How to Paraglide
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Paragliding is an extreme sport in which pilots fly propelled only by wind and gravity. Paragliding is not a sport that you can learn independently. You must learn how to paraglide under the direct supervision of a certified instructor. Throughout the process of learning how to paraglide, you will work towards achieving different ratings. The five ratings include a Student Paragliding Rating (P-0), a Beginner Paragliding Rating (P-1), a Novice Paragliding Rating (P-2), an Intermediate Paragliding Rating (P-3), and an Advanced Paragliding Rating (P-4).  X Research source
Acquiring a Student Paragliding Rating (P-0)
- You do not any prior experience to embark on a tandem flight.
- Understanding and accepting the risks of tandem paragliding.
- Understanding the acts of launching, flying, and landing.
- Understanding the mechanics of brakes and risers.
- Understanding the deployment of a backup parachute.  X Research source
- Follow the instructions and commands of your instructor.
- Only touch the paraglider in the areas indicated by the instructor.
- Demonstrate that you understand that you must run with your instructor to launch the paraglider.  X Research source
Acquiring a Beginner Paragliding Rating (P-1)
Attend a basic ground school and pass a written exam. In order to receive a Beginner Paragliding Rating (P-1), you must enroll in a basic ground school. These courses are offered by certified paragliding schools. While attending this school, you will acquire the knowledge necessary to pass a Beginner Paragliding written exam, such as the skills required to assess weather and wind conditions.  X Research source
- The ability to properly layout a canopy and harness preflight.
- The ability to launch a canopy under control.  X Research source
- The ability to remain connected to the canopy while remaining clear of lines and risers (the points at which the lines attach to the harness) prior to inflation.  X Research source
- The ability to deflate, immobilize, disconnect, and remove the canopy.
- The ability to properly pack, store, and care for the canopy.  X Research source
- When launching, your inflation run must be smooth and exhibit your confidence. You must maintain directional control and control of the pendulum. Your transition from running to flying must be smooth.  X Research source
- You must complete two flights that exhibit your ability to maintain a constant airspeed, fly smoothly and straight towards a predetermined target, and land safely into the wind.
- You must complete two flights that exhibit your ability to handle variations in airspeed and land safely into the wind.  X Research source
Receive a P-1 rating. When you have completed all the beginner tasks, you will receive a P-1 rating. This rating permits you to fly under the direct supervision of a certified instructor in winds of 12 MPH or less. Your flights paths must be straight and relatively free of obstructions.  X Research source
Acquiring a Novice Paragliding Rating (P-2)
- Weather—observing and monitoring local weather.
- Launches—considering air density, slope, wind factors, and angles of attack.
- Danger signs—identifying high winds, dust storms, smoke, and shifting wind directions.
- Landing—considering air density, wind directions, and various approach techniques.
- Equipment—understanding the importance of packing food, water, and wind instruments.
- Site orientation—learning how to familiarize yourself with the protocols and layout of a site.
Present a log of at least 25 flights. In order to receive your P-2 rating, you must demonstrate that you are capable of lowering your canopy between flights. Your log will serve as proof of your ability to do so. Present your certified instructor with a log of your flights that contains at least 25 separate entries.  X Research source
- Providing an accurate analysis of general site conditions, flight plans, and potential obstacles.
- Demonstrate 5 consecutive forward inflations and 5 consecutive backwards inflations.
- Complete 180° turns in each direction.
- Complete 5 landings within 25 feet of a predetermined target.
- Explaining proper canopy maintenance, adapting a flight path, and the rules of traffic.  X Research source
- You must maintain visual contact with the landing zone.
- You may not fly when base winds exceed 12 MPH.
- You may not fly when peak gusts exceed 15 MPH.
- You may not fly when the maximum gust rate reaches 5 MPH within 5 second.  X Research source
Acquiring an Intermediate Paragliding Rating (P-3)
- At least 30 logged flying days
- At least 90 flights
- At least 20 hours of solo airtime  X Research source
- The ability to analyze and explain the conditions of your site and flight plan.
- The ability to maintain complete control during inflations of the canopy, launches, and landings.
- The ability to complete 360° turns in each direction.
- The ability to vary and control your airspeed at different wind rates.  X Research source
Receive your P-3 rating. After completing all the requirements, you will receive your P-3 rating. This rating signifies that you are capable of assessing sites and determining whether your training has equipped you to fly. This rating still subjects you to adhering to operating limitations, such as avoiding steep turns near the ground.  X Research source
Acquiring an Advanced Paragliding Rating (P-4)
- 250 logged flights
- 5 intermediate level flights at 5 distinct sites, 3 of which must be inland flights
- At least 80 logged flying days
- At least three intermediate level 1 hour flights from 2 distinct locations in thermal lift without sustaining ridge lift.
- At least one intermediate level 1 hour flight in ridge lift without sustaining thermal lift
- At least 75 hours of logged airtime
- Flown at least 5 different canopies  X Research source
- The ability to prepare your harness, canopy, and backup reserve parachute.
- The ability to analyze and report conditions.
- The ability to remain connected to the paraglider while remaining clear of lines and risers.
- The ability to maintain control over all inflations and launches.
- The ability to complete smooth and safe landings on your feet.
- The ability to complete figure 8 turns.
- The ability to land within 10 feet of a target at least 3 times.
- The ability to complete and reverse 360° turns at various wind speeds.
- The ability to collapse the wings up to 50% while maintaining directional control.
- The ability to prove to an instructor that you are not a risk to spectators, other pilots, or the site.  X Research source
Receive your P-4 rating. After completing all the necessary requirements, you will receive your P-4 rating. This rating signifies that you have the skills and knowledge to assess and fly technically demanding sites. The operating limits for a P-4 pilot include remaining 30 feet away from another glider in smooth air conditions and 100 feet from another glider in turbulent air conditions.  X Research source
Why do USHPA ratings require so much training? Most people can get a sport or private pilot’s license in twenty-five hours. The student solo certificate in fifteen to twenty hours.
For paragliding in the U.S., you can get a USHPA P-2 rating with 30-45 flights depending on opportunities to demonstrate required skills. During this time, a flight could be what is called a sled ride and last as little as 3 minutes, or if one is lucky last a 1-2 hours. It took me about 40 flights (approx 6.5 hours of actual flying time) before I received a P-2 rating. Once you have a P-2 rating, you can fly without supervision but to ensure safety at this level one should fly in conditions recommended for this rating. Also you are really soloing from the 1st flight (Unless the first flight is a tandem), so really it’s easier to be a paraglider pilot if you live in certain areas.
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How to take killer selfies in the air
Primarily, taking great photos while paragliding should be about practical handling. How do you take off with a selfie stick or a followcam without affecting safety? What is suitable for everyday use? How can you still enjoy the flight without being constantly busy with the cameras? And how the hell does the selfie stick disappear from the photo? Reto Reiser explains how to get those killer shots.
What camera to use?
My recordings are made with various cameras from GoPro. The GoPro MAX for 360 degrees, the Hero 8 and Session. The cameras are set to record a video in the best quality by pressing only one button. I cut the photos out of these videos.
It’s worth mentioning that this technique works great for digital and screens, but if you want to print the images, then the standard still-photo mode offers the best quality; but you will never catch the perfect moment with it.
So that you don’t end up with a tonne of video at the end of the day, I prefer perspectives where I can switch the camera on and off directly and thus only record short sequences. There is a new Bluetooth remote control for GoPro, but this makes it all a bit more complicated again. All my pictures and videos are edited directly with my mobile phone in the GoPro Quik App, also available for Android.
From the back
If you put the selfie stick between the harness and your back, in the video it looks like you are flying by yourself. This perspective is often used in speed flying. It is very easy to set up in the air, but after a while the stick in the back becomes a bit uncomfortable. Ordinary flight manoeuvres such as wingovers and spirals can be flown without any problems, and the camera does not interfere when landing. Alternatively, you can attach the selfie stick to the backpack of the harness. This offers an even more natural angle, but you can no longer mount/dismount it in the air and take-off is error prone.
In the karabiner
You can push the selfie stick through the karabiner from the outside. The end of the stick can either be pushed through the karabiner on the other side or it can be clamped or fixed with Velcro to the waist strap. Like this, almost all manoeuvres can be flown, even a ground spiral during landing. It should never be done on the side of the rescue handle.
With harnesses without a pod, the stick can be easily tucked under the femur. Like this you see the pilot from the front. All manoeuvres can be flown, even acro flying with infinity tumbling is possible. Landing like this is not recommended, so give yourself height and time to stow the stick before you land.
In the pod
With a pod, you can put the stick through the leg bag next to the karabiner and tuck it beside your butt, so it looks back at you.
Followcams are increasingly popular. They offer a natural perspective with the greater distance to the pilot. The classic followcams are paired with a normal action camera. I use a GoPro Hero 8 for this. The newer models from GoPro all have integrated image stabilisation, which makes much smoother videos.
360-degree cameras are more demanding to use because they are heavier, but they also offer many possibilities. I use the foldable ChaseXC from Skybean. It folds very easily into the size and shape of a selfie stick, so you can easily stow it in your backpack.
Take-off is the most difficult part. I always attach the line to the rearmost line level (not brake lines!) at one of the upper divisions of the innermost line on the left side (opposite the emergency parachute).
For take-off I stow the camera in the harness like a selfie stick. This way I can fully focus on the glider during take-off, even a reverse take-off is possible as usual.
Non-foldable cameras can be attached to the outside of the harness with a small karabiner, but they can be disturbed during take-off. A launch with a fully mounted camera is very error-prone and often the camera collides with the lines. If you still want to take off like this, place the camera as close as possible behind the pilot on the ground.
In flight I set my foldable followcam up ready to fly in a few seconds. I adjust the length of the line so that the camera does not fly in my wake, but I can catch the camera again with a simple swing and pump in the air. This way I can take short videos on long flights and don’t have the memory card full at the end of the day.
Helicopters, full stalls, B-stalls or very high wingovers are not a good idea. Spirals and light wingovers work fine. Very skilled pilots can fly a barrel roll with a mini wing/speedflyer, and even infinity tumbling can be flown.
This is an edited version of an article first published in Cross Country 222 (August 2021). Reto Reiser is a medical doctor from Altdorf in central Switzerland. Flying since 2010 he loves to combine hike-and-fly and XC – and photography. “I always tell everyone how fantastic flying is, but I can’t put my enthusiasm into words. So I started to take pictures.” Find him on YouTube here
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Paragliding Photography Tips
Paragliding Photography isn’t always easy. It is much easier to go out and just enjoy the day without having to worry about an expensive camera by your side. For those of you that do absolutely love photography and always remember to bring your camera, here are some quick tips.
If you are brand new to paragliding photography or paragliding in general, it is best to create aerial shots while using the help of a tandem pilot. You may not be able to get exactly where you want but should be able to get most of the angles you are looking for. Also without having to worry about the controls it gives you complete freedom to be able to focus on the camera.
Learn to fly solo
Developing aerial photos while flying isn’t easy. The first tip is to simply learn how to fly well solo. When taking your hands off of the controls in order to use a camera with two hands you will be fully accelerating the parachute. In order to be able to do this you must have the right conditions. If there is a lot of turbulence, fully accelerating the parachute may lead to you losing control.
For those of you that always want to have slight control of your flight, learning to fly with one hand is the way to go. You will find very quickly that you do not have the same control, however it is all in all safer.
You are much more agile and maneuverable in a one person parachute than a tandem.
Fly Safe – Don’t get too close
Remember if you are shooting someone in particular don’t get too close to other fliers. In this type of action photography, a gust of wind could make you crash with your subject. Bring radios with you so you can be in contact at all times. It also makes for a more enjoyable experience where you are not screaming and shouting at each other.
For paragliding photography as well as action photography in general you are typically capturing moving objects. Therefore you will want to be using a higher shutter speed, typically from 1/500s to 1/1000s. Also use a smaller aperture of around f/8 to f/11, depending on the light of the day.
Basic and Final Tips
At the end of the day you can make most paragliding shots look interesting even if you are brand new to photography. The main thing is to get out there, start flying and surrounding yourself in the paragliding culture. As for most types of action photography, the first and most important skill to learn is the activity you are doing.
And remember, shooting from the ground can always make your job 10 times easier.
By Matthew Stone | 2017-02-27T08:50:45-08:00 February 27th, 2017 | Categories: How-to Tips | 0 Comments