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Speedflying: endless swooping

Probably most of you people have already seen photos and videos of people flying close to the ground in mountains with what looks like a son of a swoop canopy and a paraglider. Well, that’s speedflying.

What does it look like?

In order to do some speedflying you need a mountain, a wing and a harness. The wing looks a lot like a parachute, usually is of a small size (from like 150 sq.ft. and down to whatever you can land) and the most crucial thing – it doesn’t go up. Well, unless the wind is not strong enough for everything to go up. The harness looks a lot like a paragliding thing but much smaller and you spend several minutes in the air, not hours. And the mountain – that’s your choice.

When you have all three, you need to find a launch spot and some landing area. Launching is similar to paragliding; you put your wing behind you, run to inflate the wing and start flying. It’s not like everything is this easy but pretty much yes.

Cliff launch
Cliff launch

Historically this sport owes a lot to skydivers as it mainly originated from the idea to improve one’s piloting skills at some local hill or mountain. It’s still a thing though; some skydivers try out or start speedflying in order to feel the process of piloting a canopy in an alternative way. Constantly having some reference points represented by relief allows to understand your speed and flare better – comparing to flying a canopy in a clear sky.

Constantly having some reference points represented by relief allows to understand your speed and flare better

What do people do with this little wing? As it’s clear from the name of sport the main part of fun comes from speed. And speed brings along acrobatic elements like barrel rolls and deep turns. Also these wings can swoop and do so very well. The last but not least: you can do proximity flying close to the relief. Almost forgot: you can put on your skis and do some speedriding with this canopy, and that’s a different story…

Landing area in Chamonix
Landing area in Chamonix
Barrel roll
Barrel roll
Proximity flying
Proximity flying

How to become a speedflyer?

Assuming that you are already a skydiver and have some few hundreds of jumps in hand you only need to find an experienced pilot willing to teach you. Why so? The wings are relatively small – even student ones – and require some canopy control as well as landing skills. Your coach’s main goal is to teach you to safely launch from different exits using different techniques, as well as “to see” the weather. In the mountains it’s a little bit more complicated than the direction and force, so make sure you've got it covered and don’t rush too much into advanced stuff.

Skis open up the whole new world of riding and flying so it’s totally worth it

Another way to start it out is from skiing. For this you should be a confident skier beforehand, but you still need a coach to teach you to ride with the wing. Usually after you learn riding you start launching and flying. Skis open up the whole new world of riding and flying so it’s totally worth it. Also the main problem of speedflying (meaning the footlaunch) is heavy dependency on weather: you can’t launch with a tailwind because it’s hard to overrun it, and it’s tricky with side winds. Skis give you more speed right away so the weather range enlarges. Bonus: you can use smaller and faster wings with skis as it’s easier to launch and land them.

Speedriding lines may be richer than speedflying ones and some parts of the slope may be ridden on skis, if they are too flat for flying or you just feel like it. Ski resorts make life way much easier offering you ski lifts up instead of hiking to the exit. However they deprive you of the romance of hike’n’fly… So it’s up to your choice…

This article was originally published on @tayka

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