Paragliding is a recreational extreme sport that involves flying paragliders, which are foot-launched, free-flying, lightweight glider aircrafts that lack a rigid primary structure. The pilot sits in a harness, which sits suspended below a fabric wing. Although it does not use an engine, paraglider flights can last for hours and cover hundreds of miles. Typical flights, however, last a couple of hours and cover tens of miles. It is not uncommon to fly a few thousand meters above the ground, thus making it one of the more popular extreme sports.
Pros and Cons
Like all extreme sports, paragliding carries with it some danger.
Between 1994 and 2010, an average of 7 pilots out of 10,000 were fatally injured.
The potential for injury can be significantly lowered by taking the necessary safety precautions and undertaking proper training. Purchasing appropriate equipment, such as a cushioned harness, reserve parachute, and helmet also helps to minimize risk. It is also important to have an understanding of the site conditions. Knowing how strong the wind is, what the air turbulence is like, and where the power lines are can help prevent injury as well. Most paragliding accidents occur because of poor flying conditions and pilot error, so minimizing risk in both those areas is essential. Paragliding is popular because you can pack all you need in a rucksack and take off, and you are able to launch independently (unlike hang gliding). It also provides a sensational adrenaline rush.
California is one of the top destinations in the world for extreme sports, and paragliding falls right in this category. The combination of the consistent sunny weather with lots of updrafts, the coastline, and the mountains offer a great flying experience and a picturesque view. Fort Funston, located just south of San Francisco, is one of the most popular spots for paragliding, and you’ll see hundreds of paragliders on any given weekend. It is not for beginners, however, as the famous Funston Shear can propel pilots so high that they have difficulty getting back down. Similar to California, Queenstown in New Zealand is another popular destination for adventure tourists, and Queenstown’s beautiful location makes it a wonderful place to fly from.
The Road Less Travelled
Located 750 km off the mainland, the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique is one of the more underrated locations in the world. It is barely touched by civilization and offers beautiful crystal clear water and white sandy beaches, making it a great destination for paragliding vacations. For those who may wish to stay closer to home, Sun Valley in Idaho is a tremendous destination for paragliding. It was even one of the locations for the paragliding world cup. Its huge area is perfect for both experts and beginners, and the desert updrafts allow for pilots to fly for hundreds of miles.
Costs and Savings
For starters, a brand new paragliding set up usually costs between $5,000 and $7,000. This basic set up should include a radio, a helmet, a reserve parachute, a harness, and a wing, and the price may increase depending on the brand. Lessons generally cost between $200 and $400, but for those who wish to fly on their own, a Novice Training Program is required. This program typically costs around $1500, but there are gift certificates available to help lower the cost. Another bonus is the cost of the daily lessons is sometimes applied toward the price of the program.