“The island is beautiful, and will give you a lot, but you must respect it, it can take your life,” says paraglider Veso Ovcharov in a serious moment between talking enthusiastically about his latest adventure.
He and Ondrej Prochazka had the flights of their lives as they explored the little known island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands. Such was the hype they created about the perfect, near undiscovered, conditions; by the end of their trip there were 15 of the world’s top pilots trying the spot out.
Check out the video of his adventure on El Hierro
The island has a unique weather system, creating a sea of clouds every day, and strong winds that allow pilots to, unusually, spend a long time up above them – and enjoying much acrobatic trickery while there.
Ovcharov says: “Sometimes, when we are flying we have a moment where we can pop up over the clouds but disappear again.
“Here we could have one hour doing acrobatics above the clouds, going up and down above the clouds. It was a really spectacular, emotional experience.”
El Hierro is an acrobatic pilot's heaven
What is it about this island that makes it such a playground for paragliding? “The island is shaped like a horseshoe, from tip to tip it is 30km and vertically more than 1,500m so it catches a lot of wind,” explains Ovcharov.
“The very top is like a pyramid so you can take off in any direction, even if the wind is wrong. It has a unique weather pattern, the rolling clouds make a magical effect,” he adds.
The two local pilots say the island spoils you so much when you leave it’s almost impossible to find better!
Two local pilots, Renán Andrés Morales and Joan Luis, inhabit the island Ovcharov is so passionate about, he says: “The two local pilots say the island spoils you so much when you leave it’s almost impossible to find better!
“It’s such a chilled out place, there are only around 8,000 inhabitants, the food is great, it’s like heaven for us.”
It takes a lot of experience to navigate the strong winds on El Hierro
A heaven it may be, but it is not the place to learn to fly, or a stomping ground for the inexperienced. It takes an incredible amount of skill to navigate the strong winds on the island, with even the world’s best finding room to learn in the El Hierro skies.
Ovcharov says: “Two talented pilots left their wings on the cliff, after a collision, this type of thing can definitely happen.
"In another case, pilots caught the cloud and ended up being blown backwards in the rotor. Even the best pilots in the world learn something here.”
But for those with the talent, and passion for the island, we don’t think anything could stop them going back!