Ever fancied flying like a bird? Not keen on the idea of skydiving? Speedflying is a fast growing sport and our resident expert Tzak Garnett Leevers would like to invite you into his world!
Over the past few years I have had my attention captivated by a new and growing sport. In winter it combines different elements of skiing and kiting and in summer the speed and proximity of mountain biking with paragliding. It is a new sport that began in the Alps when top pilots and skiers took very small sky diving canopies and began to ski down previously inaccessible terrain using the wing. Large cliffs became a fun drops and narrow ravines become trenches to race down. Due to the small size of these wings and the high amount of weight under them (known as wingloading) they travel at excessively high speeds, often exceeding 100kmhr.
I am of course referring to Speedflying and Speedriding!
With the fast progression of the sport we now have our own wings that are constantly evolving and improving in all aspects. We have high aspect wings that are developed more like tiny paragliders and designed to fly long and flat, mostly used for skimming along big long grassy fields and not making contact with the ground except for take off and landing. This is most commonly referred to as SPEEDFLYING.
Riding wings are designed to have adjustable lines so you can ski extremely steep slopes without taking off or fly deep inside narrow valleys on a mountainside. They are more often combined with skis in the winter and ride down steep cliff faces and only leave the snow when there are no more options to ski. This is what we call SPEEDRIDING.
It is also possible to soar and kite using these wings, with and without skis. Using the wind coming up the mountainside it is possible to remain airborn for long periods of time and swoop backwards and forwards across the mountainside. Kiting is using the wind to pull oneself across the snow on skis, at high speeds in very much the same way as a kitesurfer. In my personal opinion it is one of the most enjoyable and challenging parts of the sport as it takes very high level of wing control, skiing skills and understanding of the winds.
I came to speedriding/flying 2 years ago in the winter after taking a course held by Voss Hang og Paraglider Klubb in the local mountains of western Norway. It is required (as it is in many countries) to have a valid licence so courses are the best way to learn the correct techniques and knowledge for flying safely. As the speeds and heights in the sport are very real, self-teaching can be very hazardous. After finishing the course I was completely hooked. I flew, kited and skied nearly every day of the winter and became obsessed with the sport.
With obsession, quite often comes overconfidence. After a few small accidents I finally realised the danger of the sport. The flying part whilst not particularly difficult, feels easy after a while and you forget that the treetops and rocks skimming your feet are hospital (or worse) visit only inches away. After witnessing a friend crashing into the trees on one of our local flights it really drove home that making big mistakes is not an option.
The summer that followed I started my first introduction into flying without skies. The speed required to run these small wings into the air is quite a challenge! Also, you dont have the soft snow to pad your falls if you make a mistake or fall over on take off. But with the loss of the cumbersome skis and the weight of all the ski clothes I was able to fly longer down spectacular rocky valleys, skim along over meandering mossy slopes punctuated with boulders and spiral and roll around in the blue skies!
Another year into the sport and my focus has changed again. While before I was more about the sheer joy of flying fast in the winter, now I am more interested in the riding. It is extremely challenging to ride the wing at slow speeds whilst you ski down steep cliff faces, it is fine balancing point. Too much breaks and you can stall your wing (it will fall out of the air behind you) and ride to fast and you will take off and fly away from the snow. The past spring and summer was filled with finding fun valleys and creeks to fly down as well as paragliding when I want something more chilled.
The last autumn months I have been flying extensively on my favourite local mountain Lønahorgi, one of the biggest and most impressive in the area, which sits just outside of my front door. There are almost endless lines (a “line” is a specific route that you will fly down the mountain) from the east side of Lønahorgi and we are still finding more and more possibilities. The contrasts of colours in the mountains are breathtaking. Ranging from the fiery reds and deep browns of the mosses, the golden yellow of the trees, white scars of last winters snow, the silver steel of the granite boulders and the bright greens of the lower trees that stubbornly refuse to drop their leaves just yet. Its like hiking up one side of a rainbow and flying back down the other…….
So if you are interested in the extremely growing sport GET INVOLVED and DO IT SAFELY! In my personal opinion, the safest and most intelligent way of learning speedlying is by LEARNING TO PARAGLIDE FIRST! This will develop good wing control skills, understanding of theory/meteorology and help you develop your height perception. Without these important skills and knowledge, this sport can be extremely dangerous so please take care and be aware! It may seem expensive and time consuming (and it is!) but it is worth it! If anyone has any questions or would like advice on speedflying/riding just send me an email.