This was an interview I conducted in 2013 while I wrote for Brazil-Compass.com's Passion About Brazil Blog.
Wings over Rio with Matt Brooks
Rio is a place of many joys. The tourists and locals alike take in the beauty of the mountains that surround much of the region. However, not everyone decides to jump off of one as I did, along with some of my fellow classmates. That’s right, I decided for the first time in my life to try hang gliding.
In 2011, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Rio for a ten-day trip that was done through my college. I enjoyed the days of sun, beauty, and adventure. I went on the Sugar Loaf, listened to professors at FGV, watched a soccer game, drank açai smoothies until my throat was frozen, enjoyed delicious meals, drank incredible coffee, toured Globo, saw historical sites, visited botanical gardens, bodysurfed in the ocean, traveled by foot/bus/taxi all over the place (day and night), and the list goes on and on.
Although I enjoyed the whole trip, one of my favorite things was simply jumping off of a mountain near Sau Conrado. One day while we were taking a break during a lecture at FGV, our guide came up to me with a big smile on his face and asked if I felt like going hang gliding after the lecture. “Of course I do,” I replied, “when can we go?” He said it would cost about R$250 (USD$125) and that we would be able to go in literally a couple hours. Those of us from my group that were interested quickly gave our names and the arrangements were made for us to go flying through the sunny skies of Rio.
It sounded like a perfect way to end the afternoon. After all, although there are places where I can go hang gliding in the U.S., I had never been able to do so before. Before we left for the adventure, I had a big decision to make. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to contact my family and inform them of what I was about to do. Although I really wasn’t worried, I decided that I should send a quick email just in case something happened.
When we arrived at the hang gliding location. For just my signature, contact information, and my money, I was given something akin to a “license” allowing me to partake in this event. We made sure to get pictures of our classmates holding up their freshly signed health wavers in front of the mountain we were soon to jump off of.
After all the paperwork was done, we were given a ride up a winding and often unpaved road to the jump off point. Our cars had the rolled up hang gliders strapped to the roofs. After we got to the top of the mountain, they had us safely strapped into our harnesses and helmets. We then practiced running back and forth with an instructor to make sure we would be able to launch the gliders properly. We were also able to witness the instructors attaching cameras to the tip of the wings of the glider. These allowed them to take pictures and video as we enjoyed our flight.
The actual run off the ledge is a bit of a blur. I figured it was best to focus a little bit more on my running than on the view at that point. When I ran off of the launch site, my glider immediately dropped. However, once the wind caught the glider in an updraft, I was lifted back up and are able to take in the breathtaking view of the hotels, homes, and beach below. This is probably about the closest feeling to flying one can have without having a jetpack. Although the flight can vary based on the distance from the ground and especially the amount of wind, my descent lastedabout five to seven minutes.
Even more thrilling than the take-off was the landing. As we came in over the waves and sand, it appeared as if my instructor and I were about to run right into the ground. The sand gets closer and closer to your face and seems to move by very quickly underneath as you prepare to land. We wound up having a perfect landing.
Since I was the first of our group to reach the ground, I was able to enjoy watching the rest of my classmates landing. Everyone had a blast. After everyone had completed their jump, the designated negotiator from the business came over for the ultimate haggling session. You see, the price of the actual ride is somewhat set, but the price for the pictures and video were apparently open to negotiation. Long story short, most people were satisfied with the deal we got. I paid the least of anyone, R$30, because my video hadn’t worked properly so I could only get my disc of pictures. However, I didn’t have any problem with this being as my pictures were really good.
After we were done, I was proud to inform my laughing classmates of my new respectable stature as a pilot for the remainder of the trip. After all, I had the “license” to prove it.
Find Matt Brooks on LinkedIn.