Tandem paraglide adventure in Oberstaufen, Germany (including tips for first timers)

 Watch the video below

It’s a sunny later summer day with blue skies and 21°C (70°F), one of those days that Germany didn’t have quite enough of this year.

“You don’t have another jacket?” my paragliding pilot Chris Geist from the Paragliding Academy in Oberstaufen asked me when he saw me walking up in my stylish red coat for shoulder season.

“Uhhh no…” I answered but I did find a warmer one which my mom had left in the car.

“What about your shoes? You know we’re going to be walking on Alpine terrain in 2,000 m?”

These shoes survived hours of walking in the dusty, sandy paths and alleys in of Dar es Salaam, cobblestone streets in London, Paris, and Germany, and several Tanzanian safaris – how could they not take me a few meters on a rocky mountain slope?

“I’ll make it work.” And because I felt kinda embarrassed for not planning better, I had to add: “You know I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years. I don’t own very warm clothes. Nor do I own hiking shoes. I like my beaches and safaris; I’m not really a mountain girl yet.”

“Now it total makes sense,” Chris said. He also told me he had done paragliding for more than 20 years and participated in a few world championships. That made me feel safer before I was about to trust a stranger to fly me over mountain ridges without anything but a piece of nylon and a few suspension lines.

On our way up to the Nebelhorn mountain, a woman noticed my pilot Chris’ paraglide backpack and said something about paragliding not being safe. And Chris said something along these lines: “Nothing in life is. Nothing is guaranteed. Would you rather die without doing the unsafe things, without taking risks?”

And I thought, hell to the NO! She agreed.

We took the cable car up to the highest station of the Nebelhorn, “Höfatsblick,” where Chris started laying out the gear. I got super quiet and hella nervous. Why did I always have to get myself into things like this? Oh yeah, right, because I don’t want to die without taking risks…

Chris gave me a helmet and gloves, put me into a harness with something like a pillow, on which I’d be sitting and which he would attach to his own before we would start our flight. “Now, it’s important that you run. RUN RUN RUN and don’t stop until we’re in the air!”

“No problem. I got this,” so I thought.

Once we were in the air, Chris said: “Well, you did quite the shitty job now. You stopped running at some point.” Third embarrassment of the day. YIKES! How many more?

“I don’t know what happened. I didn’t even realize it. My brain must have froze?”

Once we were up in the air, I could barely talk – that’s how stunned I was. My body tensed up quite a bit and it took me a while until I was comfortable floating around in the air while thinking “the person who invented this sh!t must have been some crazy f(ck.”

Chris’ variometer showed us thermals via various tones, which we needed to rise up further. According to Chris, inexperienced pilots are able to stay in the air for about 15 to 20 minutes, but people like him for 45 minutes or longer. Pilots have to observe the thermals to know whether the paraglide is going to rise or sink.

We spent a total of 45 minutes in the air, of which Chris used the very last ones to make my flight a rollercoaster experience with a few maneuvers. If you want to see me scream from the top of my lungs because at some point we seemed to fall straight down, please enjoy the video.

The landing was extremely smooth, but again, my legs did not do what my brain told them to, and so they sorta gave in. But when Chris told me to stand back up, I was able to.

All in all, paragliding is an absolutely amazing experience for people of almost any age (my 60-year-old mom went recently, too).

However, remember the following things:

Don’t forget your

  • Warm Jacket
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Gloves
  • Warm clothes because it can get cold depending on how long you’re up there for!

And expect a wait of a few minutes up to an hour or so for the right wind to come, so plan in some time!

A special thanks to the Paragliding Academy in Oberstaufen for sponsoring this experience. As usual, all opinions are my own!

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