Paragliding and parasailing – difference and comparison

What are the differences between paragliding and parasailing? Many people confuse each other. Well, both involve parachutes, but parasailing is an activity that should not be confused with the sport of paragliding.

parasailing

parasailing

There are very few similarities between the two aviation sports. Don’t worry; we will introduce you to the main differences and make a comparison. Find out more about these two fascinating and fun activities now!

About paragliding

It is a recreational activity and can be done as a competitive sport. A paraglider is a lightweight, free-flying glider with no rigid structure. Read all the detailed information about the paragliding link here.

About parasailing

Also known as “parascending” or “parakiting.” It is a recreational kite activity where you are towed behind a vehicle (usually a boat) while attached to a canopy wing (parasail wing) similar to a parachute.

The harness attaches you to the parasailing wing connected to a boat or land vehicle via a tow rope. When the vehicle takes off, it carries the person and the wing into the air.

There are two types of parasailing:

  • Aquatic: over water, pulled by a motorboat
  • Terrestrial: overland, pulled by a jeep

As mentioned above, parasailing is a recreational activity but has been transformed into a competitive sport in Europe. The first international competitions took place in the mid-1980s. But the first time anyone tried parasailing was in 1961.

In 1962, Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne developed the first ascending paraglider.

The following year, Jacques-André Istel, a French-American recreational skydiver who founded the world’s first private parachute company, bought a licence from Lemoigne to manufacture and sell the ascending paraglider. The trade name was “Parasail”.

Security conditions

You are not allowed to parasail when the wind speed exceeds 80 kilometres per hour. You must wear a life jacket and a helmet to avoid head injuries while parasailing. There should be no obstacles on your starting path, such as trees or mountains.

No parasailing if the tow line looks worn or faded. The operators should change them often.

Regarding paragliding, you should never fly in bad weather conditions (rain, storms, strong winds, snow). If the wing gets wet and absorbs moisture, serious accidents can happen.

The design

The paraglider wing or canopy is also known as a ram air profile or parafoil. The wing consists of two layers of fabric bonded to the inner support material, forming a series of cells. The materials are non-porous, like ripstop polyester or nylon fabric.

Parasailing uses a parachute.

Basic principles

The three basic principles of paragliding are: launching, turning, and landing a paraglider. You use handbrakes to control your speed, altitude and direction. The passenger is placed in a harness attached to the parachute in parasailing.

Paragliding

Paragliding

As the vehicle speeds up, the air fills the parachute, and the passenger is lifted. They remain attached to the vehicle via a tow line. The height of the parasailer depends on the speed of the vehicle.

How difficult is it to learn paragliding and parasailing?

Before you start paragliding, you must acquire the basic skills. The basic techniques are pretty easy to learn. They are:

Preparation is one of the key ingredients to making paragliding safer. A beginner’s course for paragliding pilots usually takes place over 12 days. Starting with tandem flights with an experienced flight instructor is highly recommended.

Parasailing requires no training or experience. You’ve probably noticed that most holiday destinations offer parasails, and there are assistants to help you fly. You will have no control over the parasailing. The pilot controls everything.

The experience

Both activities open up a whole new world of discovery. People flying a paraglider for the first time are often amazed at the serenity and stillness that reigns in the sky. You can see the world from other, more impressive angles. Flying can make you feel tiny or like a giant. It depends on the person. So we can say it’s a very existential flight. With parasailing, the feeling is quite similar. However, the big difference is that you are not in control of the flight.

Paragliding vs. Parasailing

Paragliding

The main difference between paragliding and parasailing is that parasailers are attached to a vehicle (usually a motor boat) that generates enough momentum and connects the parasailers to safety.

Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. Parasailing is a recreational activity where a person is towed behind a vehicle (usually a boat) while attached to a specially designed parachute, known as a parasail. There are two types of parasailing: aquatic (over water where a motorboat is used) and terrestrial (over land towed by a jeep). With a paraglider, you can fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paragliders routinely stay aloft for 3 hours or more, climb to elevations of 15,000′, and go cross-country for vast distances.

Comparison chart

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  • current rating is 3.59/5

Equipment

The paraglider consists of a canopy (the actual “wing”) constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by sturdy kevlar lines called risers, and a harness. In addition, the brake cords provide speed and directional control and carabiners are used to connect the risers and the harness together. The pilot sits in a harness for maximum comfort. A paragliding harness should let you feel like a king on the throne; check out the ones with a lumbar support adjustment strap for extreme comfort.

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Paragliding (with a canopy)

The wing or parafoil needs to have a total area of 250 to 350 square feet and a span of about 30 feet. The weight should be no more than 10 to 12 pounds. The more cells of the leading edge are closed the better chance to have a smoother aerodynamic experience.

A variometer allows the flier to find the right air hub to continue flying high or a sinking jet stream to return to the ground. Pick up a clearly audible version with an integrated GPS. These are worth the extra pricing. The newest GPS positioning devices have links to Google earth, which can show terrain changes and be extremely valuable in preventing a run-in with the unknown. you are subject to the air currents around you much more so than when in a private airplane. The variometer is a useful instrument for telling you how fast you are rising and falling, information that will help you fly with precision and control.

Parasailing requires a parasail, tow rope, boat or land vehicle with a winch. Safe parasailing takes place behind a boat that has an engine with at least 90 HP. The company that organises parasailing must provide a body harness, a canopy for the start and a towline. In addition, safe parasailing requires an experienced boat driver, a skilled observer and a ground crew.

Safe Conditions

Safety is paramount when paragliding. Safe conditions include the right location such as a high cliff. Wind speeds can vary by the minute, but a paraglider should never take off into winds more than 15 miles per hour unless highly trained. Never fly in winds of 25to 30 mph.Never take off in wet conditions such as rain or snow. The wing will soak up the moisture quickly and an uncontrolled descent is likely to occur. Cloud cover can affect atmospheric pressure.

One should not parasail in winds exceeding 50mph. All parasailing participants need to wear life jackets to prevent drowning and helmets to prevent head injuries.there are no obstructions in your take-off path. Some obstructions include, trees, other boats and mountains.

Parasailing (with a parachute, and grounded to the boat)

Basic Principles

There are 3 basic principles to paragliding: how to launch, turn and land a paraglider. To launch the paraglider, run into the wind and down a slope with the paraglider behind you. This technique is called “hopping” and lets you get a feel for the lift the paraglider receives when it encounters air.

In parasailing, a rider (sometimes two) is put into a harness that is attached to a parachute. As the vehicle he is on goes faster, air fills the chute and the parasailer is lifted up, but remains attached to the vehicle by a tow line. Parasailers ride to the rear of boats equipped with winches–machines that pull tow cables and parasailers back to the boat. As the boat accelerates, the parasail catches air and increased pressure within it lifts the parasailer into the air, at which point his altitude is dependent on the speed of the boat.

An introductory lesson in paragliding costs about $500. A tandem lesson may cost less, around $150. A certification course costs an average of $1500. A paraglider costs between $4000-$5000. As safety is paramount, it is recommended that only new equipment be purchased.

A one hour 40 minute parasailing flight can cost up to $55 in the U.S.

Learning

The best way to start paragliding is with a tandem introductory flight. This gives you a taste of flying. You fly solo during your first day of paragliding instruction, which is one of the advantages of the sport. Under radio supervision, you will fly solo from the training hill and progress to higher flights, all in two days. The basic techniques of paragliding – launching, turning, and landing – are fairly easy to learn. However, in order to acquire the basic skills necessary to fly on your own without instructor supervision, you need to take a Novice (Para 2) Certification Course, which generally takes a total of 7 days and a minimum of 25 flights. As this is a self regulated flight one does not need a license to fly.

Parasailing requires no formal training, and most beaches and holiday destinations offer parasailing activities. The ground assistants take their positions holding open opposite sides of the sail. The boat driver slowly begins accelerating to take up the slack line while ground assistants and the parasailor move forward with the rope. Assistants hold the guidelines to help the sail fill up with air. The parasailor should take a few long strides with the rope taut, but not aid in the liftoff process by jumping or pulling up his or her feet. The canopy will do this on its own. Steer the parasail by pulling down on risers on the side of the desired direction. No steering should actually ever be necessary. Release the safety pin to allow the parasailor to float gently down into the water at either a high or low altitude.

Origin

Paragliding was originally used by the U.S. military and NASA. During World War II, the US Navy recruited and trained sailors to fly paragliders towed by submarines. The vantage point of the glider allowed the men to see over the horizon for any approaching warships. This was the first documented use of a free flying, foot launched aircraft in such a fashion. In 1961, Pierre M. Lemoigne invented the paracommander parachute, which had vents in the rear to allow for longer gliding From that time, paragliding has developed to become a popular recreational activity and a competitive sport. In 1978, three French paragliders, Jean-Claude Betemps, Andre Bohn and Gerard Bosson practiced a technique of running and jumping off the face of cliffs in the French Alps. This form of paragliding became increasingly popular, and in 1979 Bosson flew a paraglider at the Hang Gliding World Championships.

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The first mentions of parasailing is a flight by Colonel Michel Tournier from France flying behind a tractor in 1961. In 1963 Jacques-André Istel from Pioneer Parachute Company bought a license from Lemoigne (who invented the paracommander parachute) to manufacture and sell the 24-gore parachute canopy he had developed for towing which was labeled as a “parasail”.

Competitions

The first Paragliding World Championship was held in 1989 in Kossen, Austria. Since that time, the championships have been organized by the Paragliding Commission of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FIA, which governs all air sports. The championship is now divided into three separate events. One is for cross-country, another for aerobatic stunt, and one for accuracy. In addition to its championships, the FIA also maintains world records for paragliding.

Land based parasailing has been formed into competition sport in Europe. In land based competition parasailing, the parasail is towed to maximum height behind a 4 wheel drive vehicle and then releases the tow line and flies down to a target area in an accuracy competition. The sport was developed in the early 80’s and has been very popular ever since. The first international competitions were held in the mid 80’s and continue to run today.

Paragliding vs. Parasailing: What Is the Difference & Which One Is Best for You?

paragliding vs parasailing

The above conversation is what you can expect from two friends or even two strangers on the internet arguing about which is better between paragliding and parasailing. And the argument can get very intense at times. But which one is actually the better of the two?

At first glance, both paragliding and parasailing may seem similar and even confusing to people not familiar with them. But there are key differences between the two of them. I’ll be explaining what the two sports are and highlighting the differences between them. Then, you can decide which one appeals to you the most. So here we go.

Contents

Paragliding

What Is Paragliding?

Paragliding is an extreme and fun sport where a pilot runs or achieves lift by using a paraglider. The pilot sits in a harness that’s suspended under a curved wing.

Usually, the paraglider isn’t motor-powered and relies on the air and thermal differences to achieve life and cover long distances. But in some cases, a paraglider may receive some assistance from a motor – paramotor.

The curved shape of the wing is skillfully exploited by pilots to gain height, often reaching altitudes of a few thousand meters. The pilot is also able to glide over long distances and the glider is steered by pulling handles put beside each shoulder.

Parasailing

What Is Parasailing?

Parasailing is similar to paragliding, except the person is towed behind a vehicle, usually a boat. The equipment used for parasailing, a parasail, is different from that of paragliding. Parasailing can be done over water, aquatic parasailing, which involves a motorboat. It could also be done over land, terrestrial parasailing, with the pilot towed by a jeep.

Since a vehicle tows a pilot in parasailing, the vehicle will have to slow down to avoid the pilot breaking the connection between him and the vehicle to slow down.

Paragliding vs. Parasailing – The Key Differences

The main differences between paragliding and parasailing are the equipment used, safe conditions required, basic principles, and costs. All these will be discussed below.

Equipment Used – Paraglider vs. Parasail

The paraglider used in paragliding is a canopy/ellipse-shaped wing made from a light and tough material such as rip-stop nylon. The pilot is suspended from the wing by sturdy kevlar lines called rises, and a harness on which the pilot sits.

By sitting on the harness, the pilot is comfortable and controls the glider through brake cords that provide speed and directional control. Paragliding pilots use a variometer which allows them to find the right air hub to continue flying high or a sinking jet stream to return to the ground.

The equipment used for parasailing is more of a parachute. A harness is also used but the pilot is towed by a vehicle. If a boat is used, the engine should have a minimum power of 90 HP. Parasailing companies usually provide the body harness, a towline, and the parachute. Also, they provide a ground crew, a skilled observer, and an experienced boat driver.

Safe Weather Conditions

Paragliding requires the right weather conditions and launch site. Usually, a cliff, dune, or hill is used. Paragliders should check wind speed before takeoffs and never takeoff when wind speed exceeds 15 miles per hour (mph) unless highly experienced and trained.

Regardless of the level of speed and experience, no paragliding pilot should fly in wind speed that exceeds 25 mph. Wet conditions, such as rain or snow, are also not ideal for paragliding because they may interfere with the control of the glider.

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Parasailing can be done in faster wind conditions compared to paragliding although wind speed should not exceed 50 mph. Parasailing participants are also advised to wear life jackets if they are towed by a boat to avoid drowning. Helmets are also recommended to prevent head injuries.

Basic Principles

Three key processes are involved in paragliding naming, knowing how to launch, maneuver, and land a paraglider. There are two launching techniques – forward and backward launching. On the other hand, landing is usually straightforward. Sign up for a paragliding class to learn the basics of the sport.

Parasailing is simpler as the participant is attached to the parasail that is then towed by a vehicle. As the vehicle gains speed, the parasail catches air and achieves speed. The altitude the parasail can achieve depends on the speed of the boat.

Parasailing

Introductory paragliding lessons can set you back by around $500. If you want to take a tandem lesson, you’ll need to spend a little more – $150. Certification courses are also available and cost about $1500 on average. And a paraglider can cost anywhere between $4000 and $5000.

You don’t have to buy parasailing equipment as the company will provide all you need. You pay per hour and a one-hour flight can cost around $55 in the US.

Skills Required in Paragliding and Parasailing

The pilot has total control in paragliding, and this is why it’s important to take paragliding lessons to learn proper takeoff techniques, how to control the paraglider, and land safely. Since weather conditions may vary, paragliding pilots also need to learn how to fly in different weather conditions.

Tandem paragliding is also available and only one person is in control of the glider. Usually, the most experienced pilot takes control and the passenger only has to participate during takeoff and landing.

Parasailing doesn’t involve any skill. The participant is more of a passenger as they achieve lift and height through the speed of the vehicle they are attached to. Your boat operator will give you a safety briefing before takeoff.

The ease of parasailing makes the sport enticing to people on holidays looking for quick thrills. They sit like a king on a throne as they are propelled by a vehicle. Easy peasy.

Paragliding

Where Can Paragliding and Parasailing Be Performed?

There are a variety of locations where paragliding can be performed but coastal areas or areas with hills or mountains are preferred. The reason for this is the ease to achieve lift and leverage thermals in these areas.

Tandem paragliding is available at some popular holiday destinations such as Bali for tourists. Tourists get to experience the thrill of paragliding without having to worry about controlling the glider as they are paired with an experienced pilot. Many paragliding clubs with access to suitable launch sites exist in almost all suitable paragliding locations.

Parasailing is usually carried out with a boat. The reason for this is that aquatic parasailing provides some level of safety should there be an issue. Participants are mandated to wear life jackets to prevent drowning should they find themselves in the water for any reason. The preferred choice of aquatic parasailing means the activity is restricted to coastal beaches attracting young and adventurous crowds.

Some people carry out parasailing on land and a powerful vehicle, preferably a four-wheel drive is used to tow the participant. Terrestrial paragliding is more dangerous than aquatic paragliding since landing is on hard ground. The driver of the vehicle must be focused and experienced. And only adrenaline junkies with extensive aquatic parasailing experience should participate in terrestrial parasailing.

Which One Is More Dangerous?

Paragliding is more dangerous than parasailing because the pilot achieves higher altitudes. Parasailing typically doesn’t exceed 100 or 200 m above the ground as tow speed and cable length are limited. The launching and landing of paragliding are also more complex compared to parasailing. And paragliding has a much narrower range of conditions than parasailing.

Some people carry out parasailing on land and a powerful vehicle, preferably a four-wheel drive is used to tow the participant. Terrestrial paragliding is more dangerous than aquatic paragliding since landing is on hard ground. The driver of the vehicle must be focused and experienced. And only adrenaline junkies with extensive aquatic parasailing experience should participate in terrestrial parasailing.

Which One Is Better?

Both paragliding and parasailing can provide fun and memorable experiences. I personally found paragliding more thrilling than parasailing but I definitely enjoyed both. While the one you choose will be a matter of personal preference, these are a couple of things to consider.

If you want to achieve greater height, enjoy aerial views, or enjoy the thrill of flying in a relaxing manner, you should consider paragliding. Paragliding is also a hobby and will require investment in training and gear. So if you are looking to take up a hobby, paragliding makes more sense for you.

If you don’t have time to learn paragliding, don’t intend to fly occasionally, don’t have the budget paragliding requires, or want a safer method of flying, then parasailing is the one for you. You can get a healthy dose of thrill and adventure when you go parasailing without the commitment paragliding requires.

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