Sunday, September 26, 2010

Paragliders at Cooks Terrace

A few months back I fortuitously discovered the existence of paragliding spots along Sydney's Northern Beaches. Today my wife and I were celebrating the end of winter by spending a Sunday afternoon at Bongin Bongin Bay when suddenly a big rectangular shadow swept across the beach. I looked up and here they were, big colourful paragliders in the Sydney sky!

These paragliders were taking off from a point at the top of the cliff known as Cooks Terrace and described as suitable for novice pilots on the Sydney paragliding and Handgliding Club web site.

I was amazed at how long they could stay in the air. They would fly from one end of the cliff to the other and back and didn't seem to loose any altitude. As can be seen from the windsock on the photo below, we had a nice steady sea breeze throughout most of the afternoon. Wind blowing from the sea rises over the cliff and creates ideal conditions for soaring.

Cooks Terrace is the cliff on the right-hand side of the photo below. Other paragliders can be seen in the distance on the left-hand side, this is the Warriewood paragliding side. Under the right conditions, paragliders can go from Warriewood to Cooks Terrace and back.

Seen from the beach it always looked like the paragliders just cleared the cliff edge, but that's clearly just an optical illusion.

The good thing with coastal soaring is the landing on the beach is almost always a backup option if one cannot land on top of the headland.

The paragliders fly a sort of circuit around this headland with one leg along the ridge and the return leg further out at sea.

My wife commented that only an aviation tragic like me can spend a day at the beach looking upward and taking photos of paragliders and not a single time point the camera in the direction of the surfing girls in bikinis right in front of us. I had not even noticed the surf babes.

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