“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward

Oh wind. You are a fickle mistress indeed.

The day I was supposed to go tandem paragliding with Eagle Paragliding in Santa Barbara there was none of it to be had. A dropped feather would have fallen to my feet. Oh well, head on back to the hotel and order room service I suppose. Sigh.

But my instructor Marge Variano is a realist you see, she had plan B in her pocket all along—we’d do a paragliding lesson from a lower hill instead.

Gulp.

Was I really prepared to jump off a hill, albeit a much lower one, all by my lonesome? I guess I was about to find out. Plus I had been looking forward to a nice easy day of letting someone else do all the work. Damn.

Even though the training hill is only 250 feet high… it’s still 250 FEET HIGH!

Turns out it was far less daunting than I had expected.

After a thorough safety briefing. Marge took me through how to takeoff, how to control the paraglider once airborne, and most importantly, how to land without a spectacular splat.

In order to practice my form before the actual jump, I did a few practice runs where I would abort takeoff at the last moment.

My first attempt was less than successful. Since there was very little wind, it meant running Usain Bolt-style into the jump. Because my run was more trot than gallop, I didn’t get enough wind underneath the sail, and ended up in a crumpled pile on the side of the hill. Ouch.

Attempt number two went much more smoothly. And attempt number three even smoother still. I wish the wind would have cooperated so I could’ve done number four.

On a normal training day, participants can get 8 to 10 jumps in during a lesson. Since we had started out optimistic that the wind would allow the higher tandem jump, that cut into our jump time.

I’m still optimistic I’ll get jump number four in some day—the feeling of soaring through the air overshadows any fear.  At least until those last few moments before landing.