PHOTO GALLERY: Paragliding in Greenland

IMG_0459Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a paraglider!

Across Nuuk’s treeless landscape one cannot miss the unmistakable half moon shape of a paraglider floating silently overhead! One afternoon when the wind is just right, look toward Tuapannguit road or Qernertunnguit neighborhood, or drive out to Qinngorput, and you will see these gravity-defiers launching from the rocky hillside into airborne bliss. I used to see them all the time a few years ago when I walked the dog in the afternoon. It was at that time that I made the mental note to put “Paragliding in Greenland” on my Nuuk Bucket List.

Max Petersen of Maximum Paraglider Sportsklub is the man behind all the colorful sails gliding over Nuuk. He is a competitive champion paraglider who has been paragliding in Greenland for approximately 20 years! In fact, it was this legend with whom I made my tandem flight. I couldn’t have felt in safer hands!

IMG_0467 Max Petersen sports his company gear.

IMG_0466Max Petersen and me after an adventurous tandem paragliding experience! I won’t soon forget it!

The thing with paragliding, and especially tandem paragliding since there are two people’s weights to consider, is that the wind rules all. It must be of a certain speed and certain direction, and if it changes too much then all bets are off. So when my friend sent me an SMS that the wind was perfect for tandem paragliding one Sunday afternoon so head toward Qinngorput, I did as I was told!

My friend had been paragliding himself that day with a GoPro style camera rolling, so my arrival to the launch spot is actually documented in full. Cue to 8:30. It’s just casual conversation and a few pointers about paragliding, so don’t make too much fun of me 🙂

IMG_0458Launch spot on the way out to Qinngorput, with Ukkusissat in the background. First the wing and its dozens of lines must be positioned for launch. 

IMG_0447 Then the seat is prepared. It’s like sitting in a backpack with a built-in foot rest.

Fortunately, there is no documentation of the launch! I said this to everyone I talked to that day, and I’ll say it here, too – the launch and the landing are very tough work while everything in between is a breeze! (No pun intended)

The moment the wing catches a bit of air, it wants to pull you up and all around, so I was instructed to use all my bodily power to lean forward, away from the wing. I’m a pretty physically strong woman so I felt confident in my ability to provide counter weight… That went out the window very quickly, even with two of us working together in a tandem rig. Nothing could have prepared me for how much force the inflated wing would have on my body!

The wing yanked us backward and when we got our footing again, we had to “run” sideways to get to high ground so we could launch out and over the coastline. To me, it just felt like we were getting pulled every which way. Thanks to a thick harness digging into my pelvis as the wing pulled us upward and we ran ourselves sideways, I was pretty much just using mental strength to get myself through these minutes!

IMG_0450 Airborne over Qinngorput.

IMG_0463So this is what the birds see!

Fortunately, once we launched and were floating above the coastline, the incredible physical activity was replaced with painless and effortless flying and only the sound of the wind. We sat back into our seats, put our feet up, and had fun!

IMG_0452 Airborne in the tandem rig!

IMG_0453 Looking up, there is only blue sky and colorful wing.

What goes up must come down. After probably 15 minutes of weightless flying, we came into a tunnel of cool air which carried us down closer and closer to the ground. I think if Max was alone, he would have just steered himself in such a way to stay up. He told me that one time, in a distance competition, he stayed airborne for over six hours without landing!

Not to worry for us, we just landed where the wind took us and carried our seats and wing back to the ideal launch spot to start it all over again!

IMG_0455 Max Petersen carrying the wing for us from our landing spot up to the launch spot.

IMG_0457Achieving something on my Nuuk Bucket List makes me one glad woman!!

Just another day in Nuuk, Greenland 😀