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.

Paragliders at Sunset

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.

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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
  • Wingsuits
  • 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).

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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.

Skydiving vs. Paragliding

What’s the Difference Between Skydiving and Paragliding?

In the relatively short period since humans first took to the air, we have devised a lot of ways to achieve flight. Some are very complicated, like rockets and helicopters – magnificent examples of combined knowledge and effort that allow us to zoom through the air. Others are simpler, such as the equipment we use for sports like skydiving and paragliding. Yet, in many ways, these more accessible technologies are just as spectacular. They allow us to achieve incredible thrills and experience the beauty of flight in a compact and affordable fashion.

Both skydiving and paragliding have many variations and sub-disciplines that become available once you get involved, but let’s start right at the top. What is the difference between skydiving and paragliding?


Skydiving is when you climb into an aircraft, fly up really high, jump out and freefall for about a minute, then deploy a parachute for landing. Paragliding is when you take off from the ground by running down a steep hill with your wing already open – generating enough speed and lift to fly out and up from the terrain.

breathing skydiving and adrenaline

Skydiving Equals Freefall

Skydiving has a lot to do with the freefall part, as jumping from an airplane and falling towards the ground at a terminal velocity of around 120mph is one of the most spectacular and exciting experiences there is. A skydiving parachute is designed and built to deploy smoothly from high speed, then allow you to fly back to the landing area and gently touch down.

Parachuting in Skydiving

The parachute part of a skydive is definitely not some kind of afterthought, though, as skydiving wings are amazing flying machines in their own right – and offer both dynamic flight or gentle soaring after the crazy intense rush of freefall.

parachute canopy skydiving

No Freefall or Planes in Paragliding

Paragliding is a more sedate affair. Still, a beautiful experience and fun to do, but it doesn’t typically occupy the same bucket-list urgency as is often associated with a skydive. Statistically, these aerial activities are much less risky than people generally assume – with both being safer than driving a car. Statistics suggest that paragliding (0.0074% fatalities/year) is not safer than skydiving (0.0004% fatalities/year).

paragliding vs skydiving


To untrained eyes, the wings used by skydivers and paragliders look pretty similar. Both are made from what is basically (albeit sophisticated) fabric and string and pack away into some kind of backpack. The main difference is that paragliders are much bigger, allowing for the pilot to achieve lift and gain altitude by riding on suitable air currents – while a parachute is smaller so it can be packed away into a portable enough container to be usable for freefall.

Skydiving parachutes are very good at their intended purpose and inflate into precisely controllable and responsive flying machines that are also designed to descend towards the ground. Paragliders are excellent for their desired use, and skilled pilots can achieve impressively long flights – but you cannot jump from a plane with one.


During landing, both types of wing use a ‘flare’ to allow the pilot a gentle touch-down. Flaring is when the pilot pulls down on both steering toggles at the same time, to level out the wing and create what is effectively an air brake. There is a bit of timing involved, but done correctly means landings are as gentle as can be.


Both sets of equipment use a reserve system, meaning that both a tandem skydiving system (‘rig’) and a tandem paraglider setup have an additional parachute in the unlikely event of malfunction. A skydiving reserve is largely the same as a skydiving main parachute. Although reserve rides are rare, it does happen and is a normalized part of the sport. In the unlikely event that you need to use your reserve while skydiving, not a lot changes about the jump – as during a tandem skydive the deployment altitude is high enough (4000-5000ft) to handle things in plenty of time.

In paragliding, the use of a reserve parachute is, again, very rare. Paragliders are larger and do not deploy while airborne in the same way, so pilots instead carry a round or square reserve parachute that is closer in design to that used in skydiving.


Skydiving and paragliding are often compared but, while they are related in some ways, they offer very different sensations. Flying around under a paraglider can be spectacular, but nothing comes close to the build-and-release of climbing to 13,500 feet in an airplane, opening the door, and leaping out into a gravity-powered plummet.

The added advantage of skydiving is that, while the subtleties between flying a parachute and a paraglider are many, a skydiving wing will give you a pretty good general idea of how paragliding feels. In contrast, a paraglider flight cannot teach you anything about what to expect from freefall.

The way into both sports is most often via a tandem experience. Skydiving or paragliding tandem means a single student paired with an instructor – harnessed together and using a single, larger version of the equipment that is specially designed for the size and weight of two people. This allows for the quickest entry into either a skydive or a paragliding flight, as the student can enjoy it with minimal training while the instructor handles all the technical stuff.

Although they are different sports, there is a direct relationship between skydiving and paragliding, and many skydivers are also paraglider pilots. Sometimes we go paragliding, but we skydive every day to introduce as many new people to our sport as possible. It is not a competition, but if it was – in our opinion – skydiving is impossible to beat as an experience you will treasure forever.

Hang Gliding vs Paragliding

Keen to try something exciting, or are you a flight buff who wants to know what it feels like to takeoff in the most rawest way possible? Hang gliding vs paragliding is the decision which most will make.

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There are many similarities between hang gliding and paragliding. They both takeoff from the ground, they offer basic, non-powered flight, and they are both more accessible than mechanical forms of flying.

However there are some differences, which may lead you to choose one over the other.

Pilot’s Position

A hang gliding pilot will be in a position where they are lying face down. Modern paragliding harnesses are like a chair, where the pilot sits upright. This is often more comfortable and less daunting for beginner pilots, however adrenaline junkies will get a kick out of the hang gliding ‘superman’ position.

hang gliding position vs paragliding position

Complexity of Flight

A paraglider is easier and less physically demanding. Hang gliding is a more physical demanding sport with greater need to shift body weight while turning. Even a 104 year old woman has recently performed a paragliding flight.

Paragliding can be learnt in fewer lessons, hang gliding takes more effort to learn and become confident. However some people have learn paragliding in as few as ten lessons. Hang gliding or paragliding, which ever you choose, we recommend after your lessons to continue flying with experienced pilots and gain experience across different weather conditions.


While minimum speeds are similar at around 25km/h or 15mph, hang gliders can do close to 150km/h while the fastest paragliders can do around 75km/h. Adrenaline junkies or those seeking to cover a longer distance may find hang gliding more suitable, while those wishing to relax and enjoy the view may prefer paragliding.

Paragliding vs Hang Gliding Safety

While paragliding is easier to learn, hang gliding is actually considered to be the safer for competent pilots. The additional weight and rigid structure of a hang glider allows it to travel at higher speed and be less susceptible to wind and weather conditions. This means that pilots are less likely to spin out of control or struggle with turbulence (particularly when taking off). Paraglider pilots are also more susceptible to knee and ankle injuries when landing as pilots often land on their feet.

We are not saying that paragliding should be discouraged, we love paragliding! With adequate training and a respect for the weather conditions


There’s no comparison here, paragliding wins hands down! Paragliders can easily fit inside your car and be carried to your launching area of choice, even if it does involve a bit of hiking. That’s because they only weigh about 10kg (about 22 pounds). As the wing isn’t solid it’s light and can be bundled up small. You just need to carefully ensure your lines are not tangled when unpacking.

Hang gliders are heavier, rigid structure which can measure 5 metres long, making transportation more cumbersome. Hang gliders also weigh about 30kg (around 65pounds). These must be transported on roof racks or in a truck.


Hang gliding has faster speeds and greater opportunities for aerial acrobatics and tricks. Paragliders can perform a smaller number of tricks, these are limited due the risk of tangling the wing lines and the importance of keeping the wing relatively stable. Paragliding is a more slower, more calmer form of flight, more suitable for those seeking to enjoy the scenery and the peacefulness of non-motorised flight.

Cost to Purchase

Both paragliders and hang gliders are similar in price, however if you look hard or buy second hand, you will probably pay less for a paraglider due as there are more of these available. However, a well looked after hang glider is likely to last longer.

Most new paragliders, including wing, harness and reserve parachute will cost between $4500-$7500 USD. The wing lasts for about 300 hours of flying time. It’s recommended to replace the wings after this time due to the gradual wear UV rays can cause, which can diminish the strength. The lines will usually outlast the wing, with the exception of competition lines which last for about 150-200 flying hours. This may sound costly, however costs can be saved by buying a second hand wing from a reputable person affiliated with a club, who may be looking to upgrade from a beginner/intermediate wing to an advanced wing.

A new hang glider with a harness and helmet is likely to cost around $5000 – $7000 USD. A well looked after hang glider which has not been crashed is likely to last 8 – 10 years before it requires replacement due to gradual wear and tear from UV rays.

Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Our Conclusion

Both hang gliding and paragliding are amazing ways to experience the feeling of flight in the rawest and simplest way possible. There are many similarities amongst the two – they both leverage the principles of lift and drag to achieve flight. Both take off from the ground, and offer the thrill of takeoff, unlike other forms of human flight such as skydiving.

Many people would enjoy both hang gliding and paragliding, however there are a few small differences between the two which may determine which form of flight you choose as a long-term hobby.

Hang gliding is suitable for those who live for adrenaline. If you’re the kind of person who loves skydiving and other high adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping, dirt bikes and kite surfing, you’re probably going to love hang gliding. If you need to challenge or frighten yourself, there’s plenty of tricks you can do to keep you interested.

Paragliding is suitable for those who are not looking to perform a variety of tricks and are not driven to achieve high speeds. Once you’re in the air, you’re the type of person who wants to enjoy the view, perhaps even take photos or a video. You may also find transporting a hang glider too challenging and enjoy the ease of carrying your paraglider while hiking to an ideal launch area and taking off into the sky.

Hang gliding or paragliding, whichever you pick, we hope you enjoy your flying and stay safe!




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