From Dream to Reality

I tried pinching myself, but I didn’t wake up. This wasn’t a dream anymore, it had finally come true. Time stood still as I glanced down on the mountains that I’d been looking up at and dreaming about flying for so many years. I was flying the 12 Apostles! Paragliding Cape Town just got real. Really real.

Join me on the adventure in the video at the end of this post.

Paragliding Cape Town - 12 Apostles

Stoked!

Paragliding is literally a dream come true. Growing up I incessantly dreamt about flying. It wasn’t “normal” flying – as those of you who’ve had flying dreams will know – mine always started with the need to get away from something or to get to somewhere quickly. I would remember that I could fly and then jump, or jump off of something, and then do breaststroke to get going (don’t ask me why).

The beginning was always difficult. But as the dream progressed I could give myself more direction and speed by smoothly pulling through the air, as I became more aware that I was in control. I never felt afraid. Sometimes I would catch myself in a falling dream plummeting to the earth, only to remember that I could fly, swooping away just before I hit the ground.

And this is what I wanted. But it isn’t possible for man to fly, we’re people not birds. Well, that’s what I thought until I discovered what I believe to be the most amazing sport available to man. Paragliding. And fortunately, I don’t have to do an awkward swimming stroke to do it.

Flying has changed my life. Whether I’m riding the thermal wave up to cloudbase, gliding over spectacular scenery or just playing around on the slope, paragliding gives me freedom, adventure, stoke. And best of all, it’s one of the only places where my head stops spinning and I’m completely in the moment.

Signal Hill to Kommetjie

To do the “Apostles Run” – as it is fondly known locally by pilots paragliding Cape Town – or even better the “Kommetjie Run” the weather conditions have to be just right. And this is rare. So rare that these runs only come about a handful of times a year. As even paraglider pilots have some form of life outside of flying (believe it or not), you have to be in the right place at the right time for this to become a reality.

paragliding cape town - signal hill

Signal Hill (left) running up to Lion’s Head (right)

The 16th of June 2016 was a public holiday in South Africa. Gavin, a flying friend, had given me the run down the night before that the Apostles may be on. I have a luck dragon that travels around with me, I’ve never seen it but I know it’s there because of the regular doses of fortune I’m given.

So we get to Signal hill, a sports rated site, which means it’s only open to pilots with advanced paragliding licences. I’d never flown it
before apart from two top-to-bottoms in nil-wind conditions a few weeks before, shortly after I received my sports rating. We arrived at launch, luck dragon zooming around somewhere, and took off in some of the smoothest, most buoyant conditions that I’ve flown in to date.

Having fun paragliding cape town

RAWHero Grant Smith cruising above Sea Point

And today was the day. Gavin and I spent almost an hour waiting for the cloud to lift on the Apostles, happily gliding around over Sea Point and above the heads of onlookers on the summit of Lion’s Head. Chris and Dave joined us a little while later. Low level ocean air condensed to form clouds below our lift band as it was pushed up over the hill allowing us to fly above the clouds. Our silhouettes were visible against the cloud below us inside a circular rainbow, known as a Brocken Spectre. Not a sight that you see every day (check it out in the video below) and another dream box ticked!

I told you that luck dragon was real.

As we played some more, the cloud lifted, and we were off. What followed next is difficult to put into words. Exhilarating, breath-taking and spectacular come to mind but if I don’t stop myself here the page will become full with adjectives. Magic. Oops, that one slipped out. But, it’s fitting because doing this, unpowered, over the Cape Peninsula, can’t be real. Right?

celebrating paragliding cape town

Long Pete and Chris Bond (back), Grant Smith and Gavin Lay (Front) celebrating after flying Signal Hill to Kommetjie (Photo Gavin Lay).

Then Gavin, Chris and I flew together, whooping, chatting and bantering in buttery air. The excitement was hard to contain.

And the best part, it didn’t need to be contained. Our route took us along the Apostles, over Llandudno, across Hout Bay then along the mountains to Chapman’s Peak before finally gliding over Noordhoek before landing in Kommetjie, to end a flight that must rank with some of the most beautiful flights on the planet.

When I pinch myself now I don’t wake up from the dream because I’m still in it; the dream has become real. Paragliding allows me to live that dream.

Now, I just need to figure out what I need to keep feeding that dragon.

 

 

 

 

Written by RAWHero Grant Smith

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