What is paragliding?

What is paragliding?

The short answer is paragliding an adventure sport using a modified parachute. The lightweight, inflatable wing, is motorless and can be foot-launched with the opportunity to glide or climb upwards. It’s a sport that combines the thrills of flying with the peacefulness of soaring through the sky. It’s a great way to experience nature, and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.

Paragliding is a form of flying that uses a special parachute-like wing. The wing is designed to catch air and lift the pilot off the ground. This makes it possible for pilots to fly very low to the ground, or even mountain tops.

To paraglide, you’ll need some basic equipment. You’ll need a paragliding wing, a harness, a helmet, and some training. You can find all of this equipment and more at a local paragliding shop.

Once you have your gear, you’ll need to find a place to learn how to fly. In the United States, many schools offer paragliding instruction. You can find a list of Advanced Instructors on the USHPA website: https://www.ushpa.org/. Learning to paraglide is a process that takes time and practice. But with patience and perseverance, you can become a safe and certified pilot. The best way to learn is through a qualified instructor who can teach you the basics of flying and help you overcome any challenges you may encounter.,,


Who does this and where?

Paragliding was a popular pastime in Western Europe. Several places in France are available, including Annecy, Camoix Plaine Joux or Dune Pilat. Other famous places of interest include Interlaken in Switzerland, Tyrol, Austria, Tuscany, Italy, Oludeniz in Turkey, and Algonas in Spain. There will often be skilled pilots and tourist operators who offer introductory tandem paragliding experiences for first-timers.

A brief history of paragliding

The first paragliders were modified parachutes. David Barish, of NASA, is considered the father of paragliding. He advanced the original parachute design to increase its glide slope. NASA coined the term “paragliding” with the intent to improve the retrieval of space capsules. The equipment was then modernized in the 1980s through the introduction of lighter, stronger materials. In 1987 the Swiss organized the first paragliding championship. Shortly before the FAI gave official approval to paragliding, the first official World Championship in Kossen, Austria, in 1989.

Paragliding popularity

The Paraglider Manufacturing Association (PMA) estimated 12.7 million paragliders have been built across the world. The sport has a huge fanbase in European countries followed by Asia and Latin America. The countries that are part of this sport include South Australia, France Australia, Japan, Canada, Indonesia, Russia, Malaysia, and South Africa.

What’s it like to paraglide?

Paragliding is flight in its purest, simplest forms. While it can be considered an extreme sport like sky diving and bungee jumping, it is incredibly relaxing and is appealing to a lot of people because it is quiet and refreshing.

Learning to paraglide

When looking for schools, do a bit of research. Get information on affiliations, instructor experiences, and safety records of a particular organization. The best place, in general, to get started is the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGPA). Many paraglider school sites offer training hills to help students learn to launch and take small flights. For more advanced instruction, students travel to destination sites where the wind and weather are predictable and favorable over long periods.

How does a paraglider fly?

A paragliding wing is a specialized type of aircraft wing that is used to provide lift in a paraglider. Unlike conventional airplane wings, paragliding wings are made of lightweight materials and are designed to create a large amount of lift with very little drag. 

Paragliding wings create lift by using the Bernoulli principle. When air moves over the top of the wing, it speeds up due to the decrease in pressure. This increase in speed causes the air to flow more quickly past the object’s leading edge, which creates a low-pressure area on top of the wing. This low-pressure area sucks the wing up, providing lift.

Paragliding wings use something called camber. Camber is the curvature of a wing surface. A paragliding wing has a greater camber than an airplane wing, which increases its lifting ability.

Paragliding wings are also incredibly versatile. They can be flown in a wide range of wind speeds and can be used to perform tricks and stunts. Paragliders can also fly in a wide variety of weather conditions, making them perfect for touring and sightseeing. Thanks to their advanced design and construction, paragliding wings are some of the most reliable aircraft wings on the market today

What is a Ram Air System?

Ram air systems are an important component of paragliding equipment. The wing is designed to suck air into the leading edge, providing inflation and rigidity.

Ram air systems work by forcing air into a series of cells. This confines the air to the wing preserving its shape. The wind is then forced to flow over the top, creating lift. The ram air system works best when the airflow is fast and smooth, so it is important to choose a location with good wind conditions. Ram air systems are also be used in combination with other types of wings, such as hang gliders, to improve performance.

What is ridge soaring?

Ridge soaring is a paragliding technique that utilizes the updrafts created by mountains, ridges or dunes to stay airborne. A skilled pilot looks for a ridge or mountain with an updraft and uses the wind to stay in the air. Ridge soaring is a great way to extend your flight time. It can be practiced on mountain ridges and shoreline dunes.

What is thermalling?

Thermalling is a technique used by paragliders to gain altitude. It involves flying through rising air currents, or thermals, that are created when the sun heats the ground. By staying in the thermal as it rises, a paraglider can gain altitude quickly. Thermalling allows paragliders to extend their flight time by gaining more altitude.

Thermals form when the ground is heated by direct sunlight. The air near the ground becomes warmer than the surrounding air, and this warm air rises. As it rises, it pulls colder air behind it, creating a column of rising air called a thermal.

A paraglider can detect thermals by looking for areas on the ground that are warmer than the surrounding area. They can also feel changes in wind direction and speed as they fly through a thermal.

Once a paraglider finds a thermal, they need to stay in it as long as possible to gain altitude. The thermal will eventually dissipate, or end, and the paraglider will glide back to the ground.

Thermalling is an important skill for paragliders because it allows them to gain altitude quickly. This can be essential for avoiding obstacles, such as trees or power lines, or for reaching higher altitudes where the air is thinner and flying is easier.

What is cross country flying?

Cross country flying (xc) is a type of paragliding where skilled pilots fly long distances, often in search of the best thermals.

Thermals are columns of warm air that rise up into the sky. Pilots use these to gain altitude and then fly along them to maintain their height. The best thermals can be found away from built-up areas, where there is less turbulence caused by buildings and other obstacles. This is why xc pilots often head for the open countryside or mountains.

In order to find thermals, pilots use a variety of techniques including looking for certain cloud formations or wind patterns. They may also use a vario, which is a device that measures the speed and strength of the wind.

Once a skilled pilot finds a thermal, they need to stay in it for as long as possible to cover the greatest distance. This requires good navigation skills, as well as a lot of experience and practice. Paragliding cross country flying can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also quite challenging.

What is sinking air pressure?

Sinking air is a condition that can affect paragliders. It occurs when the air pressure in a given area is lower than the air surrounding it. This can cause the air to “sink” or descend, which can be dangerous for paragliders. To avoid sinking out, pilots must be aware of its presence and take precautions when flying in areas where it is present. Sink can sometimes be identified by changes in wind direction or speed, so pilots should always be alert to these clues. If you’re flying in an area where you think there might be sinking air, it’s best to err on the side of caution and head to a landing zone.

paragliding equipment

Paragliding equipment

To paraglide, you will need some specialized equipment. The most important piece of gear is the wing, which provides lift and steering. You will also need a harness to attach yourself to the wing, as well as a helmet and goggles to protect your head and eyes. Depending on your location and the type of flying you plan to do, you may also need other items such as a reserve parachute, an altimeter, or a variometer.

The wing is typically made of nylon or polyester, and it can range in size from 2.5 meters to 10 meters or more. The harness attaches to the wing with straps and buckles, and it should be comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time. The helmet protects your head from impact injuries, while the goggles shield your eyes from the sun and wind.

Some paragliders also carry a reserve parachute, which is deployed in case of an emergency. An altimeter measures your altitude, while a variometer indicates whether you are ascending or descending. These devices can help fly in challenging terrain or weather conditions.

If you’re new to paragliding, it’s a good idea to take a lesson or two from an Advanced Instructor. This will help you learn the basics of flying and increase your safety. With the proper equipment and training, paragliding can be a thrilling and rewarding experience!

paraglider parts

Parts of the Paraglider

Paragliders have several main parts that in simple terms make them inflatable wings. It looks like a parachute in an elliptical shape and not circular. Wings are made of tear-proof and strong synthetic material. It is two pieces stitched to each other and has an open space between the two. Vertical textile ribs cover the gap with cells. They trap air and lift the canopy to make it easier to glide. The wings have leading edges allowing air inside.

1). TRAILING EDGE: The rear of the glider when the brakes are joined.
2). BRAKE REEFING: The attachments points of the brakes on the trailing edge.
3). RODS: Nylon rods that keep the wings foil shape.
4). STABILO: the line connected to the outer cells of the wing. Used to pull out cravattes.
5). HARNESS: The pilot’s seat. It is connected to the wing.
6). RISERS: This is the thick, nylon webbing used to connect the harness to the lines.
7). LINES: These are sheathed or unsheathed lines that symmetrically connect the risers to the paraglider canopy.
8). CELL OPENINGS: These are the openings on the leading edge that allow the wing to inflate and stay pressurized.
9). LEADING EDGE: This the the aircraft like wing-shape that determines the speed and safety of a wing.
10). CANOPY: This is the upper material that forms the top of the wing canopy.

The paraglider wing or glider

A paragliding wing is a large, kite-like structure made of ripstop nylon that provides lift and drag for the paraglider pilot.

The wing is designed to create an airfoil shape that allows it to generate lift, which keeps the paraglider pilot in the air.

The wing also creates drag, which helps to control the paraglider’s speed and direction.

Paragliding wings come in a variety of sizes, depending on the weight of the pilot and the type of flying they plan to do. Larger wings provide more lift and drag, but are also more difficult to launch and land. Smaller wings are easier to manage, but may not be able to carry a heavier pilot.

Most paragliding wings are made of a single sheet of nylon, but some wings have multiple panels that can be opened or closed to adjust the wing’s shape.

Paragliding wings are attached to the paraglider pilot’s harness with straps, and are typically flown in tandem with another paraglider. When not in use, paragliding wings are typically packed away in a backpack or storage bag.


A paragliding harness is a vital piece of equipment for any paraglider. It is essentially a seat that attaches to the paraglider canopy and provides a secure place for the pilot to sit. The harness also includes straps and buckles which fasten the pilot to the canopy or wing.

The harness must fit snugly so that it does not move around when the paraglider is in flight. The harness must be comfortable, as pilots will often spend long periods in it.

There are many different types of harnesses available, each designed for a specific purpose. Some are made for competition pilots who need to be as light as possible, while others are more robust and can accommodate a person’s full body weight.

The paragliding harness is an essential piece of equipment that helps to keep pilots safe while flying. It is important to choose the right harness for your needs and make sure that it is in good condition before taking to the skies. Today harnesses can be adapted to backpacking, and pilots no longer carry them.

Paragliding reserve parachute

A paraglider reserve is a safety feature that helps to prevent injuries in the event of a crash. When activated, the reserve pulls the paraglider canopy out of the way, allowing the pilot to safely descend to the ground. Reserves are typically made from sturdy materials like nylon or polyester and are designed to withstand heavy wear and tear.

Paragliding reserves are an important safety feature, and all pilots should be familiar with how to use them. To activate a reserve, pilots need to first locate the release handle. This is usually located on the right side of the paraglider canopy, near the top. Pilots should then pull down on the release handle to activate the reserve.

It’s important to note that paraglider reserves should only be used as a last resort. In most cases, it’s best to try and land the paraglider safely on the ground. Reserves should only be activated when there is no other option. It is important to always fly with a reserve parachute and to practice using it regularly. By doing so, pilots can ensure that they are familiar with how to use their reserve in an emergency.

What is a speed bar?

A speed bar is a device used in paragliding to help the pilot control their speed. When flying cross-country, it’s important to fly at a speed that will allow you to cover ground efficiently while still maintaining control of your paraglider. The speed bar allows you to adjust your speed without having to change the position of your body or use your hands.

The speed bar is located at the pilot’s feet. It’s attached to the paraglider canopy with a pulley system and works by altering the shape of the canopy, which in turn affects how much drag it produces. Drag is what slows a paraglider down, so by increasing drag, the speed bar will slow the aircraft down. Conversely, by decreasing drag, the speed bar will speed the wing up.

The speed bar can be used in combination with the brake to fine-tune your speed. The brake is a toggle located on the left side of the harness that allows you to control how much lift the paraglider produces. When flying cross-country, it’s often necessary to adjust your speed and altitude to navigate around obstacles or gain ground on your competitors. The speed bar and brake provide a way for you to do this without having to move your body or take your hands off the controls.

paragliding instruments

Paragliding Instruments

There are three important instruments for paragliders: an altimeter, an accelerometer, radio, and GPS. A GPS tracker monitors altitudes. All aircraft have altimeters. It tells you the distance from your surroundings. This will ensure that you maintain the clearance required while also allowing a safe distance from others on gliders. Altitude measurements are measured using air pressure. The digital devices typically come as a part of a varimeter, GPS or sport watch.

paragliding variometer

Paragliding Variometer

A variometer is a device that is used in paragliding to measure the rate of change in altitude. It does this by measuring the difference in pressure between the surrounding air and the paraglider itself. This information is then displayed on a screen, so the pilot can see how fast they are ascending or descending.

The variometer is an important piece of equipment for paragliders, as it allows them to fly safely and avoid hitting obstacles. It is also helpful for finding thermals, which are pockets of air that can lift the paraglider up into the sky. The variometer allows pilots to increase the height of their aircraft and determine the direction in the rising air while he sinks. Because pilots cannot determine rising or soaring air, variometers are capable of generating short audio messages like “beep”. Variometers or varios are indispensable for paragliding.

paragliding radio


Paraglider pilots need radios for several reasons. One reason is that paragliders often fly in groups, and pilots need to be able to communicate with one another. Radios also allow paraglider pilots to receive weather updates, which can help them make decisions about whether or not to fly. In addition, radios can be used to call for help in the event of an emergency. For all of these reasons, paraglider pilots must have radios when they’re flying.

When choosing a radio for paragliding, it’s important to select one that is specifically designed for aviation use. Some radios are not meant for use in high-stress environments, such as those that involve flying. It’s also important to make sure that your radio is properly tuned and that you know how to use it correctly. If you’re not familiar with radios, it’s a good idea to get some training from a certified instructor. Radios will help in communicating with the other pilot and their assistant paragliders. Each country may have a specific frequency range. In certain situations, pilots are in contact with air traffic controllers and airport officials.

Global Positioning System – GPS

A GPS is an important tool for paraglider pilots. It allows them to navigate accurately and safely, especially in difficult weather conditions. By knowing their location and altitude, pilots can make better decisions about where to fly and avoid dangerous areas. A GPS is also helpful for finding landing spots. In addition, some GPS units provide wind speed and direction information, which is valuable when planning a flight. It’s a must in paragliding because it assists the pilot to find the geographical area and other pilots follow their movements, which aids them in their tracks and learning their movements.

How do you control the paraglider?

There are a few ways to control a paraglider – the most common of which are using the brakes (or controls) for changing direction. The brakes are located on the trailing edge of the wing and are used to control speed and direction. If the controls are pulled, your wing’s shape may change. When you pull on the left brake you feel it move to the left. A reduction in the brake pressure returns it to level flight. To get to the right you need to use the right control. Then right sides fly slower and the left side flies faster causing the wing to turn. Yanking the controls results in the wing acting erratically.

The second way is to keep your boy leaning away from the wing. Never get vertical when kiting. You will lose control over the wing on the ground and get potentially dragged.

paragliding brakes

What are brakes?

A pilot holds the brake on his wrist. They are connected with the trailing edges of the glider. They offer the controls for paragliding. The brakes control the pitch, roll, and yaw of the wing and are a critical aspect of aerodynamic systems. This brake adjusts the speeds, tunes speed, and aids in stopping during landings.

What’s a weight shift turn?

In addition to manipulating the brakes, the pilot must lean left or right to maintain proper control. These weight changes are critical when the brake system is not used. Weight shift changes are beneficial when controlling all advanced techniques.

Launching the paraglider

How should we fly paragliding correctly? First, perform a security inspection. How can you hold firmly onto a strap for safety reasons? Do the helmets fit perfectly to the head? Does my tent canopy look well built? You can never fly without learning to climb up a plane. It’s called the launch. Floating in wind and walking in a direction is possible. Pulling the wings forces the air to fill up. Soon the wings will become an air balloon that rises above your head.

Reverse launch

A reverse launch in paragliding is a technique used to get the paraglider airborne. It is different from a regular launch, which involves running forward with the paraglider to build speed before taking off. With a reverse, you start by walking backward while inflating the paraglider wing.

There are a few reasons why you might choose to do a reverse instead of a regular launch. For example, if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, it can be difficult or impossible to do a regular launch. In these cases, doing a reverse launch may be your only option. Additionally, some pilots find that they have more control over their paraglider during a reverse than during a regular launch.

There are a few things to keep in mind when doing a reverse. First, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough space behind you to launch the paraglider safely. You’ll also need to be careful not to run into any obstacles or people who might be standing nearby.

Finally, it’s important to note that the reverse is not as easy as the regular launch. It takes a bit of practice to get it right. If you’re not comfortable trying a reverse launch, you can always stick with the regular launch. But with a bit of practice, the reverse launch can be a valuable tool in your paragliding arsenal.

Towed launch

A towed launch in paragliding is a method of launching where the pilot is pulled into the air by a tow rope attached to a motor vehicle. This method is used when the wind speeds are too high for a self-launch, or when the pilot wants to get up into the air quickly.

The pilot is typically towed to an altitude of around 1,000 feet (300 meters) before being released from the tow line. At this point, they will open their parachute and fly away. A towed launch can be a very exciting way to start your flight, but it requires a lot of experience and skill to do it safely. Make sure you consult with an experienced paraglider before attempting this type of launch.

Watching out for traffic

Comparable to launch landings require coordination amongst pilots who must land in groups. Each pilot lands simultaneously because this pattern will be very important. The planes must travel in a rectangular lineup and back to the landing area. There must always be synchrony between the pilots because the pilot needs to learn the next move of the fellow pilot.

Landing Techniques

The technique to land is to approach the wind and the wings are flared to minimize the velocity between axes. The brake will shift from 0% to 100% before touching the surface and reaching the ground. In light winds, landing can be accomplished by running slowly. In faster winds, lands are done in reverse with a lower forward speed but sometimes pilots have a backward turn. The second method of landing is the flipping of the Wing so that the aircraft loses its efficiency. This is a professional technique and the paraglider must have experience. Two methods include collapsing the wings when launching a landing rig.

About the author.


Damien Mitchell is a USHPA Advanced Instructor, and APPi Trained Instructor. He has over 10,000 flights and has been instructing paragliders for 15-years. He has been flying for almost 25-years. He is originally from Utah.