The Most Anxious Paraglider of Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines Gliderport | San Diego, California, USA
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I'm Amy B, the writer, editor-in-chief and HBIC at Change N Focus. My mission is to inspire each of you to travel & explore the great outdoors, empower you to be the best YOU and truly LIVE the life of your dreams!
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Paragliding Torrey Pines At a Glance
Torrey Pines Gliderport is located on the scenic bluffs of La Jolla 350 feet above Black’s Beach.
Location: Torrey Pines Gliderport, 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 452-9858
HOW IT WORKS
1. CALL – If you are not staying very close to the gliderport, I highly recommend calling to make sure they are flying. It can change throughout the day due to winds off the ocean. There is plenty to do in the Torrey Pines area if they are not flying when you arrive.
2. SIGN – You will need to sign all the legal waivers, you know like death & dying, and watch a 10-minute video. You will sign and receive a temporary flight school membership and pay the fees.
3. FLY – You will “enjoy” or fight through your anxiety to attempt to enjoy the stunning scenery. Passing by the Torrey Pines Golf Course, gorgeous mansions of La Jolla, my flight even made it down to the San Diego pier. Most flights land back on cliffs where you took off from, but if the winds die down, the instructor will land you on Black’s Beach and you walk about up the cliffs to gliderport.
Tandem Paragliding Flight – for first time flyers, your only option is to fly with an instructor, which let’s be honest, is the only reassurance that you are with an experienced flyer! Flights occur most days of the year based on weather and winds.
Cost: $175 ($165 cash)
Age: ALL AGES WELCOME!
Hang Gliding Tandem – I have not done this. Hang gliding takes stronger winds than paragliding and flights occur most often during the spring and summer months.
Cost: $225 ($215 cash)
Age: ALL AGES WELCOME!
"You must add paragliding Torrey Pines to your ultimate bucket list!"
The Most Anxious Paraglider of Torrey Pines
The first time I visited the Torrey Pines Gliderport, I believe that I was coerced by my Sister, Hayley, on our first Sister Adventure in April 2015. We were on the last stop of the trip in San Diego and staying with our Aunt and Uncle. My head kept telling me, there is no way in hell you are paragliding. Once we were on the bluffs, overlooking the take-off area, I was sure I would NEVER do it. I even believed God was looking out, because as we were watching a few pilots take off, the winds died down and there was literally NO WIND coming off the Pacific Ocean, which is usually unheard of in San Diego. My mind said, “thank you God!”.
Photo taken watching paragliders at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Somehow, I was persuaded into adding my name to the call list if the winds were to pick back up and they started flying again. I even filled out the legal waivers and paperwork and watched the 10-minute video. I’ll be honest, most of this was just a bluff to show my sister that I “would” do it.
The next day I remember waking up to check the weather and once again little to no wind...you cannot fathom the relief I felt. My family members made me call to check if they were flying and luck would have it, the answer was NO!
The second morning after I signed my life away, the thoughts in my head were, they probably won’t continue to keep the list day after day, so I will probably not get a call. My sister was also flying home to Kansas that morning. However, there was wind after we dropped her at the airport. My Aunt and Uncle told me that I should call the gliderport to check again. My response, “if I’m meant to paraglide, then I’ll get a phone call.”
After a couple days of pure agony, living in fear of a phone call, I was scheduled to take the red eye back to Florida late that night. Exhaustion from a 10 day trip had set in and I was really tired. Now this is something that very few people know, but my anxiety about paragliding was so extreme that I shut my phone ringer off the majority of the day so that I didn’t have to “get the call” to go paragliding. I woke up from an afternoon nap and felt a little ashamed that I turned off my ringer, so what the hell, I turned it back on.
Unfortunately, minutes later, my phone rang, and it was the gliderport telling me they were flying and if I was still interested that I could fly in the next 30 minutes. I’m pretty sure the amount of adrenaline that shot through my body just hearing those words was likely unhealthy. Another unfortunate incident was that my aunt and uncle overheard the phone call and got so excited to take me to the gliderport to fly!
Those of you with regular every day anxiety can imagine what I was going through. I thought I was going to throw up, because my fear and anxiety was over the top insane. As a little girl, I was scared to do just about anything new, including just being away from my parents. I hadn’t changed much as an adult, but I had tried some things like ziplining and repelling in Costa Rica, so I knew that new experiences could provide a truly exhilarating feeling! I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to die, thinking that I might start believing it if I continued repeating it to myself.
From the drive to the gliderport, to paying for the tandem flight, to walking out to meet the flight instructor, everything was a complete BLUR. I was still in shock that I was going to paraglide. You literally walk off a 350-foot cliff with an instructor saddled to your back and only a thin parachute between you and your impending death. Kept reminding myself to BREATHE!
Photos of me meeting instructor and approaching take off.
I was surprised that I was physically able to walk out to the instructor at this point. His name was Bob, I had to look that up later, because my mind was still racing with fearful thoughts of dying. Then he began giving instructions on how we would take off. Never have I ever had such intense focus than on his every word at this point. I felt like instruction took forever, because I just wanted the entire experience to be over with already. But as you can see in the clip below, it wasn’t more than a couple minutes.
Video of receiving instruction and my first paragliding flight take off
The moment that you are off the ground was interesting, but then you go off the edge of the cliff and I had to focus on not having a full-blown panic attack. My kind instructor kept trying to talk to me, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was trying to focus on the stunning coastline to distract my brain. The view from high above the bluffs was incredible, but we ended up going higher that I thought we would, and the anxiety was constantly making me feel sick.
Video of views from paragliding over La Jolla shores and Torrey Pines Golf Course
We made a turn to head south and I could see all the other paragliders in the air, which was helpful, except I also saw someone carrying a parachute up the cliffs from the beach. I had to tell myself, that guy is still alive, and he landed down on the beach. However, then the thoughts of our rapidly approaching landing began swirling through my head. I vaguely remember my instructor pointing out a few things during our flight, but I’m so thankful that I bought the GoPro video of my flight, because I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have remembered much of what I saw.
Coming in for landing paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport
At one point, we had dropped below the edge of the bluffs and I thought for sure we wouldn’t be landing where we took off from. I was wrong, yet again and we circled the landing field a couple times before we found a little room and my feet once again touched the earth! I cannot be sure whether the overwhelming and exhilarating emotions were caused by the relief of my feet being safely on the ground or the realization of what I had just done, but I’m going with the latter, because the sense of overcoming fear and anxiety to accomplish a bucket list item is something everyone must experience.
Photos of my tandem paragliding flight coming in for landing at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Thank you, Bob, for a crazy cool ride!
Torrey Pines Gliderport in San Diego
Have you ever dreamed that you were flying? Paragliding is a cool way to give you that ability. Literally, you take off from your feet and soar through the air and finally landing back on your feet! Many people call it the simplest form of human flight with just an inflatable wing. Paragliding at Torrey Pines you catch the winds on the ridge lift off the bluffs.
There is also a flight school at the gliderport where you can get your paragliding or hang-gliding pilot’s license. If you have a license you can also pay $10 day-use fee to fly at Torrey Pines. I recommend checking out their website for more details at Fly Torrey Pines Gliderport.
If you struggle with anxiety like I do, you may want to immediately sign up, pay and fly when you visit the gliderport. But for those of you that love trying new things or just want to see the action, check out the Cliffhanger Café for a bite to eat and they often have live bands on Saturday and Sunday from May till September.
Don’t forget to check the website for weather and wind conditions or calling ahead to make sure they are flying.
Photo of celebration in conquering my fear of trying new things!
How to Get There
From the north (Del Mar or Solana Beach), you will take Interstate 5 South to Genesee Avenue and take exit 29 from I-5 South. Then you take right on Genesee Avenue, left on North Torrey Pines Rad and right on Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. Follow Scenic Drive all the way to the end and park in the dirt parking lot.
From the south (downtown San Diego), you will take Interstate 5 North to Genesee Avenue and take exit 29 from I-5 North. Then you take left on Genesee Avenue, left on North Torrey Pines Rad and right on Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. Follow Scenic Drive all the way to the end and park in the dirt parking lot.
Visit San Diego, California
There are plenty of things to do in San Diego besides paragliding at Torrey Pines, including tons of great outdoor activities. Some of my favorites are listed below, but San Diego is a not-to-be-missed city with gorgeous weather most of the year!
Photo on left of pelicans at Children's Cove, George's at the Cove is shown in the middle photo, and skyline of San Diego from Coronado Island
-Hike Torrey Pines State Reserve
-Relax La Jolla beach and walk to Scripps Pier
-Find peace in the meditation gardens at Encinitas Temple
-Visit local wildlife at La Jolla Cove & the Children’s Pool (beware it usually smells)
-Must have happy hour at George’s at the Cove for stunning views of La Jolla
-Mt Soledad for 360 degree views of the city
-Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo
-Watch a Padres baseball game at Petco Park followed by drinks and fun in the Gaslamp District
-See the Point Loma Lighthouse and views of ships in the harbor at Cabrillo Monument
-Ride a bike down Mission Beach