Watching an experienced paraglider vault effortlessly through the air can make you forget that pros and beginners are subject to the same rules of gravity. But most advanced paragliding techniques come down to a few good habits which practically anyone can apply. Whether youre a wing newbie or paragliding rock star, these tips can help you boost your form, speed, and safety in the air.
1. Dress for the Altitude
Theres nothing quite as cool as swooping at high altitudes and seeing cities and landscapes unfold beneath you. But those high views sometimes come with low temperatures, in which case the cool factor can easily turn into a cold factor. Pros research ahead to find out what the temperature will be on a given day and dress appropriately. If youre not sure, call and ask your tandem pilot if you should pack any windproof or thermal clothing.
2. Do a Test Inflation
Ask any paraglider and theyll tell you: the key to a good launch is to keep your wing loading with air. Before you start running off like superman, do a test inflation to see how much energy youll need to do a good, steady launch in current conditions. Get into the habit of bringing your wing up a few times to test the airflow before launching that way you can experience first-hand how much rotor or turbulence is present.
3. Smooth Out Your Wing
This may seem like a no-brainer, but youd be surprised how many pilots skip this crucial step. The best way to insure a quick, steady inflation during launch is to lay your wing out in its natural arch shape so that isnt folded or kinked. This is especially important in conditions where wind is scarce or absent, requiring pilots to be more aggressive in maintaining a steady airflow.
4. Avoid Scratching
Chances are if youre reading this, youve seen some of the crazy GoPro videos of gliders flying in close to ridges and buildings. This practice, called scratching, is sometimes used by advanced pilots to help them stay aloft in light wind conditions. But it comes at a heavy cost: scratching is by far the most common cause of paragliding accidents, due to unpredictable conditions and increased maneuverability demands. Bottom line, scratching isnt worth it, and can leave both you and your gear scratched up or worse.
5. Watch Your Flair
One thing most paragliding pros have in common is brake management. All too often we see newbie pilots go into their final approach with the glider heavily pre-braked. This means that when it comes time to land, most of their brake travlel is already engaged and cant be pulled anymore, resulting in an often rough landing. To avoid this, try to get in the habit of releasing your brake during the final approach. As you begin to near the ground, gradually pull on the brakes to maintain a gentle deceleration into the landing zone.
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