My first experience with paragliding

He took two resolute strides forward, but almost came to a complete stop when the wing behind him came up in the air and started tugging at his harness. He kept trying to go forwards until the whole wing was inflated and flying straight above him.

“Release”, the instructor shouted to him. He leaned forwards and let go of all the strings used for inflating the wing. Holding the brake handles in his hands and moving them to behind his back, he started running.

One of the two instructors shouted at him to continue running, which is what he did. Somehow he knew he was centered under the wing, it felt right, so he kept on running. As long as he kept going he was going to get airborne.

He didn’t jump or or anything that might collapse the wing. He just kept running and eventually the wing smoothly lifted him upwards, turning his speed through the air into lift. He simply noticed that his feet couldn’t reach the ground anymore.

He was airborne.

In December 2016, my last month in New Zealand at the time, I tried out paragliding and started studying towards a flying certificate.

Paragliding might look similar to parachuting, and indeed, that is where the sport originated. In modern paragliding however, the thing you’re hanging from isn’t a chute, but a wing. This means paragliding has more in common with an airliner than a parachute, you can actually fly upwards!

Of course most paragliders don’t have engines, but must use the winds and thermals to gain altitude. Thus a paragliding pilot must understand winds, weather and how airstreams move over terrain.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get all the way to a certificate. I need eight more flights. If I have the time, I’ll do this in Sweden, but right now it’s looking like I’ll have my hands full with work. At least I bought a glider and have it waiting for me when I come back to New Zealand…

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