How Paragliding Works

Controlling the Paraglider

Controlling a paraglider is actually quite simple. The controls you hold in your hand connect to the trailing edge of the wing. Depending on how you pull the controls, the wing will change shape and therefore change behavior. Pulling on the controls makes the glider fly slower. Releasing pressure makes it fly faster.

Example: If you want to turn to the right, pull on the right control and release pressure on the left. This makes the right side of the wing fly slower and the left faster. Before you know it, you'll be turning right. Of course, it's all a matter of finesse and practice. Yanking on the controls can cause the wing to act unpredictably.

You can also shift your weight to help steer the glider. Moving your weight toward one side or the other will also bring subtle shape changes to the wing. Weight-shifting is helpful when you're using both hand control lines and need to add an extra layer of control.

Now that you're airborne and moving around, you probably want to go higher. Here are a few techniques:

Coring is the term pilots use when they climb via a thermal column. When you find and enter a thermal column, you turn in circles within it (around its core). After climbing to the top of a thermal column, you can continue drifting and gliding until you find another column.

Ridge soaring is another technique you can use to fly along the ridge of a mountain or large hill. As we talked about on the previous page, the updraft created by the mountain will keep you in the air. However, ridge soaring can be dangerous if wind conditions aren't just right. If you fly close to a ridge, always shift your weight away from the ridge. This way, in the event of a wing collapse, your glider will head away from the ridge as well, instead of crashing into it.

If your wing begins to deflate, due to turbulent air or your own miscalculation, you should know that it will usually reinflate on its own. In the rare instance it doesn't, you can deploy the emergency parachute to land safely. Emergency parachutes work best when you're up high and they have a chance to completely deploy. If wing deflation happens close to the ground -- shortly after takeoff or shortly before landing -- the parachute may be unable to deploy quickly enough, and serious injury could occur.

Minimize the chances of accidents by ensuring you're properly trained before ever attempting to paraglide. Ensure you're using a safe glider, you're aware of wind conditions and fly in a place suited to your experience and comfort levels.

Up next, what kind of cool gadgets do paraglider pilots use?