Marianne Ober and Graham Kinley’s relationship was pulled into the thrills and spills of extreme sports three years ago when the couple tried paragliding in tandem.
The Invermere couple discovered the feeling of flying was an addiction worth harnessing immediately.
“We both did a tandem flight with two different instructors at the same time and we both really liked it,” said Kinley, noting the experience encouraged him to take a paragliding course in Colombia to expand on the skills he had learned in 2011.
“I like being in the mountains — it’s really fun being able to do a lot of hiking and flying; you can go fly off Mount Swansea or a few of the other local mountains. There’s a lot of great opportunities to do longer, cross country-type flights in the Columbia Valley, and that’s the really cool thing about this area that a lot of others don’t have.”
After Kinley’s trip to South America came to a close, he was hooked on paragliding and registered to take additional training to operate as a paraglider independently through Flying Max.
Flying Max, which is a local business run by instructor Max Fanderl, offers an introduction to aerodynamics, the basics of paragliding and its gear, along with practical lessons on the ground and a small practice hill.
“We do ground handling for one full day and then we go to a little hill to practice, which is about 30 to 40 metres high,” said Fanderl. “Then, we work up slowly from the ground and start going up higher. Right now, this is the hardest stage — being on the ground and trying to control the wind in these turbulent conditions — but once you’re on the hill and the wind is coming up, you’re really just taking longer steps.”
Paragliding is an extreme sport that involves jumping from or being lifted to a high area then jumping off of it with a wide canopy resembling a parachute being attached to a person’s body with a harness to help glide and steer through the skies.
“When you get to this 30-metre hill, there’s about 20 seconds where you’re in the air,” said Fanderl. “Then, when you go up Swansea, we can fly from10 minutes up to 10 hours. It takes a couple of long weekends to complete the course.”
He emphasized it takes a minimum of two long weekends of practising to get ready for Swansea.
Ober opted to take an introduction from Flying Max on April 11th.
“I’ve been watching my boyfriend paraglide for quite a while and it just looked like a lot of fun,” she said. “Then, I heard about the course this spring and I figured, now would be a good time for me to start too.”
She got a taste of the experience at the Mount Nelson Athletic Park.
“It takes a few minutes to get the hang of it,” said Ober. “The feeling of the wind coming up and (being patient) not to push it too hard — I’m a little scared, but it will be great.”
The couple is optimistic about paragliding off of Mount Swansea together in the future and recommends other people from the community come out to give the course a shot, too.
“If you’re not scared of heights, it’s super fun,” said Ober, while giggling. “I’ve done a tandem flight before and it’s very calm and scenic in this kind of area — just beautiful.”
For more information about paragliding lessons, visit www.FlyingMax