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Paragliding with JoJaffa

Fly like a bird

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Getting started
How do I get started?
Kit and caboodle
Recommended reading
Spoil yourself
Holidays and Vacations
Getting more out of....paragliding
I've got the basics, what next?

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Feel the warm breeze..

...come up into your face as you check the crumpled ripstop nylon canopy spread on the ground behind you, feel the tension of the lines as you pull them against the resistance of the wind

- pull hard, the cells of the paraglider inflate and form a wall behind you, you are pulled back a step - push against the pull - the wing comes up above you head, a canopy against the sky ....
read on... or jump straight to getting started..

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How about

or even
Bungee Jumping?

- well, you've only got one life after all?

One a typical summer's day three hours time could make the difference between these two flights…

Check above - all OK - you check ahead - it's clear. You crane forward and run hard, the wing pulls you off the ground. You pull your left brake and twist in the harness,

Scenario 1 - beauty and tranquility

..a gentle turn brings you parallel with the slope, the vario (Variometer - tells you if you are going up or down) bleeps, you're in rising air, you touch the brakes , slow a little , the vario burbles, you're level with take off now and rising steadily. Right brake and shift the weight in the harness, come round right and come back on the slope, passing your take off. The steady sound of the wind in the lines tells you you're at the right speed.

Ahead of you is half a mile of bracken covered ridge to explore. At the end a buzzard circles in a thermal, you quickly overhaul some walkers. The next hour passes. Mind and body alert to the needs of staying in that band of steadily rising air just in front of the ridge but also reveling in the sensation of the simplest form of soaring, senses tuned to the tranquility of evening ridge soaring.

Time to land - all clear - you line up the patch of grass that was take-off and crab sideways. The ground comes closer, a little more speed for safety, and pull on the brakes just before touching down.

Brake and step backwards, the chute falls behind and is quickly tamed. Pack up into the large rucksack. As you near home, the traffic slows and stops. The driver in the car opposite scowls and hoots in frustration, you smile - how can he know where you have just been?

Scenario 2 - adrenalin and fear

The vario alarm sounds out, must be sinking fast, going down - you've only been in the air for a minute - what kind of a sport is this?

The canopy shudders, suddenly the right wing rears up, you counter by pulling right brake to keep it level, the vario screams in to life, you pull further right into the air bursting skywards, you're in a lift, already level with take off, you fly an S shape, how big is this thing, is this the one to take you to cloud base? a jolt, you're out of the thermal, pull round hard to look for it,

It's trying to spit you out, must be in front of you, open the turn, nothing - wait, a blip, two, a steady moan, the sound tells you the shape of the rising air, turn into it and try to fly efficient turns.

Above take off now, you can fly 360 degree turns, drifting back behind the ridge, looks good, another glider is in the same thermal, you've seen him he's seen you.

Ok. You wind your way up. The hill is shrinking, it's getting colder, keep turning efficiently. It's a good thermal, a kestrel is in it too, wisps of dandelion seed, altimeter reads 200 meters.

Things are smoother now,, fly bigger circles, but the thermal still wants to push you out.

Where next, your map shows clear airspace downwind - how far today - 4 miles if I can't stay in this thermal, but could be 30, 40, 50 miles? not a record by any means - but still fun.

The fluffy cumulus above beckons - not too close, the cornfields are pretty reliable for the next thermal - with this wind I'll look further downwind. Short of the top of the thermal, time to leave, don't want to get sucked too close, but it's decaying, maintaining height but no more, no, that's it - time to look for the next one, turn downwind, sinking fast out of the thermal, vario alarm is on again.

Head for those yellow fields. Look for the signs, birds? rippling corn? thistledown, changes in smell, crisp packets - anything!

Getting low, down to 200 meters, can land in any of these fields, check for electricity lines - well they are pretty much invisible form the air - any houses? worn patches of field where animals use telegraph poles as scratching posts - no all clear.

We're still alive. Never say die.

The vario alarm has stopped, sinking at the normal rate now, bumpy air, good sign, a wing tip collapses, rustles and re-inflates, here we are, what a sound! keep it smooth, concentrate, relax - breathe normally. the view? lose this thermal and there won't be one vario alarm on again, sinking fast, not looking good. any other fields will do - nearest road? pub?

Tell us what got you interested in paragliding.

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Getting started

Paragliding - the Ups and Downs - oh - and the weather

Roughly speaking you go up because the air around you is going up as well. In the UK this is likely to be one of two ways:

Ridge soaring

Imagine the wind hitting a hill or ridge - it is deflected upwards - if you can stay in that rising air, you will be pushed upwards too…


Think of a 60s lava lamp - the air heated up over dark surfaces is like the big blobs of orange gunk in the lamp. Every so often one heats up and rises to the top - if you can stay in a such a blob, you can to pushed up as well

No engine means you can't go up without some sort of motor - that motor is the rising airParagliders are clever machines - by falling the air keeps the canopy inflated like a parachute - but the inflated shape is like an aircraft wing. Because air has further to go over the top than underneath the pressure is less. This makes you fall less slowly - but you always fall! - it's just the speed that varies

If paragliding is for you then it won't be long before weather is for you too - on the web, TV weather, newspaper weather charts, glancing though the window up at the sky. You will come to recognize - and love- those cold weather fronts, the spacing of isobars, the direction and strength of the wind.

It has to be said that the UK is not the best place to learn to paraglide - though at least you will be well taught…

The weather is going to play a crucial role - too much wind and the canopy is a like an umbrella in a storm, too little and it like trying to fly a kite in no wind. No wind or too much rules out training. The better you get , the wider the range of weather conditions you can cope with.

Think laterally - try learning in abroad.

There is a minimum age limit of 14 - and if you are in reasonable health no upper age limit. Strength is not an issue - neither is gender.

Many people with minor disabilities such as short sightedness fly without restriction. People who are less able or blind can still participate on a tandem paraglider (instructor and passenger).

You can spend huge amounts for state of the art paragliders - but it isn't necessary to bankrupt yourself to enjoy this sport. Always remember, the wind comes free!

Don't be put off by video clips of 60s birdmen jumping off cliffs in bamboo and bin liners masquerading as hang gliders

BASE jumping / parachuting scare stories - paragliding is not about a few seconds of adrenaline - think of sailing a dinghy - in three dimensions

So what do I need to be able to do? Well, you need:

  • A bit of courage and slightly more patience
  • Basic knowledge of how an aircraft wing works
  • That's it
Where can I train?
To start paragliding you must sign on with a BHPA registered school
  • - you could go for a taster day (+/- £70.00)
  • - aim to be a 'student' pilot (you can fly with a school) (+/- £300.00)
  • - or go for the next step up 'Club Pilot' (you can fly on your own) (+/- £500.00)
avoid any 'mates' who reckon they can teach you on a gentle slope somewhere see you in hospital / the morguebuying a canopy from anyone who will sell you one before you have a qualification (if they are prepared to let you come a cropper, they are probably going to lie about the qualities of the paraglider)

Sign on with a school near you probably 5 days - but if you forget quickly you will need moreSign up for an intensive course in UK 5 days - beware the weatherSign up for an intensive course abroad - what happens if you don't get qualified before the holiday runs out - check!!!

Join a local club - regular meetings, chat to those who know local sites and conditions

Courses are run all year round - but hoping to qualify in 5 days in a showery April is unrealistic. Autumn and winter are not out of the question - but how near is your nearest school? Could you afford to go abroad?

Once you are qualifier you can fly all year round - just pack more clothing in winter

(Sports Disclaimer)

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Getting more out of....paragliding

Check out the home page of British Paraglyding Association.

For the birds eye view of a true enthusiast check out Steve's Paragliding page

How about flying with a griffon vulture on the mountains of Nepal.

Once you've got the basics of paragliding, there's a wide range of other things with a paragliding theme you could take up. How about one of these:

  • Powered paragliding = paraglide with a 'bum chopper' motor
  • Parasailing = be towed by a boat / car
  • Hang gliding = same idea but an aluminum frame - heavier, goes faster / further
  • Powered hang gliding = hang gliding with a motor so that you can look for thermals
  • Micro lighting = hang gliding with a bigger motor
  • Kite buggies = paraglider kite tows you in a three-wheeled buggy
  • Kite windsurfers = paraglider kite tows you on a windsurfer
  • Kiting = amazing developments in high tech kites have been made…

Some more useful links

Sky Adventures


Roar's Paraglide site

German Paragliding site

Swiss Paragliding site - with movies

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Kit and caboodle

Need a good book, video or more advice? JoJaffa has picked out the best for you. For each book/ video just click on the amazon link find out the price and get more information.

If you can suggest any good books about paragliding, let us know.

Recommended Reading

Books : Paragliding
by David Sollom, Matthew Cook
The alternative manual - good for experts too!

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Books : Paragliding - the complete guide
by Noel Whittal
If you know a bit about this sport already - then this larger volume might be more appealing. Written by one of the top guys in the sport

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

VHS : Starting Paragliding
by Paul Hamilton
Produced by the US paragliding and hangliding association - this is the arm chair way to learn! US format only.

in association with...Amazon US

Learn to paraglide from your PC with a simulator (Hang Sim). Check on the paragliding banner to find out how:

It's certainly a lot cheaper than doing it for real and you can book yourself in right now.

If you want to go straight for the real thing then a paragliding course in the UK would cost anything from £70 for a day taster to £500+ for 7 days.

You'll need a pair of boots with good ankle support and some warm, wind proof clothing.

You can of course invest in a good 'how to paraglide' course book first - you might want to try a paragliding simulator - but there be aware of limitations!


You will need:

  • A canopy - a ripstop nylon bag that inflates to produce a wing
  • A harness - attaches you to the wing - the better ones have built in padding - never buy one with a solid kevlar backplate.
  • BHPA membership / insurance - in case you damage someone else!
For later
  • Variometer - tells you if you are going up or down
  • Parachute - you won't be high up enough to use it in the early stages
  • Overalls - a thinsulate all in one overall
I'm kit mad
  • Altimeter - how high you are
  • Ventimeter - how much wind is there?
  • Windsock - many sites have one anyway
  • GPS - tells you where you are on a cross country flight
Safe, training paraglider = £500.00
  • Recent canopy - OK for first decent soaring - £800.00
  • New canopy £1600.00 - £2000.00

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Spoil yourself

Choose some where warm to learn to paragliding!

Spend a week or two at a paragliding centre some where warm and sunny. That would set you back anything from £600 for a week to £1000 for a week

Courses available in a variety of countries. Favourites are France, Spain, Turkey.

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Open Outcry

Got a question? Get an answer!

Post a message to the paragliding discussion board.

You might just

  • have a general question about paragliding?
  • want to make a comment
  • want to share tips and advice with fellow JoJaffa-ers?

... Then why not use our paragliding chat board

Maybe someone has already asked that burning question you're longing to find the answer to ...

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If you are interested in paragliding, you'll probably also enjoy some or all of the following

or even
Bungee Jumping?

- well, you've only got one life after all?

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