the answer is:
if I had so much money I didn't know what to spend it on, and so much time I didn't know what to do with myself.
under what circumstances might I take paragliding lessons?
it was great fun!
it began with the meeting in the parking lot, on the north side of the point of the mountain, where a few dozen of us milled around and looked up to the ridge of the point. we could see a few bodies, and a big white truck moving along the ridge, first one direction and then the other. some gliders then appeared, floating, soaring, and ripping down from the top of the hill, legs dangling from their little seats, hands firmly gripping the cords.
I signed my life away and then climbed into the big white truck for the ride up to the top of the hill: this was the scariest part of all. if you've never been in a vehicle that is climbing such a steep hill that you see nothing but blue sky in front of the hood, well, you might want to try a ride like this. I learned that the ridge on top of the hill is just that: a narrow ridge. there is a point where the hillside drops off to the right and to the left, and you look out to the north and see the entire city spreading far, far, far below . . . this is not for the faint of heart.
getting hooked into my harness, putting on my helmet, waiting to get connected to my pilot, then leaning forward against the tremendous pressure of the wind catching our sail were the few, brief steps before I slowly ran off the edge of the hill and into the sky.
we glided, swooped just a bit, and floated some two thousand feet off the ground, and it was as if time stood still. anything moving was so far away that it didn't matter, and time was just suspended up there between the gentle gusts of air. this lasted not nearly long enough, and then we were within shouting distance of the landing field. my pilot asked if I wanted the mellow landing, or the roller coaster.
which do you think I chose?
we whipped and rolled our way in, leaning to the left, to the right, to the left, and I watched the ground from every angle but--thankfully--upside down. within too few seconds we approached the field and my pilot told me to get ready to run.
I did, we did, and in much too short of a time my experience was completely over.
given enough money and too much time, I would own my own glider.
so I say.
in closing, I leave you with this little blurb from the Paraglide Washington website, found under their Frequently Asked Questions:
is paragliding safe? With proper training and equipment, paragliding is the safest of all forms of personal aviation. But like anything, you are responsible for making it as safe, or as dangerous you want it to be. You are more likely to get injured riding a bike (well, crashing a bike) than while paragliding.
need I say more??