Farther Experiences – Paragliding at Torrey Pines

3 min read
Apr 6, 2021

Farther Experiences – Paragliding at Torrey Pines

 Paragliding is an exercise in patience. You're at the mercy of Mother Nature and entirely dependent on wind and weather, no matter how skilled a pilot you may be.


At Torrey Pines Gliderport, the largest tandem flight center in the United States, that means you need winds coming from the west of at least 9-10 miles per hour in order to fly. Usually, the best window for flying is between 11 am and 4 pm, but the wind is fickle and unpredictable. You can check Windy.com for forecasts the morning of your flight and hang out at Cliffhanger Café overlooking the Pacific Ocean while waiting optimistically for favorable winds. Or simply wait for a call from the friendly Gliderport staff, who will let you know when to come in. Some days you might not be able to take off at all, but being flexible and accepting that which is out of your control is a good life lesson.


There are more than 100 tandem flights on a busy day, colorful parachutes swooping and swerving along the shoreline. After two hours of hopeful anticipation and a taped video declaration stating I understood that paragliding is dangerous and could result in permanent injury, paralysis, or death, I was buckled into my seat and ready to go. Takeoff was easy – we took a few steps up the hill before turning back towards the ocean and jogging off the cliff.


My pilot, Giuseppe, was an old hand at paragliding and a man of few words. I've been up in a hot air balloon several times and even been in a two-seat glider plane in Telluride, but paragliding affords a unique sense of freedom. There's a raw, animalistic quality where I truly felt like a bird, riding thermals and able to steer simply by shifting my weight to the right or left. Rear risers, managed by hand, control the pitch and maintain pressure in the nose, acting as brakes in turbulent winds. Unlike hang gliding, where you're laying facedown in a horizontal position, with paragliding you're sitting comfortably upright the entire flight in a harness made from a similar material as a fold-up picnic chair.


Below us was Black's Beach, I spotted surfers and even a couple of dolphins splashing about in the mighty Pacific. On a clear day, Giuseppe told me that you can see all the way to Mexico. We waved at hikers below and flew over impressive mansions and cliffside estates, including Alicia Keys' cement and glass Razor House.


Giuseppe concluded our peaceful ride with a flourish, ascending to 700 feet and telling me to cross my feet at the ankles before engaging in a thrilling series of twists and turns, more dramatic and thrilling than any amusement park roller coaster. We landed gracefully back on the meadow where we began and I felt for a moment like a bird whose wings had been clipped when my feet hit the ground.


Amber Gibson

Amber Gibson is a Farther ambassador who lives a pretty incredible life. Living out of hotels for 360 days per year, she has unconvenitonal goals that Farther is helping her reach. As a freelance journalist, she specializes in travel, food, wine and wellness. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Robb Report, Departures, Hemispheres, Saveur and Architectural Digest. Champagne, dark chocolate and gelato are her biggest weaknesses.

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