Gaynor wanted to know…

Every now and then, I spend some time in the paragliding forum. During a discussion about percentages of women flying, one of the forum members, Gaynor from South Africa, asked me:

1 What started you in paragliding?
2 What was your background before paragliding?
3 Did you have moments when you felt you would prefer not fly?
4 Have you ever doubted your reasons for paragliding?
5 Being the top lady competition pilot means you are motivated in a different way to the majority of women who fly. Perhaps I am asking the obvious, but what motivates you?

Here are my answers to her questions:

1 Flying – without the support of engines – has been my dream since childhood. When I came to Switzerland in 2000, I saw a photography of a paraglider in a colleague’s office. At that very moment I knew, that I would be a paraglider pilot.

2 My professional background is computer science. I work as a project manager. Perhaps I like to think about risk management, and I certainly love to optimize. – As a sportsperson, I’ve tried and done a lot, there is just not enough time to do everything I love… Examples: as a kid I was highest in the trees of our neighborhood, I loved skiing and swimming, board diving, roller blading. For most years in my life, I use my bycicle to go to school, university or work. I learned sailboarding, did a little bit of horseriding and snowboarding. Yoga is an important part of my life, as is running. Recently I’ve discovered rock climbing. No diving, not yet. But I’m sure, I’d love that, too.

3 Never on the ground.

Not exactly like that in the air. Of course, there were situations in the air, where I realized, that I’m in deep shit. But then, I do everything I can, to survive that situation and preserve my health. There is no room for thoughts like „I wish I were somewhere else“. Afterwards, I would do a lot of thinking: what went wrong, why did I find myself in that situation, and – most important for me – what can I do and will I do, to prevent me from getting in a situation like that again.

Sometimes, I’m not very comfortable, it’s too turbulent, it’s not my day. Then I rationalize and ask myself: Is there a real danger? Mostly it’s not, (or I would not be flying, hopefully), so I just go on, just a little, to the next thermal maybe, promise myself, that I may land, if I want. 99 times out of 100 everything will be different and all right at the next thermal. And once in a while, I’ll just land and be happy with my decision.

4 During the training for the licence, a Swiss paragliding student will receive a brochure about the psychological aspects of fear and extreme sports. There seem to exist people, that seek the dangers in paragliding, because they need fear in their lives. So I asked myself two questions: a) Am I such a type of person? b) Am I willing to accept the possible outcome of the risks I’m taking?

My answers are clear: a) It’s not the adrenaline, that attracts me. I’m not paragliding because there are dangers involved. Actually, I try to minimize the risks with all my skills. Paragliding is not „extreme sport“ but aviation to me. (Of course it’s fun!) b) Yes, I’m willing to accept the outcome.

5 Actually I’ve never enjoyed comps in all the other sports I did. I would just be too nervous, feel too much pressure. Nevertheless I started paragliding comps… Simple reason:

Paragliding is the passion of my life. I love watching mother earth and her creatures from above in real time. So I want to maximize my air time, and I want to be able to move around. That’s called „XC“. What’s the best way, to learn cross country paragliding? Watch pilots, who do it better. That’s the main reason of competing for me.