Steve Ham

Photo of Steve Ham

Steve Ham (born Bristol 1963) first flew a hang glider in 1981 with Ken Salisbury's school near Folkestone whilst at college (Univ. London QMC. BSc in Zoology and Comparative Physiology). After graduation he went to Spain for two years, working in Vitoria and Pamplona. After returning to the UK any serious career path was soon ruined by his growing obsession with hang gliding.

In 1991 he 'discovered' Piedrahita, then largely unrecognised as a flying site, and began his crusade to put the area on the worldwide map of classic sites. During the 1990s he organised and directed some of the most memorable and successful competition events of the decade, including four Paragliding World Cups, the FAI European Championships, the Hang Gliding World series, and multiple national events for Spain, the UK and the Nordic countries. See the section on the history of free flight in the Piedrahita area.

During this time Piedrahita began to be recognised as one of the best XC destinations in the World. Steve personally achieved the Spanish paragliding national record on 4 separate occasions, the third time in 1993 and gaining the European record. His fourth record in 2004 of 245km still remains the best distance from Peña Negra take off.

Although he makes only infrequent trips to the UK, he is often blessed with fantastic XC conditions when there. He held the UK open distance for nearly 10 years with his flight of 175km from the Long Mynd during the UK Paragliding Nationals in 1995. In 2004 he broke site record for Frocester of 168km, and at that time also the 2nd longest flight in the UK after his own record. In 2007, on a trip of just 6 days in August he managed sufficient distances to put him in 14th place in the overall UK XC league.

Steve's personal competition career spans nearly 20 years, with numerous selections in the British team. The first in 1990, and latest in 2007 for the World Paragliding Championships Australia. He was also the British Team Leader in the Spanish World Championships in 2001 and in 1997 (Team Silver and individual Gold by John Pendry).

His recent competition wins are the British Championships (Serial Class 2007, 2006 and Open Class 2002), and the 2006 Pre World Championships in Australia (Serial Class). Outside the UK nationals, he also won the Australian Nationals in 2006 (Serial), the New Zealand Nationals in 2003 and the Spanish Nationals in 2001 (Serial). For the last 6 years he has rarely been out of the top 50 in the FAI World ranking, with a peak of 2nd place in 2004.

Steve has achieved paraglider instructor rating in Britain and Spain, and is tandem rated in British, Spanish and New Zealand associations. He is advanced pilot rated in paragliders and hang gliders (BHPA). In 1996 he received the Diploma of Honour from the Spanish Flying Association for his services and dedication to free flying in Spain.

Puri Almansa Arribas

Photo of Puri Almansa Arribas

With over 17 years of flying experience, Puri was amongst the first to fly the Piedrahita sites. As a member of the Spanish paragliding team she has flown in both the World and European championships events. Puri was the ladies Spanish champion in 1998, and was amongst the top ten overall ranked Spanish pilots in 1997. A licensed instructor, she has been a key member in all the important international events held in Piedrahita. She is also a FAI witness for record certification.

Puri was born in the nearby University town of Salamanca, where she graduated in Biology. She worked for a while in a Marine Biology Laboratory in the Isle of Man and more recently has done some work for the European Environment Commission researching the quality of environmental impact studies. She is completely fluent in English and Spanish

She has spent the last 13 years exploring every corner of this region, both from the air and on land, and knows it's wildlife very well. On non flyable days, she is keen to take people on walking trips to places of interest and beauty in the mountains or nearby towns. She organises walking holidays during the spring and autumn, outside the flying season.

When Steve and Puri started a family in 2001, she decided to dedicate most of her time to raising the children and running the business, however, she still found time to fly. Most recently she has achieved her gliding pilot licence and is now a keen sailplane pilot, escaping to the airfield whenever the chance arises.

She is the contact for the final payments, invoicing and general administration, and your cook for one of the nights during your stay. She is also the extra driver when a second van is needed.