In this sport nobody stays grounded: paragliding is only for high-fliers! Somebody who knows the feeling of flying very well is David Jürgen Stock: “in the air I can switch off and be free”, says the 47-year-old tandem pilot and owner of Stocky Air in Mayrhofen. With over 18,000 flights under his belt, he should know what he’s talking about. For three decades, David has been soaring to daring heights only to plunge back to earth a short while later. He doesn’t see much danger in paragliding: “I am fully present in body and mind and rely almost solely on my senses when I’m flying.” Take-off and landing are the most risky parts of flying, “because you are close to the ground” and, therefore, have little time to react.
The weather is also not to be underestimated: “approaching storms and especially the ‘Föhn’ winds are dangerous because the winds come in fall winds, in waves and quickly gain momentum. Winds over 25 km/h are a problem.” Wearing a helmet and a foam protector to protect against back injuries are a must. A safety chute is also integrated into the tandem pilot’s belt, “which we never need, because it would mean we had done something wrong.”
World record from the Ziller Valley
David’s longest continuous flights until now were 200km in seven to eight hours. However, his customers can fly from 1,300m to the valley floor in a more comfortable 20 minutes. And, if a customer should get queasy during the flight: “we have a technique which ensures that the pilot is spared the worst of it”, laughs Stocky. Paragliding has a reputation as an (extreme) sport which can be exhausting. “At some point your concentration fades and you notice the changes in altitude more. After five or six flights, we pilots are tired at the end of the day. The guests notice that suddenly less people are flying.”
In paragliding circles, Mayrhofen and Hippach have an excellent reputation, especially because of the good infrastructure. From the various take-off and landing points we can, “start a world record. Of course, this is especially interesting for advanced paragliders.” Also, the far Ziller Valley offers an amazing panorama over the main chain of the Alps. The Penken cable car is also very convenient, as it can carry paragliders to 2000m in just 20 minutes. With the increased altitude, pilots can catch more thermals and fly for longer. Adventurous youngsters from six years old and with a weight above 20kg can fly with a tandem pilot. The maximum passenger weight is 120kg.