So you want to learn how to Paraglide. I don’t blame you it is an amazing sport. My favourite in fact. All those dreams of flight realised with a piece of equipment that can fit in a bag on your back and some training. It is such an amazing experience and one I recommend to all.
Here they are:
1. Book a tandem.
Paragliding is amazing but it is kinda scary too. Being so exposed and so high in the sky can be quite daunting so maybe a tandem flight might be order just to check things out. Tandem flights are amazing as you can really experience the potential of a paraglider under the controls of an experienced pilot. Even as a semi experienced pilot myself I can not wait to take a tandem flight with an experienced Acro pilot.
Find experienced paragliding instructors here: Paragliding in Cape Town
2. Book a course.
So you survived the tandem flight and you still think paragliding is for you, great !! Next thing you need to do is figure out where your nearest paragliding school is. You can find schools on our BigAdventureMap under Paragliding or via association websites such as the BHPA or USHPA or APPI.
Paragliding is a seriously dangerous sport and I have personally known people who have died doing it. Under no circumstances should you try to fly a paraglider without proper training. Without proper training things can go from nothing to fatally serious in seconds.
So what does a paragliding course entail? The structure of the course is different all around the world but the content of the courses is similar. Normally you expect to spend the first day or two learning the basics on the ground, even in the classroom. You will be familiarised with all the equipment and learn how to properly unpack, check it over, prepare for flying and safely repack your gear afterwards. You will then learn to control the wing on the ground, always under strict supervision from your instructor. This aspect of learning is called Ground Handling and it is a very important part of becoming a safe and confident paragliding pilot.
Once you have mastered ground handling and you have really started to understand how the wing works your instructor may take you to a small sloping hill to begin taking your first small flights. More like leaps or hops that get gradually larger and larger.
THE DREADED THEORY
At this stage your instructor will likely introduce you to the theory side of the sport if not already. The requirements differ around the world but most of them share similarities. In the UK, under the BHPA’s guidelines the three areas you cover are Air Law, Flight Theory and Meteorology. Flybubble is a fantastic paragliding shop in the UK and they provide lots of great information. Check out their section on Paragliding Exams and Rating
After you pass your written exams and show proficiency controlling the glider on the ground, and in small short flights, you are ready for some flying. The flights are getting progressively bigger and bigger are you are now starting to ridge soar and land back on the hill. At this point you have realised your dream of real flight, flight you are in control of. Its amazing isn’t it !! Now your instructor will coach you on being your own pilot and your own decision maker when it comes to flying. All being well and your instructor is happy he will pass you and your are qualified to fly without his or her supervision.
3. Buying your own Equipment.
You are still with us and hopefully have checked out your local school. The exciting point has come to buy your own gear. Getting advice on your gear and what suits you are what style of flying you want to do will really come from your instructor. Importantly, you should not feel pressured to buy equipment directly from your instructor and they will be keen to sell you your first wing. This is one of their sources of income at the end of the day.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WING
Choosing the right wing is important. Luckily the industry have rating systems in place to help guide you. The lower the rating in the EN or DHV rating systems the safer the wing. Basically the rating is given on how easy the wing will right itself after a cravat or collapse. Another aspect is pilot input, the lower the rating the less corrections or actions needed for the wing to right itself and fly safely again. Complex I know but this will make sense soon enough.
In the school environment you will use an EN A or a DHV 1 wing. by the time you ‘graduate’ you may be more confident and wish to purchase a EN B wing. Caution is needed and your instructor, the paragliding friends you have made by now and the reading you have done by this stage will guide you correctly.
4. Joining a Club and Association.
Now that you have got your wings and your trained and ready to fly, or maybe still in training, now is a good time to join a Club or association.
There are lots of Clubs all around the world and you may find your nearest Club through your flight school or via a search on google. We will list clubs on the map under Paragliding soon so check back for more information.
Your local Association may be BHPA or USHPA. You kind find more information on your local association on APPI.
5. Enjoy the freedom of flight.
Last step on the road to flight, or should I say runway, is enjoyit. Fly high and fly safe.
Remember flying is dangerous and you never stop learning with a sport like paragliding. Plenty of reading to be done.
So there you go, you know how to learn to paraglide … I hope