Some say they’re adrenaline junkies, and some say they’re idiots asking for death. To us, they are adventure seekers living the dream. We took a look into the niche world of paragliding through a firsthand account of the sport from Braedin Butler, an aerospace engineering student at Utah State University and avid paraglider. He says most people miss the point of paragliding.
“The first thought of people who aren’t too familiar with the sport is ‘Oh that’s so dangerous, you’re crazy,’ but it all comes back to the fact that it’s just as safe as you play it. Be smart about it. If you play it safe, it’s safe, just like driving a car.” On first glance, it may seem like reckless recreation but in reality it’s a way to soar with hawks, bond with friends and family, and experience a view unlike any other.
Butler got into the sport at 15 years old, after a three-generation family tradition of dads teaching their sons how to paraglide. He lives the adventure sport lifestyle skiing and mountain biking in the wasatch, but the sky is his favorite outdoor playground. He loves kiteboarding, kite skiing, and a unique sport called kite buggying that involves using a kite and a large trike getting up to speeds of 50 miles per hour on wide open spaces like the Salt Flats. To top it off, Butler is also a cross country track athlete at Utah State, but he says paragliding is probably his favorite of them all.
His favorite place to fly is a zone near Centerville, Utah by the Great Salt Lake. “Especially at sunset,” he says. “It’s the best time to fly.” There, he was enamored by the sport. “Paragliding is just beautiful; that’s the reason I love it so much. When you are in the air and everything is silent, you get a bird’s-eye view of everything and you just feel so free.”
“[I love] when you’re in the air next to another pilot flying … my dad and I would fly wingtip to wingtip, close enough to where we can just have a conversation with each other.” Of all the ways to bond with your dad, having a one-on-one conversation soaring a couple thousand feet in the air might take the cake. Some other favorite moments include birds circling around and sharing thermals (an upward current of warm air) with paragliders, flying up and gaining altitude together in the same pocket of hot air.
Butler hopes to use his aerospace engineering degree to contribute to the safety of the world of flying sports, especially paragliding. He will continue to fly for the rest of his life, following his grandpa’s lead.
Photo and Video courtesy of Braedin Butler