Bastian, a helicopter pilot at 49 North Helicopters in Campbell River, began paragliding in December of 2019. He is on a mission to create a paragliding community. With the help of his girlfriend, Carly, he is scoping out the perfect mountains to launch from along North Vancouver Island.
Flying is my passion. I fly every day with my job as a helicopter pilot, and I love it. It brings me to the most amazing and remote places, but flying a helicopter is expensive, loud, heavy on fuel, and requires a lot of maintenance.
A few years ago, I went to Alaska with some friends. One day, we decided to hike a beautiful peak. It was an awesome trek but, once we got to the top, my friends just flew down with their paragliders and I hiked back down by myself, envious of my friends.
A few months later, I enrolled in a paragliding camp in Switzerland and learned the new sport in two weeks. I got to fly in the Alps with experienced instructors and my Swiss friends. We would wake up in the morning, have breakfast, and jump in the gondola that brought us to a 3000-metre peak. From there, we flew about four flights a day. We got very lucky with the weather and, at the end of the day, we celebrated with drinks and dinner.
I came back to Campbell River, but knew no one here that was into paragliding. I decided to create a Facebook group, North Island Paragliding, to find other flyers. Just a few days later, I was flying with a few people from that group. These people became my friends, and we are now flying around Campbell River on a regular basis.
We all love paragliding for the same reason: it is the simplest way to fly. You get to soar with other birds and there is little to no sound up there. The wing fits in a small backpack and allows us to have an incredible time in the mountains around Campbell River.
We usually take off from a mountaintop and land somewhere on a beach in Strathcona Park where my girlfriend, Carly, is sunbathing on a camping chair. She is the best ground crew I could hope for. Carly drives us up logging roads, communicates the landing conditions with us over the radio, and most importantly, makes sure the beer stays fresh.
Just two months after Bastian and I met, he was fresh out of a paragliding course in Switzerland, and ready to launch off a mountain. I thought he was crazy.
I love to be in the wilderness and near water with my daughter, Sidney. So the fact that part of our job as ground crew is to wait at the landing spot (i.e. the beach) is a bonus.
On a typical day we start early and drive for an hour or two. My job is to carpool everyone up the mountain as far as the Jeep will take us. Once we’ve reached the end of the road, the paragliders hop out to hike the rest of the way to their launching spot. I say goodbye to Bastian like it’s the last time I’ll see him (I cried the first time I dropped him off), but I’m almost positive he feels nothing but pure excitement. I drive down to the beach with Sidney, set up for the day, and wait. It’s basically a typical beach day except we have radios to check in and a SPOT location device in case of an emergency. I read a book, Sidney always swims, we explore the beach, and have a picnic. Sometimes it’s hours before we notice a glider in the air, but we don’t mind. It’s always exciting to watch—and a relief.
Seeing Bastian in his natural element allows me to have deeper insight into who he is as a human being. He has a passion for flying, whether it’s a helicopter, a plane, or his glider. It’s inspiring to watch someone truly living out their dreams and I’m happy to be able to support that, while doing something that I enjoy too. Having two different interests that we can bring together—along with my daughter—is a win-win.
Bastian and Carly are looking forward to travelling again and exploring new flying spots like Nepal, Mexico, Patagonia and, most importantly, Bastian’s hometown in Switzerland, where Carly will have the opportunity to experience flying in more forgiving terrain.