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Author: Jeff O'Brien Created: 5/13/2009 2:45 PM
Jeff O'Brien revolutionized his life when he learned to hang glide in 1998. He dropped most other interests and promptly moved to Utah to fly full time. He's flown hang gliders on five continents and began competing in 2005. Jeff is probably most known for his wing mounted photography which can be seen in hang gliding publications and press worldwide.


After an impromptu media event yesterday, we had a 7 hour trek through the countryside to Canoa. It was good to get exposed to a variety of land and social scape on the way. The evening brought on nice light and a lot of activity in the shanty towns we passed. Most were out on their porches spending time as a family.

I was contemplating what life might be like for these people as we drove by. It's all relative. These villages have no amenities. Not even a market where canned goods or "groceries" can be bought. Probably eggs and meat from chickens and cows, vegetables from the land, corn used to grind up into paste and bread products. Potatoes likely. There are NO stores. Maybe a shack that repairs tires and a "convenient" store the size of a large phone booth, maybe.

I imagined the smiths in a bamboo shack having envy for the Jones family on the hill with new drapes. No one has windows. The smiths are also probably jealous of the Jones family having two light bulbs in their domicile.

Life as we know it must seem like literally another world. McDonalds might look like a space station. Las Vegas an exotic galaxy crawling with aliens in strange garb.

I was listening to some tunes staring at the road ahead, when two cows came tumbling out of a flatbed truck. The cows skidded and rolled down the street for probably over a hundred feet. Amazingly, they both stood up when they stopped. The road leading up to them was peppered with cow skin, blood, and some excrement from the cows who'd been scared shitless. Abrasions down to the vertebra were visible on their backs as we passed. The truck they fell out of kept on driving, and was stopped by another car a 1/2 mile up the hill.

The road was under construction all the way to Canoa and we rumbled along weaving around bucket sized potholes hitting a few. I feel fortunate to make it this far away from home. A place I would not get the opportunity to come to otherwise.

Our resort here is probably the nicest place on the beach. $22 per person per night and $5 dinners. It boasts hot water, internet, air conditioning for the first floor rooms, nice little pool, restaurant, bar, etc. Close to town. This town will get more commercialized as the years go on, (a lot has happened in a year) but now it's still rustic and idyllic.

In 90 minutes we head up the hill for a fly.

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All photos by

Ricker Goldsborough.

He's done an amazing job with fundraising and documenting the effort. Thanks to all those who've donated their money and effort. It IS making a difference. Thank you Ricker.

Yesterday we met Father Frank, a 74 year old priest from the UK, and his staff. They came to the hotel, we chatted for a few minutes, then followed him to his mission compound.


scroll down and hit the "entradas antiguas" link at the bottom to see more pages of photos on Father Frank's blog.



The mission compound has a daycare that houses 65 children from age 0 to 4.5. The cost for the daycare is $4 per MONTH Most of the babies come from single mother homes.

A little girl in daycare.

Shapiro in the daycare. The kids were so friendly and mauled us.

The school has an enrollment of 280. Kids up to 12 years old. Tuition for the school is $14 per MONTH. Uniforms and books are a bit extra.

The children instantly get gregarious around cameras and pose for photos. Shapiro playing.

A teacher's salary is $210 per MONTH We met the english teacher Suzy and took her to her home in the slum. She lives with her two boys and husband in a shack. Her husband works in a metal refinery.

There is a clinic at the compound where they see anyone from the public. There are two exam rooms in the clinic, and a social worker's office. There's also a nice church and Father Frank's quarters in the compound.

Father Frank's quarters and office.

Father Frank receives 1000 uk pounds a month to cover his deficit in expenses. $500 a month buys enough medicine to stock the clinic.

We left our vehicle at the mission and traveled with Father Frank into the slum. We had a lookout with us and kept our senses keen. A couple of the teachers and nurses joined us so we wouldn't attract too much attention.

At our first stop, the energy felt strange. Father Frank and the lookout picked up on this as soon as the crowd started to gather. Dustin saw a boy walk up with a gun in his hand, and place it in a tree before shaking Father Frank's hand.

The smaller boy in yellow just passed the older boy the gun before he and another teenager came over to us.

The lookout gave a sign, and Father Frank told us to stay in the truck bed. He casually told his staff to get in the truck and we left the area.

The gun in the tree.

The slum used to be a swamp. People built shacks over the water on stilts and traveled on scaffold between huts. Sometimes a person drowned when they fell off the scaffold because most can't swim. Slowly fill has been brought in. Most huts have one tiny electrical wire poached from the main wire likely to fuel a TV. There's also usually one garden hose into the hut for water.

This is a nice shack.

Sewage system's don't exist in the slums and people either defecate through a hole in the floor onto the ground or into the water. The watery areas are covered in garbage and scum.

Our second stop started to attract the wrong attention, and Father Frank's nurse looked at me and muttered, "Vaminos" (spanish for let's go) - We quietly and quickly got back in the truck and moved on.

Our third and fourth stops were safer, but a drug addict approached Father Frank at the last stop demanding money. We visited a family with five children the mission had been helping. The father was building kitchen cabinet drawers outside. The children were getting their strength back, but still looked lethargic and emaciated. I went inside the house to see the living conditions. (unfortunately, I did not take photos)

My expression during our last stop at the house with five children. You can't imagine the living conditions. The filth. They sleep in the dirt. Their kitchen is a gravel room with dishes and food in the dirt. The children are beautiful. They're shoeless and haven't bathed, but their eyes are bright and hair beautiful.

One of the five children outside his shack.

Our mood visibly changed after our time in the slum.

We returned to our vehicle and traveled back into the city to the discount pharmacy, which was closed. We went to a quick lunch in the hope the pharmacy would open, but it didn't. We'd pledged $500 to Father Frank, and after talking with him, it's our intention to try and provide him with $500 of assistance per month for as long as we can. He mentioned that so many times people show up wanting to help, they make big noises, then disappear. I'd rather give him a smaller amount each month to help them subsist. He really does great work with a very small budget.

A woman in the slum with breast cancer and her son with cerebral palsy. This photo is from Father Frank's blog. They travel into the slum and do research to find out who's most in need. The sickest people do not seek out medical help. They just rot away. Father Frank and his crew have to go find those most in need.

We decided to give him $1000 for medicines now and in a month. We hope that within 30 days we can arrange a wire transfer procedure and perhaps work on non-profit status to receive donations from external sponsors.

I know that our little effort will not raise people out of poverty, but so little does so much down here. Just providing food or medicine to improve someone's life temporarily might brighten the collective just a bit. The other important sentiment to take away is how lucky "we" are. Living in the US provides us with many times the opportunity than the people have here.

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Guayaquil Day 2

Great sunset vibe.

Time is a bit short this morning. We have two days of flying in Guayaquil and a media event on Wednesday morning before busting out of town for Canoa.

Some of us are meeting "Father Frank" this morning for a medicine and supply buy. We'll hopefully distribute the medicines and supplies to needy children, then take a tour of the mission, then go into the slums. It's going to be eye opening. Father Frank is talking about needing security in the slums as people have nothing. We're dressed humbly and concerned about even bringing cameras with us.

The flying was great yesterday.

Airtime: 2:15. Flights: 2.

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The Flying...

A few of us stayed in the paddock while most went up to launch. I towed up after Davis. I was careless as we rose above the mountains and locked out from goofing around. I couldn't get the release and went peeling away with a snap of the weaklink. The incident left me buzzed with adrenalin, and I started doing wingovers and strafing launch. (the buzz got the best of me) My glider was intact and flying great.

We had a great time playing in the light lift over the mountain. Lots of pilots launched off the mountain during the couple of hours we flew.

Many media outlets were out conducting interviews including the national news. I think there was good coverage and exposure throughout the country.

Dustin is up to his shenanigans again. He's got fairings in all sorts of strange places and he's so neurotic about his glider he's talking about taping the zippers on his sprogs shut. He wants his glider airtight. His helmet is like Alien meets Speed Racer.

The smack talk is thick. It's a great time. Our local hosts have been amazing.

Airtime: 2:00. Flights: 1.

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It was quite a sight 11 pilots and their gliders all piling off the plane. The baggage boys in Ecuador were sitting just on the other side of the "baggage curtain" insinuating that if we pushed some cash through, our gliders would be pushed through the baggage door. After a few minutes of debate, Dustin and Ricker slipped the bag boys $10 total and within a couple of minutes, all the gliders came through.

In the receiving area of the airport, Raul and company were there as always to escort us in style. The local flying community rally's around Raul and they chauffeur us around town ensuring our safety. It's really remarkable. There's also been a lot of media coverage down here about the event.

We got to Eduardo's house this morning to find our gliders off loaded and ready to be unpacked. The gringos got to assembling gliders.

It took us about an hour to get everyone sorted and back on the truck for the trip to the flying site.

There is a huge paddock with two runways for aerotowing, tents and vendors, the tourism ministry, and a nice launch atop the mountain behind the paddock. You can see launch just to the right of the top of the red bull tent.

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Here's my current scene:

It's twilight at Denver airport and I'm waiting on a flight to Miami where I'll unite with folks going down to Ecuador for the Canoa ridge race. Got my mobile office out charging electronic accoutrements. I wasn't able to upload all of the photos.

Shortpacked my glider last evening. Took me just an hour. The first time I shortpacked for OZ in 07 it took me 6 hours. This time, there was going to be an added level of difficulty. I was going alone to the airport.

2 inch PVC end caps fit on the end of the leading edges like a Magnum. I always smile when I'm pulling leading edges because there's imminent adventure.

I parked at the curb at around 5:30am. The police didn't hassle me and a baggage guy helped me get my glider in. Everything was going smooth until the check in supervisor showed up. He started asking pointed questions about how big the glider was and how much it weighed.

After a few tense moments and a bunch of smiles, I talked him into submission, and with $10, the baggage dude headed with my glider to the service elevator. I don't know if he even went to security with it. The travel bag was shrinkwrapped.

I returned to my truck and parked at long term parking. smoothie.

The glider cost me $100 to get on the plane and unfortunately my harness was overweight. I paid an extra $50 for it. My carry-on weighs about 40lbs. :)

I can see a bit of the plane, but my glider's fate is in the hands of the baggage boys. Hope they treat her right on and off.

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Owen Morse films Dustin at Torrey. Notice Dustin in ground effect over the beach a few times, the popping back up in the lift band. Editing by John Wright I believe. Good stuff boys.


The Joker and the Thief - Hang Gliding at Torrey Pines from knumbknuts on Vimeo.

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Thanks to Mike Cosner. This video is sick.


and a WICKED cool spot landing: VIDEO HERE

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Wolfi's quietly making a name for himself around the world. When he's not flaring 20+ feet over the Elsinore LZ or skimming a lake for 1/2 a mile before stomping a raft landing, he's capturing a fish eye sky over the clouds in Italy. Thanks for the photos bro.

Photo by Wolfgang Siess

Photo by Wolfgang Siess


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The US Nationals on Good Morning America this morning.


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