Line Hellem / youthjournalism.org
A paraglider in the sky over the extreme sports festival Ekstremsportveko in Norway this week
By Line Hellem
VOSS, Norway – I cannot count the times I have boarded a plane somewhere on the planet, ready to let it take me 30,000 feet above the ground.
I always liked flying. In the movie The Notebook, Rachel McAdams says, “I wanna be a bird,” and I don’t think her character is alone in wanting that. I believe many of us have that childish dream of being able to fly.
Line Hellem / youthjournalism.org
Paragliders at Ekstremsportveko
It is now summer holiday, those weeks that every student spends the year longing for. I did the same, only to realize that summers are boring – unless you make them fun. So this week I traveled with some friends to attend – and just to watch – the extreme sports festival in Voss in Norway.
Locally, it’s known as Ekstremsportveko. Directly translated, that would be “the extreme sports week.”
The festival gathers around 12,000 people from all around the world to attend, by competing, watching and cheering.
The festival arranges contests in sports like rafting, kayaking, paragliding, skydiving, base jumping, BMX riding and longboard.
With so many means to an adrenalin rush, sitting by the sidelines seemed like a waste of it all. So $200 poorer, and ready to be one experience richer, I stepped onto the mountain cable car together with my designated experienced paraglide pilot, ready for my 15 minutes of, hopefully not fame, but flying.
But with TV cameras and paramedics meeting us at the paragliding start point up on the mountain, it could have easily gone that way, too. As it turned out, two paragliders had fallen as they were going out for a ride, resulting in a helicopter spending an hour searching for them. Luckily, they were both okay, and we were cleared for take-off.
Seeing the world from above, separated from the ground by nothing but two layers of fabric working as a seat and 2,000 feet of oxygen, is an experience to be recommended.
It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying.
And in spirit of the rule that goes for all of life’s areas – there is only one way further, and that way is up – I have come to see it as anything but forgivable if I were to not follow that rule in this matter, too.
Line Hellem paraglides in the sky above Norway
Meaning, to my mother’s great distress, skydiving is next.
But these are, as the name of the festival states, extreme sports, and with bravery, guts, curiosity and the search for fun all in one place, accidents are only so far away.
As I had my first day in the air, someone else had their last, in the air, as well as in life. My thoughts go to those who lost one of their loved ones in the tragic parachute accident near the festival on Wednesday. It is a horrible reminder of how fragile life can be.
But it is also a reminder to take advantage of those minutes we do have at our disposal in a way that leaves you with no regrets that you didn’t seize the chances handed to you.
And now I think it is time to scratch that other wish we have all had. Yep, I am talking about the pop star/superhero dream – depending on whether you are a boy or a girl (there is, of course, no necessity for it to depend on anything, by all means).
But anyways, no more superstar for me. I think I’m bit by the flying bug, and no matter how juvenile it might be, that will still be my dream.
Line Hellem after making it safely back to Earth