Dancing With The Wind


Behind that journey of a few seconds to fill the forward-moving wing with air and bring it over your head lies man’s millennia-old dream of flying, a quest going all the way back to Leonardo da Vinci and Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi and the Icarus myth before them. In what language to describe the joy of the next few moments as you become airborne?

I don’t know. Just imagine that magical moment when you turn your head from earth to sky and the cumulus clouds are suddenly billowing right beside you. Only a few moments after this photograph was taken I was going to experience that feeling. That’s paragliding, the most recent point reached in man’s age-old quest to fly.

Following the super final held last year at Denizli Çökelez for the first time ever, this year two stages of the six-stage world championship are taking place in Turkey. One of the world’s most important acrobatic competitions was also held recently at Fethiye Ölüdeniz. The rapid succession of international events in recent years shows that Turkey is a new drawing point for wind enthusiasts, with demand coming from all over the world, most notably Russia, since Turkey’s weather conditions make it ideal for air sports.

In paragliding as in every sport, besides the national competitions there are also all the world competitions. And the third stage of the six-stage world championship was held this year in Turkey. Where? At Erzincan, on the Çakırman Piste, 10 kilometers from the city center and 2,500 meters above sea level. Hundreds of pilots from all over the world took part in the competition, which was sponsored by Turkish Airlines. For a total of five days, they raced to complete the approximately 80-kilometer route in the shortest time possible.

So professionalism impels you not to distance flying but to acrobatics? Then you can go to Ölüdeniz and take part in the world acrobatics championship held here every year. You can turn somersaults at thousands of meters and perform difficult maneuvers like wingovers. The prevailing winds at Ölüdeniz are suitable for training and flight year round. What you need to do to enjoy the paragliding experience is very simple. Go to Belcekız Beach at Fethiye and take lessons at one of the schools set up there by trained pilots and you’ll be flying in no time.

With the equipment the school provides, you’ll be able to make short flights of a few minutes from the low, 100-meter hills in just a week. If you don’t have time to train, then you can take off from the slopes of Babadağ in the company of a professional pilot and glide over the Ölüdeniz’s turquoise blue waters and white sugar sands for about half hour following a 10-minute briefing.

Don’t forget to take along some warm clothes for the flight. Otherwise you might catch cold at 2,000 meters despite the 30+ C. temperatures down on Belcekız Beach. If you’re in the neighborhood of Antalya, one of the best ways to add excitement to your holiday is to spread your wings over the Mediterranean’s blue waters from Kaş, where tandem flights for amateurs are available year round as they are at Ölüdeniz. You can follow the flying colors in the skies of Istanbul as well.

On weekends, for instance, there is paragliding in the villages on Istanbul’s Black Sea coast. One of the advantages of this region is that the prevailing winds off the sea collide with the hills and spiral upwards, allowing you to fly for hours without coming down. At Adapazarı too you can watch pilots making use of currents of hot air currents rising from the earth to dance with the wind. In short, there are numerous spots for paragliding in Turkey. Let’s say you have at least a year’s flight experience, or maybe just tens of hours.

One of the best places for you in Turkey will be Kayseri Alidağ. You can also add Çankırı Bayramören, Denizli Çökelez, Niksar and Tokat to your list. And that’s not all. Erzincan Çakırman and the slopes of the Taurus near Tarsus are also ideal for paragliding. You can cover tens, even hundreds, of kilometers at any one of these pistes. In short, the choices are many in Turkey, the new address for paragliding. So come on, let’s go.

The Bayramören route is also home to a Turkey record. Taking off from here the morning of July 17, 2010, David Selçuk Erkek completed the route at the village of Uzunbey on the Ankara-Konya border some 7 hours and 232 kilometers later. When David’s feet touched the ground at ten to eight that evening, he became the first Turkish pilot to go over 200 kilometers.

The fifth stage of the World Championship is being held this year at Çankırı Bayramören July 23 to 30. Pilots will compete to be the first to finish this approximately 60-kilometer route, which is known as a difficult one flyable only by professionals.