Monday, 15 December 2008

Snowboarding with Urte in Stubaital

My sister, Urte, and I decided to go snowboarding in Austria for my birthday.
So, I flew over to Hamburg on the 5th where, to my surprise, my parents picked me up at the airport. We spent a great evening at my sisters, having a little pre-christmas celebration before Urte and I took off for a long drive to the Austrian Alps.

My sister drove for the first half and I did the last part.
We arrived in [ Stubaitahl] around 9-10ish, found ourselves a little apartment in Gasteig and went snowboarding.

We had fantastic weather for the first few days and there were hardly any people on the slopes. Then it started snowing quite a bit and the winds picked up too.

On my birthday it was so windy that they closed the lifts and we decided to go sled riding instead. But only after a wonderful cake breakfast my sister had prepared.

I got a great Japanese Shun vegetable knife, which is made from a very impressive folded steel. My mom made me a beautiful coffee cup which my dad made a sugar holder for, so I can enjoy some Feuerzangenbowle (by myself!). There were yummy sweets, the obligatory boxer shorts and not to forget a Spanish girlfriend! She was quite puzzling and completely head and legless.

So, after the breakfast we drove into the mountains, parked at a tiny little parking spot by the side of the rode and walked up the mountain for about an hour and arrived at a beautiful little hut called Brandstattalm. There we rented a couple sleds and went down an about 4km long ride. It was great fun so we decided we go up again. We stopped for a little picnic and my sister pulled out a couple nifty glasses and some sparkling wine.

Once we got to the Hut we decided to stop for a drink and some Kaiserschmarrn.
It was homemade and delicious. Then we went down again, this time racing each other. Once at the bottom we went up parts of the last bit again a couple times and of course racing each other turned into a little pile up with both of us getting a bit bruised :)

For the rest of our time there it was snowing and snowing and snowing.
We always had fresh soft snow under our boards and even though the visibility was not that great it was a lot of fun.
On the way back to Hamburg, we stopped in Frankfurt to see my good friend Alexandra Winkler. Unfortunately we had way to little time to properly catch up.

Urte and I had to get up quite early on Monday so that I could catch my flight back to London. Ontop of that the BA staff was giving me a very hard time about checking in my snowboard. It ended with me having to put all my clothes that I stuffed into the snowboard bag into a separate box and check it in along with my gear, no extra cost but an extra box to check in ?!?! At first they did not even want to let me check in my board at all. Someone explain that logic!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

FS Coaching at Bodyflight, Bedford

Jonathan Ashe organised some FS coaching.
So, on the 25th of October, after a few jumps, we started with dirtdiving some formations which we would later try to repeat in the tunnel.
Then we drove to Bodyflight, a wind tunnel in Bedford. After signing up and some more dirtdivng the fun began.

We started with a couple 1-on-1 sessions, practicing the basics and chacing each other in the tunnel. Then we went on to some 2-on-2 sessions, mainly practicing turns and docks and forward/backward and side sliding. We then went on to do some 4-way formations, 2 students and 2 coaches. We finished the evening with doing some 4-way formations with just students and the coach just watching.

It was a fantastic experience and a big thanks goes out to everyone involved in organizing it.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A whole lotta skydiving

I've been pretty much jumping every available weekend, weather permitting.
It's been fantastic and I have learned a lot.
Most of my jumps were 2-ways with Debbie Sanderson. We had a good mix of
plain flat flying, improving our skills, and a bit of mucking about.
We did start jumping with others, too, and did some 3-ways and 4-ways.
And I even did a 11-way tracking dive at the end of one evening with the sun setting at the horizon.

The following video has a few jumps: First is Andy Moss and I. We ended up doing our spin a bit early, but it was good fun! I am the one in black with black gloves and blue container with pink writing on it. The next one was a 4-Way wit Debbie, Tracy and Andy. Our exit was a total disaster and I think very well captured ;). Jump 93 was a 3-Way with Debbie and Andy. We did a bet with Richard Head of the Phobia team that we could do the formation and it all went pretty much as planned and we won a beer !!!
Being confident we went on to do another 3-Way. We were all supposed to be linked together in a compressed accordion (the 2 outside ones are facing torwards the feet of the inside one). Then one of the outside people will go up and over the other 2 with a 180 turn and then dock again, then the next person... As you can see, we did not even get to the compressed accordion.

Last weekend was the scrambles. It is a little competition where they make 4 pots with each one having the names of people from different ability levels.
Then teams are drawn with one skydiver from each pot.
The teams then get a set of 4 formations for each round they have to dive.
There are no practice dives, only dirt diving on the ground using creepers in the hanger. The first 35 seconds, once the team is out of the door, count. The team has to get as many points by repeatedly building the formations in the order given.

Our team consisted of Martin ???, Richard Head and Gier ???.
We got 12 points and ranked pretty much top of the list with one other team!

Unfortunately the weather turned bad and the scrambles had to be called off.
Instead of jumping we ended up doing indoor competitions on the creepers, same rules same teams except now you had to push yourself around instead of flying.

In the evening was a party with Oktoberfest theme.
I missed a bit of it because I wanted to be there for Cate's 30th birthday dinner. So I went to London, had a lovely dinner with Cate and friends and then went back to Weston.

Unfortunately the next day was even worse than the Sat. It did not stop raining and it was very windy. So, the 2nd day of the scrambles was called off.

This coming weekend looks a bit more promising, so I am hoping to get a few more jumps in before the season ends.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Barge Trip

Kate and I had planned to go on little 3-day barge trip for a while.
Unfortunately our breakup changed the plans a bit.
I did end up going with a few of my colleagues and friends.

We got to Lee Valley Boats Center early
Friday afternoon and checked out our boat, Emily. A 68ft long canal boat!!!
It would have fitted 10 people but we were only 6, Duncan, Roger, Jarkko, Tina, Kym and I. So, there was going to be plenty of space just in case we would not get along ;).

Before leaving though, we had to quickly buy some food and booze!
This was when the first rain poured down on us... nothing like a british summer weekend!

After a few driving lessons we took off north to the first lock and on to the next...
We had to do all the lock handling ourselves, which turned out to be quite some fun and by the end we had a good "team setup".

The weather started clearing up and it started getting darker.
We made it all the way to Ware, where we decided to have dinner at a little pub.
The food was great and the weather got worse, it started pouring down like crazy.
Back on the boat we ended up drinking more wine and beer and played some card games til late that night.

The next morning started out with a bit of sun and we made our way up to Hertford. We planned to visit a castle there, but it turned out to be a bit different than we expected. It wasn't really anything to visit.
But, we got some more shopping done (because we drank all the booze already)
and made our way back down the river.
That night we cooked ourselves and just ate, drank and talked till late.

On Sunday we went up further north towards Harlow.
We had plenty of sunshine and the river was much narrower and also prettier.
Plenty of locks and nice scenery.

It was a very peaceful ride on the boat, with no more than 5mph. But it sometimes can be too peaceful. So, we ended up doing silly things like
cartwheels on the roof,

or climbing up and down bridges while the boat passes underneath it ;)

We got back to Broxbourne oround 17:00h on Sunday.
It was a very relaxing weekend and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Two Eventful Months

I did more wakeboarding, almost twice a week since I got it.
Unfortunately the bindings broke due to a material fault, but I got
them replaced for some better ones.
I am learning a few tricks like jumping kickers with 180 turns,
doing spins, ... but it is all going quite slowly.
It is a lot of fun though and a good balance for my rather inactive job.

End of July Kate and I went to Edinburgh for a long weekend to see a Tom Waits concert.
It was fantastic and one of the few live concerts I truly enjoyed.

The rest of the weekends, weather permitting it, I went skydiving.
I have joined the Skydive Weston club, a much
bigger drop zone than London Parachute School.
In the last 2 months I did more jumps there than the entire year before.

The dropzone is open from Fr. afternoon until Sun. night. Going back to
London on Sat. and return early Sun. morning seems pretty silly, so I bought a tent,
a mattress and a sleeping bag. It is not as comfortable as a VW mini bus,
which I really really want, but oh so much cheaper. Which means more money
left to spend on jump tickets.

Besides doing quite a number of solo jumps, I started jumping 2-ways,
which are much more fun and I learned loads about flying in formation.

Two weeks ago I passed all my tests for the B-license with my 50th jump :).
And last weekend I passed my Formation Skydiving 1 test, which means
I am now allowed to jump with others, or better: I am considered safe to jump with :).

As you can see in the video below I still have lots to learn.
Honestly, I did the same jump before this one and it all went much smoother!
I just blame it on exam phobia! ;)

I now have 64 jumps with a total of over 50min freefall. With having my B license and FS1
I need to set myself some new goals for this year.
So, I am aiming to get up to at least 100 jumps and have my own parachute rig before the end of the year.

Unfortunately the last 2 months were not just all fun.
Cate and I broke up :(
It's been a great 3 years with her and she was the sweetest and most loving girlfriend I have ever been with.
But it just did not work out, we somehow just don't match.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Picking up a new Hobby

I went to my sister's 30th birthday a couple weeks ago.
Besides having a great party we decided to go wakeboarding.
It was to be my 3rd time. Marvin, Urte's boyfriend lent me his kiteboard
and off we went.

I did have some starting difficulties ...

... but soon made it around the lake without much difficulty.

I can also jump in from the side.

And even did a run together with Urte.

My posture on the board clearly needs some work :)

Since that weekend I have been to the Princes Club in London.
And after trying it out on the weekend I decided to get a membership and my own kit.
If I go after work I could be on the water within 45min, and getting home takes about 1:15h,
so I am planning to go twice a week and if the weather is not good for skydiving then on the weekend too.

It is great fun and I am slowly getting better at it.
I can now do tiny heel-side front-side 180s (e.g. left forward turn 180 counter clockwise to face right forward) either with as a tiny jump or just sliding on the water.
I am working on my heel-side back-side turns (e.g left forward turn 180 clockwise to face right forward) but only managed to do it twice :(

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Skydiving Lessons

After a little winter break it is time to fall out of planes again.

I used the good old AFF student kit for my first two jumps this year.
It has a big 280sqft canopy, so it was no problem getting back into it.
The first jump I did alone and for the second one Mark joined me to
give me some FS1 (Formation Skydiving) coaching.
To get to the next level I need to pass my FS1, so I figured the earlier I
start practicing the earlier I get to the next level.

On our first two coaching jumps we just practiced getting out of the plane together
and doing some slow and fast falling by de-arching and arching.
The goal for me was to stay close to Mark after he lets go.
The fast falling was not a problem.
I just arched a lot, which made me drop faster and catch up with Mark.
But, as you can see in the video, de-arching is a different matter.
It took me a while to figure it out and it still looks wobbly.

On our third jump, we practiced turns while keeping at the same level.
I kept drifting away while turning, probably because I was not keeping my eyes on Mark.
I was also flying quite flat. But it was fun and I finished with a nice tracking-away.

During the training I downsized to a smaller canopy, a 210sqft one, which is a bit more responsive
and a bit faster and a bit more fun flying.

We had a few days where we could not jump a lot. Either due to bad weather or a faulty plane.
So, I used my time to practice packing.
I have now passed my packing test and my packing certificate is sent off to be signed by the BPA :).
This means jumping gets a bit cheaper and I don't have to wait for other people to pack my stuff.

There a few things left on my todo list to get my B-license, which I really really want to get before year's end. I have to get at least 23 more jumps in. Do my jump-master training, do at least 5 out of 10 accuracy landings within a 30m radius, ...
So, as long as the weather does not let me down it all looks achievable.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Weekend in Wales

Kym, Sophie, Kate and I decided to spend the May Bank Holiday weekend in Wales.
We left for Swansea on Friday. The place we stayed at for the night was a pub that rented out
rooms. When we got there there was a live band playing and we had to squeeze through the many people with our luggage ... very odd.

The next day we picked up our rental car and headed up the coast.

We took a walk to the Worm's Head and then had some food at the pub there.
Afterwards we went to check into our B&B in Port Eynon.
In the evening we had a lovely diner in a small restaurant near the bay.

On Sunday we took a walk along Rhossili bay and then drove up to Tenby.
The weather was a mix of sunshine and a few little showers.
Fortunatly we were mostly in the car when it did rain.
On our way back we stopped along the coast and sat outside
listening to the waves, drinking pims and enjoying a bit of sunshine.

Before getting back to the B&B we stopped at the Three Cliffs and watched the sun set.

What a sight to end the evening with!

On our last day we took a walk along the cliffs south of Worm's Head.
It was a beautiful day.

Unfortunately we had to return the car and head back home.
I would not have minded spending a few more days in Wales.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Indoor Skydiving at Airkix

Kate got me 10 minutes of indoor skydiving for my birthday
last December, and we finally found the time to do it.
We both took the train to Milton Keynes, Kate
wanted to do some indoor skiing there and I had booked my

It was quite different to jumping out of the plane.
For one, it is not as pretty ...
but you do get to see and feel how you much you move around in the

When jumping out of a plane you don't really have a point of reference
to see if you are drifting sideways or back and forth.
In the windtunnel on the other hand you are surrounded by walls.

I flew 5 times for 2 minutes each.
The first one was for getting used to how it all works
and from there on the instructor gave me a bunch of things to do:
Turning, shifting sideways, which I found quite difficult,
Going backwards and forward and moving up and down.
Then we went on to do diagonal movements, from lower edge to upper opposite edge ...

It was great fun and I learnt a lot.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Snowboarding in Obergurgl

Only a week after we got back from our trip to the Czech republic we took off again to go snowboarding in Obergurgl.
Kate booked us a hotel right next to the slopes in Hochgurgl.
We flew out to Innsbruck on Sunday, checked into our hotel and rented some skis for Kate.

Monday's weather wasn't the best. It was windy and the slopes were a bit icy. It was Kate's first day skiing in about 10 years, but she managed just fine.
We stayed on the blue slopes on the Hochgurgl side of the resort.
It snowed all afternoon and all through the night.

Tuesday was much prettier, the sun was shining for the most part of the day and skiing got much easier for Kate. We went over to the Obergurgl side. I got to practise a few jumps and Kate tried a red run without even knowing.

Wednesday was a bad day again. It was snowing and windy and we could not see a whole lot, but we stayed on the slopes till closing time.
We had a deal with the ski rental place that, if Kate decided to buy some skis after 3 days, we would not have to pay for the rentals. So, in the evening Kate decided to purchased the same kind of skis, she was renting.

Thursday was a fantastic day with lots of sunshine. I could not wait to get out on the untouched snow.
While Kate was getting ready I was out there doing a bit of off piste boarding and went back to the hotel to meet up with Kate.
I had rented some snow blades(very short skis) for the day, which at first were a bit of pain but proved to be a lot of fun. We went over to the Obergurgl side again.
I tried a few jumps and Kate practised going on a few red runs.

Friday was a bad day again. Snowing most of the day and visibility was quite bad. We stayed on the Hochgurgl side. We ended up finishing early because I hurt myself doing a stupid jump. The jump was actually very nice,
just the landing wasn't quite right. I landed on my board on a steep part of the hill, fell on my back sliding downwards. The board caught the snow again and I summersulted head over feet down the hill, landing on my neck and back. I was glad that I wore a helmet and spine protector, checked that I could still feel my toes and was able to turn my head ... We did a couple more runs but my strained back and neck muscles did not approve of it too much and since the weather was pretty bad we decided to jut go back to the hotel.

Saturday was a great day again but also our last. :(
Even though I was still hurting quite a bit we had a fantastic day.
We went all the way up to 3080m (Wurmkogl) which had a fantastic view of all the mountains around us.
Kate's skiing had improved quite a bit in these few days and we enjoyed every minute on the slopes.

After we checked out of the hotel and returned Kate's rented boots we took a bus and train back to Innsbruck.
Had a very nice meal in the old part of the town to finish off this wonderfull day.

Sunday it was raining in Innsbruck, so we visited a museum and stuffed ourselves with Sacher cake and Sacher coffee and took the plane back home in the evening.

I am looking forward to our next winter holiday :)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Cross Country Skiing in the Czech Republic

This is becoming a family tradition.
For the past years we have been going cross country skiing
in the Czech Republic. And so far we have been fortunate to have had plenty or at least sufficient amount of snow... Not this year :(.
The weather forecast had already been bad and we contemplated taking the skis.
We did take them anyways, rather safe than sorry.

So, we took off. Kate and I visited Dirk and Susi in Leipzig and spend a night there before
driving to the Czech Republic. On the way there we also stopped to pay my older sister, Ela, a visit, who was at a dancing competition with her daughters.

Then we got to Horní Blatná and it did not look at all like skiing.
Most of the snow has melted away. Fortunately our host told us that there are a few places on the north side of the mountains left that may have enough snow.
We decided to give it a try, packed our skis and hiking boots(just in case).

The snow was quite slushy but it was still OK to ski on it.
Or even build a snowman ... a tiny one, though.

Sometimes there were patches of no snow and we either had to walk or
venture off track trying to stay on the snow as long as possible
doing zic-zacs around the trees.

The weather was gorgeous. It became so warm, over 20C in the sun that
my sister and I decided to just ski in shorts and t-shirt.

The further we got to the south facing side of the mountain the less snow we had.

Up to a point where there was hardly any left.

The next day the weather got worse, it was very cloudy and it had rained a bit.
We decided to give the skis a try again, but it was pretty clear that that would be the last day
for them.
The following day we tried again, but gave up after just a few minutes and took a walk instead.
As the wether did not improve we went to see the Katerina Springs just north of Cheb on the 4th day.

On the 5th day the sun came out again and we hiked around in the area.
It was very nice though I would have enjoyed it a bit more on skis.

The following day it was cloudy again and it was raining a bit.
We did not want to waste the day and went hiking again.

The day we had to go back home it started snowing again
and it got very very windy.

It was a very enjoyable trip but either there is going to be snow there next year or we will have to choose a different destination.