Reporter’s Notebook by GINGER ZEE
The subject line of the email read — “Would you do this?”
It was a note from my executive producer, Matt Frucci. In my short three months here at ABC News I have received a few similar emails. (One asked me to try to a sport called ice cross). This particular email started with the same “would you do this,” but followed quickly by “travel to Mexico for the World Cup of Paragliding and go paragliding?”
Yes! Please! A trip to Mexico on work?! How is this real?
My producer, Rich McHugh, and I arrived in Mexico City at night. Just seeing the scope of the world’s most populated city was overwhelming. I got to use my Spanish skills since our cab drivers spoke no English (I have a minor in Spanish, but have used it quite sparingly in the past decade). We then took a two and a half hour drive through the dark roads of central Mexico to a secluded hotel in Valle de Bravo.
The next morning we met up with Niels Dachler, our editor and the impetus for this project, and got on a bus with the best paragliders in the world. We took a cozy, 30-minute ride up the mountain to the takeoff point at almost 7,000 feet.
As soon as we got off the bus, it was all business for the gliders. Women and men from around the world are dedicated to a sport many have hardly seen let alone tried. The championship is 10 days long and each day the pilots are given a “task” — basically an intricate course set up by race organizers depending on the weather. The gliders program their tasks into GPS units they take with them and use the GPS to find the imaginary cylinders or buoys in the sky.
Soon it was my turn. I walked up to the edge at launch and the view was spectacular, but it was also a bit nerve-wracking. It really hit me when I saw this:
Next, I met my tandem pilot, Miguel Gutierrez. They call him the godfather of paragliding in Mexico, which slightly calmed my nerves. He showed me the ropes — or the strings I should say — that attach us to the “wing.”
After assembling the flight suit, helmet, and all our gear it was time to get off the ground. Once the wing catches the air you take just a few steps and you’re off! Sitting back in the seat was the most challenging part of it all, but once I was settled in, I was calm and zen-like. I had heard from others that this was the feeling you get and it was so true.
My mouth was open in awe for a full 30 minutes as we floated around using the thermals (pockets of air/heat that paragliders use to rise into the atmosphere). I have spent so much time studying in meteorology, but it was a new experience to feel them.
The landing was seamless and I immediately felt the need to rush back to the top of the mountain and do it again.
So, Matt Frucci, “would I try this?”
From here on out, it’s always going to be a yes!