Ozone pilot Louis Tapper wins XC Paragliding Championship
Ozone pilot Louis Tapper has won the Cross Country Paragliding Championship for the 2018/19 season on his favourite performance wings, the Enzo 3 and Zeno.
Modestly taking out the win with over 50 points more than second place and the best NZ flight of the season (a 156km FAI triangle in mid-December), Tapper says it's the process of progression that has been the most fun part for him, not the trophy.
With the cross country season (November to February) not proving too flash on the weather front, Tapper insists it's the planning and preparation that went into his flying this season that was key to his success, and thinks is key for any other gliders looking to fly big or deep in New Zealand.
Issy, new on the Ozone team had a chat with Louis about his flying this season, and asked him about how he's progressed as a glider to now be competing nationally with the Enzo 3. Have a read of what he had to say below...
Issy: What wing/s are you using at the moment and (because I'm new to this whole paragliding game) what kind of flying are they used for?
Louis: The Zeno & Enzo 3. I've been mix and matching, ones a full competition wing and the other is less aspect ratio (Zeno), which is not as skinny and long as the Enzo 3.
I: Ok, can you tell us a bit more about the difference between these wings and how you've progressed with them? And what do you mean when you say aspect ratio?
L: The biggest jumps I have made between wings has always been to do with aspect ratio, which is how skinny and long it is, rather than the category of the wing. More aspect means more feedback and workload. When I first started flying, it was with an En D category, a competition wing. The jump between my first D category wing and the Zeno was not much at all, an easy transition. The jump between the En C (high end performance wing) and the LM 5 (D) was a bigger step because I was jumping a bigger aspect ratio which means more feedback. Most of the En D and two-liners are around the 6.9 aspect. Once I made that jump (from low 6 to 6.9) it was an easy move between them. With every jump made I’ve taken it super slow within the first 20 hrs. The first 5-10 hours are critical and then it’s just refinement after that. Part of taking it slow means ground handling, and taking it to coastal soaring situations where the air is smooth and laminar.
Most people that have tried my Zeno are surprised how solid and easy it is to fly. Compared to the first generation of 2-liners, they're much more solid than they used to be.
For most situations the Zeno is brilliant performance with a relatively good safety margin for the D/CCC category. At a certain point if you want to become more competitive at an international level the Enzo 3 is my go to, there's more aspect ratio on it (7.5), which means more feedback. The centre of the wing is still solid but you certainly notice more feedback in the tips compared to the Zeno. While the raw numbers like climb and glide are similar between the Zeno and Enzo 3, the ability of the Enzo 3 to sniff and feel the air is far superior. If you’re going to compete at top level at PWC or worlds level then its essential you compete on the best performance wing, which in my opinion is the Enzo 3. I compete a lot in Australia which has been key to my progression because they are flying faster and doing more racing style of flying. The Australian flying spots are much flatter land there than what we’re used to in NZL. The first 30 in Aussie competitions, competitors are all on 2 liners which is a must have tool if you want to be competitive. I think it will be interesting to see how the recently released Mantra 7 compares to the Zeno in terms of performance, as it's a 3 liner.
For many pilots, particular flying under 100hrs, the En B category is very competitive with more passive safety.
I: Wow, some great insight there! Thanks! So I understand now how important it is to use the right wing to match your level of flying. But what do you think is the most important skill to help perfect your paragliding?
L: We tend to focus on the technical elements of flying often but the biggest predictor of how well you’re going to do is related to flying more. To be able to fly more you need to structure your environment right. Ability to fly regularly in good areas, flexible job, having good mentors and pilots around is key. We often make excuses as to why we can’t fly but what needs to happen is a focus on the inhibitors, what the hard constraints are and also things that we can have influence over changing, to allow more flying.
The 7 time Aus champion has a full time job as well as kids to look after, yet manages to still fly 200 hours a year. He has got the ideal environment at his doorstep, but he also makes the time to fly out of his busy schedule. This season I have personally managed to do over 300 hours since June.
I: Good to know! So even someone completely new to the sport like me can do it if I put the time in. Coming back to your Championship win, what do you think was key to your success in this?
L: Planning & preparation most definitely. During some of my flights throughout the season the skills caught up with the ideas that were put in place over 5 years ago.
I: Can you tell us more about your best flight of the season? Where did you fly from/to and how long was the flight?
L: My biggest scoring flight of the season was a 156km triangle that started at Treble Cone, down to Cardrona across to the Dart, up towards Makarora and back to Treble Cone. I really like triangles as they are more technical, require more planning, less retrieve time and require solid understanding of the weather. There is little in the way of roads and cellphone reception along this route, but it is spectacular with world class scenery. This season I have also had my longest flight at 9 hours trying unsuccessfully to close a 185km triangle. I had a subsequent 5 hour walk out with 25kg of gear and a night spent camping in a digger. It's the biggest walkout in 7 years so not so bad.
I: Sounds exhausting! But flying around Treble Cone must be incredible. One more question, what are your top tips for fellow/aspiring Paragliders in NZL?
L: Respect the progression. When you first come out of school with a PG 2 qualification, recognise it's only a quarter of what you need to know to fly safely in the back country. To get good in paragliding it's a 10-15 year game minimum. I’m at year 7 and still learning lots. Take it slow and build on skills, and don’t jump steps!
Not just a PG champion, Louis is also an adventure Kitesurfer. When I say adventure, he completed the worlds longest kitesurfing journey back in 2011, sailing 2000km up the coast of Brazil and also kite surfed 260km from Auckland to the Bay of Islands in yachting’s 2009 Coastal Classic.
He certainly knows how to send it! Thanks Louis!