Paragliding is one of the most awe-inspiring adventure sports practiced today. The scenic views provided by the high-altitude jumping points combined with the rush of free-flying an aircraft at heights nearing 15,000 feet make paragliding an experience of a lifetime.
Paragliding came to exist through a series of parachute improvements for military purposes. The chutes were initially altered so that they could be towed by a vehicle and steered into the air. Paragliding is sometimes confused with hang gliding or parasailing, but the sports have many differences.
Paragliding involves parachutes, lines and harnesses whereas hang gliders have rigid frames and the pilots are most often in a horizontal position. Parasailing does not require the skill and training that paragliding does because it’s not a free-flying adventure sport. Paragliders have to learn how to use thermal air currents and often launch themselves off mountains in order to catch the rising air currents. Paragliders have to manipulate lines, brakes and shift their weight in order to maneuver successfully through the air.
So, while there is no certification requirement, adventure sport enthusiasts should study and train with professionals before attempting to paraglide.
Mountainous regions are the most suitable destinations for paragliding because of the effect that elevation changes have on wind currents. Ridge lifting is a common way for paragliders to ascend to high altitudes, enabling longer, more enjoyable flights.
Ridge lifting occurs when winds are forced upward along the slope of a mountain or large hill and paragliders can use the rising currents to lift them higher into the air.
Related Paragliding Video: Paragliders coast over the cliffs in Santa Barbara, California.Warm, sunny areas are also common paragliding destinations because they are conducive to thermal air currents. These occur when the sun heats the ground for a long period time and causes the ground to heat the air above it. The hot air then rises in a column or balloon shaped draft, which paragliders can use to soar higher. Thermal air currents happen most frequently in light-colored areas of terrain, areas with lots of trees and plants, the ridges of hills, rocky areas and above groups of houses. Ideally, paragliders should search for warm, sunny, mountainous regions so that they can experience convergence. This occurs when two moving air masses meet, such as a thermal air column combining with winds rising off a ridge.