How to Launch a Paraglider – Three Techniques to Master

There are several launch techniques that a paraglider can use, depending on the wind conditions and terrain. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the three primary launch methods: forward launch, reverse launch, and assisted launch.

Forward Launch: Embracing the Wind

The forward launch is often taught to beginners and is used when the wind is light or non-existent. The pilot lays the wing out behind them, holds the risers, and faces towards the direction of the intended takeoff. Once everything is set, the pilot runs forward, allowing the air to inflate the wing. Coordination is key here; as the wing rises overhead, the pilot must continue to run until there is enough lift to take off. The beauty of the forward launch lies in its simplicity, making it a favorite among new enthusiasts.

Key Points for a Successful Forward Launch:

  • Consistent speed during the run-up is crucial.
  • Keep your eyes forward, not up at the wing.
  • Engage the core and maintain an upright posture.
  • Learn to feel where the wing is above you so you can make any small corrections
Forward launch technique paragliding

Reverse Launch: The Dance of Coordination

The reverse launch, also known as the alpine launch, is preferable in moderate to strong winds. Here, the pilot faces the wing, with the risers crossed over the shoulders. This setup allows the pilot to keep an eye on the wing as it inflates and comes up. It’s a delicate dance of pulling the risers and controlling the brake lines. When the wing is stable overhead, the pilot turns to face the launch direction and begins the takeoff.

While a more complicated move, once mastered, this is the preferred launch method for most pilots. This is because you can see the wing through the launch process as well as abort the launch more easily by pulling the rear risers or brakes.

Mastering the Reverse Launch:

  • Practice wing control on the ground to build muscle memory.
  • Smoothly transition from facing the wing to your takeoff run.
  • Anticipate the wing’s behavior as it catches the wind.
Paraglider performing a reverse launch

Assisted Launch: Teamwork in Flight

In situations where wind and terrain make it difficult to launch alone, the assisted launch comes into play. An assistant, usually an experienced pilot or instructor, helps stabilize the wing or support the pilot’s harness during takeoff. This teamwork adds safety and ensures the wing inflates correctly and remains stable as the pilot launches.

Elements of an Effective Assisted Launch:

  • Clear communication between the pilot and assistant is paramount.
  • The assistant should be familiar with the pilot’s wing and launch technique.
  • Always have a pre-launch checklist to ensure harness straps, lines, and brake handles are free and clear.

Each launch technique has its place and importance in a pilot’s skill set. Pilots should practice all methods to be adaptable to various flying sites and conditions.

Tips for Perfecting Your Launch:

  1. Practice Makes Perfect: Spend time ground handling to get a feel for your wing and how it responds to your inputs. Trust me, you will cherish every minute you have ground handled when there is a queue at a take off point and the wind is not in your sweet spot.
  2. Know the Conditions: Always assess the wind and weather before deciding on your launch technique.
  3. Stay Relaxed: Tension in your body can translate to erratic wing control. Stay calm and composed.
  4. Get Feedback: Work with instructors or experienced pilots who can provide tips and corrections.
  5. Safety First: Don’t rush the process. Make sure everything is in order before attempting to launch. If in doubt, don’t fly.

Launching is just the first step in your paragliding journey, but it’s a crucial one. By mastering these techniques, you set the stage for a safe and enjoyable flight. Whether you’re inching forward for a forward launch, pivoting during a reverse launch, or coordinating with a partner for an assisted takeoff, the art of launching is your gateway to the skies. Remember, the launch is your first conversation with the wind—make it a good one, and the sky will welcome you with open arms.

Check out some of our other blogs on paragliding:

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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