Fly Away with Me: Paragliding in Maui

I’ve mentioned my fear of heights on multiple occasions. In 2011, I stood on the edge ready to hurl my body into the New Zealand abyss, but shamefully backed away from the bungy platform. Though in January, I vowed that 2013 would be the year that I rid myself of this ridiculous fear, and May presented the first opportunity to tackle my phobia. I would paraglide in Maui.

Maui Ocean View

Check in time was an early 7:30 am and the Proflyght Paragliding location was a good 30 minutes from my hotel. This, my second morning in Maui, didn’t have the most auspicious start. First, I had serious jet lag as a result of flying from Jordan 36 hours before. Next, I had a Seinfeld-esque mishap with the AM/PM setting on my alarm, no doubt a side effect from the aforementioned jet lag.

Paragliding in Maui

Thanks to a wake up call from Man on the Lam, I managed to shower, properly clothe myself, and get to Proflyght on time. This sequence of events, although stressful, may have been for the best, as I had zero time to think about what lay ahead. Instead of focusing on the nylon and wind that would keep me from plummeting to the earth, I was applying mascara in the car trying to avoid stabbing myself in the eye.

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The air was a bit crisp in Upcountry, the area of Maui known for farming, ranching, and rolling green hills. In the parking area, there was a small crowd of people gathered, some customers and others instructors, but all had looks of concern on their faces. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit of trepidation. As I filled out the required paper work, I discovered that it was the presence of the low-hanging clouds that had everyone so concerned. Cloudy conditions equates to no paragliding.

Instructors and the morning flyers piled into vans loaded down with duffels filled with equipment. Through private ranch land and up windy, narrow roads, we drove approximately 10 minutes up to the highest launching spot. Taking off from this point allows a 3,000-foot descent and about fifteen minutes of flying time. We waited for a few minutes to see if the clouds would pass, but ultimately decided that it was unsafe to fly from that point. This chicken was secretly a bit relieved.

Paragliding in Maui

I wasn’t completely off the hook, as my instructor thought that the lower elevation launch site might be ok. We loaded back into the van and proceeded back down the mountain. After about a 30 second assessment, it was decided that flying was safe. Quickly the instructors unloaded their bags and unrolled their sails across the grassy expanse of land. I was equipped with a helmet and various harnesses, then given my instructions: Run really fast down the hill and keep moving your legs as if you’re running even after your feet have left the ground. Slide your body into the basket-like seat and enjoy the ride. It sounded easy enough, and before I knew it, I was flying above Maui.

Oddly, I wasn’t scared in the least. There were no thoughts of crashing to the ground or being swept to Molokai by a strong gust of wind. Instead, I felt completely at peace. The view must have been the best on the island. I could see the lavender field below and the gorgeous blue waters of the Pacific. It was a kind of peace that one dreams of having.

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For five minutes I floated over Maui and could have done it for fifty. As I got closer to the ground, I cursed the clouds. The 1,000-foot descent wasn’t nearly enough. I wanted more. Landing wasn’t nearly as smooth as taking off as I basically fell to my knees with a thud. It wasn’t one of my more graceful moments, but I couldn’t have cared less. I still had the adrenaline coursing through my veins and a permanent grin on my face.

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I don’t think I’m ready for skydiving or bungy jumping quite yet, but paragliding was the perfect first step to eradicating my fear of heights.

I was a guest of the Maui Tourism Board. In no way was I prompted to write a positive review based on their righteous rainbows, spectacular scenery, or brilliant blue water. As always, opinions are my own.

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28 Comments
  • Wendy Harvey
    July 10, 2013

    I’m so glad you mentioned doing this in spite of being afraid of heights. I am afraid of heights too but paragliding isn’t frightening. In fact, I find it very peaceful as you did.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Yep, you were right! I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out because I would have missed out on a really cool experience.

  • Loz in Transit
    July 10, 2013

    Paragliding is fun. I think the next step, if we dared would be powered paragliding. Its interesting finding countries where its almost a cultural pastime. Lithuania comes to mind where I found several Paragliding photography books. Had the chance to do it there too.

    Umm… but Mascara for flying in the air?

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      I’ve seen the paragliding in Rio and I think I may be up for it. And, yes, mascara. If I’m going to plunge to my death I want to have my lashes looking good. 😉

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam
    July 11, 2013

    Glad I could be of service m’lady. 🙂

    I loved paragliding in Maui too!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      You were my knight in shining armor. Truth!

  • Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    July 11, 2013

    You floated for 5 minutes!? That’s awesome. We went paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland and the view was spectacular! I love floating in the air.. enjoying the view. Far better than skydiving. lol

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Five minutes seemed like forever. There are professionals that can do it for hours. Can you imagine floating around for hours?

  • I have no desire to ever bungee jump or skydive. This looks like fun though. Sailing through the sky is a good cure for jet lag. I drove all night from Chicago and then ziplined in Kentucky on an hour’s sleep. The wind revitalized me.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Jet lag, Ted? Is that code for hangover?

  • the lazy travelers
    July 12, 2013

    the hubs and i went parasailing and i wanted to die the entire time, so no no no thank you. but congrats on conquering at least a little bit of your fear!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Seriously? Wow! I thought y’all would be all over that kind of adventure.

  • Ryan
    July 12, 2013

    Rock on Leah! Congrats on finally getting off the ground and experiencing human flight 🙂 I’ve never done paragliding or skydiving for that matter, but I did bungy jump twice. I hope you’ll do one of those two at some point, bungy is more exhilarating I heard 😛

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Oh, I will do the bungy jump at some point, most likely when I return to New Zealand. Hopefully by then I’ll have the courage to actually do it.

  • Anita Mac
    July 12, 2013

    I am totally with you re: bungee…not interested in the least. Paragliding, however, is on my adrenaline bucket list (http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com/2013/06/12/adrenaline-inspired-bucket-list-for-the-adrenaline-junkie-in-you/)! Have done the one behind the speed boat in Australia and would love to do what you have just done…I have no doubt it was an out of this world experience!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      OHHHH…paragliding behind a boat in Australia sounds perfect. Let’s do it!

  • Erin at The World Wanderer
    July 13, 2013

    Ohhh, I want to do this! Like you, heights are not for me, but I think you’ve given me some encouragement to give this a try. 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Running down a hill is less terrifying than running off of a cliff. Start with paragliding. Promise.

  • lola dimarco
    July 13, 2013

    so pretty. sounds like fun. not that i’ll be doing this. you’ll find me taking surf lessons instead!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      I think I’d like to take surf lessons, too. Although, the ocean sort of terrifies me as well.

  • Jess
    July 14, 2013

    Way to face your fear head-on! It sounds – and looks – incredible.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Thanks, Jess. It felt good afterwards for sure.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    July 15, 2013

    You are so brave! Seriously, I donºt think I could do it… but something tells me you wont be surprised!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      No, Mrs. O, I’m not surprised, but I think you might like it once you’re up there. The views are wonderful.

  • Lance Wiedower
    July 15, 2013

    Yeah, I’m not doing this. I like to say I’m not scared of heights, just being on ladders. I just think I’d freak out too much. There, I admitted it. I’m a wimp.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Not a wimp, but it is something I wasn’t aware of. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  • Hogga
    July 17, 2013

    ahhhh i’ve always wanted to do this!!!!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Get after it then. It was so much fun after the butterflies left my stomach.

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