Paragliding: Breaking the Bonds of Gravity - Page 2

Page 2 of 5
advertisement

A paragliding flight begins with reassuring terra firma beneath your feet. The first task is to deploy your specially designed canopy behind you, facing the prevailing wind. Next, check that the canopy lines are straight. Hoisting the lines above your head, you're ready to go.

Now you must summon all your energy to inflate the canooy—and propel yourself into the air. One deep breath, and you begn to run down the slope to inflate the scoops that open in the canopy's leading edge and taper to a close toward the rear. As the air fills the canopy, you keep running, as hard as you can, until you feel your weight lift off your toes.

To the casual observer, it can all look a little awkward—as it often is. Much depends on the action of the wind, the paraglider's invisible hazard. With no wind, it is difficult to inflate the canopy into its recognizable wing shape. If the wind is too strong, the canopy assumes a mind of its own. It can rotate backward, turning a launch into a running tug of war; or it can even veer violently off to one side, sometimes dragging the pilot embarrasingly—and painfully—along the slope.

The canopy can inflate and then rotate backwards, making a launch appear like a running tug of war. If all goes well, the parapente should inflate within a few seconds, taking shape as the scoops in its forward edge fill with air. After a 10 to 20-yard run, if you manage to keep the canopy centered overhead, the wing lifts you from the ground, one last kick launching you into flight.

But wind is also the paraglider's best friend. Given the right breeze—a steady, 5 to 10 mph head wind—a good pilot can inflate his canopy in seconds with a few well-timed strong tugs of the canopy lines. As long as the wing remains centered overhead, the pilot can be airborne within a few yards of the starting point.

Once in the air, the pilot controls the flight by steering the wing. For this purpose, the wing is equipped with two brake lines that are attached to canopy lines and run on either side of the pilot's harness. The pilot pulls down on the left brake line to turn left and on the right brake line to turn right. To descend, and ultimately to land, the pilot pulls on both brake toggles, stalling the canopy just before touching down on the ground.

Page 2 of 5

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »