the instructions on the radio until…
“Do it again”