I’m paragliding over Maui. Let me write that again. I’M PARAGLIDING OVER MAUI. The wind whips through the wing (you might think of it as a parachute) as Dexter Binder, certified instructor at Proflyght Paragliding, offers calm instructions. On a tandem ride, we swoop left and right across the Maui hillside. Paragliding is the most quiet, peaceful experience I can imagine. This may just be my best boomer adventure in Hawaii ever.
When Visit Maui offered the chance to try paragliding during my trip to The Valley Isle, I hesitated. Hmm, jumping off cliffs is not my strong suit. And, as Alan can tell you, anything that includes heights and steep dropoffs, causes paralyzing fear in this boomer traveler.
But paragliding over Maui doesn’t involve jumping off a cliff. All I have to do is run down a hill real fast and trust the pilot. “I can do that,” I told Alan.
Sitting at a picnic table in a field at Polipoli Flight Park on the lee side of Mt Haleakala, I fill out the forms for this paragliding adventure. It’s a beautiful morning in Upcountry Maui but the windsock is hanging straight down due to lack of wind. We wait for the windsock to fly in the correct direction, then I get in the pickup truck with Dexter, his mother and another paraglider for the short drive up the hillside to “Echoes” Launch site.
Today’s adventure will last 3 to 5 minutes and cover 1,000 ft. A longer trip, which takes off from “Ferns” Launch site, is usually available —12 to 15 minutes traveling 3,000 ft.—but a recent storm has closed the road.
Early morning is the best time to paraglide over Maui. Be sure to wear shoes you can run in (no flip flops), long pants and a jacket.
At the launch site, a beginner hill where paragliders practice taking off and landing down below, we exit the truck. I watch as Dexter sets up the wing and attaches the tandem harness. Some people talk a lot when they’re nervous or afraid, I become completely quiet. Sensing my nervousness, Dexter engages me in conversation as we watch other paragliders, mostly Dexter’s students, waiting to catch that gust of wind that will lift them up for a glide over the hillside.
Once the wing is stretched out on the grass to Dexter’s satisfaction, we put on our helmets. Then Dexter straps me into the harness and takes his place behind me. He watches for the wind sock to fly in the needed direction then says,”Run down the hill as fast as you can and don’t sit down until I tell you.”
The hillside doesn’t feel steep to me so my problem with heights isn’t an issue. I run down the hill feeling the tug of another human being and paragliding equipment behind me. But I strain to run anyway. Slowly, wind catches under the wind and lifts us off the ground. Although I try to resist the urge to sit down, it happens anyway, before Dexter gives his instructions to do so. But we already have enough lift so my mistake hasn’t done any harm. I slide back into the seat for the ride of my life while Dexter does all the work.
We paraglide over Maui in wide, sweeping turns. Except for the wind, it’s totally quiet. I could be a hawk or an eagle swooping over a meadow looking for dinner.
When it’s time to land, Dexter makes a long approach, instructing me to stick my legs straight out, parallel to the ground. We land slowly, skidding across the grass in a seated position. I’m thankful for the harness’ padded seat.
After Dexter unhooks the harness, I stand up and look back up the hill to where we started. I just went paragliding over Maui. This is one boomer adventure that I’ll be repeating.
Have you paraglided before? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.
Check out Boomer Adventures in Hawaii for more fun things to do.
Thanks to Sally Clasen for taking photos with my cameras. I would have definitely dropped them somewhere over that Maui hillside.
Disclosure: Visit Maui and Proflyght Paragliding provided this travel experience. But the opinions are all mine.