Video: Search Project goes paragliding in paradise

© John Stapels

Tom de Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens explore remote islands in the South Pacific by air and sea.

Tom de Dorlodot may spend much of his year hanging out in snow-capped alpine peaks, but this Christmas definitely wasn’t white. He and friend Horacio Llorens hopped on a plane and took off for Tahiti for the next installment of ‘Search projects’, a continuing project exploring new paragliding locations around the world. After he sent the video above, we caught up with Tom after one month on the live-aboard catamaran they’ve been calling home.

Ocean blue© @Thomas de Dorlodot / Search Projects

They’ve been paragliding and paramotoring in paradise, but it hasn’t all been easy. “The weather here is incredibly challenging,” says de Dorlodot. “It’s always windy, and lately, we’ve been dealing with really stormy weather.” How windy? Too windy to fly! “The other day, at the end of the flight, we were essentially flying our paragliders backwards before landing!”

Nevertheless, the boat trip has given them an opportunity to make some incredible flights. They started out in the atolls of the Tuamotus, before heading to the island of Nuka Hiva.

In these islands ruled by free-surfing rather than free-flying, launch and landing locations are rare. “We’re waking up at 4am, hacking our way through the jungle with a machete to get to launch.”

But they’ve found some gems. “The east side of Nuku Hiva offers an incredible acro spot,” says Tom. “You’re 500m above water, practising tricks, then the sea breeze pushes you right back up the ridge for another go!”

Going pro© Horacio Llorens/Search Projects

They’ve also made multiple flights covering the entire length of Nuku Hiva, with the catamaran sailing alongside.

When not in the air, the pilots have been helping the captain – of the boat, that is. When doing multi-day island crossings, the boat must be attended to at all hours – meaning the each person must serve two two-hour shifts manning the helm.

Oh, hello...© John Stapels

Downtime has them fishing for food – but even that’s not without its risks, adds de Dorlodot: “I had just speared a fish, when right in front of me, three sharks approached and ate the fish right off the spear.”

But by far, the best part has been getting airborne – and almost every flight comes with a special knowledge. "Almost every time we launch, we know that it's the first time a paraglider has ever flown in this location," says de Dorlodot. "That's a great feeling!"

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Cinematography : Benoit Delfosse and Adrien Nisan
Edit : Benoit Delfosse