Interview with a Surfimp
The below comes from a private message exchange I held with Steve (aka “Flyonline” on RCGroups) from New Zealand. He was able to tease out a pretty good bit of my current thinking on the subject of slope aerobatics. I hope this helps elaborate further where I’m coming from in terms of my understanding of the subject, and what motivates me to publish this website. Enjoy! 🙂
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Flyonline: Rather than clutter up your 2nd Annual SlopeAerobatics.com Video Contest thread with other only partially related stuff, I thought I’d send you this link and see if you’d come across it in your web travels. I’m guessing you have, but if not, enjoy.
Surfimp: I’ve read it previously, and find it interesting from an historical perspective, but at the same time find the system rather complicated and, since it seems to focus on doing one figure at a time within a preset space, rather than a routine (whether predetermined or freestyle), feel that it’s rather dated in its approach.
And I question how well a “flatland” approach to aerobatics translates to the slope environment, as I alluded to in my response to your post in the thread.
I’ve given aerobatics competition some amount of thought, not least of which due to its near complete absence from slope soaring today. I feel that, at least for Americans, the appeal of (and therefore interest in participating in) a judged aerobatics contest of any traditional sort is essentially zero.
Basically every sloper I’ve interacted with has expressed deep suspicion of any sort of subjectively-judged “figure skating on the slope” type of thing. They’d rather fly F3F or DS where there is an objective (or at least, more objective) measure of performance.
Anyways, with that said, the video contest idea is a sort of end-run around that whole thing. By forcing participants to produce something that hopefully not only contains top-rate aerobatics flying, but also appeals to the “unwashed masses”, you’ve got the makings of a fairly objective contest in the sense that everyone gets a fair shake, and everyone gets to judge, too. And it can become a team effort, with pilots linking up with talented videographers and editors to make a great finished product. Which is kind of cool from my perspective!
So that’s the direction I went with it. Competition is overall a good thing insofar as it pushes us, and we’ve got this great technology that basically allows us to do a worldwide aerobatics competition and give everyone a chance to fly in the best conditions possible with the glider of their choice. Basically put their best foot forward, so to speak. And be creative, much more so than any static and overly predefined single-site, single-day kind of contest ever could. I feel this is as big or bigger of a challenge than a traditional format contest, and the outcome proves just as conclusively (if not more conclusively) who the best pilot(s) is/are.
That’s how I see it, anyways!
Flyonline: Yes, I’m not sure how you’d be able to keep track of all those scores AND the points off AND the plane I understand you’re point of view on freestyle, I personally much prefer to fly that way myself, winging it so to speak as I fly.
However, if each routine had to include a few, say 3 or 4 maneuvers such as 4 point roll, hammerhead etc. this would give a base on which to judge the piloting skills against each other. I understand that this is “only” a comp for the masses, but if you ever start a competition yourself……
Surfimp: Many people, bless their souls, have rather limited understandings of aerobatics beyond loops & rolls. There’s nothing at all wrong with it, and in fact, rather than have an attitude about it, I embrace it. Far better to make an exciting and compelling video that inspires people to get interested in slope aerobatics than a “technical exposition” filled to the brim with super difficult but super boring (for the “unwashed masses”) flying. Y’know?
I’m not against it in concept, but my “mission” is to popularize slope aerobatics enough that people can actually see & understand the difference between, for example, an aileron roll and a snap roll. I know, sounds obvious, but it really isn’t to a lot of people, at least in the US / UK / Australia / New Zealand. Slope aerobatics knowledge in the “English language” part of the world is still pretty much where it was when Jeff Raskin and Ian Cole (bless their souls ) wrote their treatises on the subject back in the late 80s and early 90s. We’re 10-15 years behind, at a minimum, what’s going on in France. Maybe more.
Could be that the above makes your point, I don’t really know. I think you have to first make aerobatics compelling on a visceral, no-explanation-needed X-Games type of level, and from there you can work on developing the appreciations for and understandings of the more technical stuff. Maybe next year, if things keep on their current trajectory. Or the year after
Flyonline: Maybe I should make a video of my Orca, some huge carving turns and some thrash metal
Surfimp: F’in A dude, it might win! Seriously!
Flyonline: So, hum when are YOU writing a treaty on the subject? I’ve always thought that a limbo/aerobatics/bottle knockdown would be a lot of fun.
Surfimp: Well, there’s the stuff I’ve got on SlopeAerobatics so far, but that’s more introductory as opposed to “opination”. And for that matter, maybe we don’t need “yet another” definition of what slope aerobatics “should be,” rather just encouragement of whatever it is, as well as we imperfectly understand it?
As regards to limbo/aerobatics/bottle knockdown: Now you’re talking my language! The whole aerobatics thing is really just a furtherance to general stunt flying, or “hooliganry at the slope” as I believe it’s referred to in the UK 😉
Flyonline: It’s funny how each country seems to concentrate on one or two disciplines more than the others, e.g. f3J in Australia, TD in the US, F3F in europe. Hopefully you can start a worldwide craze of slopebatics (well, moreso than you have so far with Le fishies)
Surfimp: Yep, in Europe, F3F is popular (my buddy Karras once said that in Spain, they like “F3F, and then more F3F”…), though in France they like these non-scale aerobats like the kind I’m into, and in Germany/Austria/Switzerland they are into gigantic scale aerobatics off aerotow and (to a bit lesser degree from what I can tell) the slope. It’s ironic that here in the US, scale soaring is basically just “TD with a tug” LOL
All I ever really wanted was a Weasel that could fly inverted as well as it did upright, and had a rudder… now look what’s happened!
Flyonline: It’s funny how things turn out isn’t it. If someone had said to me 4 months ago that I’d scratch build a TWF and end up with another I’d have laughed at them. Here I am with 2 now.
It must be nice seeing all those fishies/guppies out there knowing that you’re having a hand in someones fun. Especially something like that as opposed to an f3x/thermal type plane. Le F/G are just “fun” planes. Are there any other planes in the pipework?
Surfimp: I’m very pleased at Le Fish’s success. It turns out the itch I wanted to scratch was something other people have found a real interest in, too. And it’s been good for Jack, as a way to diversify his line and grow with the times.
I can’t take a whole lot of “ego” credit for the Le Fish, because all I really did was take a bunch of prior art and combine it in one plane. The EPP “best practices” building techniques that evolved on RCG along with the inspiration from the French MiniToons and the Voltij, along with my own twist of adding the straight leading edge wing (I have a predilection for forward swept planes). And I guess a good amount of luck, too! Anyways, it really turned out to be a great plane for me, and I’m glad that thanks to Jack a lot of other people get to enjoy it, too.
And ultimately my interest in this kind of fun stunt flying goes back to my passion for the Weasel and my friendship with Michael Richter. He’s all about low stress, high fun, and it’s really rubbed off on how I look at things with respect to this hobby. I have nothing against the F3x or other competitive scenes, but they don’t call to me in the same way that stunt flying does. I guess I’m just a big wuss, afraid to “throw down” with the best, but anyways I stand by my videos as testament to what I can do with a toy airplane, and “let my flying do the talking” in that regard 😉
As for new planes, as long as I am interested in this hobby, I will keep designing planes. Whether they turn into production kits or not is another question, but who knows! If they work well, why not, so long as there is a manufacturer willing to produce them and support them the way Jack does. I certainly have no aspirations to “get in the business” as it’s a ton of hard work and often not so much by way of compensation in return.
Hey, this mini-interview has been a lot of fun! Would it be OK with you if I compiled it and posted it on SlopeAerobatics? You’ve “gotten me to talk” on a lot of subjects at some length, seems like good article material. As a webmaster I’m a total content-slut!
Flyonline: Sure, I’ve always wanted to be famous. If you want anything else just ask.
Surfimp: Thank you, Steve! I’ve really enjoyed this. Now it will be immortalized “forever” on SlopeAerobatics.com 🙂