Torrey Pines Gliderport; A Tandem Paragliding Adventure

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As far back as the Greeks Man has wanted to fly. When Icarus put on his wings and jumped off a cliff, he wanted to soar through the heavens just like a bird. Call me crazy, but that is exactly what I plan on doing today as well. San Diego is home to Torrey Pines Gliderport, one of the most historic aviation sites in all of North America. Charles Lindbergh had his maiden flight here in 1930, and fast forward 86 years, and I’m going to be taking my maiden paraglide flight here as well. Call me crazy but I am so excited about this I could barely sleep the night before. Let’s go flying!

Paragliding over the La Jolla cliffs

I am so stoked about this adventure I’ve brought my friend Lauren along with me. I want to experience this adventure with someone so we can compare notes after we’ve both flown. Lauren and I have been on some fun trips together like Ottawa and Boise, Idaho, but those consisted mainly of culinary and beer adventures. This is our first time jumping off a cliff together.

Marc & Lauren ready to Tandem Paraglide

Arriving at the Torrey Pines Gliderport the first thing I notice is how safety conscious they are. Signs are everywhere stating you must stay within the boundaries and paths laid out. I certainly don’t want a paraglider or a remote controlled plane landing on my head so I’ll stay within the ropes until I’m told otherwise.

Torrey Pines Gliderport main office building

Welcome to Torrey Pines Gliderport

When Lauren and I check in we are informed, we will have to wait. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you have a schedule and the wind wasn’t blowing in the right direction so until the conditions were right we would have to wait. No problem at all because safety is first. We decided to hang out on the viewing patio until it was our time to fly.

Torrey Pines Gliderport viewing patio

We don’t have to wait very long as we soon see a couple of pilots setting up and getting the feel for the wind.

Pilots warming up for our paragliding session

It is now our turn. Being the gentleman, I let Lauren go first. Strapped in with her Pilot behind her they do a quick run and leap. They are off. A few minutes later it is my turn. Under my Pilots instructions I strap on the harness, wait for him to unfold the paraglider and then we connect up. I feel like a baby in a Baby Bjorn harness.

All you need to Paraglide

My pilot getting the gear ready

At this point, I put my IPHONE away. I want to snap pics as I’m soaring over the cliffs, but my fear of accidentally dropping my phone has me lock it up in a pocket instead.

It’s time. My Pilot yells in my ear to take a few big steps forward and then JUMP. We are off! I can’t describe the mix of exhilaration and peacefulness that washes over me simultaneously. This is exhilarating. Under his careful steering (is that the right word), we make our way towards La Jolla.

Pic of my Tandem Paragliding with Torrey Pines Gliderport


Soaring over the cliff face at first and then descending so that we are parallel with the clifftop. This is when we had a bit of bad luck. The wind changed direction on us. There was no warning and no hope of us rising back up to land on the clifftop so we instead had to have a beach landing. No problem it is still very safe and we landed with ease.

A successful landing on the beach

A beach landing

The one thing I didn’t clue into right away with a beach landing is that we have to hike back up to the top of the cliff where the Gliderport is. EEK, it is quite the climb. I leave my pilot to pack up the chute while I begin the climb. Lord have mercy.

Time to hike up to the top of the cliffs

It took a few stops for breath along the way, but I did it. I have no idea how steep the climb was, and I don’t care because I really don’t want to have to do it again. Suffice it to say if you have a beach landing like I did you get a do-over. That’s right, you get to come back and try your Tandem Paraglide another time when the wind is more favourable.

A look down at what I hiked up

I may not have time again on this trip, but I can’t wait for another chance to ride the winds over the La Jolla cliffs, and there is no better place in all of Southern California than Torrey Pines Gliderport. Icarus would be jealous if he could see us now.

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Disclosure: General

This adventure was hosted by Visit San Diego as part of the support they offered for this travel series. The views and opinions here are 100% my own and this post was not seen or reviewed prior to publishing.

About Author

Marc Smith is a single, 45-year-old, gay urbanite, living in high-rise heaven in Vancouver’s chic Yaletown neighbourhood. After a ten-year career as one of Vancouver’s pre-eminent event planners, he decided it was time for a change and posted on his Facebook page “I am ready for a change. What shall I do with my life?” 30 Day Adventures was born from that status update.

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