NEWSPAPER - Follow a Dream and Fly by Jason Acar in People's Post, 29 July 2008

Peoples Post - 29 July 200829 July 2008: DREAMS are something many confess to follow in their pursuit of happiness. But would you sell nearly everything you own and move out of your house to achieve them?

Gaynor Schoeman did, to try and compete in the XC-Open World Series Paragliding competition in Spain, and she says she has not regretted it for one second. The event takes place from Saturday 30 August to Saturday 6 September. Gaynor, also known as Flygirl, is a paraglider who, just last month, deserted her home of ten years with only her car and some old wooden rowing boats and canoes.

She was attacked by the flying bug around seven years ago and has never looked back. Her first taste was a tandem flight from Lion’s Head.

“I was promised a second tandem flight on a better day, and that flight had us high above Lion’s Head. So high that we crossed over to Table Mountain and flew down the Apostles to Llandudno and back. I was hooked,” says Gaynor.

The Pietermaritzburg-born adventure enthusiast enjoyed travelling and doing different things from a young age.

“I am afraid I have the wanderlust – my parents’ fault. They took us sailing to different parts of the world for years at a time, and I never really learned to keep the anchor down in one spot for long.”

She settled back in Durban for a while after travelling in her early 20s. There she took up kickboxing and became the first full-contact woman fighter in the country, eventually becoming the SA Women’s Heavyweight Champion, and retired undefeated in December 1994.

In 2006 she began flying long distances, and between late 2006 and early 2007, she achieved the phenomenal feat of flying over 100km, not once but five times. Her longest flight was 149km from De Aar.

She also discovered the long distance flat-land flying competitions and entered her first contest in Australia.

“I was rather overawed and flew very conservatively. I came 95th out of 148 pilots,” she says.

She then competed in Piedrahita, Spain, in September 2007,where she fared much better, earning first place in the women’s category and 11th overall.

Gaynor took part in the XC-Open World Series – a paragliding marathon that takes place on three continents– for the first time last year. It was in this competition that she would achieve her best result. Her last task in the Spanish leg saw her take an overall first place, flying further than any of the men or women competing.

“I was unable to compete in the third and final competition in Argentina, but my points for the two Competitions were enough to allow me to just win the series. I won the title of Best Woman XC-Open World Series 2007. One day I hope to fly the SA women’s record, which is currently 186kmand held by Desiree Pansi.”

She has already missed the Australian leg of the 2008 competition due to finances.

“I almost resigned myself to missing Spain as well, but thought, well I’m not getting any younger – I’m almost 43 – and this is what I want to do. I will not make it to the finals in Brazil, but flying in Spain is good enough for me,” she says.

In an effort to raise the R50 000 needed, she sold all of her household furniture for an air ticket and is now putting together a raffle to raise the rest.

“I have received tremendous support from those in the tourism industry, who have donated fantastic prizes like shark cage diving for two, boat trips, a helicopter flip, kayaking, restaurant vouchers for four, beauty treatment, and loads more coming in.”

The raffle is scheduled for Monday 18 August at 18:00 aboard the Sea Princess at the V&A Waterfront.

Everyone is welcome.

Updates on what you can win, and other information, can be found at (this paragliding website was deleted after the death of a friend, hangglider pilot Bruce McClunan)

Gaynor “Flygirl” Schoeman hopes to take to the skies in Spain in the XCOpen World Series event taking place from Saturday 30 August to Saturday 6 September.
Photo: Gaynor Schoeman


XC Open World Series Piedrahita, Spain 2007 results
XC Open World Series Piedrahita, Spain 2008 results
XC Open World Series All Competition Results



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