Flying Outdoor Winos to chase world record at Flugtag 2015

flug design
Rough design of the launch vehicle and wing assembly for the Flying Outdoor Winos entry in Flugtag 2015, Aug. 1, in Portland.

When pigs — and narwhals, beer cans, pterodactyls, pugs and God-knows-whats — decide to fly, the boys and girls of Outdoor Wino will be there to join them.

Mark your calendars for Aug. 1, 2015, when four pushers from the Flying Outdoor Winos launch pilot Alaina Waller into the air above the Willamette River — and hope she and her aero-foil don’t drop like a stone.

Thousands of spectators are sure to be on hand for the 2015 edition of Red Bull’s Flugtag event. It all goes up — and down — at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, near the Riverplace development.

“We’re going for flight distance over creativity,” says Waller, Naked’s assistant winemaker.

Waller got Naked Winery — and its Outdoor Wino brand — interested in entering when she learned last year that Flugtag was returning to Portland after previous visits in 2004 and 2008.

She posed the idea of an Outdoor Wino entry, and as befits the Naked ethos, a team of fun-loving, adventurous, outdoorsy thrill-seekers quickly coalesced.

Club Naked colleagues Lara Friesen and Chris Garvey recruited warehouse hero Cale Rice and winery friend Asit Rathod to make the dream come true.

Garvey, who manages club activities out of our McMinnville store, has been leading construction efforts.

“It’s being built all over, in Portland, McMinnville, we work on it where we can,” Garvey says.

He offered a high-five to Jason Reed, who works next to the McMinnville tasting room at Oregon Stationers, for letting Outdoor Wino’s team share tools and a cooperative woodworking space.

Each of the 45 Flugtag teams — selected from over 500 entries — strives for a mix of creativity, flight distance and showmanship. Judges select winners based on all three factors.

Waller is hoping to go the distance. Four costumed team members push a cart bearing the glider and pilot off the lip of a platform 28 feet above the water. The goal is for the glider to glide. The best effort ever, by the Chicken Whisperers in 2013, landed 258 feet from launch.

“We can always shoot for 259,” Waller says. “I just don’t want to nose dive.”

She’ll only get one chance to find out. Because these are craft designed to land on the forgiving surface of water, practice flights aren’t logical or advisable.

Take a look at the blooper reel, and you can see why. More than a few entrants collapse at the base of the launch platform.

Because of the inherent risks, the event and its organizers put a premium on safety.

“There’s so much risk management,” Waller says. “They inspect all the designs, and if you nose dive, the pilot has to be able to push themselves away.”

Garvey is confident that the Outdoor Wino entry will prevail. He’s done his homework.

“It’s an air foil patterned after a design that is supposed to give low speed and high loft,” Garvey says. “I read everything I could on designing wings, and watched untold hours of video. No shit, I read so much I feel like I could build an airplane right now.”

He and Rathod consulted people who have actual aeronautical engineering talent.

“Everybody we have talked to has offered small tweaks,” Garvey says.

The rules limit flying rigs to 28 feet wide, 20 feet long, 10 feet high and no more than 400 pounds with the pilot included.

Waller is going to wear a wine bottle costume, and the Outdoor Wino pushers will wear grape cluster costumes prepared by Club Naked member Melissa Dye.

Waller says each team gets 30 seconds to perform a skit — against the backdrop of Rhymefest singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” — then 30 seconds to launch its aircraft.

“I can’t be nervous,” Waller says. “I think they’ll have enough energy drink on hand to keep me from being nervous.”

Really? Event managers allow no drinking by competitors before launch, but when it comes to blunting nerves, a can of Red Bull is the last thing we reach for, and Outdoor Vino the first.

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If  you want to follow the progress of the Outdoor Wino entry, check out the photo trail on its Facebook page.

Love of water sports brings photog Myrdal to Oregon, Mt. Hood and Naked Winery’s walls

Grant Myrdal and some of the photographs on show at the Naked Winery tasting room in Hood River.
Grant Myrdal and some of the photographs on show at the Naked Winery tasting room in Hood River.

If you find yourself staring at the gorgeous photography on the walls of the Naked Winery tasting room in Hood River, and find yourself wondering how someone decides to become a surf photographer, let alone make a living at it, here’s how Grant Myrdal carved his path to paradise.

Born and reared in South Africa, Myrdal spent much of his youth surfing the famous Jeffreys Bay break.

Life isn’t all about fun, however, and when reality called, Myrdal completed a master’s degree in urban planning, and actually held down a desk doing that work for just shy of five years.

“When I was 26, my wife Michal and I met,” Myrdal recalls. “I always wanted to follow the ‘Endless Summer,’ get on the road and go surfing around the world. My plan was to do that for two years, then come back to my urban planning job.

“It never happened.”

The “coming back” part, that is. The trip took them in directions they’d never imagined.

They spent six years traveling from beach to beach, reloading the bank account just enough when the money ran out.

Michal loves horses, and landed a steedy gig in New York. It became their base for nine years, while they waited for residency permits in the heightened security environment post-9/11.

“But that kick-started my photography,” Myrdal says.

He had learned to snowboard in Utah, loved photography, and figured he could parlay those passions with his love of surfing to build a business. He couldn’t leave the country, but he could travel to Hawaii, which he did, bobbing in the waves as the world’s best performed for his lens.

After 12 years of bouncing back and forth between New York and Hawaii, Myrdal secured a green card.

“I had an affinity for the West Coast, and I wanted to move back here, but I didn’t want to go back to California — it is so crowded,” Myrdal recalls.

“A friend of my wife was living in Bend. She was a horse person, too. She knew I would love the mountains. So we bit the bullet and moved there without having visited Oregon before.”

Three years after their 2005 move, Myrdal got an invitation to photograph a family reunion on Mt. Hood. As it happens, the family included Matthew Drake, CEO of Mt. Hood Meadows, who appreciated Myrdal’s work and enlisted him to provide on-slope photo services during ski season.

Six years on, Myrdal’s snow photography has grown, complement the last three summers by a focus on wind sports in and around Hood River.

“You get to meet everyone,” he says of his slope-side imaging. “I just love it. Getting down to the river reminds me of all the shiny waters, the boards, the speed from my surfing days. I actually love shooting all that stuff on the river.”

Surfing itself has taken a bit of a back seat, as other activities have drawn Myrdal’s focus. He still gets down to the coast in the fall, when bigger surf hits the West Coast, but when winter waves hit Hawaii, he’s up in the Mt. Hood snow.

Myrdal says photography gives him a thrill almost the equal of his favorite thrill sports.

“I love shooting the stuff; it’s very exciting,” he says. “It’s almost as exciting as doing it yourself. I get sucked into it through the lens. I get such a thrill out of shooting.”

Myrdal loves the direction life has taken him and his wife.

“My wife has started a tack shop,” he says. “She has five horses. Most are rescues. She  takes them in, gives them a lot of love for a year, then tries to find them a good home.”

He loves the casual friendliness of Oregonians, too.

“Especially coming from New York,” he says. “I’m happy.”

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Myrdal’s work will be on display at the Naked Winery tasting room in Hood River through the end of August.

At a moment of pain and loss, a tasting room server’s humanity speaks volumes

When Annie Nelson and her husband, Earl, recently took a break from camp hosting duties at Rooster Rock State Park, they stopped at Naked Winery’s tasting room in Hood River. As she was enjoying Naked’s wines, Annie’s phone rang — with bad news. Our Tale Shaker met the couple by coincidence on a recent camping trip, where Annie shared her experience and appreciation for tasting room server Wes Heustess.