The most frequent question I get from non pilots is, “why do you fly?” and “how does it feel”. I assume this is the same for most of the paragliding pilots out there. Usually I give them an answer like “because it’s great “or “it feels great”, while this satisfies their curiosity and can be accepted as an answer, when I really think about it must be more to it.
First, paragliding or unpowered free flight is not just a simple top to bottom flight. With some skills and the right training we can use the wind or thermals (the stuff puffy clouds are made with) to fly as long as our skills and knowledge allows us. It is for me the most adventurous of all adventurous activities. When we go for a cross country flight we have a plan but we are never sure what is really in front of us, you start the flight with the thought that you are ready for everything and you embrace the adventure that follows. The long walk back to civilization after a bomb out or the people you meet at the landing place some times hundredths of kilometers away from the take off, the weak and strong thermals you encounter or the company of the birds you meet along the way.
We literally get to play in the birds world, we use the wind to cover distance just like the big birds of prey. If you caught yourself looking at birds as a kid and wonder how it is, well… wonder no more because anyone can fly. Of course we are not birds and of course we don’t get even close to being as good pilots as they are, however we want to be as good as them and this makes paragliding a never ending challenge. For me this is the reason I fly, because of the challenge, every flight you are better but also very far from perfect. There is nothing physical about it, it’s all about confidence in your skills, knowledge and last but not least in your gut feeling.
You deal with an invisible moving air in front of you and sometimes you manage to navigate your un-powered aircraft around all the invisible updrafts of wind, usually than the fights are long and the reward is huge. The places you have seen and the places you have been at, the distance that you covered just by the work you’ve put leading to that flight, makes this activity as addictive as drugs.
This is my reason, I fly because of the challenge that free flight is.