Road Raves: Lalit Kumar shares his passion for high-adventure sports.

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Running down a cliff. Soaring into the sky.

I hooked on to the harness of the Paraglider, feeling a sense of excitement coupled with a tinge of nervousness. I took a deep breath and told myself silently, ‘I am so ready to do this; I am so ready to soar up in the azure sky’. I collected my thoughts and with a sense of preparedness, I ran towards the edge of the cliff to take off, with the paragliding wing trailing behind me. The deep blue waters of the Pacific stretched before my eyes as far as they could see and with the cool wind flapping on my face, calmness finally descended upon me. Even though I was fully focused in the moment, my heart seemed to skip a beat as I reached the edge of the cliff with at least 500 feet of vertical drop below, but there was no time to rethink my decision, it was already too late.

Paragliders (image: Lalit Kumar)

 Will I fall? Will I fly?

I took the leap off the ledge, my feet left the ground, but I was instantly gripped by fear in that moment — it felt like I was falling down the cliff to be swallowed by the immense ocean below. However, within a couple seconds, the magic happened and I was airborne. I wasn’t falling down any longer; instead I was soaring up, up in the sky. It was an exhilarating experience and a feeling of elation swept over me.

As the paraglider gained altitude, and I felt more secure in my harness, a keen state of observation overtook my mind. From the vantage point of a thousand plus feet, up in the air, the coastal view of Pacifica was breath-taking. I looked all around, enjoying the view from the top. The wind chill at this higher altitude seemed to be penetrating under my skin and it appeared as if all my senses had gone into a heightened state. I marveled at my current state – literally suspended in the sky with wind beneath my wings!

I adjusted my torso in the harness and feeling more secure, I looked far and wide. Watching the distant pacific coast merge endlessly into a melting pot of blue waters down below with the blue sky up on the horizon, I wondered if nature could get any more scenic than this view. The waters of the ocean spread out like a flowing carpet — gone were the large swells and sounds of roaring waves seen and heard on the shore. Towards my left, the vibrant, colorful houses of Pacifica lay arranged like a matchbox in a neat row over that distant hill, inter-mixed with the greens of the backwoods. The bird’s eye view is indeed so majestic !

Harnessing the wind 

As I tugged on the lines of the paraglider to change the course against the wind, I could feel the push and pull of the glider canopy vis-à-vis the force of air currents performing a delicate balance act to keep us floating in the air and still helping us navigate to go where we wanted to go. It was the most surreal feeling, unlike anything experienced in our day-to-day lives. The closest I could think of would be sailing in the water (during tacking to change course), but paragliding provided a distinct feeling of totally immersed in the immense forces of wind as you are suspended in air while maneuvering, with no solid ground underneath your feet. (Just a thought, both paragliding and sailing in principle work by harnessing the power of the wind, hence similarity in the sensory experience, perhaps).

Lalit paragliding (image: Lalit Kumar)

Circles in the sky

After drawing some more lazy circles in the sky like a bird, I had my fill of this air-borne adventure for the moment. It was time for the landing, which was an equally thrilling experience. We descended gradually, pulling and adjusting the lines depending on the air currents. As we were approaching the ground, the vista kept changing prominence dramatically, from being so indistinct up in the air to being vividly remarkable – the trees, the hill-side, the houses became more and more visually acute, until the feet touched the ground. The feeling was akin to jumping down the cliff, with one minor difference this time – I was just so secure in the knowledge that now the harness works as it’s meant to be and it can arrest any fall, just in case. 

There is a common refrain in the world of paragliding – ‘ a paraglider offers a whole spectrum of emotions, depending on the weather from flying effortlessly to being blown away’.

I was literally blown away, suffused with a new found love for freedom and adventure. Which other adventure can let you say that you went on a trip where the sky was the only limit?

Lalit Kumar

Lalit Kumar works in the Bay Area's tech sector and enjoys writing prose and poetry. He published “Years Spent : Exploring Poetry in Adventure, Life and Love” in April 2022. Contact Lalit on Instagram...