You can find a paragliding school near you with just a few clicks of the mouse. Once you find a school, do some research. Find out its affiliations, instructor experience and safety records. A good place to start is the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHGPA).
Most paragliding schools feature a training hill, where students can practice launching and taking small flights. You don't have to wear any special equipment to paragliding class. The school will provide you with a glider, harness, helmet and radio. Most schools suggest you wear sturdy hiking boots and clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and that you bring a pair of light gloves to keep your hands from being cut by the lines. The best way to learn to land safely is through practice -- so you'll be hitting the ground over and over again. In addition, keep in mind that the higher your altitude, the colder it gets. So, dress in layers.
Expect to pay about $200 for one day of instruction (about four to six hours). You can purchase multi-day packages as well as certification courses. Lessons usually include a demonstration by the instructor, observation of other paragliders and ground classes. When you've learned all you can on the ground, it's time to go up. Some paragliding schools offer a tandem ride, where you can enjoy the experience without being responsible for controlling the glider.
A typical lesson will have you in the air at least once by the first or second day. And most schools state that you'll be ready to fly unsupervised after only about five to seven days of instruction [source: Fly Above All]. Currently, the United States Federal Aviation Association (FAA) doesn't require you to have a license for paragliding. However, the USGHPA features a voluntary pilot rating system to which most paragliders adhere.
If this all seems like fun to you, start saving up your pennies. A full kit, with a new paraglider, harness, reserve parachute and helmet will cost you $4,000 to $6,000. Used equipment is less costly, but you should first ensure the equipment is safe and not worn-out before making a purchase.
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More Great Links
- Adventure Paragliding and Kiteboarding. "How It Works." 2006. http://www.skyout.co.nz/para_how_it_works.php
- Becher, Bill. "Paragliding: It's the Alone Way to Fly." The New York Times. April 28, 2006. http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/04/28/travel/escapes/28para.html
- Besser, Linton. "I rode to the heavens and back." Sydney Morning Herald. Feb. 17, 2007. http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/to-heaven-and-back/2007/02/16/1171405446683.html
- Circling Hawk Paragliding. "History of Paragliding." 2009. http://www.circlinghawk.com/history.html
- Discovery Channel. "Introduction to Paragliding." 2009. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/fearless-planet/adventure-sports/paragliding/paragliding.html
- Discovery Channel. "Paragliding Equipment." 2009. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/fearless-planet/adventure-sports/paragliding/paragliding-equipment.html
- Dream Moods. "I'm Flying." 2009. http://www.dreammoods.com/cgibin/flyingdreams.pl?method=exact&header=dreamid&search=flyingintro
- Eagle Paragliding. "Frequently Asked Questions." Eagle Paragliding LLC. 2009. http://www.eagleparagliding.com/?q=node/33
- Fly Above All. "Paragliding Instruction." 2008. http://www.flyaboveall.com/paraglidinginstructionprices.htm
- Fly Above All. "Paragliding Lessons." 2008. http://www.flyaboveall.com/lessons.htm
- H2G2. "Paragliding - A History and Brief Description." BBC. 2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A902549
- Midland Paragliding. "A Brief History of Paragliding." 2009. http://www.midlandparagliding.com/history.htm
- Paragliding Tales and Reviews. "What is a Paragliding Variometer?" 2009. http://www.paragliding-tales-and-reviews.com/paragliding-variometer.html
- United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. "Frequently Asked Questions." 1995. http://www.ushpa.aero/faq.asp
- WindMueller Aerology Lab. "The Modern Day Leonardo da Vinci." 2009. http://www.parafoils.com/jalbert/leo.htm