The cobra launch technique is great for high winds. The goal of this launch is to eliminate the huge traction that occurs during the paraglider's ascent to overhead during a standard inflation.
In a standard inflation, with the paraglider directly downwind for the pull up, it will come up violently and can overfly and yank the pilot into the air. In the cobra launch technique, the wing avoids both of these scenarios, as it comes up slower on the side. Kitesurfers launch their parafoils from the side like this and this is where my thought of this technique came from.
I first tried this technique on April 2nd 2005. I had been thinking about how this would work for quite some time, but had not actually practiced it. It was blowing about 15 mph (24 kph) avg with gusts to 18+ (29+). I had recently been to Utah, and when I described this concept to Steve Mayer, he referred to this as a common practice at Point of the Mountain for high winds and that they called it the Cobra Launch technique. They had already been using it for a while. He said almost all of the many tandem pilots use it for higher wind days as well.
The pictures here are my first successful attempt at this technique after only 1 failed try. I have not seen any of the regulars use this ever, so think it will have some strong benefits for those of us at the coast, launching on higher wind days. I have since taught some of the students with some kiting basics and consistently they learn it in just a couple of tries.
Please note that the wind direction in this photo sequence
almost perfectly aligns with the dirt road.
I laid the wing out about 20 or 30 degrees off of perpendicular to the wind with a bit of arc at the right tip. The wing is almost perpendicular to the camera angle in this picture.
For lifting the wing, I use my right hand on the wing's left riser. That's the one crossing to the right, downwind, side of the wing as you face it.
The right side brake is in my hand in the preset hands mode. In my left hand is the left brake.
On a later date, I tried lifting the left A riser with the left hand and this freed up the right hand to pull the D riser on the left side of the wing instead of using the left brake.
I could not get the D riser to get the wing to ascend as it did with the brake. So, stick with the above technique.
The inflation for a cobra launch is done in the normal fashion, but only lifting on the wing's left riser. Once the wing reaches the position pictured, enough brake needs to be maintained to keep the wing in this vertical position. The amount of brake to pull can surprise you, it takes a fair bit to manage this angle at this point. If the wind is strong enough to warrant this technique, the wing will then basically walk its way up, like a Cobra, and you can just direct it up overhead.
When it is a little lighter winds than this, I have subsequently found that see-sawing can help get the wing overhead. In other words, pulling some A, then some brake repeatedly.
You can see in this picture that the left brake is pulled pretty deep to steer the wing overhead. The wind direction is almost straight up the dirt road in the picture.
Notice that there is still some pull during inflation, but way less than an 'eye of the wind' inflation. You can see that I was pulled across the width of the road between the above pictures and this one.
'The Cobra Launch' was reproduced from the original article 'Cobra - High Wind Launch For Paragliding' by Jeff Greenbaum, with permission. Jeff is the paragliding instructor behind Airtime of San Francisco.