Many of you know the mythology of Daedalus and Icarus fleeing their captivity by King Minos on the island of Crete. Daedalus, the father, made wings by covering frames of wood with feathers that were held together by wax. During the flight Icarus became haughty and flew – against the explicit warnings by his father – too close to the sun so the wax started melting, resulting in his death by crashing into the Aegean sea.
Fortunately this era we have had many technological advancements that enable us to fly freely trough the skies. Without fuselage or enclosed capsule, without engines, but with a maximum of safety and comfort. The paraglider was developed out of the square parachute, with more stable and better gliding qualities. The two have not much in common nowadays, except for the fabric of the wing and the lines connecting the pilot to the wing. The harness, the area and form of the wing, the gliding ratios, and many other things don’t have much in common. Where a parachute is meant to enable someone who jumped from an altitude (from a high obstacle, airplane, helicopter, balloon, etc..) to land safely, a paraglider is meant to enable a person to effectively fly in the air, eventually taking him to higher altitudes if the winds and thermals are favorable.
Paragliding world records have been set where hundreds of kilometers have been crossed, and there are many competitions all over the world where men and women strive to complete a pre-defined course via a set of waypoints in the shortest time. The course cannot be completed without taking time to gain altitude in thermals (air that is rising), just like sailplanes do, so tactics and skill are the main requirements for a would-be champion. World championships are held, where the best pilots from over the world battle against each other in the blue sky.
But as with all sports, the majority of enthusiasts are just paragliding for recreational purposes. There are rules, like areas to avoid (eg. airports and reserved air spaces) and how to behave when flying with others, but due to the lack of over regulation paragliding is often called ‘the anarchistic sport’. This is also due to the mentality of the people engaged in this sport. Everyone is helpful, champions are easily approachable, and every one abides by the rules of nature and winds.
The accessibility of paragliding for all people makes that everyone, regardless of age, gender and certain disabilities can learn to fly and enjoy hours in the air. There are pilots who are missing legs and manage to start and fly as well as able-bodied persons, blind people do fly in a tandem with a guide sitting in front of them, and I have known a man of 78 in my former club still flying on a regular basis.
During my wanderings all over the world with my paraglider as luggage I met lots of people. In this regard the most remarkable certainly is Marko Hrgetić. Five times Croatian paragliding champ, vice World Champion, holder of many titles and achievements (but too shy to admit it), he was the guy who really learned me to fly. I did my basics with a Belgian flying school, but unfortunately the focus was on earning as much money as they could from the students by postponing flight independence of the apprentices as long as they could. Fed up with this I found Marko in Croatia.
The extraordinary thing about his method is that, once the pupils are proficient enough to handle the basic stages of flight safely, Marko flies together with his students. This way he, for example, can direct them towards a thermal he found to gain altitude, and monitor them from nearby flying in the same conditions his apprentices are moving in. And thus teach them the finer skills of flying and becoming one with the air carrying us trough the sky. All with utter respect for the safety and security of his pupils.
Apart from his flying and teaching skills Marko is a really nice, dependable guy. A bit shy and wary at first, but warm, open and welcoming once he gets to know you. And once friends, always friends, just like friendship is meant to be in life.
The hoard of beautiful Croatian women did not seem to satisfy Marko’s tastes, so he got himself hijacked by a wonderful Mexican women named Alma who made him her husband, and together they just became the proud parents of a little son. Having noticed that Mexico was abundant with commercial ventures to take tourist in tandem flights, but lacking high-level flight schools, he started a paragliding school with his wife: Escuela de Vuelo Flumen (Flumen is also the name of the paragliding club near Rijeka, Croatia, that Marko set up and of which he still is the president for the members did not accept his resignation ?). So now Marko is helping hundreds of people to fly the Mexican skies, be it locals or tourists coming especially for his high reputation and the favorable flying conditions in this sunny country.
If you are travelling to Mexico, or you just want a special and very proficient teacher to learn this amazing sport, contact Marko. If Mexico is too far, you can safely make your first ‘steps’ in paragliding with the Flumen paragliding club in Croatia, where Marko educated himself new instructors by his high standards. I can warmly recommend Ivana, she is a beautiful person and a hell of a woman! ? Also for tandem flights to get a taste of free flight you can always contact them (below).
Love, yann ❤️
Flumen for flying in Mexico
Flumen for flying in Croatia
note from the author: I am not sponsored by Flumen, Marko Hrgetić or anyone else, nor affiliated to them in a commercial way, but I wanted to write about my experience with this amazing and safe sport, and with those wonderful people I got to know well over the years.