Paragliding over Cape Town

With sweaty palms, a racing heart and what I imagine must’ve been an unflattering expression on my face, I found myself galloping down Signal Hill’s steep and canvassed slope, bolting towards the edge with a large man at my heels. Suddenly, the ground gave way, my legs were pumping thin air and my stomach did a somersault. The wind had scooped up the paraglider, and
 Earl from The Tandem Flight Co and I were silently – miraculously – gliding towards Sea Point in tandem.

I’ve ticked a few things off the bucket list in my life that pushed my mild acrophobia to the limits, including skydiving, bungee jumping, abseiling, cliff diving and ziplining, and just as one can’t really compare bungee jumping to skydiving, paragliding is also completely in a category of its own. After the initial – and wholly irrational – fear that the glider somehow won’t function properly and that I’d go tumbling down the fynbos-clad slopes of Signal Hill, the flight was in fact so gentle, peaceful and effortless, that the trepidation seemed almost silly.

I live in Sea Point, and have jealously looked up from my back stoep as the paragliders sailed overhead like oversized birds. I’m actually a little embarrassed that it took so long for me to pluck up the courage to do it myself.

I arrived for the flight early on a sunny but somewhat breezy summer’s day, and was informed that we’d have to wait for the wind to turn, as it was blowing towards the ocean. In order to fly, we needed a head-on breeze. After an hour of waiting and willing the windsock to billow in the desired westerly direction, Earl announced that it was finally playing ball and we should start setting up. Securely strapped into the harness with Earl behind me, we’re on the launching pad and ready to go.

‘Ready … and … run!’ Earl bellowed.

It took mere seconds for the wind to scoop us up, and once we were in the air and I was over my jitters, I settled into my seat and admired the view, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Bet you’ve never seen the Mother City from this angle, eh?’ Earl grinned back. I certainly hadn’t, and I enjoyed every second. Green Point and Mouille Point with its verdant golf course and the beautiful white expanse of Cape Town Stadium lay to the west. To the east Lion’s Head loomed with the sparkling Bantry Bay and Clifton at her feet, and Camps Bay beyond. ‘How lucky I am to call this place home?’ I thought, while gliding towards the Atlantic with its icy waves lapping at the city’s edges.

As we coasted towards the lush lawns of the Sea Point promenade, Earl proposed a few aerobatic turns. I agreed. He proceeded to pull hard on the brake lines, swinging us in a pendular, head-over-heels motion one way, and then the other. I wasn’t quite ready for this, and I presumed my face had once again contorted into a rather unflattering guise as we manoeuvred over a couple of waving walkers below.

Once upright again, with all my organs back in the right place and face reconfigured, we descended quickly and landed gracefully amid a gang of frisbee throwers and dog walkers. What a blast. The flight was over in minutes but, I can wholeheartedly say, so very worth it.

Text: Richard Brown

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