Tenerife: translates from Latin directly as ‘ hot volcanic island with great thermals and wall-to-wall totty’.A few days ago, as I joyfully bounded up the (endless) slopes of Tap’O North, up here in Stone of Destiny Land, jauntily clad in forty layers of warm togs and my electrically heated ‘Paddington’ gel flying slippers, marvelling at the beautiful snow and ice crystals and the scrummy warm Scottish weather, I paused by a friendly looking avalanche and a small pile of deep frozen skiers to consider where I had been not 48 hours earlier.
As I thought of the 110 degree temperatures, superb flying conditions, good times and good company I felt a warmth flowing over me. I double checked and found to my relief that I was not suffering from catastrophic colostomy bag failure but was remembering what must surely be the best flying holiday available, short of a week’s skydiving into a large bowl of Helena Christiansens.
It occurs to me that those of you who have not yet taken the opportunity to sample a flying holiday in Tenerife are in much the same position as a jellyfish in a giraffe snogging contest. There is something missing from your life and you are unlikely to reach the altitudes you desire.
So what is it about Tenerife flying that makes young girls weep and grown men reach for their brightly coloured clothes and polish their helmets (!!)?
Well, who knows?
In this article I would like to recall a few of the features of the trip, perhaps convey a little of the flavour of the Airborne holiday experience and maybe invoke a few memories for the guilty ones!
Tenerife: translates from the Latin directly as ‘ hot volcanic island with great thermals and wall-to-wall totty’.
I had no direction in my life. I thought I could never be truly happy. I thought Swing canopies were accessories to keep children out of the rain whilst playing on reciprocating chain suspended activity chairs. Then I fell under the evil influence of Tony ‘ The Fugitive’ (EL Fugitivo) Delaney and nothing would ever be the same...
I hadn’t met most of the group before the trip, though I thought I’d seen one or two of them on Crimewatch. As it turned out we all got on fine - the same happened on a previous trip. I think paradanglers are generally equally daft and always mix well.
On arrival in Tenerife we found Tony had inadvertently excelled himself - we were the only people on the plane to be met in the terminal with a tray of ice cold beers! An early misunderstanding with the car hire company was quickly resolved (11 people, luggage and canopies in a bubble car and a Sinclair C5 was pushing it a bit)
After a couple of days flying just about everyone had acquired a nickname:
Tony ‘ The Fugitive’ Delaney - The main man - 2nd in the British Paragliding Cup this year on his super fast Swing Nimbus (beaten by an even more main man on an even faster Nimbus!). I wonder if this is why everyone except me seemed to be flying Swing canopies - including the locals? Tony looks like the blond girl from ABBA and says his secret ambition is to be taken seriously as a professional model and record a version of ‘I will Survive’ with the Spice Girls.
Doctor Martin aka ‘Boots’ - a Polish surgeon who applied his professional precision to his spot landing technique - on rocky terraces behind the landing field, in cactus plantations and in the sea, usually due to ‘someone turning off his sink alarm’ or ‘ someone stealing his thermal’ (yeah right!)
In the air however, Boots was a God, regularly seen as a speck in the heavens, recognisable only by the occasional tone-burst from his radio.
Then there was ‘Ricky Speed bar’ -flying for his CP (and well beyond). Ricky was happy flying in any conditions as long as he could use his speedbar throughout the flight!
Trevor ‘Tallstories’ - suave and immaculate restauranteur with a GTI cabriolet flying suit. Trevor is adamant that a large pomme de terre and a selection of gateaux fell out of his canopy whilst performing a dashing manoeuvre over El Conde. Trevor clocked up some major airtime and a brilliant XC, which excited him so much that he was apparently making vario noises in his sleep that night.
Ray ‘Ron’ Clark - a quiet, unassuming and very competent flyer, who revealed himself to be a total weapon in the night-clubs of Veronica’s. As if possessed by the spirit of Gonadula - God of Testerone, Ron wreaked havoc with his tenacity and determination in the face of severe rejection!
Bob ‘The Giant’ - a closet magician who defies the laws of physics by appearing to get smaller the closer he gets to you. Never said a lot but was usually flying somewhere above me!
Terry ‘I’m Walking Towards You’ - Skygod and excellent wind dummy - one rather bouncy afternoon we watched Terry take off and perform an impression of Pans People in a centrifuge high above El Roque before deciding to ‘recalibrate our varios’ for about an hour on the ground.
Doc ‘Good Effort’ Rob - Skygod, XC pilot extraordinaire and accomplished arcade motorcyclist. Rob also likes to fly close to his friends - see dual flying below.
Milly ‘Lemming’ Millward - Likes to fly into mountains and off the edge of launch sites (see dual flying). Since returning from Tenerife has bought a faster canopy in an effort to bring more drama to his flying.
John ‘Captain Numpty’ Carmichael - Flies a very large canopy known as ‘the B52’. One forward launch was described by an awed onlooker as ‘like Geoff Capes trying to throw a static caravan into someone’s garden’. When Captain Numpty flew over the beach several sunbathers put their watches forward an hour to compensate for the sudden darkness.
Dave ‘Dad’ Price - Dad is an optician and is very good with glasses. He can empty them with more style than anyone I know. He is also an excellent pilot, van driver and Spanish opera singer and one of the best blokes you could hope to fly with.
Jo ‘ The Babe’ Whitehouse - Jo’s job was to look gorgeous on the beach and attract people to the noble sport of paragliding. 50% of the task was certainly completed but I didn’t see many new faces on the hill! Jo was also our ‘nightlife specialist’ seeming to only need one hours sleep per week. This led some to believe she is an alien creature or a bat. I have taken to sleeping upside down in a spaceship in case it’s true.
Sue ‘Temptress of the Till’ Whitehouse - Last but definitely not least - Sue is to blame for all of this! She is the person who organises the logistics of these trips at Airborne. She WILL take all your money off you. You will phone up for a weather check. By the time the phone goes down you’ll own a super new Swing canopy, three varios and an old Landrover. She is also personal trainer to all the pilots and regularly models jodhpurs in Farmers Weekly.
Flying holidays in Tenerife are organised and run by Halifax based ‘Airborne’ on a regular basis throughout the winter months ( when the weather is even more tragic than usual in the UK.).
All the flying sites on Tenerife are controlled by the local flying school - Parapente Del Sur, who have long standing access agreements and permit use by Airborne. It is not advisable to jump on a plane and turn up unannounced to fly the sites. The locals are keen to keep numbers down and are likely to turn you away if you ‘gatecrash’ their sites.
The sites can be quite technical to fly and invariably require a retrieve, so it makes good sense to go out with Airborne and know that everything will be sorted and you will be ‘accepted’ on the hill.
It is cost effective too - working out about the same as a package deal, plus, of course, you get the benefit of shared car hire and accommodation costs and many years local experience from the Airborne people.
Flying in Tenerife is predominantly in thermals although Milly did try to ridge soar at Jama for some time before he realised there was no wind! It is possible to reverse launch quite often but the forward launch is the preferred method of most of the locals (and me). So practice a few of those before you go! Landings are often in nil wind so practice those too (or get a real fast pair of Reeboks). It’s very different from flying in the UK - almost every day is flyable and the launch sites range from 1500’ ASL to a trouser staining 7500’ top to bottom You can see the sea from most of the take-off points and flying at over 3000’ is the norm. If your flying experience to date is all in ridge lift, expert guidance from Tony ‘The Fugitive’ will soon have you hanging on to your pants in the superb afternoon thermals. For the poseurs, there is an excellent (and comparatively easy) 8km XC flight from Ifonche to El Conde, thermalling up the south face of the 3,500’ mountain and then gliding over the resort of Torviscus to land elegantly on a sunlounger next to a babe of your choice on the beach!
A vario and radio are essential accessories, as are cool shades, factor 20 suncream and a box of Milk Tray.
Tenerife is a great place to experience a tandem flight, either as an introduction to the sport or as a ‘one-off’ thrill for holiday makers recruited from the beach. It is possible to enjoy a flight of around 40 minutes at altitudes of several thousand feet. This was demonstrated by two of our own ‘top guns’ - Doc ‘Good Effort’ Rob and Milly ‘Lemming’ Millward.
Both being experienced pilots they naturally had the edge over the casual tourist and were able to quickly achieve a breathtaking flight of three seconds, reaching an altitude of several inches, before stalling and falling down a cliff. Further details of this amazing feat can be seen in the forthcoming photo-feature - ‘3 steps to a perfect dual launch’, starring Doc Rob and The Lemming. On this occasion both pilots were very lucky - we were nearby and able to get quickly to their location with the camera!
Life on tour with Airborne is a relaxed affair. When not flying, you can chill out by the pool, stroll around the bars and cafes telling tall stories, sit around the apartment dreaming up tall stories or simply wash your rancid clothes in the sink. You can learn a new language or maybe join an animal rights organisation (depending on who you are trying to chat up!). There is no pressure. In the evening a frenzied steak chomping session usually occurs down on ‘cheap street’, followed by a pilgrimage to the totty heaven that is Veronica’s. One unnamed individual managed to stun us all with his success and can now proudly proclaim ‘ Vidi, vici veni’! Wot?? ?Que paso amigo? ?Quieres algo, tambien, no?
For the less energetic many a happy evening is spent down at ‘ Nick’s Bar’, talking flying and dribbling Budwieser. And losing money at pool.
Well, I hope I have managed to convey an idea of the great flying and great fun to be had on a trip to Tenerife. There is, of course, only one way to find out if I’m telling porkies or not and that is to get out there and do it! Meet new friends like I did and then abuse them all in print. You can contact those nice Airhead people on 01422 834989.
Make the call! Sign the cheque! Pack the bag! Then read about yourself - be abused in print!
‘ Vidi, vici veni!’
Paragliding is something I wanted to do from the moment I first encountered the sport while out hill walking. Learning was not, however, something I wanted left to good fortune, but when I was presented with the list of BHPC schools and clubs all of which are at least three days trek by a good camel from flat old Norfolk, how does one decide which to use?
After gaining my EP in one of the few glorious weeks of British Summer time I then spent the winter wondering how I would ever make any headway on my CP. By the end of January I had succumbed to the idea of an overseas course with its guaranteed flying conditions.
The training; I received In Tenerife was very good indeed, and it put me firmly on course for my CP and continued enjoyment of this fabulous sport. The professionalism of the course organisers, Airborne, was of tremendous benefit to the students and for the promotion of British paragliding. This type of course highlights the strength and depth of a school and since the entire course and holiday was an undoubted success I would recommend anyone in my position following suit.
My personal thanks to Tony and Daryl for their hard work on the hill, to Brett (TI) for his eloquent and passionate description of instability procedures, to Sue for making it all work and to the club members for a good holiday overall.
Ian. Abbott, Kings Lynn
Extract from National Magazine