Paragliding takes you away…
This last weekend I went paragliding with Steven Wilson of PARAFLY Paragliding and what an absolutely amazing experience it was!
Steven piqued my curiosity about paragliding earlier in the year because Steven has been paragliding for over 23 years and he mentioned how REI used to sell paragliding equipment. I immediately wanted to book a flight with him and explore a bit more about all the different types of equipment that the REI name has included over the years. It has just taken a couple of rescheduled days to get to this flight, read on and you’ll find out why.
I agreed to meet him up at the top of Poo Poo Point in Issaquah, a well-known paragliding spot in the PNW and pretty great hike as well. If your going to hike up the Chirico trail to go paragliding (instead of taking the $20 shuttle ride) then I recommend giving yourself at least two hours to hike it with time to rest before your flight because this is pretty much what 90% of the Chirico Trail looks like… uphill, rocky and narrow. Also, give yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot, it took me over 1/2 hour to find a spot on a busy weekend day.
Once I reached the top I found out why paragliding is a very tricky sport to get off the ground and why it took some planning to get here… the winds will let everybody know if they can fly or not, and the winds are a very picky sometimes. That afternoon, we had eastern winds swoop in and ground the entire group of about 30+ gliders until it changed in a N or NW direction. At the beginning of our stay, I did see a tandem flier take off with an NW/E wind pattern and they weren’t very pretty to watch. Their wing tips were flapping back and forth and tossing them around, much too risky for the rest of the seasoned paragliders to want to take flight. So we sat back and watched the wind sock atop the tower, hoped the winds would change and in the mean time I learned a lot about paragliding!
I learned about the wind directions, the language of the sport, I spoke to a Hang glider’s girlfriend about the history of hang gliding and their preferred areas of flight. I learned about the difference between the cooler months and summer months and the heating of the valley and it’s effects on wind patterns and yes, I did talk to a couple of other seasoned instructors and they too remember REI carrying their equipment. Basically, there is so much to learn about paragliding and if you want to get certified, talk to Steven because he is pretty much one of the premier paragliding instructors and fliers in the area. But don’t take my word for it, find out what his students and I already know and just go fly with him… you will leave with a wealth of knowledge (and an amazing experience) too!
Once the winds turned back to NW/N the group suited up and one-by-one we all got up into the air. Boy was it worth the wait! There is no description for the type of feeling you get from flying, especially such a peaceful feeling like gliding. If you’ve ever stood at the bow of a sailboat and closed your eyes to feel the wind upon you, or sat in one of those chairs that spins around at the fair and closed your eyes and held out your arms to feel like you’re a bird, you’re getting a little close. But, once you experience viewing multiple mountain ranges at once, witnessing the thick lush green beauty of the forest below your feet, smiling at the wonder of your fellow gliders floating gently around you, feeling the peacefulness of the air and the winds gently flowing past your body… well this is some of what you’ll experience paragliding.
I will leave you with the video to help tell the story, the sights and sounds of a paragliding session but I will also tell you that this is ABSOLUTELY a “bucket-list” sport you must try at some point in your life, you will not regret it.
Paragliding is simply remarkable and unlike anything else I could ever describe……….it will absolutely take your breath away!by