Paragliding

Jun 29,2011

It's actually reasonably cool in T-Town today, so this is about something else entirely.

People don't seem to realise it, but there are lots of groovy things to do in Tottori that can be sought with a modicum of effort and attention. One of these, in which I and a few lucky others participated this past weekend, involved taking a running jump off of a sandy cliff and coasting through the air with the aid of a giant canopy.

There exists a so-called 'paragliding school' at the Tottori Sand Dune (also known as Tottori Desert, where one can ride a camel for a small fee or simply hike up the dunes and imagine oneself in a Frank Herbert novel) where some fun-spirited instructors tell you how to mount, fly, and steer your flapping canopy from the top of the hill to an anticlimactic thump to rest just short of contact with the ocean.

In this case, despite the unpredictable wind and misty rain, we were able to make a few jumps a sail quite far toward the water. The problem with getting that close was landing in a pile of twigs that had to be removed before the paraglider itself could be packed into its bag for the arduous haul back up the hill, where your feet sink into the wet sand and you go backwards almost as much as forwards.

Now, this 'school' serves the interests of the normally untainted by adventure, the hoi polloi. If one wants to get really serious about it, one must purchase one's own paraglider for approximately the price of an automobile and obtain legal certification to jump off cliffs in remote areas and take one's life in one's own hands. Near Higashihama and other places these hardy souls can sometimes be spotted, soaring through the air for an hour or so before coming to rest.

What I wondered is: Don't they ever fall into the ocean? And if so, then what? It's easy enough to detatch the thing from one's back and swim to shore, but what of the now water-soaked canopy itself? Does the unfortunate paraglider just abandon it, curse the huge dent to his bank account, and buy another one? That seems like it would be either a huge deterrent to take up the sport at all, or at least to be really, really careful about not falling into the ocean, one.

As usual, Google has the answer.

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