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Paragliding

The day Rafa Goberna became the first paraglider to fly through Panama City

Watch as the Brazilian aerobatic pilot goes on a spectacular first-ever flight through the towering skyscrapers of Panama City.
Written by Alina Estrella
3 min readPublished on
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Rafael Goberna setting yet another paragliding standard in his impressive career. The Brazilian aerobatic athlete defied gravity and faced the changing Panamanian weather to become the first person to fly between the skyscrapers of the bustling capital, Panama City.
Home to 12 of the tallest buildings in Latin America and one of the most recognisable skylines in the region, during his flight, Goberna interacted with the iconic 232m F&F Tower – better known locally as 'The Screw – as well as the Financial Tower (231m) and Soho Mall (207m).
"Flying inside of the city was the most rewarding part. It’s something neither I nor the film crew had done before," recalled Goberna. "It was an incredible experience. At times the wind got a little turbulent, which gave me butterflies, but everything ended up working perfectly."
Paraglider Rafael Goberna performs in Panama City, Panama on November 1, 2021.
Goberna expertly maneuvered between buildings
Filming had its challenges, however, mainly related to the unpredictability of wind directions and Panamanian weather, which could drastically switch from south to north and from perfectly clear to heavy thunderstorms at a moment’s notice. "We had a lot of rain during the week and some north wind, which is the bad one for us that blows from the city out to sea, making it impossible to take off," he explained.
To prepare for the unpredictability of the weather, the team proposed multiple scenarios for the shoot, so that as the days progressed, they could respond with the right plan. The production ended up being shot over the course of nine days and approximately 36 hours of shooting in total.
Panama is also known as 'the hub of the Americas', thanks to its significant transportation and logistics links with the world, so to respect air traffic there were strict flight schedules and designated areas, as well as direct contact with the Civil Aviation Authority.
Every day, Goberna departed from the Ocean Reef Islands, with each flight lasting 1h 15m, covering a distance of around 10km each time and reaching speeds up to 50kph. Security logistics had to be thorough, with emergency landing points, ambulances and a safety boat that always followed Goberna close at hand.
The project was directed by French producer Blue Max, who also directed Red Bull's most-watched video of 2021, From Avoriaz with Love. In addition, behind the lens was renowned Brazilian photographer Marcelo Maragni, who's worked with Goberna on more than one previous occasion.
Although the project had its complexities, Goberna was the perfect person for the mission. At just 12 years old he set a Guinness World Record and in 2016, the Brazilian flew over one of the seven wonders of the natural world, performing stunts over the stunning Iguazu Falls.