If you want to get some paraglide instruction, it's easily obtained these days. If you are in a hurry, scroll down a bit to the next section, titled 'An Overview...'. It's a simple overview of the process of learning to fly a paraglider.
Otherwise, read on for some excellent in-depth paraglider lessons by a very experienced paragliding instructor...
Did you know your wing tries to talk to you through its risers and brakes?
Find out more, by reading Learning Winglish, a piece of fiction that could make a world of difference to your flying and kiting or ground-handling.
What about checking whether your paraglider is really ready to fly? Read Paraglider Preflight to know the whole story.
How are you at lifting the wing for kiting or reverse launches?
Before you get to lifting the wing, you have to be properly connected to it. All will go smoothly if you get familiar with the right checks and procedures for the reverse or 'turn transition' launch.
Like all gliders, landing a paraglider is all about timing the flare. Treating it as a two-stage process makes it easier.
Here's a couple of articles on alternative launch methods. These will be handy once you've had a few lessons and have got the basics down. Firstly, the torpedo launch looks awkward but actually makes things easier just prior to lift-off. Secondly, if you are ready for high-wind launches, the cobra launch is a valuable skill to have.
Finally, while on the topic of high winds, every paraglider pilot should be educated about avoiding blowback situations while flying ridges or mountains.
Despite the variety, a common theme emerges when you look at how paragliding lessons are structured. First comes ground school - some basic theory and necessary information about the sport and how to operate the equipment.
Then follows some ground handling practice on flat ground, so you get a feel for handling or 'kiting' the canopy just before take-off and just after landing.
If you're curious, here's an article by an instructor that goes into a lot of detail about the art of kiting a paraglider.
Next comes some short hops down a beginners' slope, where you get to actually leave the ground, glide straight ahead for a few moments and then touch down.
From there on, paraglide instruction progressively takes you to higher and higher launch points. The instructors coach you through various maneuvers as you are ready for them. In very little air time, in good conditions, a student can be soaring the paraglider. That means maintaining height for a few beats along the crest of the ridge a few times before gliding down to the landing area. The landing area is often called the Landing Zone, or LZ.
In recent times, the sport has become more regulated, which is a good thing from a safety point of view. Hence, you may be required to show evidence of a physical examination from a doctor. You may be required to take out third-party insurance - this is often included in the fees for a course.
Once you start learning with a reputable paragliding school, all flights are recorded in your personal flying log. Theory and general flying knowledge exams are also conducted in the course of training. Don't worry, it's not difficult to pass - if you love flying and are attentive you tend to absorb the relevant stuff anyway.
Travel between countries for the purpose of flying is so common now that logbook records and appropriate insurance cover is readily recognized between the paragliding schools of different countries. But if this affects you, it would be worth checking with the specific schools anyway, just to be sure.
Here's some details on several of the best paragliding instruction centers in the U.S. Some of the best paragliding schools happen to coincide with some of the best flying sites in the world. Funny about that!
After the surge in Europe, paragliding is really starting to expand in the U.S. Just to give you some idea, I saw an online list recently that carried details for more than 90 paragliding schools in the US. And I don't think many of them were tiny 2-instructor outfits either.
Nearly 20 major schools can be found in frost-bitten Canada, maybe more now.
A couple of good examples of where to get a paragliding lesson in the United States are Parasoft Paragliding and Big Sky Paragliding. Or maybe check out this pretty impressive paragliding training site, called Fly Above All. They operate out of Santa Barbara, California.
There seem to be at least 30 good-quality paraglide instruction centers in South Africa, a land of vast plains and booming thermals.
The same goes for Europe, some of these are really exceptional, operating in the birthplace of paraglide instruction, and boasting some of the most spectacular scenery to be seen anywhere. Moving west a bit, one of the major schools in the U.K. is Beyond Extreme. These guys do the whole range of paragliding activities, check them out to see what I mean.
About a dozen top paragliding schools exist in Australia and New Zealand combined. Don't be fooled by the small number, this area of the planet is sparsely populated. There is some world-class flying and paraglide instruction to be had down here.
Even though Australia is very flat in general, people are surprised to find out that during winter it has more snow in the Alps than Switzerland! So you can get paraglide instruction in both alpine and flatland conditions here. The long north-south running mountains of New Zealand are well known, and provide for spectacular flying after you have completed the basics.
Also about a dozen good schools for paraglide instruction exist in very different parts of Asia - from Turkey to India to Japan. You can learn to paraglide, no matter where you are.