Four months ago, I stood at the top of Middle Brother Mountain, 550 metres above the ground, with a paraglider strapped to my arms and a little bit of scare-wee dribbling down my leg. My friends were already on the ground, celebrating their first high flight. I ran at the cliff, heart pumping and mind racing and looking forward to a life-changing new experience and… the wind dropped. I had to pack up my glider, climb back into the car, and drive down to meet everyone else. I was shattered, and the shadow of Middle Brother has loomed over me ever since.
Today, I went back there, looking out over the mid north coast of New South Wales. This time I had my pilot’s license in my pocket and my own shiny glider to fly, and I found myself at that same launch site. It was a perfect day, with blue sky in every direction and green hills rolling out to the shining sea, but the wind was erratic. It was coming through in gusts, and I was sure Middle Brother was going to shrug me off again. Like that spunky chick I missed out on rooting in Year 12 and haven’t been able to score with ever since, I thought this mountain would remain out of my grasp, at least for a little bit longer.
But today was my day.
I didn’t want to risk losing the wind and having to sadly crawl down the hill again, so I climbed into Kenny (that’s my glider, named after Kenny Nagas, not a bloke), lifted up my wing and pointed myself out at the abyss. It’s not ideal to head towards a tree, but that’s what I did, popping up just in time to clear it. I don’t think I breathed for the first minute as I soared into the sky, lifting above the mountain as the whole world opened up beneath me. Rivers and towns and beaches spread out, but I saw none of it, so busy was I concentrating on not dying.
I’ve done a few high flights before, but this one was completely different due to the turbulence in the air, which shook me like an unwanted child. Every time my glider jiggled around I nearly crapped myself, but I kept cool, found good height and made it to the landing site. I had two very capable and experienced pilots on the radio to help me and guide me through the flight, but I’d ultimately done it by myself, and the feeling was nothing short of brilliant.
Flying off a mountain is about overcoming fears and limitations, trusting yourself and pushing yourself to new limits, and is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I’ve spent a lifetime not taking risks, not reaching my potential because I’ve never really believed in myself. It’s why I worked a dead-end job as a porn writer for eight years when I should’ve backed myself to do something better. With paragliding, you have to back yourself, because that’s all between you and the very hard ground 700 metres below. It’s about so much more than a simple thrill.
I’m up here with a mate of mine, Mark from Cloudbase Paragliding, just south of Port Macquarie (www.cloudbaseparagliding.com.au), who has been kind enough to let me to fly with him for a week (and ask him a shitload of questions that I should already know the answer to). I didn’t get my license with him and he has no obligation to take me flying, other than the fact he wants me to become a better pilot and not kill myself. Along with his partner Chris (work partner, not life partner), they’ve been great, and have helped me reach the next level in my journey as a paramaglider. They’re running this class for a single student, a great bloke (for a Pom) named Rich, who will leave here an awesome pilot.
On my second flight off the mountain, I no longer had a fear of falling to my death and sat back to enjoy the view and the unparralled feeling of freedom that comes with soaring through the sky. There’s nothing like it; it might sound like I’m bullshitting but it really does feel as if you’ve transcended the limitations of being a human. After all, when you’re up there you’re bloody flying! As I crept towards the glorious ocean, looking out at that incredible world around me, I had to fight back tears. I’ve spent years being told I’m not good enough to be someone’s boyfriend , or to join Cirque du Soleil, or write for a fucking cheap porn mag, but here I am flying through the sky, motherfuckers!
I’ve never surfed or skateboarded or, I dunno, played those board games that nerds love, but this is my thing. I love zooming around with a handful of ropes keeping me in the air, and after a top day of pushing limits I feel confident that I can make a real go of this flying thing. Today was as good a day as I’ve ever spent, with as good people as I’ve ever met, and I can’t wait to go off a few more mountains.
Now, let’s see what I can do about chucking one up that chick I went to school with…