Unfortunately we don't hear too much about the american acro scene and happenings. Somehow the big distance also makes it difficult to follow up with the europe-based scene, however there are a bunch of really skilled and talented pilots over there. Nova Dasalla is one of them and as a competition newcomer a few years ago we could get to know this symphatic guy who now managed to perform his nation's first Infinity Tumbling!
Pál: Nova, please tell me a bit about your flying career, when did you start flying and how did you get into the acro scene?
Nova: I have been flying since 2005 and knew right from the beginning that I'd get into acro. I blame the acro part of the movie "Never Ending Thermal" for changing my life! But it wasn't until 2007 that I really got into acro, spending a lot of time and money on training
over the water. I tried to qualify for Vertigo in 2007, but didn't pass the safety selection flight. I was disappointed but I obviously wasn't ready, which motivated me to come back in 2008. That year, I spent 4 months in Europe and did my first competition at the Nordic CC acro challenge in Gjovik, Norway. Then I competed in 2 APWC events: Paranoia Acrobatixx & Acroaria. That year I was #30 in the world and #1 in the US. In 2009, I got to represent the US at the World Air Games in Torino, Italy but that was it. Because I missed Paranoia and some other comps, my APWC ranking went down and I dropped to #3 in the US behind Anthony and Tim Green who actually did synchro in a few comps that summer.
Where do you live and fly?
The site where I do most of my flying and training is called Mussel Rock or "The Dumps" which is in Pacifica, CA just south of San Francisco, where I live. It's not the best place to train acro since I can only get - on good days! - about 600ft (200m) above the ground, but I’ve been able to progress nicely despite its limitations. I guess it’s slightly better than what you guys had in Hungary, right? I only practice my helicos and helico combos there which has really made them very precise . . . . any mistakes would not be good!
Unfortunately that mistake happened and you had a really bad accident...Could you tell what happened with you in the past 10 months?
My accident happened last September, not at Mussel Rock, but at Point of the Mountain, Utah. I was doing a misty-to-helico, a trick I've done many times. But, I made the one mistake you shouldn't do and caused me to get many riser twists and auto-rotate. I threw my rescue but I was too close to the mountain and hit right when it started to inflate. I ended up in the hospital for a month and a half with 2 broken legs, back, and left shoulder. Luckily, I hit my legs first or else I wouldn't be here right now. Alex and I had almost the same exact accident, but sadly, I don't think his legs hit first. I've dedicated my video to him. RIP mi hermano . . . .
My recovery has been long and difficult. At first, I wasn't even thinking about how soon I could fly again. I was more focused on just being "normal" so I started working in mid-January, focused on my physical therapy, and rested a lot. But, always in the back of my mind, there was no doubt I'd fly again because I felt there was more I had to do in acro. Luckily, the hardest parts of my recovery happened in the off-season!
When could you get back into the air?
Against my back surgeon's advice who said he didn't want me doing any "hanggliding" until September, I flew for the first time in mid-March, as I was sick-and-tired of treating my body like a fragile eggshell. I did a few big wingovers that day and man . . . . my heart was pounding! I remember saying, "The last time I saw my wing below me like that . . . . I hit a mountain right after!" But, it wasn't until I did some towing a month later that everything came back. On my very first tow, I did a few, perfect 2-3 turn tumbles - it was a great feeling because I knew I was back in the game. While I'm obviously more careful since the accident, those days towing brought me right back to where I was before the accident . . . . and I think even better!
Didn't you have problems with getting into acro again, I mean not being used to it or having pain or anything?
On my 2nd flight at Mussel Rock, I tried to make some helicos to the right that we were so-so – any oscillation or deflation made my heart pound and I had to stop the maneuver very quickly. After a few of these, I was concerned that I had lost all confidence in myself and would never do acro at the level I was used to. But, going towing and getting over the water in April changed all that – I broke through my fear and trusted myself again. Physically, the injury that gives me some trouble is my left shoulder as I can’t pull super hard on the brakes to do left side Mistys or SAT-helico, although I think I can do the Rhythmic. Also, I can’t run very fast so getting towed up can be an adventure! But seriously, the hardest part of flying at the moment is everything before and after – walking to launch, packing the glider, then picking up the equipment and putting it on my back – I have to really use my core! Maybe I’ll have 6-pack abs soon? ; )
Nice, so recently you could get back into flying with full swing!
Yeah, I feel I’m right back where I was a year ago. I’m doing my usual training at Mussel Rock which typically consists of all the helico combos, my favorite tricks to do. More importantly, that’s all I have height for! The only time I can train the dynamic stuff is when I go towing which isn’t very often. There’s no mountain site nearby where I can get enough height to train Infinite or Rhythmic safely. I think this is why it’s taken me some time to make the Infinite! But given what I have to work with, I’m happy with my progress in acro as I feel I’m pretty competitive with the Euro guys now.
Since my confidence was back, I really wanted to train hard for the APWCs and, of course, make the Infinite Tumble, but the FLX2 I had since last year was losing energy and I hadn’t even changed the original lines! It was going to take some time for them to get me a new glider and I really needed to train hard. In addition, Ozone wasn’t innovating in acro, instead putting all their focus on their XC wings which makes a lot of sense as they are doing very well in that area. I’m very thankful to have flown with them the last 2 years and was very proud to fly their wings.
So, the manufacturer I’m flying with now is U-Turn, who has, from the very beginning, been the innovators in acro. Before making the Infinite with the Thriller 18, I had only flown it a few times before, only making some helicos at Mussel Rock. I told people before I went to the WOBL comp (“Wings Over Bear Lake” in Utah) that if I couldn’t make the Infinite with this wing, then I wasn’t ready and really didn’t have the skills to do it. Luckily on my 3rd tow, after having made some trimmer adjustments and adding more energy to the entry, it worked! But, I'm sure it wasn't my technique - the Thriller is such a great wing that it makes some maneuvers easier to realize.
You say that you got the first 'true' american infinity, why that?
I say this because, in speaking with and hanging out with all the top guys the last few years who have done it, the magic “number” to proclaim having done the Infinite is at least 15-20 turns, so that has been my goal since 2009. That year, I was the first American to perform and capture on video a “competition” one of 6 turns (entry + 5 turns) and then 7 turns (lost that footage) but didn’t say I had done the Infinite Tumble. A week later, Anthony Green posted a video entitled “1st Infinite Tumble by an American!!!” but it was cut from different videos to make it look like he had done 7 – 8 turns. (I know this for a fact because he and I traded emails about it.) I gave him a lot of crap because the video was complete BS and when I asked him why he said he did it when he really didn’t, his response was, “It’s good enough for the public.” Naturally, I asked him to post the video on justACRO so the real acro community could judge it but, to this day, I don’t think he ever has. He said he had done 12 turns, but doesn’t have it on video. Strange how that’s usually the case, isn’t it?
I need to say that I had no problem if Anthony or any other American did the Infinite before me (there are some in the US who say they have), but let’s get it on video, put it on justACRO and have our acro peers judge - I’d be the first to say, “Chapeau!” if you did! I know our community is small so making false claims shouldn’t be a big deal, but the level is very high right now, so saying that you’ve done this-or-that when you really haven’t is just weak. Make it easy for everyone and REALLY do it, then show us the video so we can see it . . . . it’s really that simple!
So how many turns did you perform?
I did the entry + 15 turns. When I watch the video, I get frustrated because I could’ve done many more, but I mis-read the tip collapse and thought the wing had lost energy. The Thriller is such a great wing that it would’ve easily kept going and I can't wait to get over the water again to practice, practice, practice!
What are your plans for this season and for the future?
Even though I've done the Infinite, I know that my technique needs a lot of work so I'm always going over the video I took with the GoPro HD. There's always room for improvement and a camera is the best teaching tool. I want to work especially on the Rhythmic SAT and get proficient with all the helico combos on my left side. I love to train acro and always want to continually improve.
I think I can be a threat to finish high in the comps so my goal is to finish at least in the top-10 in the APWCs this year. I’m not the youngest guy on the AcroTour so I don’t know how long I’ll keep pushing the limits for competition, but one of my dreams is to represent the US in the 2nd Worlds, but it got cancelled (again) this year. So, I guess I’ll need to keep pushing it and training hard until 2012!
It is really nice to have you "back in the game" with full swing Nova, congratulations and I wish you great and safe training, see you in Austria soon!!!
Watch Nova's videos:
The "proof" - uncut video of the first Infinity
A small video from the brakethrough
Training run: Rythmic to Infinity