What’s the easiest way for humans to fly? Without a doubt it’s parapenting.
Parapenting is a wonderful adventure sport that inspires a great feeling of freedom, floating on the breeze under a controlled descent to mother earth.
The parapente, or paraglider, as they are sometimes called, is a clever combination of the parachute and hang-glider and possesses the unique advantages of both. It really is a modified parachute with wings that retain their shape by the inflation of multiple cells through air pressure. It has very little weight like a parachute (4 kgs compared with 25 kgs for a hang-glider), but the parapente has a glide ratio similar to a hang-glider, allowing it to be steered in any direction.
New Zealand has parapenting operators and training schools spread throughout the country. The best way to experience the sport is to take a tandem flight, where you are strapped in front of an experienced pilot. You simply run down a slope and lift off into space, literally walking on air and then gently glide down to earth. The pilot uses steering toggles to slow the descent and make a soft, stand-up landing.
Popular parapente sites include the top of the gondola hill in Queenstown, Te Mata Peak in Hawke’s Bay, Mt Iron in Wanaka, and various high places in the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Taupo, Nelson and Christchurch. Parasailing is another variation of parachuting. This provides an exhilarating ride under a canopy being towed by a boat or vehicle.
When you see the colourful canopies gliding gently to earth, grab the chance to lift your spirits and fly.