2013 Open Distance Paragliding Nationals Day 1:  Let’s call this a practice day

The first day of the Paragliding Nationals at Inspiration Point, Utah got off to a not-so-promising start.  During the competition, pilots are updated about weather and flying possibilities via Twitter feed (text FOLLOW KENHUDONJORGENS to 40404 on your phone to follow the race yourself).  The first message of the day was how it was 99% certain that we wouldn’t be flying that day….but to bring their gear anyway, just in case!

While we were waiting for the weather to decide what it was going to do, we had a safety briefing and some really informative classes.   Dave Dixon gave a class on Upping the Distance, talking about how he had stretched his limits in 2013 to achieve some remarkable flights over the summer.   Dave Wheeler talked about scoring and GPS use.  Chris Galli gave a weather briefing and left us begging for more classes later in the week.

Luckily most people did bring their gear, as we did in fact decide to brave the trip up to launch, “just to look”.   But bring your gear just in case. The weather was very odd for Utah, due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Ivo working its way up through Utah from the southwest.    Stratus clouds spread their way high overhead, gradually covering the entire sky with grey and bringing a chill to the air.  Small cumulus clouds formed over the peaks as we watched, but after threatening to over-development, soon fizzled and again looked non-threatening.   Surface winds remained calm and the air seemed lifty.

The decision was made to not call a task but to open launch to anyone wanting to fly.  Conditions were too unstable to guarantee a big launch window and it was already late in the afternoon.  About half the pilots decided to fly, some getting a sled ride down to the LZ, and a few finding lift out in the valley.   Several volunteers had their first visit up to the Squaw Peak Lookout (Inspiration Point) launch, and enjoyed the scenery while getting the lay of the area for their retrieve duties later in the week.


Nate Johnson’s Post-Race Blog

Nate had a great time at the competition and learned a lot.  Check out his blog below.



Chris Galli’s OD Nats Weather Blog

Check here for weather updates during the week. Chris will be informing us about flying conditions in Utah for the Open Distance Paragliding Nationals competition.



Dave Wheeler’s Live SPOT Tracking

David Wheeler has set up a link on his XCFind SPOT tracking page for the competition.  To see our live SPOT trackers and follow each pilot, go here:



Dawn Westrum’s Adventure Blog

Dawn Westrum is a competitor weighing in on the flying at the 2013 OD Paragliding Nationals.

Check out her blog here:



Want Photos of the Event?

Click to see photos on Facebook:

Terri Olsen

Jim Peterson

Julie Spiegler


And Flickr:

Robert Erdman


Day 2:  Not a chance

No flying today as we all knew by looking at the gloomy skies outside in the morning.  Some of the competitors amused themselves by going rock climbing instead….never waste a day off!   But everyone met up in the afternoon for some really detailed classes on the local XC routes and house thermals using Google Earth by Dave Nelson…I think we all learned something regardless of how many (or how few) times we have flown the Wasatch Range.  Dave Dixon used XContest to show routes and strategies for record flights.   Plus Chris Galli shared some more weather secrets, and a way to download XC tracks to compare them against the predicted weather for the day.  That way you can see if you really did get the last thermal of the day before the lift ended…or not!  Info on how to do that is on his weather blog, try it out for yourself sometime.

A great BBQ ended the day, and the clearing skies gave us a little hope for the flying potential in days to come.  I guess you could say that we all have our fingers crossed….


Day 3: Clearing Skies?

It’s raining outside as I write this, but we are all hoping (some of us with blind faith, others with more concrete weather observations) for a flyable day tomorrow. Somewhere. If we do fly, most of the pilots can be tracked via their SPOT locator at http://xcfind.paraglide.us Check under the 2013 OD Nats list to see individual names and then look at their flight track on the map. The SPOTs only update every 10 minutes so locations may not be accurate compared to other pilots.

We had a couple more great classes today.  Neil Hansen gave a class on thermal coring and mechanics of thermals.  Zac Hargraves gave information on O2 use, SPOT use, and search and rescue theory.   Pilots, if you land out somewhere, do not leave your gear behind…it’s your safety line and your way to be found easily!


Day 4:  We Have A Task!

There was an undercurrent of excitement at HQ this morning, along with a frenzy of last minute gear checks.   A sack lunch, no classes, and a very early arrival at launch was the order of the day.  We hoped to get launched and flying before the suspected overdevelopment of the clouds occurred from the heavy moisture content in the air.   A 12:15 launch window was called.   A few pilots braved it and immediately sunk out.   They had a quick ride back up to launch for a 2nd try.  By then a few pilots were getting up above launch and heading in almost every direction they could.   A few more sunk out.

The clouds stayed amazingly light over the Wasatch, aside from a few errant lightning strikes which made a few pilots turn and head to a safe landing.    The leaders were flying in every direction, and back at HQ the retrieve team was following their SPOT tracks online and sending out retrieve vehicles.   We eventually had pilots landing at Bountiful, Park City, and Salem.   Some amazing flights on a marginal day.  The distance award for the first day will be given out at HQ in the morning, and we hope to have some photos for you then too!

Superfly fed all the hungry pilots this evening with an Indian Dinner and some well deserved drinks.   Hopefully we’ll all sleep well and be ready to fly even further tomorrow, the weather forecast is looking better.  Considering how well the top pilots flew today, if the skies cooperate we might finally get that flight into Colorado!


Our big winner for Task 1 was Andrew Dahl with 64 km, he flew all the way to Bountiful, making it back just in time for an Indian dinner at Superfly!

Other awards for the day included Becky Brim and Chris Galli for being the most tenacious (scratching the longest before getting up) and to Dawn Westrum for dirting the most times. 3, in fact. Her award was a bag of dirt. Hah. Many thanks to all the volunteers and drivers for their help with the retrieves!


Day 5:  Task 2

The weather for Task 2 looked pretty similar to the first task.  We had some overdevelopment in the Oquirrh’s across the valley and clouds were forming over all the peaks. Winds were fairly light at elevation, allowing pilots to go in all three directions as they wished, north, south, and north east.  The northeast proved the best direction to get distance.  Launch opened at 1230 and some pilots got away early, only to land in light lift.  Others were able to climb just high enough to cross Provo Canyon and head north, but ultimately sunk out at American Fork canyon due to threatening rainstorms.  The later launches proved to get the best distance of the day.


We had a big day in the competition for our second task…will these be the longest flights of the comp or is there better weather to come?

Pilots flew in every direction it was possible to take from Inspo launch.   Chris Galli won the day by flying into WY and making it to Ft. Bridger, flying 155 kilometers!.  Andrew Dahl had another great flight to the north, landing in Farmington, Utah.  Frank Drews went south, getting all the way to Nephi while fighting a headwind.   Julie Spiegler took the women’s win for the second day, plus setting a personal long distance record flight ever up to Bountiful, Utah.


Day 6: Task 3

Task 3 again looked like a repeat of the weather we’d been faced with all week.  Light winds aloft, overdevelopment early, and the ability to fly in any direction from launch.  Conditions early were difficult, and pilots who launched were stuck soaring over launch hoping for a big thermal to get away on.   Launch was a bit busier than normal, as a camera crew was there to film Nick Greece and the Vol Biv team launching from the upper area.   Finally a big thermal came along and launched the Vol Biv crew up along with a few lucky pilots from the competition.  Ultimately only 7 of them were able to make the crest of Cascade mountain while everyone else watched (with a big of jealousy) from launch.

At that point a big rainstorm came across Utah Lake and shut down launch until almost 4 pm.   It seemed late, but the rest of the competition pilots were able to get into the air, and almost all went south.   Many of the later flights were still able to cross Hwy 6 and make it down to Santaquin.


Bill Belcourt made a guest appearance for the day, and of course made the longest distance.  Ricardo Gomex-Palacio took the win for the day, by launching at 4 pm and flying northeast to Weber canyon at the west end of the Uintas. His flight lasted until the very last bit of sun dipped below the mountains.   Ben Anderson made the furthest southern tracks although there were a few good pilots within shouting distance of him late in the day.


Day 7: Task 4

Bill Belcourt started the morning out at HQ by giving a talk on risk assessment while flying.  Then it was up to launch to see what we could get for the day.  Even more moisture in the air this time and it looked like it would be an early day or nothing at all.  Pilots launched quickly into light lift, with threatening clouds moving in from every side.   Most pilots sunk out straight from launch, with only one flying north and the rest just heading south hoping to get somewhere before the day shaded over.   It did shade over quickly and within an hour everyone was on the ground, just before a light rain started to fall.


Patrick Murphy took the win for the day, by getting up to American Fork canyon in almost no lift.   Since it was such a short task the day was only awarded half points, and I think everyone was just happy to be on the ground under somewhat threatening skies.


Day 8: Awards

Rain was falling softly on us as we gathered for the morning class.  It was relatively easy to call off the flying for the day and declare the competition over.   Competitors were still excited to learn more though, and Chris Galli reviewed his website XCSkies.   He went over what pages to look at and what information might be useful depending on the flying location.  Pilots were glued to his words and barely let him stop talking long enough to eat lunch!

The awards ceremony was the last item of the day and some great prizes were up for grabs, thanks to our sponsors ParaSupply, OnePolar, Flytec, and Superfly.   Every task winner was awarded a OnePolar fleece jacket provided by ParaSupply.  Overall winners were awarded flight suits by Parasupply. Flytec donated a helmet vario and a jacket as well as hats and t-shirts.  Handmade engraved bowls were provided by Ken Hudonjorgensen.

Here are the overall winners:

Open Class and National Champion

  1. Chris Galli

Serial Class

  1. Andrew Dahl
  2. Frank Drews
  3. Ricardo Gomez-Palacio
  4. Dave Nelson
  5. Bob Janzen
  6. Ben Anderson
  7. Patrick Murphy
  8. Julie Spiegler
  9. Bob Peloquin


  1. Dave Nelson


  1. Julie Spiegler
  2. Becky Brim
  3. Dawn Westrum

Our Volunteers deserve a special thank you for the time and effort they put into making this week successful!

  1. Ken Hudonjorgensen
  2. Judy Whitmore
  3. Zak Hargraves
  4. Dawn Westrum
  5. Terri Olsen
  6. Rob Erdman
  7. Carolyn Thomas
  8. Dan Cookson
  9. Sandy Coleman
  10. Blake Pelton
  11. Mike Westwood
  12. Ramon Llenado
  13. Dave Krug
  14. Neil McGarry
  15. Chris Galli
  16. Chris Hunlow
  17. Scot Zeigler
  18. Paul and Pat Gardner
  19. Nate Johnson

Thanks again to all the volunteers, drivers, and pilots for making this a great competition! Everyone stayed safe, learned a lot, and had some wonderful flying!