Paragliding is a sport of assisted human flight. A paraglider is a motorless, inflatable wing, made of rip-stop nylon and fixed with Kevlar® lines that secure a pilot's harness. The pilot sits in the harness and launches the vehicle by foot, running off inclines, hills, or mountains. He or she steers the wing by weight shift and application of brakes that changes the shape of the rear edge of the wing.
This flying device is made to soar on wind currents. The record for staying aloft is over 11 hours, and the distance record is 186 miles (300 km). The average flight for the everyday enthusiast is about 3 hours, with heights reaching 15,000 feet (4,500 meters).
One of the advantages of paragliding is that the entire wing and harness fold up into a 30 lb (13.6 kg) backpack. This makes it easy for a pilot to hitch-hike back from a flight, or to transport his wing by checking it in as baggage on a bus or even an airline.
People who are interested in purchasing a glider should make sure it bears certifications of quality, which the dealer should explain. Recommended additional equipment consists of a variometer or altimeter, which tells the pilot how fast he is rising or falling, and a two-way radio. For those who love the quiet peace of soaring bird-like through the inviting sky, the investment is worth the money.
Courses in paragliding are essential for anyone taking up the sport. Basic techniques and a solo flight are achieved in a two-day introductory course. Afterwards, if a person wants to continue with the sport, it's recommended that he get certified through more advanced training. When selecting a school for instruction in the US, individuals should look for instructors who are certified by the United States Hang Gliding Association. The association can provide more information about reputable schools.
This sport is similar to hang gliding, but there are a few key differences between the two. A hang glider is heavier and must be transported on a roof rack. It also suspends the pilot in a prone position, rather than sitting, and hang gliders fly slightly faster and can fly higher, up to 17,500 feet (5,334 m).
Parasailing and parachuting are very different from paragliding or hang gliding. A parasail does not soar freely on the wind, but is pulled behind a motorized boat, while a parachutist jumps from a plane to free-fall to the ground, as do parajumpers who jump from fixed objects like bridges, mountains, or buildings.