Paragliding: Breaking the Bonds of Gravity

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Standing on the crown of a 1,000-foot-high dormant volcano, you look at the desert floor far below. With a quiet prayer, you propel yourself down the slope, straining against a 250-square-foot nylon wing billowing up behind you. Suddenly, the wing comes to life, hauling you airborne. You are free of the bonds of gravity, soaring outward into the void, rising aloft on the warm desert winds.

Welcome to the world of paragliding. Flying from ridge or mountaintop with a foot-launched canopy, or "wing," has emerged as one of the world's hottest adventure sports. It's also the simplest way to fly. Less expensive than hang gliding—and much easier to learn—paragliding offers beginners a simple attraction: the prospect of flying on the very first day of taking up the sport.

If you're new to paragliding, a tandem flight is the way to start. Accompanied by a trained instructor flying alongside you on the same wing, you can immediately experience the thrill of this aerial sport. The learning process is fast: after just a few short hours of orientation, you will be able to make short flights on your own. After a couple weekends, you'll be flying moderate hills, gradually working your way up to greater distances and climbing to higher altitudes.
You can get your basic paragliding pilot's rating for approximately $800 to $1,000, typically after just four or five weekends of flying. by contrast, most hang-gliding pilots spend many months, and considerably more money, to complete their training.

Paragliding gear is compact and light. There is no large rig to assemble, and you don't need a car to reach your launch site. In the European Alps, where the sport is particularly popular, many fliers simply carry their 15 or so pounds of equipment in a backpack ahd hop on a cable car to reach their takeoff point.

Published: 17 Jul 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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