Regaining Lost Confidence
Confidence in both oneself and the gear we use is pretty important for a successful and happy flight. Three years into my paragliding journey I suddenly lost confidence in both myself and my gear. In this post I want to look into this and build a plan to get that confidence back.
Why is confidence it important?
Confidence in paragliding is the feeling and belief that one can rely in or have faith in oneself as well the equipment used to fly. Without confidence the sport would be pretty un-enjoyable. Imagine second guessing every decision made during a flight or constantly thinking you are going to fall out of your harness. It would simply be a miserable experience. So when we lose confidence in an area we have otherwise been confident in it can be quite disconcerting.
Why has confidence been lost?
Three days after the tree landing I got back in the air on a lower class wing on a silky smooth morning flight. It was during this flight that I knew I was not ready to give up this paragliding journey. As a result I flew with more caution, specifically allowing more height between the ground and myself when ridge soaring. However it wasn’t until I flew on a turbulent day a couple of days later that I knew my confidence had taken a much bigger knock than I realised. I was above the Le Dents in Annecy and I could feel my wing moving around, could hear the wing and took a couple of very small collapses. I was terrified and confused by this feeling. The conditions were no different to plenty of other days I’d flown. After this flight I realised I was afraid of having a collapse close to the ground. But it was the reason why I was afraid that led me to book on to an SIV. I was afraid that I didn’t have the skill set to deal with the wing. I was lacking confidence in myself.
After the SIV I had about 90% of my confidence back. It was wonderful. I headed to Oludeniz to get in some winter flying. I felt it was best to do some more SIV, it was here that after attempting to do a spin I threw my reserve. The situation I was in (autorotation with crevat) was the same thing that had happened when I landed in the tree. My confidence took a knock from this, I was annoyed at myself for not reacting faster nor doing to correct thing to prevent the situation from happening. So I now had a lack of confidence in my self and developed a lack of confidence in my wing.
The areas that I need to build confidence in are 1; piloting skills, specifically interpreting what is happening and reacting faster. 2; trusting the gear.
Plan Of Action
Not wanting to scare myself I have decided to create a plan to rebuild this confidence. To tackle the issue of confidence with the gear I chose to buy a new (second hand) wing; the Swift 4. Admittedly this was a pretty spontaneous decision and I shouldn’t be blaming my tools for pilot errors, but with regards to mindset (I’ll go into this later) I feel that a fresh start for 2019 could be good.
For the piloting skills, I know the best way to improve this is time in the air. It is also important that this time in the air is productive and things are learned. I have chosen to create a plan for the coming months to make the most of my airtime, to both rebuild my confidence and progress as an XC pilot.
January - Flying in easy conditions in Lanzarote, with other pilots. Goals; good take offs and landings, practising safety manoeuvres and become familiar with the Swift.
February and March - This will be the start of XC flying, I will go to Morocco and Italy. Goals; small XC flights, out and returns.
April - This is the month were I will do another SIV with Flyeo in Annecy. Goals; become more comfortable with the wing and learn limits. Afterwards I will do some XC flying. Goals; feel confident in the air and in making decisions to fly XC.
May – Again in the Annecy region and will continue to work on XC flying. Goal; Learn more about alpine flying and improve on my current PB (85km).
June – This will be the first competition I’ll have entered and is the Back to Grand Bo, an out and return competition from Grand Bornand, it sounds pretty fun! Goal; give it my best shot and have fun!
July – After the back to Grand Bo I would like to attempt a small Vol Biv in the area. Then I’ll head to Mont Clar in France for the BGD Weightless competition. Goal; not to bomb out! I don’t know what to expect, so will just be happy to be learning and flying with others.
August – This will be spent in Macedonia for the Gin Wide Open and hopefully will get a chance to free fly before/ after. Goal; use the learnings from the previous trips and try and follow the task set.
Whilst practising and gaining more hours airtime will improve confidence it is also important to work on the mind as there is so much that can be done that will greatly improve confidence. The things that I am doing are;
Visualisation – whether it be a take off, XC flight or a manoeuvre I try to visualise how I want it to go. I will close my eyes and focus on each and every aspect in great detail, from the colour of my harness buckles as I am doing them up to the sound of my wing as it fills with air, I’ll visualise the lot! If I want to practise a manoeuvre I will go through the manoeuvre my head whilst in the air, just before doing it.
Don't compare yourself to others – It is so tempting to compare yourself with others, both in the air and on the ground. Whether we are comparing ourselves to someone who is better than us or who we believe to be better than us this can have a negative impact on our own confidence. The focus should be on your own abilities and skills and goals should be set accordingly. This is not to say we should not look at what others do, the lines they take and decisions they make, this can be valuable when assessing why something may or may not have worked.
Knowledge – Knowing as much as possible is bound to increase confidence in paragliding. So I am learning as much as I can about everything from the weather to the area I’ll fly in.
Be positive – Focusing on the positives, it is a much nicer mindset for both yourself and those around you. Learning from mistakes and not dwelling. When I catch myself having a negative thought I try and turn it around and think positively, afterall our thoughts can be very powerful!
In just writing this up I feel more confident, by having a plan and things set out it is easier to move forward and feels less like I am going into the unknown. Of course this is trial and error, I have not experienced this before and so will be sure to update on progress. I hope that this post is helpful to others who may also be experiencing something similar. If you have any thoughts and/or suggestions I'd love to hear from you :)