Paragliding Site Guides > Mussel Rock > Blow Back
Why it’s Dangerous
On days when the wind is strong enough to blow you back at Mussel Rock, there will be a layer of turbulence extending 100 or more feet up from the surface. As you are pushed behind the cliffs and out of the lift band you’ll be forced to descend through this turbulent layer. Your glider is likely to take deflation close to the ground, leaving you little altitude to recover. In addition, there is the danger of landing in power lines, the roof of a house or in traffic. Many pilots have ended up in the hospital after being blown back at Mussel Rock.
How to avoid it
Prior to flight
Mussel Rock has its own microclimate and learning to read the weather is critical to avoid being blown back. There’s often a strong wind gradient present and it’s not uncommon for it to be blowing 10mph or less at launch while the wind at the top of the cliffs is blowing over 20mph. If you want to avoid being blown back there are a few simple check you should add to you preflight. Regardless of what the wind on launch feels like:
Don’t fly if the wind at the SF buoy, Sharp Park or Funston meters are close to or gusting over 20mph.
Don’t fly if there are white caps visible from the shore.
It should also go without saying that you should always be flying with a speed system attached, properly adjusted and that you know how to use it.
On strong wind days, stay out on the front edge of the lift band. You can locate the front edge by fly away from the cliffs until you start descending, as soon as you do turn back into the lift, and you will be positioned on the front of the lift band. When the wind is strong, this may be hundreds and or even thousands of feet out over the ocean!
While flying Mussel Rock, monitoring your crab angle should become second nature. As the wind speed increases, you will have to crab more into the wind and your ground speed will decrease. If your crab angle is within 20° of the wind direction, strongly consider landing.
What to do if you’re getting blown back
If you find you have no forward penetration or even worse are drifting slowly backwards, stay calm but react quickly. If you are at least 200ft in front of the top of the cliffs, big ears and full speed bar while pointing your glider directly away from the ridge is your best chance to avoid being blown back. If you are already directly above or behind the top of the cliffs, do not use big ears, doing so will slow your glider down, just use speed bar and point directly away from the cliffs.