First up, I’m a relative newbie to paragliding with about a year and a half of experience. So if you have any suggestions hints etc on how to improve this guide I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve gained my knowledge mostly by para-waiting and listening intently to the older wiser ones in the local club who have always been very generous with their knowledge..! So thanks to Nick, Al, Pete, Barry O, Michael(s) and everyone else I’ve missed.

Most people know I like to post a Friday prediction, it’s become a mental game I really enjoy… I find by going public it really forces you to think about it and once its in writing you can’t ‘change your mind’ later. Soooo, please feel free to join in, challenge, agree, tweak..!

So here goes,

Summary of most commonly flown sites

Detailed site information.

SiteIdeal conditionsDynamic / Thermal
Spring HillW 18mphBoth
Lake GeariesE 13mphDynamic
Lake CollectorE 5 to 13mphThermic
Pig Hill EE < 12mphThermic
Pig Hill NN < 12mphThermic

So we can fly in most wind directions, other than a southerly and can fly dynamic and thermal… nice huh.. :D

So back to the point, how do you go about picking if its going to be on and if so where…?

Generally we fly in Canberra blue skies (meaning no clouds) which makes it a little challenging as you can’t simply look at the clouds and get a view of what’s happening up high (ie nice thermal development, wind direction and strength).

Short term predictions…

Check the ACT Forum (Ed: these days use the Facebook group) to see what other people are saying, usually on a Friday people post predictions for the weekend.

ACT overview and forecast for the day from the BoM (Bureau of Meteorology)

If you see light conditions then get excited… if it mentions gusty or fresh then forget it… don’t be tempted by the wind talkers because if you’re in the air when it hits, you’re in real trouble. Light to moderate you need to be careful as conditions can blow out quickly, this usually means 10-15kph in Canberra but often translates to 15-20mph on the launch.

Light and variable can also be exciting as it can mean a great thermic day. The challenge is the wind direction can be moving all over the place making site selection more difficult.

Australia weather map

Learning to read the way the air behaves around highs, lows, fronts etc is really worth doing. Plenty of great websites or grab Dennis Pagen’s book on Weather..

The main thing that affects us in Canberra is wind flows counter clockwise around a high roughly following the isobar lines and the closer the lines the stronger the winds.

[A nice summary of how how to read the maps here(]

ACT region observations by BOM

Brilliant table as it gives you a view of what’s happening in the region. Lets you look for trends and patterns to give an idea of what’s likely to happen in the next few hours.

Westerly, look to Ginni and Thredbo as they are higher and as the higher air mass often drops it will give you a view of what’s coming.

Easterly look to Goulburn and coastal areas… also important to check in the afternoon in summer to see if the sea breeze is coming in.

Predicting a few days ahead..

Australia prognosis map

Again you need to get a handle on reading weather maps, but gives you a hell of a lot of raw information which is great..!

Forecast for the week (expand detail to get wind direction and strength)

The challenge is the model doesn’t scale down well and is often wrong.. but hey it’s a starting point.

Forecast for the week, different heuristics engine and more detailed breakdown of wind speed / direction + skew-t diagrams

This is my favourite free weather site, lots of detail breaking down the wind direction and speed through the day as well as skew-t diagrams giving you a view of the height of the thermals for the day and how strong they are likely to be.

If you want to learn more about reading Skew-T diagrams this will give you a good start.

XCSkies is a great site that crunches all the data and provides in a easy to view format.

Gives you top of thermal lift, thermal strength, wind direction etc etc etc… really is a brilliant site. Trial for 30 days free or approx $50 per year.

General tips.

Particularly in summer watch for the ‘sea breeze’ it often comes in hard and fast and has caught a number of pilots in the air with speeds all of sudden jumping to 40mph..! Check the obs look for it coming in before flying. If in the air look for the wave of clouds (note they don’t always happen) and regularly click the lake talker.

The sea breeze usually takes around 45 minutes from the Lake to hit Spring, but as soon as you hear it.. get down quick. If you check the ‘obs’ its usually around 2 hours from Goulburn.

The day after a cold front has come through is often lump and icky in the air… the second day though is often AWESOME..!

Generally in summer newbies want to get to sites early ie before 10am or later ie after 4pm, the middle of the day can get pretty thermic and best if newer pilots gradually work up to it.

I know its weird, but I often find that the actual wind speed on our launches is forecasted wind speed for Canberra (in kph but read as mph) and then add 50%…. So if it says 10-15kph then it will be 15-22mph. It’s not always correct, but it does appear to be more often than not.

Don’t be put off by light winds as long as it’s coming up the face and thermic we can often fly anyway. In fact it often helps the thermals develop nicely and gives you a much wider choice in terms of which direction to fly. My best flight at Spring was with a slight easterly…. We just waited for a thermal to come up the front and launched and made it to Murrumbateman..!

Lake predicting

Easterly overnight and cloud cover at 5am often means the Lake will be on in the morning. Check the obs, check the talker, sms those desperate enough to get up at 5am and go go go..!

If it’s good cloud cover and under 30mph at Spring but still decent winds as Goulburn and Braidwood it’s likely to be good at the lake…!

If it’s 30mph at Spring but quiet at Goulburn and Braidwood that means when the inversion lifts its likely to go dead or be ugly in the air.

Over 30mph at Spring then the lake is likely to blow out.

Not sure I captured it correctly, but the concept makes some sense.

Any suggestions etc would be very much appreciated..!

[Discussion thread here] (Ed: it’s dead, Jim).

Matt Smith