October 1, 2017
YOAKUM - A relaxed Daryl Smith catches a glimpse of the glimmering Yoakum morning dew as he admires sights of the town from 2,000 feet in the air.
“When you get above the fog layer, look down and see through the wispy clouds . it’s an awesome view most people don’t get to experience,” the 60-year-old Victoria man said.
A group of 16 men from across Texas met Aug. 12 at the Yoakum Municipal Airport for a day of paramotor flying - it’s like paragliding but with a motor.
Smith, who tries to get in two or three flights a month, said his normal altitude is usually about 300 feet.
However, the morning winds made flying “bumpy” at that altitude, and it started to get smoother the higher he flew until he realized he was at 2,000 feet.
He said the sport for him is about taking in the sights and enjoying the view with a group because it’s “pretty cool.”
Craig Carter, one of the organizers of the event, said Yoakum residents were complaining about the noise from the motors and the flying, so people in the community wanted to come show the sport some support.
“It’s a great sport,” the Yoakum man said. “It’s no different from a lawn mower or a car driving down the street. It’s just people flying by and having a good time.”
Michael Reyna, 45, traveled from Round Rock early that Saturday morning to be reunited with some friends and acquaintances who share the same passion for the sport.
He said he always wanted to fly and was glad when he discovered an affordable way to experience the thrill.
“When I was a kid, I would dream of flying a lot . it was like I was swimming in the air,” Reyna said. “And ever since I’ve started this sport, I don’t have dreams like that anymore.”
On average, motors cost about $8,000 and wings cost about $3,800, but people can find lower prices for used equipment. Training for the sport costs between $1,500 to $3,000.
When the training is complete, Reyna said people receive a monthly magazine that shows them where they can fly, the organized events and articles that inform them about mistakes others have made while flying.
People can fly up to 18,000 feet. However, Reyna said that at that point it gets really cold and the flyers run out of gas, so they have to glide back to the ground.
Height is not something that attracted Reyna to the sport.
“You can fly that high, but the beauty of the sport is that you are able to fly low and drag your feet on the ground. Planes have a 500-foot restriction,” he said.
Learning about the sport has been life-changing for Reyna because it has shown him a different perspective of the world. He said paramotor flying shows how small he is compared to the world.
“Most people will ride in an airplane, take off and experience the flight through a small window. They only get a small glimpse of what is outside,” Reyna said. “But with this sport, it’s like you are flying a convertible and get to see past your feet and see the land passing by you.”