Paragliding is Not for Me

As part of my Mighty Life List campaign with Intel, I thought I’d go parasailing. I figured I could do it in Puerto Rico or Greece, but it wasn’t available, so Bryan did a little research near home. We’d mostly missed the parasailing season, but we could go paragliding instead, he said. It’s really similar, he said. Sure! We booked it. Then, I did a little research.


Y’all. Paragliding is nothing like parasailing. They are so dissimilar, in fact, that the description on the parasailing Wikipedia page actually reads, “Parasailing is primarily a fun ride, not to be confused with paragliding [which is terrifying and will kill you dead.]” I teased out the subtext for you on that last bit.


The paragliding we booked involves strapping yourself to an instructor who’s attached to what can only be described as a large fan. Then you run along the beach and lift off alarmingly high in the air. It’s like flying a helicopter without an actual helicopter around you, or skydiving without an airplane, or building a pair of wings from feather and wax and jumping off the roof of your apartment.


Nonetheless, we flew to LA to meet the paragliding guy on the beach. Between kayaking and zip-lining (which we’ll discuss in more detail soon), my adrenal system was rather taxed. My body wasn’t used to all this fight-or-flight action — the most my pulse usually quickens is when there’s a new episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” on the TiVo — so I was kind of a mess.


It was too foggy to take off from the beach, so we had to wait around while I pondered the intricacies of Fast Descents and In-Flight Wing Deflation with my head between my knees.

A pinhole of light came through the fog, so we helped our instructor tow his equipment out onto the beach, where we waited for a few more hours. Four stomach churning hours, while sorority girls made human pyramids in the sand next to us, and I looked around for a paper bag into which I could breathe.


When the weather refused to cooperate, our instructor decided we’d just have to go up on the nearby hills and jump from there instead. I lifted my head from between my knees and threw Bryan a panic-stricken look. “Uh,” I said. “Um.”


Jumping off a cliff strapped to a fan was so very far from my original goal of being swept up like a kite over the water that I could no longer squint and see the comparison. Jumping off a cliff was not on my effing list. My throat began to ache.

We walked over to the cars to prepare for our drive. “From where will we be jumping, exactly?” I asked. “The hills up there,” the instructor said.


The taste of tin filled my mouth. I blinked back tears.

“No,” I said.

“You’ll like it,” the instructor said.

“No,” I said.

“I’ve done it from there many more times than from the beach. Thousands of times.”

“No,” I said. “I have no desire to do this.”

And so we drove to the hotel, where I wept with relief and disappointment at my failure to strap on a pair.

The next day I met Eden for breakfast. Later Rebecca, and I headed out for an enormous bowl of sweet potato fries.


And several glasses of wine.


And after that I felt much better.

The end.

Intel is making my site more interesting by sponsoring my Mighty Life List. I’m learning my limits as we go along.

40 thoughts on “Paragliding is Not for Me

  1. Oh man!

    Good on you for sticking with “no”. I hope your (very awesome and omigod so cool and wowza wowza wowza) sponsorship won’t pull too much of the FUN out of your list for you. A wee bit of type A can go a long way in these things. Treasure the successes and continue to find the joy in the alternative scenarios (sunsets are pretty, too!).


  2. This happened to me! Same thing – well, sort of. I was writing a freelance article on dog sledding, not one about floating in the air with a fan strapped to my back.

    I dog sledded and I was PETRIFIED. Trees were hitting my face as I zoomed along a curvy path; I was yelling “whoa!” and no dogs were stopping. My heart was beating hard and I was scared out of my wits.

    For the life of me, I could not bring myself to write the article from a scared girl point of view.

    Reading your blog, I realize that the scared girl point of view actually kind of rocks.


  3. It is so refreshing to know that being the girl who says no (and means NO) in an instance like this, doesn’t actually make you a wuss. It just means you know what you want out of life.
    Which in this case, is to um…live. And not die.

    In other news: I bought a house today. woot.


  4. Uhm. No, just no! I am not jumping from ANYTHING with a large metal fan attached to my back. It looks like a science project gone wrong! Good on you for sticking to your gut feeling, hopefully you will be able to go parasailing soon (which to me is still scary). Try to butter up Intel into flying you down to a Florida beach! Im pretty sure its year round over here. Ive been to the beach in January and watched people out in the surf. That, and its still 90 degrees until December! ha


  5. Somehow I think you’ll be able to live a full, rewarding life despite (or as a result of maybe?) *not* jumping off of a hill strapped to an exhaust fan.

    Also, not to venture off topic or anything, but uh, HELLO instant girl-crush on Rebecca. 😡 Whoa.


  6. No, no, no, and no would be the only things coming out of my mouth in the same situation. Not for me thanks!

    Parasailing however, is fantastic! I tried it last spring while in the Dominican Republic after thinking it over for a few days. Once up there, I could have stayed for hours. Definitely try it if you get the chance!


  7. This post cracked me up in an “Ohh-I-totally-know-what-she-means” kind of way. I wholeheartedly support your decision. If you do get to go parasailing in the future though, I highly recommend it. I went for the first time in NC last week and it was breathtaking!

    So happy to hear good friends, good food, and good wine lifted your spirits. Looking forward to your next adventure!


  8. I would like to personally thank Intel for bringing you here and making my weekend awesome (week? month?).

    Congratulations for following your instincts and knowing when to say “NO!” You’re an inspiration for those of us who aren’t so good at that.


    Wish you lived closer. xo


  9. I my opinion, jumping from mountains = terrifying. Nice work using the word “no”.

    SO enjoying your journey – can’t wait to see what’s next.


  10. Good for you. Adrenaline junkies drive me crazy. I want to die from old age after a long happy life. Not from jumping off a mountain strapped to a large fan (for example).

    My own life list doesn’t have anything death-defying on it. Living dangerously is not my thing.


  11. You know what? I say bully to you for knowing your boundaries. I believe in feeling the fear and “doing it anyway” to a certain extent, but there’s also something about respecting your own limits.

    I’ll bet those were the most delicious sweet potato fries in the history of mankind.


  12. I know that feeling. I tried diving once and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t do it. I cried in the ocean as I snorkeled above the rest of the group diving below.


  13. i’d have totally made the same choice, and i’ve actually done both paragliding and parasailing. (although the parasailing did not involve a large fan; it did, however, involve the jumping off the top of a mountain. i shudder now to think of it, even though it was spectacular at the time, said time being fifteen years and two children ago . . ..) i am totally of the opinion that knowing your boundaries – and learning that there may be new ones of which you’d been previously unaware – is an integral part of one’s life’s learning. well done for adding this to your list!


  14. Really knowing what you want to do, and also acknowledging your limits, seems to be the point of the list, right? So it’s cool to say no and go get some fries.

    I did the paragliding thing. I liked it. There was no guy with a big fan strapped to his back though. Just a mountain, and an edge and the requirement to walk until the ground fell away.

    And of course I was strapped to another guy who knew what he was doing and gave me a schnapps after the landing. That helped.

    On to the next challenge eh?


  15. Sorry you didn’t try it. I went paragliding in Switzerland 10 years ago and remember it being an amazing experience. Although – there were no fans involved, just a run off the side of an Alp.

    I still think that is easier than parachuting, because you know by the time you are airbourne that your chute is open and okay. No pulling the string and thinking OH SH*T.


  16. This was the hardest thing you will do for many, many years. Not the paragliding part, the saying No part.

    It is truly brave to stand your ground against a stranger with an agenda. In this case, his agenda was to do his job and convince you that you could enjoy it. He was very, very determined. It took you many, many hours.

    It was very, very hard and you should be so proud of yourself for being able to do this oh-so-important task.

    Add to your lifelist and then mark as DONE: Stand my ground against a dangerous stranger in a foreign land.

    Courage of yur convikshons: yu haz it.


  17. That is crazy and nothing like the paragliding I’ve done! okay, so I did jump off a cliff, but we had a giant parachute-type thing and not a fan. And it was super amazing once I let go and relaxed. However, I don’t think I could have waited 4 hours to go; I had to wait for the other two people to go, and that was bad enough.

    Maggie, for your pleasure, here’s a video of my trip so that you can live vicariously through me:

    I went in New Zealand on the spur of the moment because I had nothing to do that afternoon and there was an opening.

    My mom went parasailing, and she said it was awesome. Maybe try again next year? I think that sounds way better than what I did, and I loved what I did.


  18. YES! Yes to saying NO! You CAN cross it off your list, Maggie. because you WON’T sit in your rocking chair at the age of 90 and say “I wish I’d tried paragliding.” You got way up close to it – so close that you could make an informed decision that it was not for you. Paragliding? CHECK!


  19. I’m with you. Jumping off a cliff with a fan which looks like something from a 1950’s sci-fi movie is not my cup of tea. I’d rather have my pulse go aflutter from So You Think You Can Dance any day over sheer terror!


  20. I applaud you for sticking to your guns and saying no. Overcoming a fear for the betterment of one’s self is one thing. Doing crazy shit for no good reason is quite another. Bravo! And sweet potato fries? Ohgodohgodohgod. How have I never had these? They sound amazing. I must learn to make them.


  21. Just in case those Intel folks are reading- we love you for supporting the life list. And Maggie, your decision to remain alive is a smart one.


  22. “Jumping off a cliff strapped to a fan was so very far from my original goal of being swept up like a kite over the water” Oh, man, is it EVER! Those “para”s and “ings” just make you kind of gloss over the middle of the world, don’t they? Good for you for deciding that no, this was NOT what you want(ed) to do. But I hope you do try the RIGHT para—ing ‘cuz being swept up like a kite over the water sounds WAY better than jumping off a cliff with a scary giant metal fan strapped to your back!

    ‘Course, I had a hard time with only one part of the high ropes course at our this year’s Girls’ Adventure Weekend – scooting off at the end to zipline down to the ground. So jumping off a cliff = NO THANK YOU for me anyway.


  23. I love how he says “you’ll love it!” like he knows you or something. Good for you, and of course you strapped on a pair. You said no! For many people it takes more courage to speak up and say no than to be pressured into jumping off a mountain.


  24. I actually think this makes the whole life list sponsored by Intel thing much more interesting. You have done SOOO much over these past few months, I was wondering if it was starting to get a bit tiring (of course you don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but maybe a little down time to reflect on all these accomplished goals). This post makes you seem more human than uber-goal-accomplisher. I hope this is coming across as supportive, because that is what I am going for. Maybe you feel a bit weird about not flying with that crazy fan on your back, but I think this post helps show us that sometimes what seems like fear is actually making the brave, not easy choice.


  25. “No” is Darwinian, peeps.

    “Knowing your boundaries?!” I know what ya’ll mean by that, but we’ve all seen numerous people who think they “know their boundaries” and well, they still die doing the boundary thing.

    Maggie, here’s to ya. Have you thought of the evolutionary implications of this non-adventure? You were taking a good look around, reasoning it out (I know, reason…so boring) and despite the pressure: “No!” “I say no.” Evolutionary thinking, that was! (And don’t tell me that fear does not often equal smart, reasonable thoughts now and then, like, “run…NOW!”)

    Seriously, it’s much better than ending up crumpled up on the beach like a ball, with a guy in a red jumpsuit who’s got a fan blade sticking out of his ass.

    And I love Intel. I promise to buy an Intel car as soon as they come off the line.


  26. um… I’ve got to come back and ask ’cause I’ve been wondering, what exactly was he planning to do with that fan anyway? I’m from CA and now live in Germany, and Austria is around the corner with some of the premier locations for paragliding. That’s where I did it and I have never seen a fan employed.

    sounds a bit weird.


  27. My father died in a parasailing accident in Thailand. If you ever do go, do it in the US where there are standards and licenses and laws to ensure that people providing such services are qualified and will be accountable. I wasn’t there, but his friend said that after the accident, the people running the parasailing company disappeared, they didn’t even stick around to see if my dad could be revived.


  28. Good for you for standing your ground. =) I think that’s braver than doing stupid stunts just to prove a point.

    Also, side note…Rebecca Woolf for the next Mighty Closet!!!


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