Do you know what a paraglider is? It is perhaps the best invention of the past one thousand years - a cross between a hang glider and a parachute. It is somewhat of the best of both worlds - it packs into a large backpack, but when unpacked and put into the wind takes shape. Unlike a hang glider you don't need a large hill or cliff to take off - the wind is enough to generate lift.
If this is half as exciting to you as it was to me, you're already on ebay trying to buy your own paraglider. When I heard about them, my friend Austin and I immediately picked one off ebay and bought it. Normally they're very expensive, but ours was reasonably priced. We didn't know why at the time, but it turns out it's because it's a competition glider. That means that everything is sacrificed for the sake of speed including safety, maneuverability, and ease of use.
I posted to some newsgroups asking for advice, but no one would give me any useful information. They all insisted that I had to take lessons or would likely kill myself. Austin bought a book about paragliding that explained some of the basics and reiterated the warning that no one should attempt to paraglide without instruction.
When the paraglider came, there was no way we were going to let something like complete lack of skill stop us. At least I wasn't - Austin sensibly declined to fly in it without lessons. The book warned not to attempt to glide in winds over 14mph. I checked the weather report and decided that 23mph was close enough. We headed towards the local middle school's soccer field.
The paraglider was alot more complicated than we thought. It has hundreds of feet of lines connecting the harness to the wing. Even the harness itself was impossible to figure out. It appeared to be more of a chair than a harness. Austin and another friend, Matt, worked on unraveling the lines and wing while I tried to figure out how to attach myself to the seat-harness.
All of a sudden the wind gusted and began to inflate the wing.
Before we knew what was going on 3/4 of the wing was inflated and was whipped into the air. One corner of it was still tangled and wouldn't inflate, so the wing didnt form the right shape. In it's deformed state, it lifted me off the ground.
Oh - did I mention that I was wearing flip flops, a t-shirt, and shorts?
Because of it's awkward shape, the paraglider came crashing down in front of me and lurched forward. I fell back down and began to be pulled across the field. Austin and Matt ran after the wing and jumped on it, finally managing to deflate it.
Unfortunately I had sprained my ankle and broken at least one toe. For about a week I could barely walk.
You might think I've learned my lesson, but after writing this I am inspired to try again. When I saw the rattlesnake I also discovered a HUGE field that will be perfect for this. I had pictures of this original incident, but I can't find them for the life of me, so stay tuned for a video of me trying again.