40 years of gliding in paradise

TAKE TO THE SKY: Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club pilot Brian Rushton.
TAKE TO THE SKY: Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club pilot Brian Rushton. Courtesy Northern Rivers Hang Gl

FOR four decades, hang-glider pilots have been wafting in the thermals and enjoying the magnificent panorama around Byron Bay and Lennox Head.

Resembling enormous and brilliant butterflies, hang-gliders and more recently paragliders are a common sight in the air along the North Coast.

Now the Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club is celebrating 40 years in the sky.

According to senior safety officer Jan Smith, 65, the club is flourishing with more than 70 members, including seven women.

"We have such a rich history of flying in the Northern Rivers area,” she said.

"Our club has maintained a strong culture of caring for each other and the sites we fly, mentoring new pilots and decorating the sky with amazing colourful wings.”

Ms Smith said many of the club's members have won state, national and international titles.

"Member Che Golus (now in Newcastle) has been selected for the Red Bull X-Alps in 2017, he's one of 30 competitors and two Australians,” she said.

The 1000km race by foot or paraglider across the Alps is regarded as an extreme event.

Ms Smith said in 1976 some pilots met at Norma's Café in Lennox Head and formed the first hang-gliding club which was called Byron Bay Sky Surfers.

"We still have four hang-gliders from that meeting with us still doing tandem hang-gliding,” she said.

"A few years later it became known as the Byron Bay Hang Gliding Club, but as Lennox Head became more popular and we were also flying at sites in the Hinterland of Byron, around Kyogle, Lismore, Casino and the Tweed Range, the name was changed to the Northern Rivers Hang Gliding Club then in 1997 Northern Rivers Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club,” she said.

"In the early 70s, hang gliders took to the sky around Byron Bay and Lennox Head (and) a few years later paragliders joined them and they are still thrilling onlookers today and giving hundreds of people every year the opportunity to experience free flight and see our beautiful coast from a bird's eye view.”

"A number of the region's paraglider pilots fly cross country from our sites and have also successfully competed in state, national and international competitions, they are so much portable than hang gliders.”

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Topics:  byron bay northern rivers

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