Skydiving vs Paragliding: 7 Main Differences To Know
Sailing through the sky is amazing – but is it better to do it downwards, or horizontally?
Such is the question we face today! Two of the most popular ‘sky’ sports are skydiving and paragliding. While similar, they also have plenty of differences.
Skydiving and paragliding mainly differ in their goal. Skydiving seeks for the biggest jump and fastest rush, while paragliding is built for long, relaxing, independent canopy flights. Skydiving equipment is focused on speed and safety, while paragliding is all about comfort and control.
That’s just the short version, though.
For those curious about the differences, you’ll learn every difference between them in the quick guide below.
If that sounds good, then let’s dive in!
What Does Skydiving Feel Like?
This question incites a lot of emotion in me, because skydiving is SUCH an experience.
In short, there’s no butterflies. Instead, skydiving is almost like flying – except with 120mph worth of wind blasting up at you. It’s the best views, the most adrenaline, the most exciting and most serene all at the same time.
The canopy ride is a totally separate experience, too. After all the wind and chaos, being under canopy is entirely quiet and peaceful. You’re just gently gliding back down to earth, and enjoying all the views along the way.
What Does Paragliding Feel Like?
Contrary to Skydiving, paragliding is more of a peaceful art than an adrenaline-filled rollercoaster.
Paragliding is much more about taking in the view, than taking on adrenaline.
While take off can be scary, once you’re sailing in the sky it’s much more relaxing. The harness let’s you settle in to a more comfortable position, as you pilot the canopy throughout the hills or cliffs you’re flying around.
Unlike skydiving, paragliding isn’t a quick one-and-done experience. You can be ‘sailing’ through the sky for ages, quickly racking up the flight miles! It’s more of a chill game of piloting through obstacles and updrafts, rather than one mental rush downwards.
Differences Between Skydiving & Paragliding
Okay – so that’s the ‘experience’ side very lightly covered. Let’s get stuck in to the real differences.
Obviously, skydiving and paragliding have a lot in common. They’re 2 of the only sports enjoyed under a canopy in the sky, and ways for us ground-bound humans to experience flight without the aid of a large and noisy engine.
Paragliders are also often skydivers too! Many paragliders start off skydiving, and end up trying out paragliding because it can be done on a windier day – and without needing a running airfield. If there’s too much wind or the airfield’s too busy, paragliding is a great way to still get into the sky.
Anyway – here’s the differences between the two sports lined up one by one.
Difference #1: The Goal!
While both of these sports are based around flight, their goals are what truly separates them.
Skydiving is about enjoying the biggest freefall you can. It’s pure adrenaline rush, pure freedom, pure escape. You hurtle through the sky, flying, diving, flipping, and connecting with other jumpers – before pulling your chute and gliding down to the ground.
Skydivers chase bigger altitudes, different planes, different jump styles (freestyle, group formations, wingsuits, CREW jumps), and different locations (Dubai’s palm dropzone often being the #1 location).
CREW jumps are advanced formations of skydivers that connect their canopies.
Paragliding is about enjoying the biggest flight you can. It’s simpler, more independent, and more calm than skydiving. It’s about enjoying the sky and flying with nature, rather than dropping like a rock. You need no plane or engine to get your flight started.
Paragliders chase new routes, bigger starting points, stronger updrafts, and unique views.
In the end, both of these sports are totally unique – but it’s their main goal that separates the experience you get with each.
Difference #2: The Canopy
Post skydive, the main goal is to land quickly in order to skydive again!
Skydivers jump using what’s called a ‘square’ canopy (it’s really more of a rectangle). These will always glide downwards, at a faster rate depending on it’s size and your weight. Typically, jumpers ‘downsize’ their parachutes to get down faster, even spinning their canopy in the air to pick up downward speed.
On the other hand, paragliders use a much more curved canopy – shaped like an upside-down parabola. It’s much bigger than a skydivers canopy, and built to stay in the air as much as possible. Not only that, but to be much more maneuverable and able to ride gusts of wind back upwards.
Difference #3: Flight Lengths
After such a huge experience, the post-skydive canopy ride can go by in a flash. Especially for jumpers who have downsized, it can take less than 5 minutes to go from opening their chute to landing. (Student parachutes are more like 20 minutes).
The point of a skydiving canopy flight isn’t to travel anywhere, but to essentially circle the airfield and line up your landing spot.
Alternatively, paragliding flights can last hundreds of kilometers! A skilled pilot can truly ride the wind to enjoy hours under their canopy, all without an engine. That being said, they should still have an landing location goal with intended flight paths to ensure a smooth landing.
Difference #4: Harness Comfort
Skydivers hurtle directly downwards at 120mph. That’s freaking fast.
Their parachutes then slow them down to about 5mph in under 5 seconds.
Imagine speeding at 120mph in your car, then braking hard to 5mph in just a few seconds. Even the fastest cars in the world don’t have the brakes for that!
That should give you an idea of what your skydiving harness has to be built for. These things aren’t build for comfort, they’re built to take the force your canopy applies when it opens at full speed. It’s safe to say that skydiving harnesses are NOT the most comfortable thing in the world! At best their slightly uncomfortable, and at worst you’re begging to get back to the ground faster.
On the other hand, paragliding harnesses are made for comfort. You never accelerate more than a gliding speed under a paraglider, so the forces are much smaller. That means the harness can provide more support to the rest of your body, and allow you to relax into it much more.
Difference #5: Reserve Type
While both these sports are super safe, we obviously need to have reserve parachutes available.
In skydiving, a reserve is essentially the same parachute as your main one. Except it’s been packed diligently by a certified expert, and not hurriedly by you as you rush to get into the next plane! Otherwise your reserve parachute is just the same as your main one (but often in white).
Paragliding reserves are round canopies, almost straight out of the World War 2 movies where you see thousands of soldiers flying in using them. They offer little in the way of control, and are there to get you back to the ground alive.
Thankfully it’s incredibly rare to need either of these, but they’re always there if we need them.
Difference #6: Advanced Jumps
A good analogy with this point is that paragliding is like running, while skydiving is like driving.
Just like in running, paragliders can only really do one thing – paragliding. While you can always become a ‘better’ paraglider or runner, there’s no advanced variations of the sport. Sure you can do some great maneuvers (or get faster), but in the end paragliding is simply paragliding. (That’s not to say it’s not amazing and so serene).
On the other hand, skydiving is like driving. Yes, you can become a better driver just like you can become a better runner. But you can also unlock different types of driving. There’s driving different cars, rally driving, driving motorbikes, driving jeeps through cross country – there’s hundreds of different experiences you can have behind the wheel!
Skydiving is just the same. Once you’ve mastered skydiving basics, there’s a whole world of opportunities you can explore. Including:
- Speed skydiving
- CREW jumping
- Formation jumping
- Landing competitions
- Skydiving with surfboards
- Using props / inflatables
- Freestyle skydiving
- HALO jumps
- Hot air balloon jumps
- Helicopter jumps
- BASE jumps
Just to name a few!
So while paragliding itself is incredible, it’s not a gateway to more advanced forms of flight like skydiving is.
Difference #7: The Planning Involved
Planning a skydive is very different to planning a paraglide.
Skydiving relies on “drop zones” which are already set-up for you. As long as there’s space on the day and the weather’s good, you can turn up and enjoy a jump.
On the other hand, paragliding is much more of an individual sport. It’s you, plus maybe a friend or two, and your paragliding equipment. It’s up to you where you’ll go, what you’ll do, how you’ll work around the weather, where you’ll land, and what your emergency procedures are.
All of that responsibility can be frightening to some, but it heavily attracts others. Paragliding can be done entirely solo – you don’t even need a car, phone, or anything electrical (outside of safety equipment).
The Similarities Between Skydiving & Paragliding
After going through so many differences between these two sports, I also wanted to highlight where they’re similar.
No, I don’t mean “they’re in the sky, duh!” – though that is true.
These two sports are like siblings, and they share quite a few traits.
Similarity #1: Community Feel
Many skydivers are also paragliders and vice versa. Both of these sports are so unique and attract incredible people, who tend to be positive, optimistic, and happy to be getting into the sky.
The communities you’ll find around a drop zone or a paragliding club are very similar. Between the comradery, the desire to share knowledge and help one another learn, to the shared goals and dreams of conquering X achievement in the sport.
Both groups are incredible welcoming, and are one of the underrated highlights of the sports.
Similarity #2: Solo Flight
While flying a plane is incredible, there’s nothing like sitting in the sky alone. Just you and your parachute, with the whole world beneath you.
That same serene experience can be enjoyed through both skydiving and paragliding. I can’t describe how beautiful and peaceful the world seems when you’re up there in the sky, on your own.
Similarity #3: Weather Reliance!
If you’ve ever been through turbulence on a plane, then you can imagine what turbulence under a canopy is like.
Both of these sports are incredible safe, but only in good weather. These are not sports for an ice-cold and windy winter day (though some do still try). Skydivers and paragliders most used app on their phones isn’t Facebook or Instagram, it’s usually an advanced wind and weather app for planning their next flight!
Is Paragliding More Dangerous Than Skydiving?
I’ve included this question because I see this being asked on forums, and I want to address it.
While both sports have their risk (anything involving flight does), both of these sports are incredibly safe. By far, the most danger you’ll be in when taking part in either of these sports, is on your drive to the drop zone or launch point.
In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to argue whether paragliding is more dangerous than skydiving. Doing so implies that one or the other isn’t entirely safe. Instead, we should focus on how safe they both are – especially when done responsibly and following all recommended advice (accidents typically happen by veterans who push the limits on the sports).
When it comes down to it – skydiving and paragliding are the same thing: incredible!
It’s an absolute privilege to take part in either of these sports, and enjoy the world from a quiet, serene canopy (or when hurtling towards it at terminal velocity).
I hope this article has helped clear up the differences between the two sports, and given you a few insights into what both skydiving and paragliding are like.
If you’re looking to plan your first experience in either, be sure to check out the related articles below.
¿What’s the difference between paragliding and skydiving?
Want to know the difference between paragliding and skydiving? Air sports are very attractive thanks to the fact that they allow us to live a unique experience, to feel free, to experience the adrenaline and to see the land like we had never done before. However, many people do not know which sport they should choose or what the differences between them are.
Therefore, in this article we want to talk about the clear differences that exist between these two sports, so that you have a better idea of what is the best air sport for you depending on the experience you want to experience. At the end of this article you will be very clear about the differences between the feeling you feel in a skydiving and a paragliding.
What is paragliding and what is skydiving?
The first thing we are going to do is describe the characteristics of each of them:
Paragliding is an aerial sport that has several remarkably interesting advantages, such as being able to maintain control of the flight for a long time, thus feel freer and observing calmly everything around us.
In most cases you can control where and when you land with the paraglider, this being one of the favorite attractions.
Also, the paragliding does not need an airplane or other external source that gives us the momentum we need to fly. All it takes is to be on a mountain or hill (elevated area) and the right weather factors to have the best possible experience.
Skydiving is another popular aerial sport, in which you jump from a plane at a certain height to descend in free fall to open the parachute once a certain time has passed.
It is considered a performance sport, as there are aerial artists who can create figures or routines with groups of paratroopers. It can be practiced individually or as a couple, being quite common for people to do it for fun and pleasure.
To be able to practice it requires a lot of experience, so it is a sport that requires a lot of knowledge and practice.
Different mains between paragliding and skidiving
Considering the basic information we just gave you about each of these sports you should no longer have so many doubts about which one best suits your tastes, but so that there is no doubt about it, we will now seek deeper into those differences:
The main difference between these two sports is the way it is practiced: the paragliding allows us to fly from a mountain and fly for quite some time with more freedom, en while in the paratrooper you jump off a plane and soon you have to open the parachute and go down.
As you can see, they are not really a similar sports beyond that they’re both air sports. It is known that both sports have the same origin, but over the years they have evolved into completely different sports.
The parachute does not allow us to make paragliding flights, while a paragliding would burst when trying to open it in free fall like a parachute. This difference makes it clear that these are two completely different teams that are focused on different uses.
Do these sports have anything in common?
The only thing these two air sports have in common, beyond being within the same category, is that in both cases the person carries a parachute. In one its use it is mandatory as flight equipment and in another it is used as safety equipment.
How do you know which of these sports suits you best?
In the event that you’ve never played an aerial sport in your life and aren’t quite sure which one can be more or better suited to the type of experience you’re looking for, the differences we’ve seen above should help you get a better idea.
However, the skydiving gives you strong emotions and adrenaline, as it is not a sport suitable for everyone. Remember that you start by falling freefall for 1 minute or more after jumping off the plane.
On the other hand, paragliding is better for those who want to plan and enjoy flying for a long time. Paragliding also carries a lot of adrenaline, but not of the same type and intensity as that experienced when practicing paragliding.
So you simply have to take into account all these factors that we have mentioned to you in order to be clear and you can safely choose which sport could best suit your specific needs, whether it is paragliding or on the contrary, skydiving.
What is the Difference Between Skydiving and Paragliding
Normally, when we are comparing paragliding vs skydiving people tend to confuse them and believe it is almost the same sport. However, even though they seem to involve the same equipment and they look like the same thing, they don’t.
In Overfly we love to spend as much time in the clouds as possible. That is why we want to show you which ones are the main differences between them and what makes them special.
3, 2, 1… let’s go!
Paragliding vs Skydiving: what’s the difference?
Many similitudes unify paragliding and skydiving. They look kind of similar, they both have a canopy and there is a great international community involved in both.
However, once you think about it and you get to learn a bit more about each of them, you get to see that, when comparing Paragliding vs Skydiving, they are unique in their way. Each of them will give you something different.
Freefall vs flying on your own
The first and most obvious difference you will find once you know a bit more about these two is that, once you are in the sky, there is a great disparity between them when it comes to how you move and what you are doing while you are flying.
In skydiving, you are jumping from an aircraft and then you let yourself enjoy the free fall. There is wider freedom of movement since, at that moment, it’s only you, flying. There is no canopy or parachute involved. Parachuting will only take from 2 minutes to 5 out of the whole experience of skydiving.
On the other hand, paragliding is a whole different experience. You do not jump and fall. The purpose of paragliding is to find the right spot (a slope or a hill) that allows you to run and leap to start flying. Here, the paraglider is the main instrument involved and, instead of falling fast to a landing zone, you will flow and learn to find wind currents that will help you to stay afloat.
To sum up, while skydiving has a vertical movement towards the ground, paragliding has a horizontal movement which also tries to go higher up as much as possible.
Paragliding vs skydiving…they do not seem as similar now, right?
What about the equipment? → paragliding vs skydiving
Looking closely at the gear one would use to do paragliding, we would see that it has little to do with the one people use in skydiving. As we have said before, the main goal of each sport is different, so their equipment should be also different.
First, the harness used in paragliding is more comfortable than the one used in skydiving. This is related to the duration of each of the flights and the objective of each sport. In paragliding, the more you stay on air the better, so the gear you are using should be comfortable and protect you from long hours surfing the clouds. However, the harness used in skydiving is not as comfy as the one from paragliding. It could even turn a little painful when you wear it too much time.
Also, the equipment from paragliding is more complex than the one for skydiving. In skydiving, the most important element is the parachute and it all fits perfectly into a backpack that you can carry with you. In paragliding, the equipment is bigger and involves, not only a harness and the wing (which is larger than a parachute) but also much more.
Duration of the activity
There are also some differences in terms of duration and how much you travel during the flight. Since paragliding has a horizontal movement, you will be able to see much more and extensively explore the landscape. Therefore, a flight can last hours and be extended for miles and miles.
On the other hand, in skydiving, the main goal is to enjoy the free fall and it has a vertical movement, so there is not so much displacement during the activity. Your landing zone might be a couple of miles away from where you started but traveling is not the main objective of the sport. Because of this, the whole experience might take you around 10 minutes.
Paragliding vs Skydiving – some final thoughts!
To end with, we would like to add that regarding difficulty, they also differ. Both skydiving and paragliding require some training before you try them for the first time. And, if you are planning on going solo, you will even need to assist a special training. However, paragliding might seem more difficult to master to beginners than skydiving.
But do not lose hope! People who like skydiving end up trying and enjoying paragliding too. It is not so strange since they are, after all, related. Once you know how the sky tastes, you will long for it more and more.
What do you think? Which one do you prefer?
In Overfly we offer our incredible and special paragliding tandem flights to get you started in the sport (or to relive the experience). Check out all our options and find the one you like the most!