Photos: paragliding paradise in Hawaii

Veso Ovcharov takes to the skies above the Pacific isles – and finds pure paragliding heaven.
By Joshua Sampiero

Paraglider pilot Veso Ovcharov recently completed the Red Bull Bird's Eye project in his home country of Bulgaria, showing off the beauty of the Balkans.

Winter, however, was a time to travel – and Ovcharov had his sights set on somewhere new: Hawaii. Basing himself on the island of Oahu, he explored what the skies of the South Pacific had to offer, soaring over volcanic mountains and tropical waters. Scroll down for a view of Hawaii few have ever seen before. 

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A paragliding pair
A paragliding pair “The ocean is busy but the sky is empty!”, says Ovcharov. Here, the pilots soar from Mt Haleakala over the central Maui valley. © Jorge Atramiz
Paragliding paradise
Paragliding paradise “Hawaii is an incredible place for so many sports... hiking, biking, and of course surfing and kitesurfing, but it's really under-developed for paragliding,” says Ovcharov. “The incredible thing is that there can be dozens of surfers in the water, and no one in the sky.” © Jorge Atramiz
Maui moves
Maui moves Says Veso: “I didn't research much about paragliding in Hawaii before I came, but the truth is, the conditions are really good! We've been spending hours in the sky, even using the small wings for acro flying! © Jorge Atramiz
Hiking up Haleakala
Hiking up Haleakala At 3,055m, Haleakala is not an extremely high mountain – however, the fact that you're likely to be quickly ascending from near sea level means that even an easy hike can leave the average person slightly out of breath. © Jorge Atramiz
Above cloudbase
Above cloudbase In general, paraglider pilots don't fly in the clouds. However, in rare cases, like here on the summit of 3,000m Haleakala at dawn, it's possible to launch from above, with the clouds way below and safely fly down through them to a landing below. © Jorge Atramiz
Haleakala hangout
Haleakala hangout “From Haleakala, you can fly many lines,” says Ovcharov. “Sometimes we'd fly from the south side, that's a long flight, where you land in Kihei, or fly a straight line into the town Kula. We always wanted to fly to Hana, to the east, but the headwind is incredibly strong!” © Jorge Atramiz
Cloud control
Cloud control High over the 'Valley Isle', as Maui is often referred to, the pilots break through to the cloud cover to the valley floor below. Much of Maui is dedicated to farm and agriculture, leaving plenty of safe landing options. © Jorge Atramiz
Sunrise start
Sunrise start Up high on Maui's Mt Haleakala (which literally translates as 'House of the Sun', the pilots are excited for the chance to fly above the clouds. It's a unique experience, even for experienced pilots. Says Veso: “Normally you fly below the clouds. Over the clouds is very rare!” © Jorge Atramiz
Ko'olau crossing
Ko'olau crossing “The most spectacular flight is from Makapu'u north to Kahana over the finger ridges. Some places are quite dangerous – you're flying close to these beautiful mountains, but you're isolated over deep jungles, and an un-planned landing would mean a long time walking out!” © Jorge Atramiz
Moon cruise
Moon cruise As the moon rises in the east, Ovcharov scores an evening flight over Oahu. © Jorge Atramiz
The view from Makapu'u
The view from Makapu'u “In Oahu, we flew around the island,” says Veso. “Makapu'u ridge is the most consistent spot. It's also a spot where you'll see a lot people hiking, and it's cool to watch them see paragliders for the first time.” © Jorge Atramiz
Light flight
Light flight Afternoon sun shines over the jungled ridges of the Ko'olau mountain range on the eastern (windward) side of Oahu. “We got to know oahu better than any other island,” says Ovcharov. “It offers the most flying sites and wind directions.” © Jorge Atramiz