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.
The Difference Between Paragliding and Skydiving
Dangling underneath some carefully sewn together fabric and flying about in the sky is an amazing thing that we get to do. In a relatively short span of years human beings have gone from staring up at birds and wondering by what magic they can do that, to deciphering the science of flight to the point we have portable magical backpacks that allow us to get up there and play along.
We have figured out a variety of ways to achieve flight using parachute technology, and although at the most cursory glance they look the same, there are some key differences to understand when you are looking at getting involved. The two most common ways to get started – and the two words you are most likely to have heard of before you step on the path – are skydiving and paragliding. While there are definite similarities between them there are differences to the extent that they are and should be considered as separate sports.
The most concise version is this – Skydiving is the one where you jump out of an aeroplane with everything tucked away into a backpack and deploy your parachute in the air after falling for a bit. Paragliding is the one where you get everything out of the backpack and spread it out on the side of a hill then run along down the slope until you take off.
Parachutes and paragliders serve different purposes. A parachute is comparatively small so it does not get in the way during freefall and is primarily used to get you onto the ground in control and in the right place. A paraglider is made to be big enough to allow you search for lift and – when piloted correctly – stay up flying around for longer.
Although scaled differently, parachutes and paragliders use the same principles of aerodynamics as all flying machines, and as such there is definitely some fundamental knowledge that passes between the two. Skydiving and paragliding are however very different sports in significant ways and as such there is specific training for each – even to the point that getting qualified in one will highlight additional things to understand about the other that perhaps you otherwise would not consider. A very important thing to understand is that despite the similarities in some areas – the safety procedures for each sport are different and require the necessary training to understand what they are, when to use them and how to do it.
A quick example is that a skydiving parachute is designed to be landed on an airfield or similar area that is most likely a big flat patch of grass – so you are trained how to get yourself there and avoid things that it would be uncomfortable to land on. While paragliding, you also need a sensible flat area to land on – but for the rest of the time you are searching for wind currents and thermal activity that are created by things that you are taught to avoid while learning to skydive – like, say, mountains.
Both skydiving and paragliding have certain weather conditions in which they can happen. As you progress from being a student to gaining more experience you will be able to fly or jump in a wider range of conditions.
- For sure there are some places where you can drive right up and launch a paraglider, but often it involves some carrying of your gear up a hill. When you go skydiving the plane is right there by the hangar waiting for you.
- Paragliding involves a more intimate knowledge of specific weather conditions. While seeking this knowledge is a rewarding journey, it takes time and effort. Skydiving is much simpler – poke your head out of the window in the morning and if it is blue up there you have a pretty good chance of jumping. To the dropzone!
- When the weather is bad skydivers can fall back on going to a wind tunnel to practice their skills and get their fix. Not all skydivers indulge in indoor training but it has become very popular and can be done at any time no matter what it is like outside.
WHAT IT IS REALLY LIKE
The nature of the differences between skydiving and paragliding mean they shouldn’t probably be thought of as and either/or choice that might cover the same ground in your head and heart. Both sports are challenging and amazing adventures that can take you places and show you things you did not believe as possible. Both sports have very supportive international communities that provide you with friends and connections far and wide. Both sports require a similar level of investment and operate under roughly approximate conditions.
However, if you were to ask a hundred people with no experience of either thing to write down their bucket list, the results would very likely demonstrate overwhelmingly that there is something that resonates deeply inside human beings about the idea of leaping from an aircraft and falling unrestricted from very high up.
In simple logical terms, skydiving presents you with a bit of a bigger window into what is involved with paragliding than the other way around. The end part of a skydive is flying a parachute around for a few minutes – and while paraglider types would do crazy things for suggesting this is the same as what they do – it can show you the light. There is only one way to experience what it feels like to jump out of a plane – grab a parachute, a helmet and some goggles, and let’s go.
Skydiving or paragliding? Parachute or paraglider?
Although both sports use a fabric sail to glide through the air, they are very different in their history, their sensations and their ability to fly.
Skydiving vs Paragliding, what are the differences?
History of the skydiving and paragliding :
To begin with, the parachute is the oldest. Historical texts tell of attempts at parachute jumping as far back as 3000 BC. Since then, men have never stopped wanting to fly, like Leonardo da Vinci, and used the towers of the time to test their inventions during test jumps that were more or less conclusive but always spectacular!
It was not until the late 1700s/early 1800s that the first modern operational parachutes with a basket appeared, but it was in the early 1900s that the harness parachute really came into being. Since then, parachutes have continued to be improved from a hemispherical shape to a directional wing shape, taking advantage of better sink rates, easier packing, safety triggers, sliders that delay the opening of the canopy, in short, everything that makes a modern sporting parachute.
Paragliding is simply a derivative of the conventional parachute. In the 1970s, parachutists were looking for a cheaper way to practice landing without flying. Jumping from a mountain was very economical. The wings became more and more controllable and above all their finesse improved rapidly to become real aircraft capable of exploiting thermals and staying in the air for many hours while covering hundreds of kilometres.
What are the differences between a parachute and a paraglider?
A parachute is primarily designed to jump from a plane or helicopter, reach a maximum freefall speed of about 200 km/h in normal conditions and then open to arrest the fall and land smoothly with an acceptable sink rate. The main canopy is folded in the harness bag and opens either manually by the skydiver or automatically via a safety system based on altitude or via a mechanical system as soon as the skydiver leaves the aircraft. Initially a small parachute called an extractor is deployed in the relative wind of the freefall and will cause the main canopy to open. To prevent the deceleration from being too violent, sliders are provided to dampen the opening of the parachute. In the event of a problem, a second parachute is provided and can be deployed after the first has been released.
In skydiving, this is called a parachute jump.
In paragliding, the objective is to glide as long as possible. The surface area of the wing will therefore be much larger for increased lift. The glide ratio of the glider will also be much better with less friction in the air. The harness used for only a few minutes on a parachute is too uncomfortable for long flights and is replaced by an open or closed harness (cocoon) in which you sit. The piloting is done with a control in each hand. The take-off is made at the top of a mountain or on a dedicated area, or from any suitable terrain well oriented to the wind. Unlike parachuting, in paragliding you fly, not jump. It is common to leave the ground and fly away before reaching the end of the take-off zone. In terms of safety, there is a reserve parachute that can be deployed if necessary, as well as a shock-absorbing system under the harness in the event of a too energetic landing (airbag system or anti-shock foam). To land, simply get out of your harness, slow down your airspeed with a nice flare and run with your wing.
Are both skydiving and paragliding equally sensitive to the weather?
Not quite! In both cases, it is forbidden to cross clouds but in freefall the thermals and the winds of altitudes are less constraining whereas in paragliding it is not possible to take off beyond 30-35 km/h of wind under penalty of taking off in reverse. Stable weather is ideal for a first flight which will then be gentler.
What are the differences in the sensations?
Here are two sports that could almost be confused and yet offer very different sensations. In skydiving, you fall in free fall and therefore almost in weightlessness. The fall lasts only a few seconds but the level of adrenalin explodes many meters!
In paragliding you have the impression of gliding through the air like a bird. From the contemplative discovery paragliding experience to the acrobatic flight that raises the G’s with every trick, paragliding has something for every taste and temperament. And the flight lasts much longer!
What about parasailing?
This is another discipline which is neither really skydiving nor paragliding, but rather a device derived from the traditional parachute and modified with specific air intakes in order to create an upward suction effect thanks to the relative wind. And for that, you just have to be towed by a boat or any other mobile device, even if it is still nicer to fall in the end in the water than in the brambles towed by a quad. But afterwards, each to his own, each to his own.
In conclusion, whether you are attracted by one or the other of these sports, you will inevitably find a skydiving
or paragliding school near you in order to make a first flight and why not to become autonomous afterwards!
3 Chemin de la Chave – 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle
07 62 180 360