This is a sponsored post on the behalf of Paragliding San Francisco. All opinions are my own.
There are paragliding tours? I always thought it was only for trained professionals. Thanks to Mike Fifield of Paragliding San Francisco, I was able to fly as a guest. He also allowed me to bring a friend. My dear friend’s initial reaction was hesitation, which was quite different from my excitement. He didn’t say no and he didn’t cancel. Looks like we’re going paragliding!
Having been a Concierge in San Francisco booking local tours, I was happy to receive Mike’s invitation. This is a unique experience that I would love to offer my travel clients and be able to speak about from personal experience. Mike and I booked a date and time. I received an email of details for the event and what to expect. My friend and I decided to make a full weekend in San Francisco out of it. I booked a room at the Le Meridian hotel, planned to visit the Legion of Honor Museum, dinner at his favorite restaurant, Bix, and meet up with friends in from Chicago to visit Muir Woods and lunch in Tiburon.
After a full weekend, we got to Pacifica early and decided to grab a coffee a few miles from our meeting spot. Looking up, it was funny to see paragliders fly right above us at the cafe. In the distance, you can see almost a dozen paragliders with a variety of different colors decorating the sky. I started to get nervous. As usual, my friend didn’t express his excitement, nor nervousness if he anxious.
It was time to head over. The road to the meeting place was a bit rough on his Porsche so we drove slower than usual. Parking could be a challenge but we found a spot. It was breezy at the coastline and I was glad I brought my The NorthFace jacket. Will it be colder up there?
We took the trail to where most of the paragliders were hanging out and stopped just shy of where there was an incline. I texted Mike that we were here. We were still early for our appointment.
We observed a paraglider attempting to launch near us. The many lines attached to him looked like it could be quite time-consuming to unravel. I know I have the same problem with some of my necklaces sometimes. Multiply one chain by twenty!
There seemed to be two launch areas. One close to where we were and another higher up. Observing the ones in the sky, one paraglider had a shark kite trailing him. As a tandem guest, I was trying to see if I could spot how exactly two people are participating. “Are you sitting in his lap?” my cousin asked when I posted this on my Facebook page. Keep reading to find out.
My phone rings. It’s Mike. He says he sees me and to look up. He’s calling me from the air! He says he’ll be right down. He must be a professional if he can make a call and manage a guest at the same time! We watch him land with his guest. It was nice and smooth. By the smile on the young lady’s face, she really enjoyed her experience. She wished me a good time as I was next.
We met Mike and he was so easy going, just like he was on our initial phone call. He introduced my friend to Chris. I thought Mike was going to take me up, then my friend. No, we’re going to be in the air at the same. How cool! I asked my friend if he could take pictures of me if he felt comfortable taking his phone out while he was up in the air. Not being one to take photos or be in them, I had to accept that I will be taking a bunch of selfies. This is when Mike offered up his GoPro and selfie stick. Awesome.
Without having said more than a greeting to Chris or know how much experience he has, I reluctantly released one of my best friends into his care with a ‘No, I’m not worried at all’ kind of “Have a good time!” farewell. Because of the heavier weight, they walked up the hill to launch from a higher point. I just had to trust Mike.
Mike fitted me with a helmet. He outlined emergency protocols, which he has never had to use in his many years of experience, and explained how to use the GoPro, the two-person harness and how we are going to launch. Yes, we are going to basically run off the cliff. Together.
I stepped into the harness and was buckled in, attached to Mike. No, it wasn’t uncomfortable or too close for comfort. It was like a front baby harness with a lot of room.
Mike got the paraglider up and we walked together back and forth a few times and he was ready. And just like that, we were running towards the cliff and we took off. No beige dirt was underneath my feet and it was the smoothest take-off I have ever experienced. We were quickly gaining elevation or was it that the new grade was the ocean below me?
I couldn’t help but smile. Only a few seconds into the experience and I couldn’t help thinking how amazing this was. It wasn’t cold at all. I thought my face would be cold and my nose would be running but the temperature was pleasant. Look towards the horizon and it would be an incredible way to watch the sunset. Look to the North or South and see the never-ending coastline that grace the front of millions of postcards. Look towards the wall of earth we ran off and see just how far the drop would be had we leapt from the very top. It is a long way down.
Mike warned me of an upcoming bump I would feel and to not be alarmed. He also was OK with not doing any spiral tricks I saw other paragliders did earlier. I felt safe the entire time. He did get me close to my friend and I was able to get him in the shot via the GoPro. I flashed him a shaka and it made me happy that he even gave me a smile. He looked very relaxed and was enjoying the ride. He works so hard. I am happy I was able to bring him along to experience this. We both have never paraglided before.
As much as I looooved being up there, I was starting to feel a little sick. I am prone to motion sickness. I have had to sit in the front of a tour bus on the Amalfi Coast, prayed for land while trying to swim with dolphins in the open water in New Zealand and I don’t even like swings. It is common to get motion sickness while paragliding. I felt uneasy for a few minutes but felt it was time to let Mike know how I was feeling. It was best if w landed. I would have stayed up there forever if I could!
Mike understood and took us down with a smooth and easy landing. He helped me get unbuckled and invited me to sit down to relax in one of the chairs to the side. He had other appointments and I felt bad that he could have filled this time with a paying customer. But thankfully, business has been good.
Relaxing, I looked up and watched my friend fly. That’s what good friends do, right? We support them and watch them soar. Chris also provided a safe landing and we both were on solid ground. I hope me coming in early didn’t cut their flight short. Regardless, we loved the experience. We expressed our gratitude, said our goodbyes and Mike said he would get me the GoPro video soon. See it HERE.
My friend stated he would definitely recommend the experience. He enjoyed himself. That makes two of us.
Please contact me if you would like to cross this off your bucket list. You won’t regret it! Mike is also an instructor! Learn to paraglide on your own!