18 December 2009

Torrey Pines

Ridge racing with Kraig Coomber at Torrey Pines, San Diego, California.

As my 777 landed in LA for one last chance to fly Torrey Pines before leaving for Malaysia, things were looking dim, literally. I only had a one-day layover in LA and the night before it poured rain. In fact, it stormed. I didn't even know that it was possible for it to rain like this in LA... ever.

By the next morning things had improved dramatically. Kraig checked the weather and all the Torrey indicators were saying it was a Torrey day. We stuffed down a couple of bagels and rushed over to his warehouse for a last weather check and to load the gliders.

On the long drive out we kept repeating to ourselves... it's going to rain, it's going to rain... just to not jinx ourselves.

We had been talking about the only superstition that I have, which is that if I ever have a thought of satisfaction or contentment before I have actually fully completed a task, my reward will be a single additional challenge between the moment I have the thought and the moment I cross the goal line.

I call it a superstition but I'm not really superstitious. I read a phrase somewhere to the effect: Talking is something that occurs once thinking has ceased. This makes sense. When you are busy congratulating yourself over your excellent work when everything is going well at 90% completion, you instantly stop observing, taking in what is happening around you. Sensing what the big picture looked like was part of the reason that you found yourself at 90% completion and in a good position. If at this point you start to plan your title acceptance speech, perhaps by thinking about who you are going to thank and in what order, you are begging for a surprise. There is no limit to how fast things can change during the last 10% of a task.

This applies to hanggliding, this applies to business, this applies to life.

Anyways, it was soarable but light all day at Torrey and we had a great time. We finally came in to land as the sun was setting and the wind was so light we could barely get over the lip to top land. Hanggliding was good to us this day.

I didn't mention why I was so keen to fly Torrey. Well, I've wanted to fly Torrey for the last 16 years. Ever since I first saw a photograph of a modern hangglider on the cover of Hanggliding and Paragliding Magazine, sometime in 1993. It was John Heiney flying upside-down on an all-carbon airframe black and rainbow UP TRX 140, high over Torrey Pines. That image will remain preserved in my mind in HD, forever.

As we packed up I suddenly realized that John Heiney was breaking down right next to us so I made sure to go over and shake his hand.

Thanks, John.


A dreamy evening flight in Brazil.

Disclaimer: Always wear a EN 966 certified helmet when paragliding

07 December 2009


I recently spent a few days in LA to visit Moyes USA and help out with some testflying. We had a beautiful winter thermal flight at Sylmar, which is one of my favourite sites. Generally smooth thermals that were working really low allowed us to race along the range with no fear of landing out. It was a perfect end to the Northern flying season.

05 September 2009

The Beginning

After racing hanggliders and paragliders for over 15 years.. I often forget what it was like to fly for the first time. This flight reminded me of what I imagined flying would be like when I was a kid. The real feeling is exactly the same as I would experience in my dreams, long before flying for the first time.

Free flying has been the only fantasy that has not been a disappointment in real life.

11 August 2009

2009 Brazilian Paragliding Nationals

Castelo, Espírito Santo, Brasil


I drove all night to get to Castelo. The last 100 km were overgrown dirt roads that wound up and through the mountains. The darkness and lack of signage made it a difficult journey, although the moonlight was peaceful.

This is the main task area.

Getting ready to launch.

Waiting for the launch window to open.

A packed sky.

This place has more beauty than you can take in all at once. Vertical rock faces 1000 m high are everywhere you look. The prehistoric ambience would make a pteradactyl feel at home.

New millennium wings fill a prehistoric sky.

This task brought us to within sight of the ocean. The thought of landing at the beach instead of goal was a tempting thought.

At cloudbase and on glide. I love this part of flying.

In goal.

No touchy.

The long ride back from goal is always calming. The satisfaction of having made goal, reliving all the fun things that happened and just thinking about how a good day of flying is always a day well spent, leaves me in a calm, contemplative mood.

The winners. Frank Brown won the open category, climbing from 3rd to 1st on the final leg of the final task!

1 Frank Brown M BRA [open] Sol Tracer 2010
2 Luciano Bender Tcacenco M BRA [open] GIN boom 6
3 Cristiano Ricci da Silva M BRA [open] MACPARA MAGUS
4 Marcelo Prieto M BRA [open] Solparagliders Tracer proto
5 Sergio Sampaio M BRA [open] UP Edge
6 Brett Hazlett M CAN [open] UP Edge
7 Clayton Alvarenga Resende M BRA [open] AIR WAVE FR4
8 Washington Peruchi M BRA [open] Macpara Magus 6
9 Donizete B Lemos M BRA [open] Sol TRACER 2009
10 Leonardo silveira Machado M BRA [open] SOL TRACER

Original gangster Julio AKA CB.


Vitória at night.

A CB approaches the Vitória coastline. It poured 10 minutes later.

23 July 2009


I have a new toy from UP to fly. This thing is fun and it feels like it goes really well; I just haven't had the chance to compare it to the other good gliders. There's a competition coming up soon -stage one of the Brazilian Nationals- where I will get a good feel for the raw performance of this wing. So far, I can say the handling is really good, despite the wing having a higher projected aspect ratio than most other wings.

These images were a courtesy of Doug Wakefield.

22 June 2009

Grouse Mountain

Paragliding at Grouse Mountain from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

Vancouver, on the West coast of Canada, is a beautiful city; usually rated the second best city to live in, behind Geneva. I used to live here but recently had a chance to visit during a weekend. The weather forecast was good so I brought my glider with me and had a fun fly.

It was fun thermalling low over the Grizzly bear enclosure on top of the mountain, the waterfall, and waving to tourists having lunch on the restaurant patio. The Lions Gate bridge, the Capilano dam, and downtown Vancouver are also beautiful from the air.

Floating above the mountain in the warm summer air, on this lazy Saturday afternoon, was good for the soul.

10 June 2009

Muller Windsports

Paragliding at Muller Windsports from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

Muller Windsports has everything you need to hangglide, paraglide or kite surf.

Chris and Tihi taught me to paraglide on this hill years after I started hanggliding. I was really just curious about paragliding and had no idea I would enjoy it so much.

I like coming to this hill every so often. There's always someone I haven't seen in a while and the Rocky Mountain air on this little hill makes every day just a little different. Watching students learning the basics also reminds me of everything I went through to be able to have all the amazing experiences that flying has given me.

On this day the prevailing wind was only about 10 km/h but the thermal cycles brought gusts of 40 km/h. This place can teach you a lot about how to fly a paraglider.

Devin McMurdo -future Canadian Champion- was out with his shiny new UP Kantega XC. That thing has some nice lines for a LTF 1-2 wing. Seems to have a good sink rate. I bet you could get some pretty sweet distances with it.

08 June 2009

Mount Cheam

Paragliding @ Bridal Falls from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

After living and flying in Vancouver, British Columbia for ten years I had still never been fortunate enough to soar Mount Cheam, the highest mountain in the Fraser Valley.

Then this week I was visiting family over the weekend and decided to go out for a quick flight from Bridal Falls, because my Dad wanted to see me fly.

Soon after launching I hit a strong thermal that allowed me to bench up to the ridge behind launch. I kept getting a little higher, a little deeper and a little over, until finally I was soaring the face of this massive mountain named 'wild strawberries' in Halkomelem, that stands at 2100 m (7000 ft).

I was only wearing shorts and speedsleeves, not expecting to get that high. Man, it was cold.

02 June 2009

Chill session @ Müller Hill

Modern life is too complicated, disconnected. Too noisy. Every so often I need to disconnect from the disconnected, reconnect with the wind and just flow.....

Paragliding @ Müller Hill from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

14 March 2009

Valadares Open 2009

Valadares Open 2009 from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

The Valadares Open 2009 has started and the flying has been just beautiful. The typical Valadares skyscape: Puffy white clouds, silky smooth thermals and green rolling hills as far as you can see.

Day 1: A relaxed 80km flight via 2 turnpoints to Dom Cavati. My final glide numbers fell apart and I had to claw my way out from a little bump only 5km from goal. There were urubus to help me but the lift was so light it took forever to get the 200m I needed to make it in. Here in Valadares I have noticed a dramatic change in conditions after 4pm; it seems difficult to still be in the air past 4:30pm. The last 5km into goal were stressful and I wasn't sure I would make it until I cleared a small hill and some palm trees just before goal, with just enough height to do a low 360 on landing.

Day 2 and 3: I kind of blew it. After leaving the startgate on Day 2 I decided to land because two thunderstorms were approaching courseline. There was also a front approaching from behind as well. But as I was hiking back to the hotel I could already see that the the monsters had tamed and changed course. I must admit, though, that the frustration of landing early and losing points is easier to swallow than the horror of finding yourself exposed to the power of a cumulunimbus. I have stories and don't need any more.

That night the storm hit town and at 4am I had to wake up to close my windows because rain was blowing into my room. Thunder and lightning filled the sky and I was convinced that we wouldn't be flying the next day. Since I was up late working I slept in, only to wake up to an alright looking sky. It ended up not being a very good day of flying but I still missed it.

Day 4: Today I decided to just have fun, enjoy each day of flying and to forget about points. It was one of the more enjoyable XC flights that I can remember.

A 60km task via turnpoints with some high cloud spreading in from the West. I took light climbs and topped up often as I approached the shade. In the end the conditions were fine and my caution brought me into goal slow but happy to be there.

Day 5: A classic Valadares day but the task was stopped when a thunderstorm spread over goal. I was doing well in the lead gaggle, with Frank Brown, and we were starting to get close to final glide when the announcement was made. This means that each pilots' location at the official task stop time will be used for scoring. There will be about eight of us with essentially the same score.

Once the task was stopped I turned around and tried to make it back to town. A few thermals later and I was there. The thunderstorms had been chasing me towards town and as I zipped up my glider bag I felt the first cold breath of a gust front. By the time I had finished my coconut it had started to rain. Light at first, with massive raindrops and later a tropical downpour.

It was a really fun flight with a dramatic low save from 200m with the help of some urubus. It is amazing how cohesive the thermals are here so low to the ground.

Update: I just found out that since no pilot was in goal at the moment the task was stopped, the task was not scored. Bummer.

Day 6: Today started out looking wet and unstable but not long after arrving at launch conditions began to improve. A 50km task that ended close to town was called and everyone rushed to get in the air. There was more turbulence than the previous days, making it less convenient to film, and there were parts of the course that were really soft, but mostly it was another nice day of flying.

I think I was the first pilot to leave on final glide, immediately after taking the last turnpoint, with Frank Brown just a little lower and behind. The main lead gaggle was still a couple of kilometers short of the last turnpoint but much higher.

As goal approached I really was not sure if I would make it, although I was feeling confident. I looked behind and saw that Frank had stopped to climb and above me the lead gaggle was closing in with more height and more speed. But all that I was focused on was getting into the goal cylinder. I flew through two light thermals and each time I decided not to turn after gaining some height by just flying straight and slowing down, and each time I regretted not stopping. At launch I noticed that the goal cylinder intersected the main road so I had something physical to aim for. It was going to really close.

On the other side of the road there was a wire fence that I needed to fly over to be able to land in the field. As I approached I stayed laid down in my harness for minimum drag and as I lifted my feet to clear the top wire, the boot of my harness hit the wire and was thrown aside. At that very moment my instruments began beeping, indicating that I was within the goal cylinder. I flared immediately and my glider lay down across the fence, my instruments still beeping. I was stuck in shoulder deep grass but so happy to be there. A local boy came over and helped extract my wing from the grass; it would have been very difficult without his help.

It was the tightest goal finish I've ever had.

The gaggle that was higher made goal comfortably and past me before goal. It looks like I finished 15th today out of 150 pilots.

Day 7: The final task. Conditions looked weak but once again the Valadares Surprise carried us to cloudbase and we were on course and pushing bar. The area around the first turnpoint was soft and put a number of pilots on the ground but after that point it was more reliable. The second turnpoint was fairly smooth going but the final leg back to the city was complicated, with the mountain -Ibituruna- in the way. A group of us went around the West side into the shade but only half of us made it through to the front. Once I made it around enough that I could see the goal field by the river in town I was flying straight and still climbing at 2m/s.... I could have used a little of that earlier!

It was such a pleasure to end the comp by making goal in the middle of the city, chatting with friends about the great week of flying and enjoying some coconut water before walking back to the hotel.

I was in the mood for some post-comp R&R so I hit the beach for a few days. Life can be simple, if only for a while.

Dune contemplations

[VLOG] A Walk in the Garden II

Do we need a reason to fly?