Wide Angle

Zouhair Laaz, a Morocco geography student who built a homemade paraglider

For two years, Boulmane-native Zouhair Laaz worked on building a homemade paraglider. The project was to realize his childhood dream of being able to fly.

Zouhair Laaz, a Moroccan student who built a paraglider. / Ph. Zouhair Laaz
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Dreams can come true and the story of Boulmane-native Zouhair Laaz is proof. But Zouhair’s dream was neither common nor easy. The 21-year-old student wanted to fly and he wanted it so bad that he moved forward with the little means he had five years ago.

«Since childhood, I loved nature and used to go camping all the time with my friends and that is why I went for geography as a major at the university», Zouhair told Yabiladi.

In 2015, the young man decided to make his childhood dream come true. And as crazy as it may seem, he planned to build a paraglider, a wide canopy resembling a parachute that is attached to a person's body by a harness in order to allow them to glide through the air.

A homemade paraglider

He also decided to rely on what he had in hand to fly his homemade paraglider. The strong-willed man used waste and the internet to learn how to accomplish his project. «I started from scratch, doing research and making calculations after watching a lot of videos and tutorials», he recalled.

The first steps of his journey needed a lot of work, dedication and motivation. «I collected everything that I knew I would need to build the paraglider : old umbrellas, tarps and damaged camping tents», Zouhair explained.

«At the university, I used to collect umbrellas that students were throwing away. My friends used to make fun of me but I knew what I was doing, and most precisely, what I wanted : A paraglider to fly».

Zouhair Laaz

To build his flying device, Zouhair also needed threads and cords that he braided himself to secure his body while flying. «I used to go home, gather everything I collected and start sewing. While passing by, my mother used to ask me what I was doing (…) every time I used to tell her that I am just building a tent for my camping activities», he jokingly recalled.

Flying for the first time

Determined, Zouhair finished his project and built his long-awaited paraglider. «It took me two years to finish my project because I had to study, go to school and set for exams during the whole time», he added.

However, flying the paraglider was harder than building it, according to the young student. In fact, Zouhair spent the summer of 2017 trying to make his feet leave the ground while wearing his paraglider.

«It was a chapter marked by trial and error», he recalled. «It was very hard because I was just an amateur who had just built a device that he didn't really know how to use», he argued.

«It was also very complicated because when testing it, I could not tell what was going wrong : my technique or the paraglide itself», he added.

Disappointed with the results, he decided, for the first time in two years, to ask for help. Zouhair posted a message on a Facebook group of professional skydivers. «Most of them did not understand what I was doing and it looked odd to them», he told Yabiladi.

After a series of failed attempts, Zouhair managed to fly his homemade paraglider. «The longest period I stayed up in the sky with the device was ten minutes and it was an achievement», he proudly declared. «It was an unbelievable feeling. It was the first time that my feet were lifted from the ground with something I created», he added.

Shortly after that, Zouhair realized that he had built a parachute and not a paraglider and that was the best his homemade device could do. «When I posted the video to the internet, I was contacted by professionals who asked me to stop using my ‘paraglider’ and gifted me a real one», he said.

But that was not the end of the story for Zouhair, who became a lover and big fan of the sport. In his hometown, the young man is heading a club he created to practice the sport and teach and train his peers. His project allowed him to get a professional training in Sidi Ifni, where he learned how to fly real paragliders.

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