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Paragliding in Jibacoa

Paragliding in Jibacoa

In Cuba, paragliding started being practiced in the mid-1990s when a group of Cuban parachutists returned to Cuba after being trained in Spain by a Spanish expert; they immediately took on the sport on a regular basis.

Travelling to the chosen locations was useful to get to know some of the protagonists of these aerial maneuvers and the reasons for their passion and dedication to the sport. In the case of Cuba, it is interesting to point out that most paragliders have or have had certain connections with flying. Some of them were or still are skydivers. Almost all of them admit that flying is a passion that is in their genes, it runs in their families and they have been immersed in it all their lives straight from childhood.

On this trip, we were going to see some experienced men along with the debuts of some who have just undergone months of training and preparation at the hands of Luis Garcia and David Cala.

At the foot of the hill, the instructors were testing the knowledge of their students before they embarked on their first solo flight. They especially emphasized the landings because they require a lot of concentration and calm.

A few minutes later were climbing the hill from whence they would take off. Once at the summit, we chatted with Gilberto Piñeiro, an active skydiver and the president of the Paragliding Club in the province of Pinar del Rio. He explained to us about the functioning and structure of the Aviation Club of Cuba which includes skydiving, model plane flying and sports aviation besides paragliding.

There on location we were able to observe all the details and preparations that precede the flights; teamwork is important since that is one of the greatest guarantees of a successful flight. One of the most experienced paragliders, Roberto Urribarre, with 15 years behind him, told us his intentions of writing a book in the near future about the history of paragliding in Cuba.

Luis Garcia, who until recently was the president of the Cuban Paragliding Association, added that the best locations for the sport of paragliding are on the Isle of Youth, the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Villa Clara and the area of Canasi ini the province of Mayabeque where this encounter took place.

After take-off, in the air, we were treated to a surprising show. The pilots stabilized their flight and started to glide and execute maneuvers. That air space becomes magical because of the array of colors in the sails, appearing to be giant multi-colored birds. This air show goes on quite near the beaches and so almost all the beach-goers automatically become spectators. Our cameraman and photographer flew in tandem with two experienced pilots. When they landed after their first flight, they admitted to us that they now understood the passion felt by these sportsmen for their activity and for flying. They told us that once you are up so high in free flight, the feeling is indescribable; you feel incredible peace and tranquility, something that is almost impossible to attain on terra firma.

Before leaving, Reinaldo Prendes Montes, the current association president, emphasized the increased quality of the national paragliding championships. Until this year they have been held every two years, welcoming the participation of foreign sportsmen who have praised the skills of Cuban pilots. Prendes stressed that the sport is in good health in Cuba these days and that he is sure that the future of paragliding in Cuba is assured.

August 2014 This article formed part of the August 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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