Photos by Trish Barnes
Humans have long dreamed of achieving flight.
From Da Vinci to the Wright Brothers and everything before, between and since, mankind has devised some pretty crafty ways of putting humans in the sky.
Unlike hang gliding, which uses a rigid wing attached to a frame, paragliding utilizes a nylon wing that folds up into a small back sort of like a parachute. It contains cells so when you set it up and run into the wind it turns into a semi-riding wing, like an airplane wing, that glides.
Kimberley’s Rob Honeyman is going into his fifth season of paragliding.
“In the ‘70s I used to hang out with a lot of guys that hang glided and I guess I’ve always wanted to do it,” Honeyman said. “My daughter did it in Mexico with an instructor and I thought well heck, my daughter’s doing it, I’ve been waiting all these years maybe I should try it. So I tried it and I love it, I’m just hooked on it.”
Honeyman explained that he is licensed through the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada. There are numerous instructors around B.C. that teach paragliding and prepare people for getting themselves licensed. A new paraglider needs 25 flights with an instructor to get what’s called a P2 rating, which allows you to fly solo.
The majority of paraglider carry liability insurance through the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association as well.
“There is an inherent hazard or danger with it,” Honeyman said. “But if you do it right it’s a pretty safe sport f you get the instruction and if you fly with other knowledgeable people and you can minimize the risk.”
As with many “extreme” sports, that is sports that involve a certain degree of risk, the reward makes it all worthwhile.
“The first time you do it there’s a lot of adrenaline and exhilarating,” Honeyman recalled. “I was scared, very scared the first time I did it on my own.”
When you first learn to paraglide, you start in a field or on a small hill and practice launching until you have that down. First flights are done in tandem with an instructor, usually with someone on a radio.
“You’re actually on a radio and they’re talking to you and there’s someone at the launch and someone at the landing,” Honeyman explained. “They give you instructions while you’re flying and make sure you’re doing it right and when you come in to land there’s an instructor on a radio that actually brings you in and then tells you to turn here, turn there and then come in and tells you how to land.
“So it’s pretty structured.”
It can be done at all levels, stressed Honeyman, while describing his love for paragliding.
“The level I do it at is quite a bit different than the level that a lot of people that have been doing it a long time have. I fly for fun and I usually fly when it’s calm out, it can be taken to the extreme where people are flying long distances and they’re in the air for like eight, ten hours.”
He referenced two guys who actually flew from Golden to Grasmere this past summer. There was another group who flew from Revelstoke Mountain Resort all the way to Invermere.
“They’re flying in big thermals,” Honeyman said. “So, what they do is the go up in a thermal and then they go on glide and they glide to the next thermal and they go back up and they just keep doing that and they can go long distances. They’re very skilled at it and they’ve been doing it for quite a while.”
In the photos for this article, Honeyman is pictured paragliding at the Wycliffe Buttes, which he refers to as more of a “practice area.”
“Landing and launching are the things you have to practice most, so it’s good to keep tuned up on that,” he said.
He said that he also flies off the Estella Mine near Lazy Lake, Mount Swansea in Invermere and a couple of launches around the Fernie area, plus Mount Revelstoke in the summer, where you can ride up on the gondolas and fly down.
“When I fly, I usually fly off of Estella and I get a couple of thermals and I’m in the air for anywhere between a half an hour and an hour,” he said. “There’s all kinds of different levels and there’s all kinds of different paragliders too,” noting that as well as different skill levels, there are also different types of gliders that are used for different speeds and styles of flying.
“It’s a pretty varied sport and it’s year round too.”
He said that there are a few ski hills including Panorama and Revelstoke that allow paragliding and they are actively working to get permission from others to increase their available locations.
Honeyman suggests that if anyone is interested in trying paragliding to visit the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada’s website where you can find a list of the pilots around the area that can take people on tandems. The closest is Max Fanderl with his website www.flyingmax.com. He is located in Panorama.