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first time paragliding
Chad Bastian

Tandem or Solo?

Many people ask us what the best way to experience paragliding is, tandem or solo? We absolutely feel that you will come away from the first day solo lesson with so much more for these reasons:

First of all, you are the pilot! You will learn to inflate, kite, run, launch fly and land the paraglider wing yourself. In a tandem, all the work is being done for you, and you are just along as a passenger. For some, this may be OK, but the overwhelming response to the first day lesson is "WOW, I can't believe it was so easy to fly!"

The First Day

We arrive at Elings Park at around 10 am in the morning, and get a wing and harness that fits your body weight. If you don't have your own helmet (bicycle or skateboard is OK), then we will fit you with one of ours. We will then determine if there is any wind, and lay the canopy out on the ground facing the direction the wind is coming. Once we attach the harness to the risers and put our helmets on, we will hook ourselves into the harness and do a pre-flight check.

Usually, your instructor will demonstrate a forward inflation, so you can see how the wing is brought overhead for inspection before launching. Running along the ground with the wing overhead, you will see how we control the wing's direction with the brake toggles. When it is time to bring the wing down, you will see them turn to face the glider and pull the brake handles down to their seat, making the wing stop and return to the ground.

We will then demonstrate how to gather the paraglider into a mushroom shaped ball, ready for carrying. This is how we walk with the glider so we don't drag the wing on the ground. You will also be able to ride in the van with the wing like this back to the top of the hill when you're ready, and there's no need to unattach or fold up each time you fly.

Now it's Your Turn!

After the brief demonstration, it's time to get started! Start with your helmet, we want this on securely before we get into the harness. Putting the harness on is like putting on a vest, just lift by the shoulder straps and put your arms through the straps. Secure the two leg straps and the chest strap, and adjust the legs to be just in contact with your legs, not too tight, you'll need to be able to run.

We will preflight your setup, then help you put the brake handles in the correct hands. Scooping your arms under the risers from behind, we'll place the "A" risers in your hands in preparation for your first inflation. We'll help you centre yourself in front of your wing, then it's time for action! On our command, you'll run forward aggressively, pushing against the chest strap and lifting the "A" risers to inflate and bring the wing overhead.

Once it's up, we will say "Contact!" This is when you will slide your hands off of the "A" risers and make contact with the wing. You must continue to run, or the wing will lose pressure and fall back to the ground. Turning control is made using the brake toggles, and you will begin to balance the wing overhead.

The Bunny Hill

Now that you have an idea of the forward inflation technique, we are going to make it easier for you. We are going to go up the hill a little and let you run downhill. Not enough to fly yet, we want to see that you are developing good habits first. These first inflations on the lower slopes will allow you to start to feel the lift created by the wing as you run with it. As we work our way a little higher each time, we get closer to our first flight, as the hill slope and our glide slope are almost the same.

When you can consistently bring the glider overhead, "contact" the wing using the brakes, and control the direction of travel while running forward into the wind, you will be rewarded by being lifted gently off the ground as the wing glides down the slope. This is where it is very important that you do not over control the wing. Gentle input using the brakes to effect your direction of travel will be the safest approach for now. Deep, aggressive input will stop the wing, and you will not fly.

You must also remember to keep running! Many times, students are so effected by the sensation of being lifted off the ground, that they simply stop running and sit down. The flight is usually over very quickly when this happens, with you sitting on the ground and the wing surging over your head. Let's launch (and land) with our landing gear down and rolling!

Landing is done by doing what we call a "flare" just before our feet touch the ground again. As you approach the ground (about 3 feet), you will pull the brakes all the way down to your sides, slowing the wing down to set you gently back on Mother Earth.

Top of the Hill

When you can show us that you have good habits on the lower slope, we'll take you to the top of the 200 foot hill, where you will really know you are flying! Your instructor has been evaluating the weather all morning, and will determine whether it is appropriate for you to fly. After a briefing of the launch, review of your flight planand discussion of the approach and landing, it's time to set up for your flight.

This is where the real magic starts, although I must admit that on my first flight, I was terrified! It wasn't until I returned to the top of the hill for a second flight that I realized that this really does work, and that I could fly safely and easily from the top of a hill with no power. On my second flight, I looked around, looked up at my wing, then looked up and down the coast from the viewpoint of flying and I was exhilarated!

You may want to have someone come along to take pictures of you before and after these first few flights, we've seen some pretty big smiles and bright eyes when we pick you up at the bottom of the hill! It will be an experience you will never forget! By the end of the first lesson, most of our students get two or three flights from the top of the hill, allowing them to really feel what paragliding is like from a first-hand point of view.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."           - Leonardo da Vinci