The Basics of Paragliding

Ever wonder about the basics of paragliding? Just what goes into the construction of a paraglider? Or how they manage to stay airborne? How paraglider wings work?

First of all, let's clear up some confusion...

Some people confuse paragliding with parasailing. After all, the 2 names seem somewhat similar!

Others are a bit vague on the differences from hang gliding, if they are not aware of the shape of paragliders.

What about parachuting? Yet more confusion, since everyone has seen video of these guys gliding in for a landing. Usually on those funny video shows where extremely rare accidents are made to look like they happen all the time. Wheee... Crunch! Hahahahah.

Finally, some people might think there is a connection with BASE jumping since these brave souls jump from great heights and glide down under a sports parachute. Media reports of paraglider pilots 'jumping off' from here or there don't help either!

The history of paragliding extends right back to 1965. However, the sport in its modern form first became recognizable in France in the late 1970s.

Modern paragliders are wonders of aeronautical engineering in fabric and lines, and are remarkably safe and easy to fly. Even so, the basics of paragliding have remained much the same over many years. The basic elements of paraglider construction have barely changed at all.

If you're interested at this point, you might like to read up on some paragliding theory. Don't worry, it's a very short and basic discussion!

Your First Flight

Now, how do you actually go about getting off the ground in one of these things? First comes the inflation phase. After you lay out your wing on the hillside, you face your wing with the wind on your back and pull on your A-risers. A-risers? They are connected to the lines that attach nearest the leading edge of the wing.

So, after some guidance from an instructor, you get your wing filling with air and billowing up in the breeze.

The basics of paragliding aren't that hard.

Now what? Ok, you just start kiting your wing up and up. At this point it's behaving exactly as a kite. A huge, steerable one. Now it's overhead, in all its pressurized glory. You turn around, facing the breeze, steering toggles in each hand, leaning into the wind and taking 1, 2, 3, wow, no more steps, you're off the ground!

Drifting a little to the left, so you pull down the right hand toggle just a tad.. that's better, gliding straight down onto the beach now. As the sand gets really close, you pull down firmly on both toggles to slow the forward speed and descent rate of the paraglider, allowing a gentle drop at walking pace onto the sand.

Behind you, your wing deflates and flutters down in a heap. Time to pull it into a bundle and walk back to the sand dune for another ride!

It's easier for some than others, but practice makes perfect - for anyone!

I hope you have a better idea of the basics of paragliding now. In fact, you might be interested in reading the experiences of a seasoned traveler who learned the paragliding basics while on holidays in Germany.


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