Coastal Soaring
Coastal Soaring

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but as I progress through my Club Pilot Rating new experiences in paragliding begin to stand out as significant in my journey to being a qualified flyer.

Up until now, every time my feet left the ground I always had that “sinking feeling”. It’s great to take off from a hill with my nylon wing, but staying up in the air for any respectable time (like more than 5 minutes!) had always eluded me.

So my next training day turned out to be at a popular coastal site in the North West of England where a steady laminar onshore breeze was forecast by my instructor, who seems to have Jedi-like skills in meteorology. Indeed, most of my training would begin with about an hour of assessing the conditions and the theory of cloud formations and weather patterns.

I’ve said it here before, but Skydivers know nothing about weather! My years spent falling out of planes gave me little in the way developing that sixth sense of imagining where the clouds will develop, the movements of air and where bands of lift may exist.

But after a site brief I was beginning to picture in my mind how the wind was dynamically moving over the beach and rising up over the adjacent hills.

I’ll admit that it took be a couple of flights to get it, and I ended up on the sand more than once before it eventually clicked.

But click it did!

There I was, not only soaring, but actually rising in the sea breeze, beating back and forth along the coast and staying aloft. The sea stretched endlessly in the distance ahead, reflecting shimmering sunlight. Looking down below my feet a railway snaked and meandered in between the land and the water. Before long a train approached slowly from the North and I sat and watched it chugging along like a child’s toy. I could just about make out the passengers through the windows and wondered what they thought of this mad idiot flying above them in nothing more than a fabric flying machine at the mercy of nature.

But that wasn’t even the best part.

The wind was sufficiently strong as to allow me to face out to the open expanse of water and simply hover with slight brake input. Over to my left side and slightly higher sat a Seagull mirroring my flight. If she knew I was there watching her, she didn’t show it and probably didn’t care. But our shared flight was a real milestone for my paragliding adventures.

To fly with birds using the same physical forces of nature was a treasured experience, especially since she was using a design that took her millions of years to evolve into. Mine, by contrast, took 450 quid on skyads.aero.

Nevertheless, the thrill was very real and occupied all of my thoughts on the long drive home that evening.

I remember as a young boy, being fascinated by birds and would regularly go on bird watching trips as a member of the YOC. The trips would involve long hours of wandering across countryside with binoculars observing and noting all the varieties we encountered. At the time, I had absolutely no idea why I was interested in birds, I just was.

I think now I know…

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