Hobby sure to get your adrenaline levels flying high
ONCE a paraglider has his feet off the ground, he's hooked.
That's how Sandy Thomson describes the feeling when he first took to flying 23 years ago.
As a senior safety officer at the Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club, he's showing others the delights of paragliding while making sure they consider the risks.
"We have probably 60 active members, of whom 15 would be seniors.
"The eldest is in the late-60s," Sandy said.
"Is it dangerous? I would say 'no'.
"You can make it as safe as you wish. It is up to the pilot."
"Being a good pilot is knowing when not to fly".
"One of the club's main flying sites is at Pat Mortan lookout at Lennox Head, and we have others on private property nearby."
Sandy says a paraglider needs to be fit and active, trained and licensed.
"If you can walk uphill carrying 20kgs, that's probably all the fitness you need," he said.
"You have to be licensed. You have to go to a school where you are taught to fly.
"At any one time, there are about 2500 licensed pilots in Australia."
Sandy became hooked on the sport more than two decades ago.
"I saw a weekend travel magazine somewhere and it showed paragliding," he said.
"I thought I'd have a go."
The hang gliding and paragliding club has been established around Lennox Head and Byron Bay in the Northern Rivers for 40 years.
For details, go to www.flynr.org.
Anyone interested in learning to paraglide can contact Andrew at Poliglide on 0428666843 or Sandy on 0419250220.
Don't confuse paragliding with hang gliding:
The major difference lies in the wing shape and design. Hang gliders are solid wing structures, utilising an aluminium frame to create a V-shaped wing that resembles the stealth bomber.
Paragliders are soft wing structures, with no internal frame, which once inflated, have an elliptical shape.
Because they have a slower flying speed, they're much more forgiving than hang gliders, and as a result the learning curve is usually less steep for paragliding.
Also, paragliders fold conveniently into a small bag, so you can take them mountain trekking then paraglide down when you're tired of being on a mountain.