Habits can be hard to break especially bad paragliding habits. But riding epic thermals and pushing maximum speeds comes with a price, and sometimes checking your ego can be just as important as checking your gear. Hence why we put together this guide of our favorite paragliding takeoff practices to help you take to the air the safe way.
1. Know your Forecast
Showing off like a paragliding rock star doesnt count if the only people there to see it are the paramedics. But you can avoid many serious pitfalls by checking the weather forecast ahead of time and studying the actual wind conditions on your planned route. Plotting your flight based on real-time data of precipitation and barometric pressure can not only eliminate surprises, it can help you make tough decisions about when and how long to fly. Remember: good safety habits and paragliding equipment inspection can only go so far against erratic wind gusts and dangerous thermals.
2. Double-Check the Harness
It may be easy to relax in a supine position on a couch at home, but doing so while vaulting through the air is a different story entirely. In fact, many accidents happen due to the pilots inability to fully enter the paragliding harness during takeoff. Juggling between the brake and the harness seat can sometimes send your glider into a stall, spin, or on rare occasions a full-on collapse. Instead, try leaning back with your knees bent towards your chest as you squirm into the seat avoiding sudden death or, worse, an uncomfortable groin position.
3. Try a Test Inflation
Whether youre a Red Bull X-Alps champion or launching for the first time, one thing is certain: overconfidence kills. One fail-safe way to prepare a launch is to do a test inflation lifting the wing without launching fully in order to test the air and turbulence. Even paragliding pros have a hard time decoding wind conditions, and doing a test inflation can help you get a real-time feel of what youre likely to experience in the air.
4. Test your Reserve
When paragliding in thermals go wrong, a good paragliding reserve can mean all the difference. One good tip is to test your reserve handle before you even get in the harness. That means peeling off and resetting the handle so that the Velcro binding is ready to release when you pull it. This is especially useful after long drives, which can cause the Velcro around the handle to become offset by the vibrations of the car. Be sure and double-check the pins also, to double-check that they are fully inserted and ready to release when pulled.
5. Devise an Exit Plan
Launching is optional, but landing is mandatory. In other words: after youve taken off, the only option is to land somewhere whether its a landing zone or in some strangers backyard. That is unless you have an exit plan. If conditions dont feel absolutely right for takeoff, have a Plan B for aborting your launch. That means studying the landscape around your launch point and memorizing the best places to make a sudden landing, i.e. spots with minimal structure and maximum clearance. Knowing when to call it a day, and how to do it, can not only let you live to fly another day it will make you a better pilot.
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