The Joys of Paragliding


© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.I’m sitting in the sky on a beautiful autumn day with 100ft between me and the bonds of the earth. To my right I can see across the Solent to the mainland. To my left a burnt orange sun sits above the horizon spilling reflections across the sea. Below people stop look up, point and wave. I just lie back into my harness with a serene grin on my face and concentrate on flying.

Most people have dreamed of flying at some point or other in their lives but few realise how easy it is to achieve this dream. All you require is a wing that fits into a back pack and and a hill to run off. This is the sport known as paragliding and it is the easiest, cheapest and most natural way you can leave the ground short of jumping.

As students we are free of many of the responsibilities that come later in life. I started paragliding last year and am enjoying it so much I want to help other people to discover this amazing sport. There is a school on the Isle of Wight, easily reached by train then ferry, which kindly offers half price training for students. Second hand quality kit is also widely available to keep the cost accessible.

Your first day will be made up of short flights down the hill increasing in length with confidence and experience. This teaches you the basics, namely take-off, landing and turning. Further lessons cover more advanced techniques and instruction on how to read the conditions to stay safe, obey air law, and recover from problems. Once your course is completed there are many sites in the UK to fly and much more to learn. Top pilots can complete cross country flights of hundreds of miles at heights of thousands of feet using nothing more than their wits and the weather.

© Jimmy Baikovicius under the Creative Commons license.

Paragliding is still a young sport and is growing and diversifying all the time. As you progress you can compete in competitions, perform acrobatics, strap on a motor to make flying easier or quicker, or move onto speed flying, (a smaller wing that flies faster and closer to the ground).

For those who are interested youtube provides hundreds of hours of beautiful footage, (just don’t let the crashes scare you, paragliding is actually a fairly safe sport.)

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