been 30 years since John Theoret first soared through the air on a hang
glider, and the 52-year-old still gets high off the sport's adrenaline
as ecstatic about hang gliding as I was the very first day I left the
ground," said Theoret, who was born and raised in Prince Albert. "The
rush has not worn off. I'm going to keep doing this until I physically
or mentally can't."
And, if the results of the Lumby Air Days races are any indication,
there's plenty of wind left in Theoret's sails.
placed first in the king post hang gliders' division of the
competition, which was held in mid-June at Freedom Flight Park in
than 80 hang glider and paraglider pilots from across the globe landed
in Lumby for the races.
in Theoret's division used a GPS device to navigate two triangular
courses, which combine to cover 80 kilometres of airspace, at altitudes
between 5,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level. The Prince Albert
product finished with a time under three hours.
He won $300 for his efforts in the air, and $50 for touching down
within 25 feet of a designated landing area.
as the cliché goes, he wasn't in it for the money.
love for hang gliding was born when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was in the
early stages of his first term as Canada's prime minister.
when you're about 12 years old and you had those dreams of flying?"
Theoret asked. "I saw a hang glider on TV and thought to myself,
'That's it, that's the vehicle that will fulfil the dream."
Ten years later, in 1979, the wide-eyed 20-something caught his first
live glimpse of hang gliders in action above Grouse Mountain in B.C.
1980, Theoret was taking lessons in Regina.
remember the first time my feet left the ground - I was hooked,"
Theoret recalled of his maiden hang gliding voyage. "It's pure flying."
sport has taken Theoret to hang-gliding havens across North America. He
has flying buddies all over the continent.
meet a new person in the States, they find out you're a hang glider
pilot, you find out they're a hang glider pilot, within about half an
hour they'll say, 'Here's the keys to my house, lock up when you're
done,' " Theoret said.
"There's a very close-knit thing about hang gliders. Something we
share, it's very special. Somehow it builds quick friendships, very
he isn't handed the keys to a hang-gliding pals' homestead, he beds in
his trusty Ford Ranger.
works great inside the canopy," he said. "You're away from the
elements, and away from the bears."
Lumby Air Races champion may have avoided any dangerous encounters with
bears, but he has become acquainted with plenty of non-human life
throughout his aeronautical travels.
it or not, when (birds) see us circling, they come over to us," he
said. "We're marking lift for them."
"lift" Theoret refers to usually results from thermal updrafts - caused
by the sun heating the earth, and warm air rising from the ground - or
ridge lift, which occurs when wind is deflected up off of the base of a
mountain, cliff, or hill.
For those wondering what a Saskatchewan hang glider pilot leaps from to
begin his flight - in lieu of large mountains and cliffs - the answer
is simple: nothing.
usually gets airborne by standing on the back of a vehicle, which is
attached by rope to his harness; the hang glider's sails are lifted
into the air as the truck accelerates to about 35 m.p.h. The pilot then
disconnects himself from the rope.
Take-off can also be accomplished the old-fashioned way.
pilot just runs down a slope (into the wind) and takes off when the air
speed reaches 15 to 20 m.p.h.," according to the United States Hang
Gliding and Paragliding Association's website.
likes to spend about two hours in the air before heading back down to
earth. His longest flight ever was a five-hour, 98-kilometre haul.
controlled Cessna and ultralight aircrafts since 1980, when he earned
his pilot's licence.
he prefers to be in the air with nothing but his Wills Wing U2 hang
in a seat, after a while, it's like driving a car," he said. "With hang
gliding, your body's involved."
three-year stint hauling sand and concrete by truck in northern
Canadian oil patches has allowed Theoret about two years of financial
spend most of his free time in the sky.
the closest thing to flying like a bird you'll ever get," he said.