Big XC Flight From Santa Barbara Today

Photo: Anyone heading from the L.A., Ventura, or the Santa Clarita area, and are headed towards Santa Barbara? I just flew the 40 miles from SB to Santa Paula, and don't really know how to get home! </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Going XC, and having to find a way back- seems like a good problem to have!


During the winter, the thermals of the High Sierra go to sleep for a few months, and pilots look elsewhere for their thermal ‘fix’. I too am one of these pilots, and for the winter of 2013/14, Tawny and I have moved down to Santa Barbara for a change of pace from the deep winter of the Sierra. The flying here in winter is actually quite good, and winter is considered the ‘in’ season for XC in the SB area.

I’ve had a few great XC flights here this season, and two of them were quite similar in both duration and flight path. Both flights originated at E.J. Bowl, and went to Santa Paula (Jan 2nd & Mar 8th). This following flight report is from the more recent flight, Enjoy.



The last few days have been quite windy, and I’ve only been lucky enough to squeeze in some ridge soaring once or twice this week. There was one or two decent days in the mountains, but I had to teach students and fly tandems. But as today dawned clear and calm, I kind of opted out of working, as the day was looking like it could shape up to be decent for XC flying. I took a quick look at the forecast and weather stations, and made the call to go for it.

Normally I drive the Eagle van up to launch, and everyone piles on in. But I did not want the responsibility of that today, I just wanted to fly away and not worry about it. Jonny B  was the driver for the day, and by 10 am we were all meeting up at Parma; talking smack and getting hyped up. Many of the usual suspects were there: Bart, Jon, Dave B., Cormick, Alex G., Morgan, Chris H., and many others!

Tim missed the 10 am role call, and didn’t make the van in time. Once we arrived at launch, I got a call from him stating that he was at SkyPort and would be launching soon, and that he would like to meet up in the air and go XC if possible. Of course it was possible. Probable.

We made our way up to launch, to witness the absolutely, most classic start style that you can come across in paragliding- no one wanted to launch first in fear of bombing out, but everyone wanted someone to go test it out for us. We waffled around for 30+ minutes before two wings launched. They climbed up quite nicely right out of launch; everyone raced to get in the air at this point!

Everyone got out within a few minutes of eachother, and the game was on. The thermals were nice, the wind wasn’t bad, and everyone seemed interested in flying east towards Ojai. I led the way over to the R&R thermal, where I spotted Tim-o gently soaring his way over Skyport’s launch. I tanked up on some altitude, and went to join him. We topped off his thermal at SkyPort, and moved over to the Thermal Factory together.

At this point, Jonny B. and Alex G. came over to play, but they didn’t climb out as well with Tim and I, and started to lag behind. Tim and I knew it was on, so we left the security of the Parma Zone, and pointed east. We flew the first half of the route to Ojai together; I was usually just ahead and would try and mark the thermals for Tim. He was flying well, and we were having fun. We started to get spaced out a bit as it seemed that my wing was a little quicker, so once we got closer to the Power Lines, I went ahead. I could always see him, but the further we went, the windier it got. The gap between us lengthened, and as I approached Ojai, I dived back to the Nuthouse while Tim glided out to town to land.

I arrived at the Nuthouse right above launch level, and soared on up to the top of the ridge. At this point the wind was really starting to kick in. I assumed Tim went out to land because of this, and the other guys bailed at Padero. I had no radio, so all this was a guess. I was on my own, and conditions were getting interesting.

At the top of the ridge above the Nuthouse, I decided to continue on towards the Chief, and then Filmore if possible. I knew this route well- I had just flown a near identical line two months earlier. I kept heading towards Santa Paula Peak, getting higher now that I was off the coastal peaks, hitting 6,500+ a few times. And it was getting rougher. Rough enough to shake my feathers a few times, and take some whacks while on speed bar. I’m too used to having great control on my ‘B’ risers on my 2 liner while on bar, but switching to my 3 liner makes me feel a bit disconnected to the glider while on bar, it just takes some getting used to. And sewing some handles on my rear risers wouldn’t hurt either. Oh well, it’s an old wing and needs to be replaced anyway.

As I got to Santa Paula Peak, it got spicy. I was flying well, and I was pretty sure that I’d make it to Filmore, or even better, Santa Clarita. I was high, and the wind was not very strong in the Ojai basin. But as soon as I crossed into the Filmore east/west valley system, holy shit. I was parked on the peak, and could not proceed east. At best, I could try and cross over the town of Santa Paula, on my way to the next range south. Continuing east was out of the question, too much head wind. So I decided to try and cross over town and keep on moving.

At first it was ok, but the lower I got, the windier it got. The wind gradient was increasing as I descended, and before I knew it, it was getting sketchy. I was on the upwind side of town, and sinking fast. On full bar I was going 5mph, and on half bar I was going backwards, all the time while getting blown over town (think: power lines, buildings, badness). I had no choice but to turn tail and run to some farms in the foothills behind town, and had to put it down flying backwards on bar, getting drug a few feet in the process! Damn. I should have not entered the Filmore valley.

The home owners came out to watch me land in their cow pasture, they were super nice and even offered me a ride into town. I was so worked up from that landing, that I decided hike my energy off! A short hike to the bus stop, then two different busses, and I was back in Santa Barbara. A quick 4 mile hike back to my car rounded out the day, and what a day it was…


Click here for the 3D flight track

Flight track from Jan 2nd flight 



March 8th, 2014

Santa Barbara, CA

Dave Turner