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'Once you're in the air, all you can think about is flying' - the thrill of outdoor flying trapeze

Eva Hall tried out Ireland's first outdoor flying trapeze school and while she found that it gave her a great workout, it wasn't as easy as it looked


Mariana Rampazzo of Flying Monkeys Trapeze with journalist Eva Hall. Photo: Mark Condren

Mariana Rampazzo of Flying Monkeys Trapeze with journalist Eva Hall. Photo: Mark Condren

Mariana Rampazzo of Flying Monkeys Trapeze with journalist Eva Hall. Photo: Mark Condren

'Just lift your legs up and turn upside down," said Mariana Rampazzo, one of the teachers and co-owners of Flying Monkeys Trapeze. "It's easier when you're up in the air."

Mariana obviously wasn't aware that the only lifting my legs have done in the last five months have been putting them in and out of my leggings as I pitch up at the kitchen table to work from home.

The "air" she was referring to is Ireland's first outdoor flying trapeze school that Mariana has opened with her friend Salla Vartia, on the grounds of St Benildus College in Stillorgan, Dublin.

For now, I was practising on a bar on the ground.

Best friends, Mariana and Salla are exactly what you expect two aerial acrobats to look like: elegant, extremely light on their feet and fully toned to the point you could probably ride a skateboard over their arm guns were they not so svelte.

I, on the other hand, arrived for my flying lesson in several layers of clothing for fear that one of my tops would rise as I was in the air and everyone would get a glimpse of the extra lockdown pounds I've acquired since March.

The clouds seemed to miraculously disappear so the sun could shine a piercing 21 degrees down on my all-black Lycra outfit.

Salla warmed me up with a series of stretches of hip circles and arm circles.

She told me she does a bit of running when she's not trapezing, but swinging from a bar and doing tricks in the air is her main form of workout.

"It mainly tones the arms and works on your core, but after practising even for just a few weeks you can start to notice a difference in your back too," said Mariana, who also runs an aerial acrobats school in Dublin.

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"When I visited my hometown in Brazil after I did aerial acrobats for a few months, my family barely recognised me," she said.

Nice one, I thought. Just a few months to look like Mariana and Salla.

"But it's not about the physical transformation, really," said Mariana. "It's about the mental aspect.

"Once you're in the air, you think of nothing else other than flying. It really clears your mind.

"You have to have patience and complete trust in your instructor who is there to make sure you are safe at all times.

"And it's a huge confidence builder. We have students aged from 10 years old to 65 years old, people who have never done anything like this before but find it so freeing as soon as they step onto the platform."

The first hurdle to climb in trapezing is a ladder. In your bare feet. Now, I'm no wimp, but obviously my pampered feet are used to the soft cushioned soles of my Air Max. When I say I was in no way prepared for the intense searing pain that shoots deep into your foot when you climb a metal ladder, I'm not joking.

Mariana introduced me to Didier, who was to hold my safety harness in place while I reached for the bar from the platform, seven metres from the ground.

"You remember your lesson?," Didier asked me.

I barely remembered my name! Standing on the platform in the sky, an extreme wave of fear suddenly came over me. Fear of what, I don't know. I don't have an issue with heights. I usually enjoy adrenaline-filled activities such as rollercoasters. I couldn't explain why my legs and feet - the very things I needed to propel me off this platform to complete the trapeze - were trembling. Maybe it was the ladder.

"You have to trust me," said a pony-tailed Didier. Easier said than done when I've just met you mate, and my feet feel like they're about to fall off.

The key to trapezing is to put all of your weight onto your core and lean forward over a wooden platform while Didier holds you in place. You are hooked into a safety harness and there is another instructor on the ground holding a giant rope. This rope is to make sure that even if you let go of the bar mid-air, he can still control how quickly you come down and land on the safety net underneath.

I won't embarrass myself by saying how many times Didier asked "Ready? Hop!" before I finally got the courage to jump off.

My trick was a knee hang. I had to bend my knees over the bar that my hands were on, and wrap my knees over the bar so I could let go with my hands and hang upside down.

The instructor on the ground yells "legs up" when it is time for legs up. And although I could clearly hear him and understood what I had to do, my legs didn't seem to move from the static straight position they were in.

Flying Monkeys also teaches 'catching', where one student swings from one bar to another flying monkey who catches them with their hands.

A couple of attempts later, and I still hadn't succeeded in the knee-hang trick I had managed on the ground. Catching was out of the question.

Mariana's "it's easier in the air" comment was racing through my brain.

As I flipped myself off the safety net one more time - you have to flip yourself onto a mat on the ground to leave the trapeze, there are no steps in trapezing - a group of excited children were lining up awaiting their turn. I could feel judgement in their eyes that I couldn't perform my trick. So I sloped off to pick up my shoes and watched from the back as Didier clipped in his next student.

A little girl who looked no more than eight years old raced up the ladder - no sore feet for her - and jumped at Didier's first instruction. She managed to wrap her knees successfully around the bar and hang upside down, much to the delight of all her friends.

"That was my trick…" I muttered to myself as I could feel my face turning redder and redder, unsure if it was the mortification or from the searing heat.

"Not everyone gets it the first time," Mariana said, in an attempt to reassure me.

"Come back and try again another day.

"And you'll feel it in the morning," she said.

She wasn't wrong. I woke up with a grazed hand, two sore feet from that cursed ladder and aches in my arms and shoulders that I didn't think were possible. But, it was my ego that was bruised most of all.

I'll be back, Mariana. As soon as I figure out how to climb a ladder…

For more information, see flyingmonkeystrapeze.com/. You can book a solo class or a group class with a maximum of 10 people for two hours with three instructors.

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