by Kim Galvin
My husband Mike and I decided to plan a vacation which would be a combination of paragliding the coastal
ridges of Australia and relaxing on the beaches below. Our trip did not exactly end up the
way we had planned it, but we had the time of our life.
making our trip to Australia, we contacted the Hang
Gliding Federation of Australia. They sent us a recent
copy of their official publication, and a print-out
with names and phone numbers of paragliding instructors
and club contacts in Australia. We began writing/faxing/phoning
and e-mailing pilots and were happy to see how responsive
thought we had done our homework, as we had a long
list of pilots to show us the sites. Our original
plan was to fly into Sydney, soar the coastal ridges
at Stanwell Park for a week and then head to the Great
Barrier Reef for some beach time. Unfortunately, we
failed to ask a key question in our pre-vacation research,
which was "when is the prime flying season?"
When we got to Stanwell, the sea breezes weren't cooperating,
so we had to go to Plan B.
had heard good things about the High Adventure Air
Park, which is about four hours north of Sydney. The
owner/operator boasted of "launches in every
direction" and offered us accommodation on their
beautiful property, which consisted of rolling hills
between the local mountain and coastal sites. When
we arrived at the Air Park, the sites looked great.
The only problem was that a front was coming in, the
wind was howling and the locals didn't expect the
conditions to change for several days.
were that the conditions in Manilla, a paragliding
"mecca" with inland thermals (located between
Sydney and Brisbane), would be gusty for several days.
We were starting to get discouraged. We were tired
of paradriving and parawaiting. We were desperate
to get airborne, as our itinerary called for us to
fly north to Cairns (great diving, but not much flying)
at the end of the week.
remembered that an Aussie we met while paragliding
in Maui told us about a place called Rainbow Beach,
which is about three hours north of Brisbane. As it
turned out, we had the name of a pilot who lives in
Noosa (an hour and a half south of Rainbow Beach)
from our pre-vacation research. We called Jean-Luc
to see how the weather was along the Sunshine Coast
and to learn a little about the sites in the area.
Jean-Luc felt certain that the weather conditions
were changing and he promised us we would fly if we
stayed in Noosa.
for us, we put our faith in Jean-Luc and canceled
our plans to head to the Reef. We settled into an
apartment in Noosa, which is a lovely beach town.
Jean-Luc introduced us to the three coastal sites
in Noosa and he showed us several beautiful sites
on the beach route between Noosa and Rainbow Beach.
took us under his wing (pardon the parapun) and spent
the entire week with us. Mike and I were novice pilots
with relatively little air time. Our previous flying
experience had consisted of lots of inland sled rides
and no coastal soaring or flying in heavy winds/thermals.
Jean-Luc worked with us on our ground handling skills,
as the sea breezes on soarable days were between 15-18+
mph. He gave us thorough site intros and lots of practical
tips about interpreting the clouds, listening to the
trees, reading the waves on the water and following
the eagles as they soared above us on the coastal
dunes. After a few days of training with Jean-Luc,
Mike and I experienced our first soaring flights!
I will never forget this experience.
sites on the Sunshine Coast were magnificent. Some
ridges have stretches of 10-15 miles of breathtaking
dunes, with wide unspoiled beaches below. We got to
see whales and dolphins in the ocean below us. We
felt like we owned the sky, as there were only a few
pilots flying each day. This felt like paragliding
learned that the keys to traveling with our wings
are patience and flexibility. From now on, we'll plan
our vacations so that we can easily move on if the
conditions aren't favorable. If it's "on,"
we'll hang out and have fun. We made real friendships
flying with Jean-Luc and his group of local pilots.
When we returned to Noosa the
following year, we weren't tourists, we were family!