Interview with CFI from Paraglide Africa - Theunis de Bruin

When how and why did you start paragliding?

Started after I picked up some nuances of an injury during my cycling days- spent quite a bit of time jumping between hobbies to find something that would stick and then 1 day I went ground training and remember getting back home and telling everyone that this is what I am going to do, soon after my brother followed suit. First flights on 11 September and then a flyaway event at Volksrus cemented my decision to paraglide.


What qualifications do you have?

Bachelors in Business Management, specializing in Marketing as well as an almost complete  Mechanical Engineering degree specializing in Aeronautics.


How much time do you spend in the air?

For the last few years n have been managing around 400~450 hours annually.  Not sure how many flights that entail anymore, but counting the hours is still important for monitoring my equipment usage/abuse although it is more of a strong estimate.

 

What gear do you fly with?

Anything that is able to take off.  For competitions, I currently have an Enzo3 with a Gin Race 4 harness and 2x Beamer 3 steerable reserves.  Flymaster Live 3G SD and Skybean Strato.  Although I am anxiously awaiting the new Flow Spectra 2 after some chat with Felipe as it could be a perfect weapon for that world distance record attempt.  And then also looking forward to the new Flow X-Alps glider.  Generally speaking, I like anything that flies but prefer the slightly more nippy machines.

 


Favorite flying site(s)?

Porterville for its magnificent full-on flying and complexity.  For fun the Hartebeespoort dam South takeoff with its Cape Vulture thermal indicators and then also the recently discovered Table mountain front face.  The flats in Spain and then I have to absolutely include Columbia and Brasil!

 
Proudest / funniest moments / silliest mistakes flying?

Silliest- breaking something in my wrist with the Mantra launch and dump situation - and then laid out again for another takeoff and good cross-country flight with only left thermaling and a fast landing- I was back on the takeoff the following 2 days again, but with a cast.

 

Proudest- What stands out to me is task wins where you finish well ahead of the gaggle!  With the current GAP scoring formula group flying is encouraged, but every now and again the magic of breaking away and smoking the pack by minutes - I have had about 5 of these in my flying career, and WOW!

 

Funniest- Looong retrieve stories with some only arriving back home well into the morning hours.


Best and worst things about flying?

The best thing is for sure the freedom and solitude in the sky, pushing your own limits against the elements, and having to study the energy of mother nature. 

Worst is the necessity for retrieve drivers and logistics - hence competition flying takes care of all of that.



Weirdest place you have launched or landed?

Thabazimbi we went flying at a new spot only to discover that there is no landing for 30km when we got to the top- that day I flew my first 100km.

Table mountain front face, which consists of a vertical drop cliff launch.

And my first school site was called “Laudium” which is basically a rubbish dump bulldozed into a mountain.

 
What do you do when you are not flying?

At the moment quite a few things as I had the absurd idea to entre for Ironman, so lots of swimming, cycling(road and mtb), running.  Some hike and fly’s have been more common and perhaps in 2023 I will attempt the Redbull X-Alps challenge. 

We also started our company called Paraglide Africa which has actually been taking massive amounts of time but we absolutely love the journey of sharing our passion with students and tandem passengers, when we are not flying we try to catch up with business admin - go check us out(www.paraglideafrica.com)


What are your flying ambitions/ Do you have any ambitions left?

Yes, I would love to share my knowledge of the sport with as many newcomers as I can and that in itself is a fair challenge with our current federation “SAHPA”, but we are slowly overcoming this.

I would love to do a world record-breaking flight attempt at the current record of 582km as I am aiming for 650+km.  The Redbull X-alps is also on my featured list for many years, but due to a huge financial strain it has not taken place yet- but I am committing to the 2023 edition.


How would you describe your flying style?

Calculated and aggressive. I prefer the stronger conditions although there is a magical challenge in weaker conditions.


Favorite thing about teaching paragliding?

I have always loved teaching, it has just taken up a new form in paragliding- my favorite is guiding curious pilots to fantastic new places, whether it is over big alpine regions, glaciers, flatlands, or even some ridge racing.


XC or acro?

I love both but due to my body not accepting higher G-loading I generally stick to cross country flying. Although not that great in acro due to not really practicing it anymore.

 

What is the most important quality in a good pilot?

The willingness to keep on learning and asking questions, reading up on flying, and trying to understand as much as possible. 


Three tips for newcomers

-Fly as much as you possibly can especially for long stretches of time to build up muscle memory.

-Fly actively, keeping the glider above your head - It sounds like the simplest of things but the intricacies of this basic maneuver is the ultimate challenge in paragliding.

-Fly away, fly far, don’t worry about retrieve - just go!