Paragliding is a magical sport. This feeling of freedom, of admiring landscapes in a more than comfortable position. It made us want to share with you our five tips to successfully start paragliding and make the most of it!
Paragliding is a recreational activity, but most people do not know it is also a sport and are unaware of the sensation and benefits of paragliding. Yes, the wind on your face, the weightlessness of your legs. A gentle feeling of being alone in the world and witnessing incredible sights in a more than comfortable position. Wouldn't that be the life everyone dreams of? Dream with us and find our five tips to start paragliding in complete safety for maximum enjoyment and a dream come true!
Paragliding is becoming an increasingly popular sport, as you have surely noticed during your trips to the mountains or the beach.
When you start paragliding, you have two options:
- If you simply want to discover the sensation of flying and enjoy a brief experience, you can start with an introduction to paragliding.
- If you want to get into paragliding much more seriously, learning and flying requires, like every sport, time and basic knowledge. However, safety is more important to the activity. If you are just taking up paragliding, you will be flying in optimal safety conditions in a school approved by your relevant governing body.
However you opt to enjoy paragliding, it is a sport that requires commitment. Paragliding requires mastery of specific equipment and a particular environment, and self-control. Once in the air, you are alone (at least when you already have some flights under your belt ^^).
If you play close attention, observe the rules and respect the instructions of your instructor, as well as the conditions required to paraglide correctly (weather, physical and safety), you reduce the risk of an accident and increase your chances of enjoying yourself.
The best way to get into paragliding is to take an introductory course. This introduction will allow you to escape for a moment and discover the benefits of this sport. Everyone has always wondered what birds feel while flying, right? This is the chance to find out through a sensational experience: a two-seater paragliding flight.
So the paragliding introduction takes place with an instructor who will oversee the flight from take-off to landing. You can ask them any questions you wish. They're there to explain the steps involved in a flight.
Do you want to take your interest in this sport further?
We therefore recommend you do an introductory course. It will allow you to gradually get a flavour of paragliding, be introduced to and learn how to use the equipment. You will learn the take-off and landing rules, learn the safety rules, and take your first solo flight. Most paragliding schools offer courses lasting between one and five days. At the beginning of the course, you will be accompanied by an instructor who will guide you and give you both theoretical and practical courses to help you become independent and to pilot your paraglider like a boss! Don't panic, on your first flights, you will be guided by radio with an instructor at the end of the line. One instructor stays at the take-off location and another at the landing site.
However, doing an introductory course does not mean that you will be able to fly perfectly, especially not at all paragliding sites and in all weather conditions. It is important to remember that a pilot only feels truly ready and comfortable to handle their canopy after at least three courses. Do not hesitate to take several courses, including a more advanced course after your initiation. This will not only allow you to gain confidence in the air but also fly with greater peace of mind and in complete safety.
"It's something I wanted to do, I'm neither a whizz kid nor fearful, but I do like a bit of "daredevil" stuff. The first time was on the Dune du Pyla in southwest France. On the morning of the flight, I was a little apprehensive. I didn’t know how it would go, but I really wanted to do it.
Upon arrival at the top of the dune, there was not enough wind. I waited quietly, the wind got up in the afternoon.
For an introduction, you have someone in your back while you are flying, an instructor. You have a kind of big backpack, things around your thighs like climbing harnesses. The instructor asked me if I was ready and we started off together. Once you've launched, your legs are empty, you feel like you can sit in a seat. It’s like a merry-go-round; the stomach rises, it’s really fun, I enjoyed myself during the whole flight.
It’s really special, you feel like you’re flying, and in fact, you truly are! It's wonderful! It’s as if you’ve entered another world... I saw the people on the beach, waving at me, I felt like I’d be picking up the trees, you lose your sense of distance.
The flight lasted half an hour, I was apprehensive about landing, the instructor told me to stretch my legs and sit down, and everything went well. Even though I didn’t fly very high with the lack of wind, I enjoyed the view of the Bassin d'Arcachon, it was great. I can recommend it to others, it’s not rough, it’s gentle ... I feel like doing it again ;)"
" 30 years: what’s the best age to take up paragliding? For a mountain lover like me, it was clearly a box to tick. In addition, I probably chose the best spot for my two-seater introduction: the splendid Chamonix valley!
Reservations made for a Saturday morning in July when the weather conditions are perfect: great sun, very little wind, temperature a trifle cool but we don’t complain. I'm all excited about flying and the big smile I had when I woke up doesn't leave my lips. Fear? Not even an ounce! It's a two-seater introduction, I know the instructor will handle everything for both of us. Honestly, it's reassuring.
I find the instructor at Planpraz, a plateau at an altitude of around 2000 m. The view is already magnificent. I hear that same instructor is approaching the age of 75, incredible since he looks 15 younger! He is an experienced paraglider who even has special certification allowing him to fly people with reduced mobility. Yes, he has already flown people in wheelchairs. He also told me that his oldest customer was 92 years old!
Anyway it takes him a few minutes to attach me to the backpack and all the gear. No time to take a breath – he asks me to walk, then run to take off. And... that is it. Not even a little tremor, nothing. Just the wonderful sensation of flying with the exceptional panorama of Mont Blanc. I'm taking it all in, it’s so beautiful. I feel like time is suspended as we are suspended from the canopy... It looks like we're not going very fast even if we are moving pretty fast.
The instructor allows me to "control" the canopy a bit, turning right and left. Again, I'm not afraid, I'm guided and I'm amazed. Finally, he gives me the chance to do a few acrobatics. We do a few 360° turns, and fly in every direction, that's great! Super-impressive all the same. And I feel a little sad at the end... It's time to land: fast and smooth.
The 20-minute flight went by at a crazy speed! 20 swirling, intoxicating minutes, leaving me with incredible memories! Shall we go again tomorrow?"
Once you've had a taste of paragliding and you're ready to get started and fly alone, it's time for you to carefully choose your equipment to take full advantage of your flights. Your choice of equipment will depend first on your level and how you wish to fly. To paraglide, you will need: a paragliding canopy or wing, a harness, a spare parachute, a helmet, a radio, a pair of gloves, a pair of sunglasses and appropriate shoes.
Let's start with the canopy. It is essential to choose a canopy with a wing surface that is appropriate to your weight. There are different levels of certification that correspond to a level of performance and a required level of proficiency. If you want to know more, we have listed the different types of canopy:
- Class-A canopy
- Canopies used by schools and beginners. (DHV 1)
- Class-B canopy - Standard canopies used by pilots wishing to progress. (DHV 1- 2)
- Class-C canopy
- High-performance canopies used by pilots with a very high level of proficiency (DHV 2, 2-3)
- Class-D canopy
- Competition canopies used by elite competitors (DHV competition)
- Mini canopy: Mini wing certified or uncertified, for speed-flying and speed-riding. The higher the category (towards D), the better the wing's performance, the greater its aspect ratio (the surface area divided by the wingspan) and the more its behaviour will require the pilot to adjust their steering and fly with precision. You have to choose your canopy carefully because if it is not appropriate to your weight and level of training, it can jeopardise your safety.
The harness is a vital element for controlling the canopy, as its suspension lines are attached to it. As with canopies, there are different types of harnesses suited to the requirements, levels and uses of each individual. You will find harnesses with different forms of seating (hammock, board, leg straps) and for different types of paragliding: hiking and reversible (light and reversible backpack harness), aerobatic and freeride called "accro" (protection and hold), cross (light and aerodynamic), paramountaineering (ultralight and weighs as little as just over 100 g!). The factors to be taken into account when choosing a harness:
A little piece of advice? Go to the "Rock The Outdoor" page which details the characteristics of harnesses. Ask professionals to advise you and try out harnesses.
Do you want to get the most out of paragliding and maximise the joy it provides? We recommend you kit yourself out with several accessories. A helmet to fly in complete safety, a radio to remain in contact with someone who will stay at the take-off location and have a watch over you from the beginning to the end of your flight, or to be in contact with someone you’re flying with.
A small piece of advice: you can hang your radio from your harness. We also advise you to wear a pair of gloves to avoid discomfort in your hands when steering and any handling of the lines, a pair of sunglasses to admire the landscape regardless of the weather or shoes with good grip to land without any issues. Also bring comfortable, warm clothes. That's right, up in the air, it is not the same temperature as on the ground!
Last tip for your gear: make contact with the instructor with whom you completed your introduction or paragliding training or a school near you to choose the equipment suited to your requirements.
You are now ready to embark on this beautiful adventure, but you are wondering where you can fly in your country. Good news, in France, for example, there are sites everywhere, or almost! The French free-flight federation (FFVL) lists the different places where you can fly: https://carte.ffvl.fr/?mode=parapente .
Another piece of good news? There is almost always a club or school close to these sites, who can support you, advise you and train you.
If you prefer wide open spaces and mountains, here are some of the unmissable locations: Mont Blanc and Lake Annecy, also for 'hike and fly' (hiking up a mountain and then paragliding down), the Varan mountain hut near Passy and beautiful spots in Samoëns, close to Gap or even Millau where you can fly more than 300 days a year.
If you prefer the sea and its cliffs, we recommend spots such as the Dune du Pilat, Cap Blanc or Gris-Nez, Normandy, Aix-en-Provence, Nice, Cannes, or even Omaha Beach which are incredible spots.
However, the mountains remain the perfect place to paraglide! The reason for this is simple: the terrain enables the paraglider to gain height and enjoy a breathtaking flight. You're probably wondering where you can't fly? Well, close to the airports or above cities. Flight conditions must also be right (wind direction and speed, the paraglider's level, knowledge of the site and changes in the weather, etc.). France is a country where paragliding is increasingly popular. Other countries offer many equally incredible locations for paragliding.
The small bonuses of paragliding?
Travelling in a different way and discovering countries like you've never seen them before. Switzerland, Brazil, Germany and Spain are magnificent countries where paragliding is on the rise.
Find: The best paragliding instructors are there to help you discover the world of paragliding in safety.
Book: No need to call, simply book the time and day that suits you best.
Fly: Find the best spots and join the community!
And to better enjoy paragliding, group flying, with members of your club, your family, or with your friends. The flight itself is, of course, done alone, but the discipline deserves to be learned in a group. Why?
- It’s easier to share your sport with others
- Share unforgettable moments
- Discover things together
- Interact with others and learn from them.
Being in a group contributes to safety, the challenge, learning or even practical considerations regarding transport and take-off and landing cycles. You might be wondering what take-off and landing cycles are? It’s very simple, you go to the take-off location in a 4X4, you get ready, you take off, you fly and you return to the take-off point. It should be noted that on a 25-minute flight, a full cycle can take one hour. Watch and you will rarely see a paraglider alone in the air; there is a reason for that. When you get started and take off, make contact with one of the hundreds of clubs or schools and don’t fly alone. Remember, paragliding is a sport that requires concentration, analysis and attention – a group will help you with this.
All paragliders are confronted with this undeniable fact: "it is better to regret being on the ground than regret being in the air". So, be careful, pay attention to the advice of experienced pilots. Remember that 99% of paragliding accidents, as in all sectors of the aeronautics sector, are directly related to human error.