Paragliding is dangerous (watch this)

Small, cheap cameras are everywhere these days, and as a result, we get to see more of the weird and terrifying events that would previously have evaporated into an unsubstantiated mist. Increasingly we have better answers to questions like “What was it like that time when you lost control of your paraglider 1200 feet over Valle de Bravo, Mexico and went into that nearly fatal spiral?” In fact, if you read on you’ll find a video that provides an exact, if disturbing, answer to that very question. Better still, the camera is helmet mounted, so you see where the pilot is looking and when.

Way back in 1998, this site hosted a piece by Mr. A, a friend of Rob “Coffee Czar” Mauceri. Strangely enough, the piece is the prose answer to the question “What was it like that time when you lost control of your paraglider 1200 feet over Valle de Bravo, Mexico and went into that nearly fatal spiral?” Give it a read here: Caterpillar Club.

Mr. A is still friends with Rob, and so it was by way of Rob that I came by this forwarded message about the helmet-mounted video. Mr. A (A stands for Adrenaline, by the way) was kind enough to let me post his explanatory note to Rob below. Mr. A says:

Remember my description of being up at 15K paragliding in Mexico? I had flown this site at Valle de Bravo, Mexico back in 1996 and had an accident. My wing was collapsed in turbulence and got tangled up. It was really my fault to some extent — I was flying a high performance wing that was fine for western Washington air in high altitude desert turbulence. I was out of my skill zone but didn’t really realize it. I ended up throwing a reserve and crashing down through trees.

Since then I took a few years off from the sport, gained a lot more flying experience and now fly (and love) a beginner wing in only smooth air.

On this last trip to Mexico, a nice guy named Joe Parr was “me, circa 1996.” He took off in his high performance wing with about the same experience I had back then. He flew on a day that was ‘big.’ I was watching from the ground because I decided it was too rough for me to fly even though my wing is way more stable. Joe hit the same nasty air in exactly the same location and rode his reserve down to an exciting evergreen conclusion. He could have recovered from the spiral he was in but basically just froze up. The difference is that Joe had a helmet cam on at the time. This video was sold to real TV and has now found its way out on the web.

He’s at 9000 feet deciding to head “over the back” of the mountain on the cross country route. When he is in the tree you can hear me on the radio asking about his GPS.

Here is the video, and here is a link to a discussion board on this topic.