• Georgia Carter

Barbarton Paragliding Open - The First Day

Updated: May 7

The dry velt carpets the takeoff strip on the Barbarton mountain. The regular gusts of cool, crisp wind act as a refreshing relief from the blazing heat projected by the sun. The impeccable view offers a range of mountains that fade into a silhouetted blue the further away the stand. The sun gently exposes the crevices created by the mountains natural folds, which are contrasted by the harsh cracks carved by the mines.

The Barbarton Paragliding Open, hosted in Barbarton – South Africa’s leading winter flying site - is a race extended across seven days, starting from the 24th of June. Each day presents a new set of tasks that require completion for the day’s race to be won. The athlete that finishes in the best time is named the winner.

The first of seven day commences. The chatter of athletes, plucking of finger tips on mapping devices, and the beeping of thermal locators fill the otherwise quiet air. Then the waiting begins. Waiting for the wind to soar and waiting for the perfect time to launch before the allocated starting time.

Finally, it's half an hour before the race starts. The surrounding energy turns into an excited yet nervous tone. Competitors clutch their gliders as their eyes search for an opening spot of the strip to take-off. As a cycle of strong breezes reach the air flag and touches human skin, the first few gliders are off.

Eventually, over 30 paragliders swirl through the sky in search of thermals. Some sink lower than the height of take-off while others rise higher, lifted by the warm spirals spinning among the cool air. The gliders drift almost effortlessly above the mountains, waiting for the timer to signal the races start.

With the expecting sound, they’re off. All airborne paragliders seem to take huge strides in the air towards their first turning point (specifically chosen GPS co-ordinates that usually lead to the pinnacle of a mountain). They sweep the sky at all levels, aiming for two significant things - thermals and allocated mountain tops. Focused and floating, the athletes start reaching their first turning point, which reflects on their devices, indicating their arrival and completion of the first part of the race. One by one, the gliders tick off the mountain tops.

Unfortunately, some of the athletes are unsuccessful, swooping lower than their required height and struggling to locate much needed thermals. As a few drop out of the race for the day, the rest purse. After about two hours, the first athlete who has reached all the turning points gradually makes their way to the final landing strip – the golf course. The lush, well-kept greenery of the field is a welcoming sight. Speculators consisting of family, friends, and other athletes take their place to receive a clear viewing of the landings. An applause met with a round of drinks calls to an end to the day’s task.

The Barabarton Paragliding Open is an inviting and invigorating competition where any athlete is celebrated and recognized. With a strong team and paragliding community, followed by an array of magnificent mountain beauty, it is no wonder Barbarton is known for this delightful excursion.

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© 2018 by Georgia Carter.