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Jun 24

Written by: Sara and Seth
6/24/2011 10:14 AM 

Taking to the open seas of the South Pacific might seem glamorous, but for someone who's just been through a 5-week accelerated path learning to hang glide, it embodies an ironic twist of torture. Suddenly, the clouds streeting across the sky have new meaning. Moments of calm air that stall our 73-foot sailing vessel and make the crew groan with impatience are opportunities to daydream about buttery, sunset flights. Intense, lucid dreaming that is common for many folks during ocean crossing is, for me, thankfully absent of shipwreck nightmares and instead filled with images of soaring above the lush South Pacific island.

[Tahiti. No where near hang gliding.]


Apparently, once hang gliding is in your body and on your mind, it’s not going away anytime soon.


Flash forward four weeks, and my recovered land legs are standing on top of Sentinel. Marked by a big, white “M,” Sentinel has been whispered in my ear as one of the classic flights above Missoula, Montana. Nine men of varying ages move about the hillside, constructing their gliders, some laughing and joking, others moving as if in a practiced meditation. It’s a perfect, blue sky, sunny afternoon for soaring, and you can’t help but pick up on the excitement standing amongst the crew.

[Atop Sentinel, waiting for the perfect conditions. Missoula, Montana]


This is the first time I meet Jeff Shapiro. While both ambassadors for KAVU, we’d only recently begun connecting through the hang gliding film project. I’d come to Montana this summer to fly, and really, to meet Jeff. His persona is one of strong presence and calmness… which was great in my mind as he is going to teach me to foot launch this summer!


Two gliders over from him is Seth Warren, who got me in to this whole thing to begin with. A change in my sailing schedule, the resulting unexpected month back in the states, and a quick Facebook chat with Seth landed me in Florida as a part his new film project – a sort of “zero to hero” learning to fly film, at the one and only Wallaby Ranch. While far from “hero” status, I was excited to get my H2 rating and plenty of flight time and instruction while enjoying my time on the Ranch, and we’ve since decided to finish up the film project in the mountains of Montana… learning to foot launch. Which, admittedly, seems slightly unnerving to me if I let myself think too much.


Wallaby Ranch, Florida

[Wallaby Ranch, Florida]


I’ve flown with Seth now dozens of times as a result of this film project, but as I watched him clip in to his glider and approach launch, vario chirping away, I realized I’d never actually seen a foot launch. “Wait!” my head was yelling. Was this safe?


And then he was gone. Smooth as silk. Jeff stood where Seth had just been, arms crossed, smiling with approval.


Another glider, and then another glider launched successfully off the hill, and as my heart rate calmed, my desire to find a glider and run off after them grew.


And then I was all alone on top, pilots above and around me from all angles. In the distance I saw Seth soaring high against a backdrop of snowy mountains, and Jeff gliding toward him. How cool that is for them, I thought, to finally soar together after nearly 3 years of Seth’s diligent attention to learning the sport in Montana.

[Jeff Shapiro and golden eagle.]


Standing there in the mountain air, a perspective of the time and dedication it takes to learn to hang glide in mountains became crystal clear. Clear, and intensely meaningful. As with any sport, the desire to grapple with the elements, learn about them, and respect them is equally as important as the grappling, learning and respect you gain for yourself and the community you practice with. I have gained no clearer understanding than this since I began flying, except maybe for the additional insight that this learning process is intensely addicting.


Sentinel will have to wait for me, but I was suddenly very excited for the training hill.



[Limbering up at the training hill.]


[Meet my glider. We're having a naming contest for her... any suggestions?]




Copyright ©2011 Sara and Seth


7 comment(s) so far...


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By Books and Manual on   1/2/2014 9:44 PM


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By aislinn on   1/20/2014 5:34 PM

Re: Big (and Blue) Sky Montana

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By on   5/26/2014 5:41 PM

Re: Big (and Blue) Sky Montana

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