Flugtag follies

Our entourage of friends and coworkers then wormed our way through the obnoxious, all ages crowd — who brings newborns to Flugtag? — and thanks to our group largely consisting of young women, were able to land last-minute, front row, waterfront seats behind a concession tent.

A bunch of David Hasselhoff-worshiping gym and sun freaks dressed as lifeguards dubbed Tampa Baywatch kicked things off around 1 p.m. They attached a glider to the top of their contraption and, with a person inside, it sailed 100 feet. Impressive, I thought. But then flying machine after flying machine dropped straight down into the diarrhea-colored waters.

I did some research. Flying 100 feet is not so impressive. The winner in Nashville last year traveled 155 feet. Even more disconcerting was learning that there were actual engineering students who entered contraptions that fell off the pier like bovines being pushed off a cliff.

“We built it a little too nose-heavy,” reads a quote in the this morning's Times. It's attributed to a Max Hirsh of DeLand’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The University of Florida and Florida State also had their engineering students present, only to be bested by Team Baywatch. “His zealous teammates finished their skit and began to push the aircraft,” reads the explanation as to why the UF team tanked. “They forgot that [John] Bornberg needed a few seconds to remove bungee cords fastening the glider to the rest of the gear.” This says a lot about why NASA hasn’t accomplished anything substantial in my lifetime.

CL’s Flying Cuban Sandwich was the third contestant of the day and fell apart before it even hit the water. But that should be expected from an alt-weekly newspaper's team. Especially one featuring a “world traveling bootlegger,” an “honorary Loafer based on her love of drinking and SOG cred,” and a woman “cool enough to party with Creed on their tour bus.”

It took what felt like about a half-hour in between each liftoff. We left when our booze supply ended, which occurred right when the concession stand we were practically sitting in ran out of beer. We didn't miss much.  Baywatch won.

I have yet to speak to London since she braved life and limb for a cheap publicity stunt but did see her being pulled out of the dark waters and wave to us, so, y’know, she survived. But who knows about the whole brain damage thing. I’ll have to question her at the office Monday. And question my own sanity for attending such an event.


Cross-posted from TampaCalling.com.

I’ve attended some lame shit over the years. Poorly planned house parties, disastrous dates, a live sex show in the French Quarter that didn’t feature any actual fucking. But few events have struck me as silly as the Red Bull Flugtag spectacle that took place Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center.

By this point, I’m sure you heard about it. Thirty-six teams built would-be flying machines and ran them off a 30-foot high pier into the notoriously dirty ass Hillsborough River. One or more person piloted the aircraft  and took the plunge. Teammates typically jumped in the brown water after their apparatus for shits and giggles. I stood in the sun, cooking, cringing and losing faith in humanity, myself included.

I kept thinking of that old parental saying about if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you? In Tampa, apparently that’s the case. Organizers expected a crowd of 50,000 to witness people place themselves in a flimsy contraption and then be willingly hurled into a body of water deemed not fit for swimming. More than 100,000 suckers, myself included, attended.

One of those participants was my coworker, London, the woman pictured working on building an aircraft out of newspaper. Good gawd. Creative Loafing entered the competition as the Bread Winners. Countless hours went into building what they billed as the Flying Cuban Sandwich. “We are closing in on the big day,” reads a message from “The Captain” posted on the Bread Winners’ website July 14. “We still have some work to do in order to make everything originally envisioned a reality, but in another evening we should be all but done.

“The pilot [London] and I spent another night getting some finishing details knocked out after work with a couple of cold beers. We had a mock assembly of our flying Cuban and it was quite a site to behold.”

The damn thing didn’t even have wings. Well, kinda, but they were about as wide as oars. From where I was perched Saturday afternoon it looked like a giant coffin and had me seriously worried that London would not emerge from it, or if she did it would be with some kinda severe spinal or brain injury. Or with a limb missing.

“You know it’s not too late to back out,” I told her about 20 minutes before she took the fall.

“I can’t,” she said, more than a hint of fear in her voice.

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