Well… as I stretch out some tension in my calves under an electric heating blanket, having washed off some make-up hiding the bruising on my inner biceps, (yes I am a lady… thank you) the result of the kiting lines swaying in the breeze and pushing on my uninitiated arms; I reflect on my week spent under the instruction of Powered Paragliding Ontario’s owner/operator: Andre Zeman.
Now I could jest here that Andre is “Z-man” but perhaps I should stick to the facts. “To keep a long story short” as you may often hear Andre say, should you make the decision to embark on your flying adventure with him; I thoroughly appreciated getting to know Andre personally. He is honest, with a calibrated moral compass, maintains a keen intellect, is straight-forward to a fault, and though I risk sounding quaint: he is a man of integrity.
On a side note: I had the privilege to attend a first-timer climbing lesson (he also owns Peaks Indoor Rock Climbing) and was delighted by his ability to lead a group of 13 highschool gym students through almost three hours of their introduction to scaling indoor courses set at varying difficulty. He was succinct, amusing, and instructed the curious teens with aplomb.
Now on to the paramotor lesson: This was without a doubt second-to-none my favorite course I’ve ever taken. After meeting the two other students with whom I trained we sat down to 3 hours of the basics, which were handled in depth with the aid of a wide-screen PowerPoint. Along with hand drawn images and also some elaborate hand gestures, Andre included many video clips, jokes and “for example” explanations.
On to a multiple choice quiz to see if we were listening carefully and we then ate lunch. Whisked off on a 20 minute drive to the field, we proceeded to learn how to unpack the chute, don the kiting harness and test our listening skills.
Andre will become quite wordy in his encouragements add you will struggle with the trickiest of all aspects with this ever freeing form of flying: keeping the wing aloft.
Perhaps as a woman I required more patience and I’m happy to report that he was most accommodating.
For myself, I found kiting-the-wing a challenge met head-on. A positive attitude (a must) was easy for me as I’ve been dreaming of this form of flight since I could crawl. Although I found it disappointing that I was not, from the first, a natural at something that when demonstrated appears quite effortless, I swallowed my pride and worked harder.
You will be spent, both mentally and physically after day one. But wait-for-it, sleep on it that night and start the day with fresh eyes. Day 2 started with beautiful skies and I seemed to have practiced in my dreams for as Andre predicted suddenly I just “got it”. And the sense of accomplishment cemented for me a love for the art of kiting. If you know already what I mean when I say, first “build-a-wall” for an effortless looking launch, than you are probably an expert already.
If not, all you need do is remain positive and your focus will be honed by Andre’s attention to detail.
Soon enough, although the weather was predictably unpredictable, I made my first flight. Although I may have wished for more visibility as the sun receded from view to attend to duties in the west, I made an ungraceful takeoff, and I prefer to say I performed every action requested of me through the radio into my helmet as soon as possible but this was not the case.
The flight was over before I knew it and as could be expected I don’t retain a clear memory of all that transpired. However, Andre has since got it on record that had I followed his instructions I would have had a different report on my success. (Ask him for proof, go ahead)
My landing was also awkward. I was unable to quite make the runway and landed to the left 50 paces or so. Having landed on my knees I was shocked to find it a soft touchdown, having only flared halfway. I did however find myself uncomfortably situated with my back arched and my spine somewhat compressed, the straps held me prone and I was left feeling euphoric with adrenaline coursing through my veins, and consequently couldn’t focus through my jubilation enough to unclip my harness.
Thankfully Andre wasted no time in righting me. And we had a great discussion comparing my fuzzy version to his clear one.
If I haven’t bored you yet with this most wordy story, I can guarantee you: Andre’s stories are right up your alley.
Having now completed my 5th flight I must say I still felt butterflies on takeoff which from my point of view was executed flawlessly and subsequent counter-clockwise circling of the field was completed perfectly as I followed the guidance from Andre to a “T”.
After turning off the engine my landing was textbook, having gained the runway (grass strip) and alighting into the wind with an ideal flare.
Andre, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being yourself.
“If in trouble: look up, hands up…idle”