Fly Free at Torrey Pines Gliderport

Paragliding off Torrey Pines offers gliders a unique view of the San Diego coastline—without the whirring noise of a prop plane. Photo by Travis Burke

Over the years, the Torrey Pines Gliderport in San Diego has become a mecca for paragliding and hang gliding, largely because the unique structure of the Torrey Pines cliffs above the ocean produces wind conditions that make flying possible over 300 days a year. The Gliderport also employs some of the world’s best paragliders as instructors—the port’s Max Marien holds the world record for most end-over-end revolution loops in a paraglider—and it’s likely the busiest paragliding school in the world. Best yet, the Gliderport offers tandem flights, meaning any person of any age, no matter their experience in the air, can go up in a paraglider or hang glider to float above the water and gaze at sights like Black’s Beach, Scripps Pier, and downtown La Jolla.

Paragliders experience a rare juxtaposition of adrenaline and a feeling of peacefulness—the initial descent off the cliff is harrowing, and yet the flight itself is quiet, with no engines or motors humming in your ear. Depending on your taste for the extreme, you can ask your pilot to send your paraglider into spins and to move in close to the cliffs, or you can request that he keep the flight low-key. 

Whatever your appetite for adventure, paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport is a must at least once in your life, if only to view the beauty of San Diego from a perspective you can’t access anywhere else.

Paraglider Yohan Bettencourt challenges the weather on a stormy day. Photo by Travis Burke
The Torrey Pines Gliderport often gets visits by famous actors and other celebrities, and Charles Lindbergh is said to have embarked on flights from San Diego’s Mt. Soledad to Torrey Pines. Photo by Travis Burke
The Torrey Pines cliffs are a popular spot for people to go and watch the paragliders. Photo by Travis Burke
Mark Crispino swoops in, getting inches from the grass. Photo by Travis Burke
Ryan Bloum’s aggressive style is really fun to watch. Photo by Travis Burke
A paraglider floats in the distance above one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. Photo by Travis Burke
Floyd launching “The Goat” off the cliff; photo by Travis Burke
Looking north from above Black’s Beach; photo by Travis Burke
Local Kent Erickson guides the Gliderport on events, promotion, and marketing, and he was extremely helpful in putting together this shoot, ensuring that several top paragliders would be sailing while Grindtv was visiting. Photo by Travis Burke
The photographer, Travis Burke, went on a tandem paragliding ride for this shoot. Here, he and his instructor cast a shadow against the cliff. Photo by Travis Burke
The photographer, Travis Burke, and his instructor, world-record-holding paraglider Max Marien, right, sail above the sea. Burke likes to try all of the activities he photographs, as he believes it offers him a better understanding of his subjects. Photo by Travis Burke
What better way to end a gorgeous day in San Diego? Photo by Travis Burke

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