When move forward in life we can forget how hard things were when we were doing it for the first time. Currently, I’m starting something new. I’m beginning to paraglide, and it made me feel similar to when I began to skydive. This feeling is incredible because it gives me a better perspective about people that are entering in the skydiving world and how they feel. Even though paragliding is different than skydiving, they both involve flying wing (canopy). And so it’s refreshing to have questions about something similar to skydiving. That’s why I’m writing about the connection between starting something new again and my favourite sport in the world.
When I decided to start paragliding, I began looking for more experienced flyers inside my community. I found a great mentor, Tim Parrant, and he gave me my first lessons. Besides introducing me to the sport, Tim also explained why paragliding is so important for him. Same as in skydiving, this was a crucial step to understand what people feel when flying that enormous wings above amazing views.
I love flying, and besides that, I read that paragliding can improve my skydiving canopy flying skills. My first time with a paragliding wing over my head was with this friend and instructor. Tim let me borrow his wing and play a little bit with it. He gave me the ground school lesson and tried to help me with my first attempt to inflate a paragliding wing, but my first try wasn’t anything close to successful.
Finding a school
There are many places you can learn paragliding, and the best way is to find people in the sport and ask for advice. I did exactly what I recommend people interested in starting skydiving to do. I found a registered paragliding centre nearby, to help with my learning process. I’m thrilled to have friends who can help me with paragliding. However, because it is not his main job, I preferred finding a person who works with teaching the sport.
As well, in my case, I needed a lot of attention, and my friend wouldn’t be able to give me all I need to feel ready to fly.
Bring your friends with you
As you might know, I’m super into skydiving. I started paragliding right during the end of the lockdown. My home drop zone was still closed, and I was looking for something new to do. Once I chose paragliding, I wanted to bring a friend with me for the journey. It was easy to get Max to come with me, as we have very similar interests (we skydive together). We started the paragliding classes together, however, he kept going day after day, and I got back into skydiving.
The good thing about having a friend with you when starting something new is that the learning process is more accessible. Also, you have someone that will understand what you are talking about, doubts, and concerns.
The first flight is very overwhelming. It was great to have a friend there to support and get some good shots of my first flight. I’m very much behind him now in experience. Well, he is now one more person to give me tips!
Buying the equipment
That’s always a pain in the ass, but things are more relaxed when you have a little more experience in extreme sports. I asked a few people and read many blogs to understand a bit more about paragliding gear.
The first thing I was researching was safety. I was curious if paragliding has levels such as skydiving and how pilots select their wings. Also, it is interesting that the harness is a bit confusing for me.
REMEMBER: I’m not a paragliding instructor, and I do not have much experience. Everything I’m sharing in this blog post is very personal decisions and must be used only for reference. Always ask your instructor for guidance.
There are several types of wings and also levels. Wings level EN “A” is the safest one, and it goes up until EN “D,” the most hardcore, for super experienced pilots. There are wings for different disciplines, such as cross country, aerobatic, light wings for the hike and fly, etc.
I bought an EONA 2. It is an EN A-wing. Super safe but fun to fly, and it likely will be with me for a long time after I finish my paragliding course.
The most important information I got here is that airbags protection usually doesn’t work during taking off. If you search about paragliding accidents, most accidents happen during the take off.
For this reason, I bought an Axess 4 Advanced harness. It has foam protection and many other cool characteristics that I like.
Paragliding reserve parachute
You can fly without a reserve. Although, if you asked me if I would do that, my answer would be a big NOPE. Beginner pilots rarely use the reserve. However, its always good to have one just in case. I purchased a Gin Yeti Cross. It is a lightweight, square-type emergency reserve parachute for paragliding. It gives me a stable descent if I ever need it.
Practicing on the ground is one of the most essential parts of this sport. Even though my instructor told me that I was ready to take off, I went to practice ground handling one more time. I heard very experienced paragliders talking about the importance of ground handling. They all say the same conclusion: ground handling is extremely valuable, and you can never have enough.
I think I spend around 4 to 5 hours playing with my wing before I felt ready to take off. I used my instructors as a mentor to have an idea when the wind was good to practice, and I did it a lot of times. My instructor gave me an “ancient” wing for practicing (the one you see below). Once I was at the edge of the mountain, I’d be very comfortable and ready.
Ground handling is extremely valuable, and you can never have enough.
Flying: Paragliding vs. Skydiving
After doing a few hours of ground handling and flying my paragliding a few times, I did improved my skydiving canopy skills. That was the big question for me when I started. Can I really improve my skydiving canopy skills flying a paragliding wing?
The answer came right when I downsized from a CrossFire 3 Size 125 to a JFX 2 Size 104. I did my first 10 jumps with my new skydiving canopy with Pete Allum during a flight-1 canopy course. After the two days of classes, he told me how impressed he was about the control I was having regarding my canopy since our last course. He also mentions the paragliding, and we both believe that skills came from there.
I landed in a tree with my paraglider
The only concern I have regarding skydivers starting paragliding is the difference between the wings and the overconfidence. In my 7th flight, I landed on a tree. That was just because I used muscle memory from my skydiving canopy skills and forgot about what I’ve learned with my paragliding instructors.
I thought I’d be ok paragliding due to my experience as a skydiver. However, skydiving and paragliding are two very different sports. The school I choose has a small landing area, and any mistake can make you land on the trees. Yes, you guessed it right! I did land on the trees on my 7th flight.
My mistake happened because I was trying to do two things at the same time. I changed my elliptical skydiving canopy for a cross-braced and downsized it from a 125 to a 104 square feet. Learning how to fly a new skydiving canopy and paragliding wasn’t the right choice to make. I know people are different, I’m just adding my personal feelings and experiences here.
Keep coming back
Regarding my last flight, I’m good! It was just a big lesson. Now I understand a little bit more my limits and will be more careful. I also received many supportive messages on Instagram and Facebook. I can assure you I’ll keep flying my wing.
Please remember that I have no real instruction about paragliding. Your instructor must validate everything you have read in this article before making any decision. If you follow any of my guidance, you will be putting yourself at risk.
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