30 December 2007

Time



After completing a challenging project on time I decided to spend the weekend in the Bahamas to recharge.

I was walking along a quiet beach, taking in the blue sky, white sand and turquoise water, when I looked back and noticed my footprints in the sand.

A footprint in wet sand is the universal image for 'life was here'. It reminded me of being 12 years old and on an expedition in the jungles of Endau Rompin in Peninsular Malaysia and finding a fresh tiger track along a small river. I knew wild tigers existed but it was at this moment that I became aware, at an emotional level, that tigers were actually _real_. I went back later to look at the tigerprints but an afternoon storm had washed them away. I remember asking myself how it could be possible that the presence of an animal as beautiful and Great as the tiger could be erased by a few raindrops.

But nothing is greater than time... Great leaders are slain [Bhutto], species become extinct, countries divide, companies collapse [Microsoft, just wait], mountains erode, islands sink. Time is the Great damper, equalizer. To me, this is not a depressing thought, rather a life affirming reminder that every goal of mine to have, own, keep, influence or control is futile. The more often I can remind myself of this, the more time I can spend doing real things, towards real and lasting happiness.

Back to the Bahamanian beach... there I was, eyes closed, feeling the wind, water and sand on my skin. Nothing could change the fact that I was there, nothing. And yet nothing could possibly keep me there tomorrow. Life and all its pieces are impermanent. You hold on to life, not by stopping time but by moving with it.

There is a rhythm in everything; I can feel it. Mostly, I find myself moving awkwardly out of phase, but there are rare moments when I am able to let the rhythm of life find me, to become it. Dancing with the rhythm of life is the most beautiful thing; something that cannot be taken, owned or preserved. Reach out to hold on to it and the music stops. So keep moving.

My resolution for 2008: Chase the rhythm.

13 October 2007

Thanksgiving @ Müller Hill


Müller Hill from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

Every Thanksgiving there's a massive banquet feast at the Müller's. It's the last big get-together for the season, a last chance to re-lie the season's stories while your friends nod, pretending to buy them.

Of course, classic soarable air is pre-ordered for the afternoon so that everyone is hungry and happy, in time for dinner. My routine is to stuff myself on Felix's strüdel but leave a little room to taste the turkey. Hey, that's how I roll.

Here's my first attempt at 'audio visual digital video' editing, or whatever it's called. Personally, I think it should be called a time sink.

Anyways, to all my family, homeboys and homegirls, wherever you are... Happy Thanksgiving!

09 August 2007

2007 World Hang Gliding Championship

Time to fly, it's the Worlds!



Bernie and I flew to Dallas together with our carbon prototype gliders -not easy- and picked up our pimp'n ride.



Task 1

The first task was a 150km downwind flight in light blue conditions. It was difficult in places but flying with so many good friends, doing what we do best, made me smile many times during the flight. The long shallow final glide over bright green cotton fields was peaceful.

Many top contenders landed short of goal today.



The gaggles were congested at times; wide angle lens do not seem to convey how close we fly together.

Task 2

A 185km downwind dogleg task in difficult conditions. I landed short of goal in a soft part of the course. As I left a gaggle that was stuck in light lift I was feeling pretty confident that I would find something better further on; when I turned into a nice smooth 300fpm from 300ft above the ground, I smiled in relief but after only a few turns the entire thermal just disappeared.

It wasn't until I looked down at my feet standing in the soft soil of a cotton field that I realized I had landed. So much preparation, so much focus, so much effort... as I packed up alone in a pretty cotton field that I'll never see again, the reality of my imminent freefall on the scoresheet began to set-in.

I've had setbacks before but it still hurts every time. It hurts a lot.

Task 3

After a night to get rid of the grumpies in me, I was ready to start over. A 169km downwind flight to Levelland, via La Mesa. Slow and tough but still the best day so far. This time I was 9th into goal. An Italian beat me by one second as we dove into the airpot below treetop height at groundspeeds over 140km/h!

This hanggliding stuff is fun!

Task 4

Finally we had clouds and a decent cloudbase (10,000ft). The 150km downwind task was fun and the cool air at base was a relief. Most took the first startgate at 2:30pm but the gaggle split immediately only to join once again 30km from goal.



My playground today, or rather playsky.




Here's a short clip taken during the task. Team member Bernie appears below me midway through the clip. He has been flying really well, as have the rest of our team.

Every Canadian in goal today!

Task 5

Today we launched in Texas and landed in New Mexico, in a different time zone, having flown the largest task ever completed in hanggliding history... 285km!

45 of 109 pilots completed the task.



Happy pilots in goal

Task 6



Launching from a dolly via aerotow

A very hazy day and a 150km task with a final headwind leg that put all pilots on the ground. This video shows the low visibility.




Task 7

A 175km downwind task to the famous Hobbs, New Mexico, in epic racing conditions except for some soft areas early in the task.



Cacti at the Hobbs airport

Day 8

Dangerous Dean pummels us with rain so it looks like no flying today. Tomorrow looks bad too.

Day 9

Hurricane Dean continued to rage so the 2007 World Championship came to an end.



1st Attila Bertok (Hungary)
2nd Robert Reisinger (Austria)
3rd Gerolf Heinrichs (Austria)

Team Canada finished 12th.

Brett Hazlett: 22nd (5273 points)
Scott Gravelle: 62nd (3534 points)
Bernard Winkelmann: 63rd (3495 points)
Ross Hunter: 81st (2888 points)
Jon Orders: 91st (2185 points)

Attila's acceptance speech was emotional. He thanked ex 3-time-consecutive World Champion, Tomas Suchanek, for setting the bar so high that it took Attila 26 years to be the guy standing up there on the highest step of the podium.

During the flight back home, as I drifted in and out of sleep, images of the last couple of weeks of flying flowed through my exhausted and happy mind. It already didn't feel _real_ and, of course, it wasn't. It was only real when we were all out there in the sky, going for it.

The best things in life are temporary.

15 July 2007

The Trench

The weather was good for flying in the Rockies this weekend so I made the 2.5h drive from Calgary and went on a short 80km out-and-return flight. With my late start and having to make it back in time for the World Team fund raiser BBQ, that was all I could do. But retrospectively, thunderstorms blew-up more to the South anyways so it was a good choice to turn around early.



This is CANADA!



So wild, so grand, so engulfing. The reflections on my helmet are the images floating seamlessly through my mind. Up here, my problems fade into irrelevancy.



Earth's teeth



Cruising in lift on the return leg to Golden. This patch of air was smooth enough for me to take out my camera but I still couldn't hold it steady.

This place is beautiful.

04 July 2007

Attack Eagle



A German engineer in the R&D group sent this to me after hearing my eagle attack story from the weekend.

While attempting to fly XC from the Muller hill and trying to get a climb from the West end of the ridge, I heard a piercing screech from above. Frantically, I looked around but couldn't see anything until I looked down at my shadow against the trees and saw the faint outline of a large bird with its wings tucked-in moving at a high speed towards my shadow. Moments later a loud bang made me look over to my right wing as I watched a Bald eagle slide, on his back, off my right wing tip.

He tumbled through the air and fell behind somewhat before righting himself, looking me straight in the eyes and flapping vigorously towards me... not towards my glider, ME!

I went into a dive but I was too slow for this killer avian assassin. He was moving much faster than I and just as I thought I was about to be wearing a mad eagle on my face, he got hung up in my bottom rear wires and went tumbling backwards again. By this time I had picked up some speed and watched my shadow speeding across the tree tops with the Bold eagle in hot pursuit. This time he let me go, but not before making me cry for Mommy!

Having narrowly escaped becoming Canada's first ever eagle fatality, I rushed back to top-land at the Müller's. It wasn't even lunchtime on the first day of a long weekend and I had already overdone it! Flying in 50km/h winds, mixed with strong thermals was rough enough, without protected wildlife attacks thrown in the mix!

I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for electronics at Future Shop. Ah... much better.

28 June 2007

Dimensions



During the Nationals there was an overcast day that never cleared up. We had setup already so we flew down instead of packing up. Cooper's launch can be difficult in no wind so I ran hard; just for fun I dove down and touched the top of a pine tree with my hand. Too much fun.

Reaching down from my wing, across the boundary between sky and ground, is a beautiful thing. It fills me with a calm energy that is difficult to describe.

The most dramatic moment like this happened on the coast of Rio de Janeiro a few years ago. I was on a cross country flight, trying to make it to the famous statue of Christ, in conditions that the locals said were impossible. But some patience and an indirect route that took me out to sea to climb in ocean thermals with a group of frigate birds finally made it possible.

Along the way I was stuck for a while on a pillar-like 1000ft rock formation with a few eagles, until a cloud finally drifted by and lifted us back to cloudbase. While waiting for the lift to form I dove down to the top of the rock and let my fingers slide across the top; as I moved along through the air towards the edge of the tiny peak, my focus shifted from blades of grass inches away to the city of Rio 1000ft below... the excitement of -feeling- the peak made me giggle uncontrollably!

Some days are better spent than others.

04 June 2007

2007 Canadian Hang Gliding Championship



After work playtime on my UP Targa2



12,499ft in the Okanagan

No amount of water to one area of my life will quench my thirst in another.

I recently moved to Calgary to work as a R&D engineer for an alternative energy industry company. But this does not mean that I have lost interest in flying, in fact I have been flying my hangglider and paraglider 2 to 3 times a week at Cochrane since February. And I will be flying the big air of Golden on the weekends once the snow level drops a little more.

The flying scene here is really nice and I have a good group of friends here.

After only 4 months at my new job, my boss gave me time off to fly in the Nationals, which is really impressive.

After working hard all week it was a relief to show up in the Okanagan -British Columbia's wine country- for a practice day in epic Lumby conditions- a 13,000ft base, strong 3-5m/s climbs, crisp spring air and a blue sky dotted with puffy cumuli. I explored many of the valleys in the area and landed in the calm, golden air of the evening.

A good day in the air.

But that was the last of the good weather as the entire West coast was blanketed in wind and rain; there was even flooding in areas. After day upon day of rain, we were beginning to run out of things to do, just as a break in the weather came in time for one task on the last day of the comp. A 70km task in moist unstable conditions with lots of shade took me 2.5 hours to finish. The next closest group of pilots -including '05 British Champion Richard Lovelace- flew about 15km of the task after getting flushed in a particularly shaded-in gulley.

We didn't fly much that week but we had the chance to spend lots of time with friends, so it wasn't that bad. It was awesome to have Richard and Caroline here, who flew over from the UK just for this comp, and I really hope that they come back next year!

Of course I was super happy to win the Nats for a 7th year in a row, especially since my Dad was visting from Malaysia and was there to see it. I was also excited about my new wing... the Litespeed RS4 Carbon Smoke. I was expecting a flat glide but was surprised how well I could climb in the light stuff, without getting tired either.

Baby got climb!

[VLOG] A Walk in the Garden II

Do we need a reason to fly?