Learning how to paraglide in Korea

by Sarah Shaw on Jun 4, 2013 – 3:21 pm 2 Comments

For the past year and a half, I’ve wanted to go paragliding. I signed up for two trips at separate times, with romantic visions of myself floating over Korea’s mountainous terrain, but unfortunately, due to the finicky nature of the sport, both trips were canceled because the wind velocity was not quite perfect.

Luckily, I seized the opportunity to try paragliding for the first time last Sunday. On a sunny day without a cloud in sight, I traveled with Adventure Korea to a remote island called Anmyeondo (안면도) located in South Chungcheong province.

After a three-hour bus ride, we arrived on the island and walked for about twenty minutes to the hill where we’d be paragliding.

Because we traveled to a remote island without a shop in close proximity, we brought our own lunches to eat while the paragliding crew set up the equipment. I met some new friends from the Philippines, including a chef, who kindly shared homemade pork adobo and beef teriyaki with me. I’d only brought kimbap and bananas, which I timidly tried to share, but it obviously didn’t compare to their delicious cooking.

After lunch, we learned the techniques for paragliding solo by watching a demonstration by the first person to bring the sport to Korea. He showed us how to correctly utilize the equipment, take off, and navigate in the air by moving our arms up and down. We split into teams of four, so when one person prepared to fly, the other three people would hold onto the paraglider and eventually release it into the air.

Apparently my team did not get the memo to arrive in costume.

As I prepared to fly for the first time, the instructors attached the straps to my harness.

I was feeling a bit nervous, and I seemed to be confused about something.

While the other three team members released the paraglider, the instructors helped remove the first two straps and began yelling, “RUN, RUN, RUN!” It’s important to keep your arms up, or else you’ll fall to the ground faster than you can sing the first verse to Nelly Furtado’s “I’m like a bird.”

Each ride lasted for about a minute and a half, depending on the wind speed and how well you controlled the ride. Despite my initial nerves, paragliding above this safe, grassy hill was much less daunting than I’d thought it would be. While in the air, the instructor would shout directions into the radio, such as “left arm down,” in order to turn left and “right arm down,” in order to turn right, as well as “half down,” and “full down” when landing. I also frequently heard him scream, “ARMS UP! ARMS UP!” It was very easy to follow along.

However, at the end of my first flight, the instructor yelled, “FULL DOWN!” so I rapidly threw my arms down and landed spread-eagle on the grass. The landing was soft, and luckily no one seemed to notice my not-so-gracious fall, but I would advise everyone to wear gloves, pants or knee protectors anyway!

I nearly perfected the technique on my second attempt, blissfully floating above the rolling hills and eyeing the rice paddies in the distance. This time, I landed on my feet and kept running. I only wished I could have flown longer.

This video depicts an entire ride. Since each ride was relatively short, everyone was able to fly three times.

There was also an option to fly tandem for those who were uncomfortable navigating through the air on their own. In order to shoot a bird’s eye video, I flew tandem on my third try. As I was adjusting my video, I didn’t realize that I needed to start running, so you’ll hear some screams and other sorts of awkwardness within the first ten seconds or so.

At the bottom of the hill, five or six of us would return to our group by cramming into a van with our harnesses, helmets and paragliders, enduring a bumpy ride and trying not to suffocate.

After five hours of paragliding, we carefully stowed away our equipment and everyone boarded the bus bound for Seoul. I was lucky to catch a ride with a German guy who was driving back to his apartment near Daejeon along with a couple other Daejeon-residing folks. Several hours later, I arrived back at my university with some basic paragliding skills, good memories, new Facebook friends, 150 photos on my camera’s memory card, and a minor sunburn.

Get out of the city for a day, learn something new, and don’t forget to apply sunscreen; click here to sign up for the next paragliding trip on June 23rd.

This day trip is called “Paragliding.” Adventure Korea created this trip a few months ago, and they’ve successfully led four trips throughout May and June. It costs 98,000 won (approximately $90), including transportation (a chartered limousine bus), paragliding lesson, equipment fees, and English speaking guides. For more trip options, visit Adventure Korea’s homepage.

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