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Soaring above: Bend business, partner offer free paraglide journeys for people with disabilities

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend business Astro Paragliding is partnering with Project Airtime to provide free tandem paragliding flights to people with disabilities, giving them a chance to explore the enjoyable sport, and the amazing views that come with it.

Harrison Ruffin, the owner and operator of Astro Paragliding, spoke about what the sport means to him.

"I think it is probably the most addictive thing I've ever done," he said. "I don't do anything else any more. I live it, breathe it and love it."

The free tandem paragliding and lessons are not exclusive to certain disabilities.

Harrison said Project Airtime supports a "wide variety of disabilities. They don't necessarily have to be paraplegic or quadriplegic or in a wheelchair."

Tandem paragliding involves two people, an instructor and a passenger. Both sit in their own harness, which are attached together, with the instructor controlling the paraglider. 

"We've taught guys with one leg, I think a guy with one arm, and so I have to make some slight equipment modification," he said. "But it works for everybody. And I think everybody has a really good time."

Modifying the process is called adaptive paragliding, a practice more people are becoming aware of.

Luke Menasco has cerebral palsy, and through Project Airtime, he was able to tandem paraglide for free. He described his experience in the first adaptive launch off of Pine Mountain, east of Bend.

My wife came home, and she's like, 'Hey, Harrison does adaptive paragliding, is that something you want to do?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I'm up for adventure!'"

"There's two guys on the side of this of this contraption, and then Harrison's in the back, right? And so we're kind of, I'm sitting there and it's like, 'Okay, three, two, one -- let's go!'

"And everybody starts pushing. These two guys on the side start pushing, Harrison on the back is pushing. In my mind, it took longer for us to get up in the air than then I would have expected. 

"Once we got in the air, it was great. Super peaceful, quiet. It was super fun. I think, you know, just the idea it that something like that could be accessible for somebody that would have difficulty running, you know, running and kind of doing the traditional tandem launch is pretty cool."

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Liam Gibler


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