For me, it was the absolute silence. No chatter, traffic, or texts — just onshore breezes softly whishing past me and my wing. I savored that fleeting solitude of my first time in the air as a still Hendry’s Beach glinted in the distance and rolling Elings Park turf stretched below. But I was more than thankful when my walkie-talkie crackled to life to steer me back on course. “Turn to the right a bit. … There ya go. … Good. … Now keep that line. … And enjoy yourself up there.”
Paragliding two springs ago ranks among my top adventures, and though I haven’t flown much since, I think about that day a lot, especially when a neon canopy in the sky catches my eye. So for rookies like me to seasoned soaring vets, the upcoming USHPA Free Flight Film Festival promises another dose of good memories from above.
Hosted for the first time by the Santa Barbara Soaring Association (SBSA), the October 10 film fest, which travels around the country, will feature six handpicked movies that showcase the best of what hang gliding and paragliding have to offer. “There’s something for everyone,” said SBSA leader Rob Sporrer.
There’s a film about pilots who “sky-camp” across Utah and Wyoming, one about a nonprofit that raises funds for third-world communities where they fly, and another that features eye-popping footage of Big Sur captured by the fancy Cineflex camera system. “There’s so much footage that will just open the world up to people who haven’t seen it like this before,” said Sporrer.
Thanks to the prime training hill at Elings, Sporrer and his friends are constantly welcoming new fliers, but Santa Barbara is also home to the handful of guys who started hang gliding in the 1970s, with nicknames like Lil’ John, Hammer, and Sundowner. “They’re still out there setting the margin,” said Sporrer, who also explained that gliders come from all over the country in the winter months to take advantage of the South Coast climate.
The film fest is free, but organizers are requesting donations to help paraglider Krysten Pratt King, a Fillmore resident and frequent Santa Barbara flier who recently suffered a series of devastating medical emergencies. She’s on the mend with a new heart and prosthetic leg and wants to get back in the air, said Sporrer. “She wants to get that part of her life back.”
The free, two-hour USHPA Free Flight Film Festival is Saturday, October 10, 7 p.m., at the Chase Palm Park Pavilion.