Soaring with the birds…my paragliding adventure

“Lee when I say go you start running….do you understand?”


Umm yeah, seems pretty basic.

That my friends is about all you need to know if you wish to try tandem paragliding. The rest of the flight is all about appreciating science, mother nature, the silence and the acquired skills of your pilot. I am blessed to have Dave Wainwright from High Adventure Paragliding at the controls. It’s very reassuring when your pilot is a World Champion.

What a view from the air paragliding

Why do I continuously get myself in this position?


I completed another This Life List goal recently when I went skydiving. The highlight of that experience was the parachute ride back to terra firma. It was that ride under canopy which inspired me to want to have a paragliding flight. I have said this before and I will repeat through many of these adventures that I  do not like heights, I am far more comfortable on the ground. But I feel it’s important to push your boundaries.

 This Life List is all about “NEW”. New feelings, New experiences, New beginnings.  I want to experience NEW and sometimes that involves overcoming my fears. I think it’s important to face your fears if you want to grow as a person.

The swifts make it look easy


Prior to take off we watch some Swifts soar motionless high above us on the cliff top. They are an amazing bird  para-gliders share an affinity with. Much like the swift a para-glider relies on updraft from thermal winds to stay aloft. As I sit and watch these birds I realise the science behind this type of flight. The para-gliders have no motor, nor wings to create force to lift themselves and rely solely on warm and cold air and the direction of wind.

Some interesting but possibly useless facts about the Swift

  • Swifts can sleep in the air at 10,000 feet
  • They can fly as high as 35,000 feet
  • Swifts rarely touch land, only to nest
  • They eat insects they catch whilst in the air (they eat on the wing)
  • Swifts use the wind direction and updraft from mountains to remain motionless in the air to hunt. This requires very little energy from the Swift


Dave tells me it’s time to gear up, which is pretty simple, the pilot has their regular harness and you as a tandem passenger get your own harness which clips onto theirs. All the toggles and controls are accessible by the pilot whilst you kick back and enjoy the flight.

Dave calmly lets me know it’s time to start running, my legs cooperate but the edge of the cliff is telling me not to. All of a sudden it’s like Wile E Coyote, I am off the edge of the cliff, the feet are still peddling but I’m motionless in the air. This really is an amazing feeling.

Paragliding Flight time at Diamond Head


Once your screams subside, the quietness of nature becomes deafening


The most enjoyable aspect of paragliding is the ability to fly without an engine, making the silence so abundantly noticeable. I can hear the waves crash on the beach and the birds seem to be speaking directly to me. It’s funny as soon as my feet detach from the earth everything around me is more pronounced. My eyes see more, I can hear more, I feel the wind touching my skin. Any fear I had is completely gone.


All too quickly Dave tells me it’s time to land. Due to the lack of wind we will be making a beach landing. Okay cool, I figure if we go in hot at least the sand is more forgiving than a cliff face.

Dave yells at me for landing “Lee when we get close to the ground keep your feet up and start running, just keep your legs moving everything will be fine”

“Yes mate no problem” I reply.


We swoop in and I have my legs at right angles doing an impressive core sit. I’ve seen the movies where the tandem jumpers hit the beach and eat sand with a solid face plant. I have no intention of being seen on Funniest Home Videos.

By the time we stop I’m like a baby in a papoose. We’ve landed, Dave’s’ walking around gathering the wing, when I finally decide put my feet down. I gave no assistance what so ever in landing.

Better to do nothing than be a hindrance is my philosophy.

paragliding climb to the top of the cliff for takeoff


Paragliding is a bucket list experience you need to try


I highly recommend you give this a try. Jules was very apprehensive and nearly pulled out prior to takeoff. Turns out she absolutely loved it. Unfortunately Dave didn’t have the junior harness available as Zozo was keen to give it a try. Definitely next time we are in Laurieton we will get her up in the sky to soar with the swifts. If you want a great day out contact Dave at High Adventure Paragliding.

If you are looking for information don’t hesitate to look on the paragliding forum

Paragliding another This Life List adventure checked off