Updated: Jan 26, 2021
"But isn't paragliding dangerous?" is only one of the most common comments I usually get after introducing someone to this hobby of mine. And of course this is not a misconception but just a nice example of how, we all make assumptions on the knowledge we posses at that certain moment. In this case paragliding being presented to us as a dangerous sport we should avoid, usually by our parents, friends, TV, online or wherever. And it's like that about anything in life really, not just paragliding. Fear in this case comes from lack of knowledge. So in this post I decided to break some myths and give some straight answers from my experience with paragliding. As a bit of a background, I have only started paragliding recently, at the age of 30. And with no previous experience, I have never tried paragliding, skydiving or any other "flying" sport in tandem, before I have started paragliding completely solo. And I started it with a proper training of course.
If you wanna read more about my beginnings, here is the link to "How to learn Paragliding".
And here is the list of most common comments I get, misconceptions and FAQs about paragliding:
1. "I would never dare to jump off the mountain."
Let me reveal this myth for you, I don't jump from mountains either. Paragliding is not jumping of cliffs. There is no jumping involved at any phase. Event though paragliding take offs usually still happen on mountains ridges you should know, it can also be done on pretty much flat surface. It's really just a function of airspeed and/or lift over the canopy’s surface. Not to go into take off procedure details in this post, just imagine, it's something more like how airplanes take off. In paragliding you won't get that plummeting feeling in your stomach like with jumping off the cliff, because the correct take off will always be, you having full control of the wing above your head, before you decide to run into head wind and take off.
2. "I want to paraglide but I'm afraid of heights."
The experience will be different to each individual but let me tell you my point of view. I wouldn't say I'm really afraid of heights but oh, I do have a huge respect for it. Climbing high towers, I'm careful and easy going, standing somewhere high up with nothing to hold on, I skip. Like even being somewhere high up with big fence and security measures, holding my phone close to the drop, I will feel that anxiety of droping it. I respect heights, big time. But with paragliding, this is different. With proper training and gradual progression you are putting many things in control, your control! And that way, building confidence and skills any fear fades away before it would even properly develop. Sure there comes a brief moment when a though of height crosses your mind. After all you're 300m (as a beginner and even higher later) above the ground, of course it will cross your mind but at that time it's just not important anymore as you will be in control. Of your equipment, skills and thoughts. Also somehow I think the feeling of acomplishment, excitement of flying and freedom is just so much more powerful that fear of heights or any other fear just fades away or is being masked by much more powerful feeling of reward and success. And if something goes wrong, you will experience focus and your problem solution mindset being activated to the levels you had no idea you are capable of. And actually this to me is one of the most amazing and unique aspects of this sport that definitely deserves a seperate post which I will write in the near future. [link to the post will be inserted here] Therefore height was really never one of the factors that would make me feel uncomfortable while paragliding, which surprised even me but you simply embrace and start to love the heights. Also the higher you are, the more time to deploy your reserve parachute, if that gives you some comfort. And the lower, let's just not make mistakes there, allright? Trust me, quickly you'll start to love the heights even if you're afraid of it right now. Sky is the limit. But really, is it?
3. "Can you paraglide anywhere, from any spot in any direction at any time?"
No. Paragliding is very weather dependant and for a safe and enjoyable flight, there is always pre-flight preparation. Weather checks, which will define where and when you can expect to have the right conditions for your next flight plans. Do you know the area you'll be flying at, is there any limitations and are you even allowed to fly there? That's how you start with planning your next flight. But also launch areas can be very different and present certain challenges at take offs so you plan your flight take off site and flight, on top of weather forecast but not always fly your plans as conditions can change in between the flight and you need to adapt.
4. "Do you need a wind to fly?"
You don't really need it, it's more like, wind can immensly help or threaten you on your flight. But in general you can also fly in no wind, then expect to have a simple flight of the hill.
5. "So paragliding is a one way down flight?"
Oh no, definitely not. Your paraglider is your flying tool, not like with skydiving where parachutes function is used to just land safely, in paragliding you command your wing to actually fly. And if you didn't know this one already, let me introduce you to the real beauty of paragliding. It's not just taking off and flying down towards landing but rather navigating yourself in the air, leveraging ridges and thermals for lifts and soaring. This way you build your height and can stay up in the air for as long as the weather conditions work in your favour. On nice days, this can mean many beautiful hours of flying in one go.
6. "But paragliding is dangerous."
Yes it can be dangerous. But like anything can be, even cooking with boiling water if you're doing stupid things, ones you know you shouldn't. After all paragliding is an adventure sports and a really young sport that is still evolving in equipment, safety and knowledge. But safe to say unlike before 15 years, all of these aspects has proceeded to a point, where paragliding can be done very very safe, because equipment and the knowledge have progressed so much and the opportunity to learn it is easier then ever. But there is also another variable. We're all pretty different in taking risks and while someone will only be familiar with few scratches from landing in bushes in his long 20 year career, others will push to fly in acummulating storms with their pilot career just at the beginning. I can only say education and practice goes a long way but also at all points please respect mother nature and it's force, know your skills and be responsible to yourself and others. And then you will enjoy this sport like no other and get away with even less scratches as you did while learning to ride a bike.
7. "I'm too old for paragliding."
As long as you can move, have mind in the right place, you are never too old to enjoy paragliding. I met friends in paragliding that are over 70 years old and have more spirit in them then some of my 30 year old friends. Mindset.
This is only few of the misconceptions about Paragliding. If you have any more questions, add it in the comments and let us discuss some more.