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The WAGA’s Festival for paragliders

This week, the 29th May – 2nd June, the annual Wagga’s Festival will be held in France.

WAGA or Wagga’s flying is the freestyle arena for paragliders. It’s all about tricks such as helicopter landings, death spirals, advanced ground handling, barefoot (not literally) surfing, and many more.

First held in 2003 at the largest sand dune in Europe – Dune du Pyla (near Bordeaux, France), this event is still the only international freestyle paragliding show in the world. The Festival went walkabout for 3 years but is returns tomorrow to the Dune de Pyla. The dune is 2.7 km long, 110 m high and borders the Atlantic Ocean. “Flying on the Dune of Pyla is a true gift that many paragliders around the world envy us having … Most of the time it’s pure thrill for a flying man! When the weather is good, the ocean breeze gently grazes the 2.7 km of sand dunes and allows the happy owners of a paragliding wing to play in the infinite space between heaven and earth,” say the Festival organisers.

The Festival is invitation only and a maximum of 30 world class paragliders will be invited. Here’s a quick clip to show you what’s on offer:

The competition will taks place in 4 or 5 rounds (depending on air conditions) and the following disciplines are required:

  • a round of required tricks
  • a round of freestyle (called free session)
  • a round of duels (one on one)
  • a regatta (about 1 km)
  • an optional round, depending on the weather.

Dune de Pyla is a paragliders paradise, but the Esperance beach in Western Australia offers similar conditions. South African Johannes Nieuwoudt waxes lyrical in Cross Country Magazine on the crisp white sand dunes of this region. “80 metres high and 1.4 km long, pure white and totally flyable even for novices, there are few other places on Earth quite like it: Laminar, non-turbulent, perpendicular prevailing onshore winds blow onto the dunes for the whole of the summer at just the right strength (10-18 knots), from November until the end of April. It is one of those places you can go to in summer, knowing that at least 4-5 of the 7 days will be full-on and perfect for flying and doing low level acro. This form of flying requires many hours of practise and ground handling, and the Waggas paragliding festival is about just that: developing skills and having fun. Esperance also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Western Australia, great for kite surfing, surfing, snorkeling and Scuba as well.”

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If you live down under it will be relatively easy for you to get across to Esperance, no more than an inter-continental flight for the rest of us!! I am always stunned by the huge distances in Australia! If you live in Western Australia of course, it is a mere car journey of perhaps several hours. If you’re not anywhere near Australia nor planning a visit, then it’s Bordeaux for you.

Photo courtesy of Johan Nieuwoudt

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