Photos: paragliding the Marquesas

Horacio Llorens talks us through some epic free-flight images shot over remote Pacific islands.
By Josh Sampiero

On December 5th, paragliders Tom de Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens set sail from Tahiti for a two-month cruise around the South Pacific. But unlike most visitors, they are not there to surf or snorkel – they're there to fly.

The most recent portion of their trip took them through the Marquesas islands, where high peaks offered plenty of flight opportunities – and high wind kept them often grounded. Despite numerous challenges, fly they did – and the pictures below prove it. If pictures aren't enough check out the feature video clip here.

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Stoked selfie
Stoked selfie Talk about a reason to smile – Tom de Dorlodot snaps a selfie at altitude over a South Pacific paradise. © Tom de Dorlodot/Search Projects
A bull in the clouds
A bull in the clouds Light clouds wisping around jungled peaks is a standard sight in the Marquesas. Says Horacio: “The landscapes here is so different. You can fly near the trees, surrounded by birds. Everyone here does right by – it's ecologically well-conserved.” © Tom de Dorlodot/Search Projects
Boat sweet home
Boat sweet home This well-equipped catamaran has served for home since the beginning of the voyage on December 5th. While clearly at rest here, it's often moving, having spent 16 days sailing between islands. The hardest part? Dinner. “It's tough to cook for seven when you're cruising at 7 knots!” says Horacio. © John Stapels
Bay breezes
Bay breezes On Nuku Hiva, various bays offer different flying conditions. At many of these places, it's the first time free flight has ever been attempted. Llorens says “The people we met at Hou'umi Bay had never seen a paraglider before.” © Tom de Dorlodot/Search Projects
Rocky walk
Rocky walk This hike looks challenging until you compare it to work de Dorlodot and Llorens have to do when hiking through the jungle, where thick vegetation often requires a machete to clear a path. © John Stapels
Soaring over stone
Soaring over stone “We flew across some rock formations with an incredible view,” says Horacio Llorens. “A cool spot for acrobatics, but the landing is sketchy if you have to throw your rescue – so we didn't push it too hard!” © John Stapels
High camp
High camp Since the wind was often stronger, Llorens and de Dorlodot hiked up, camped at a launch for the night, and flew at dawn the next morning. © John Stapels
Pair-agliding No, it's not a Marquesas mating dance. The two pilots move in precise synchronisation during a 'deep spiral' manoeuvre. © John Stapels
Island warrior
Island warrior When bad weather grounded the boys on Nuku Hiva, they took advantage of the time to meet the locals. “The wind was too strong the days we were there,” says Llorens. “But we had the opportunity to meet the local people, see the traditions, and take part in a tradtional festival.” © John Stapels
Hiking higher
Hiking higher The boys trailblaze through an easy section. The boat is in the bay in the background. Says Llorens: “One of the biggest challenges for our captain was that we often wanted the boat in a place that was tough for him to anchor – too deep, too shallow, or just hard to get to!” © John Stapels
Island flying
Island flying “The wind in the islands, while strong, is much smoother and laminar than in the Alps,” says Llorens. “In the Alps, wind is lighter, and in some ways, easier to predict and you can just land in the next valley if you get pushed back. Here, there might be only water behind you!” © John Stapels