Paragliding vs. Skydiving: Up in the Air?

Paragliding vs. Skydiving: Up in the Air?

When it comes to thrill-seeking air sports, two activities often lead the discussion: paragliding and skydiving. Despite both being airborne adventures, they offer distinctly different experiences. As a qualified skydiver and paraglider, I hope you find this comparison helpful.

Overview of Paragliding

Paragliding is essentially about harnessing wind power to hover above the earth’s landscapes, suspended from an inflatable wing-like parachute. The aircraft is lightweight and foot-launched, allowing pilots the liberty of flight without heavy equipment or mechanical propulsion. The allure of paragliding lies in its tranquillity – it’s about peacefully soaring in the skies, savouring panoramic vistas beneath.

Overview of Skydiving

Skydiving, conversely, revolves around the heart-pounding act of jumping from an aircraft. Trust me, the first time the door opens at 13,000 ft you will have sweaty palms. You decend under gravity, and finally, a parachute-controlled landing. It’s a high-altitude, high-adrenaline sport that involves a brief period of free-falling before parachute deployment. The thrill of skydiving hinges on the rush of plummeting through the skies at high speeds.

What is skyding like

The Experience

Paragliding provides a serene, leisurely flying experience. The sport lets you drink in the tranquillity and soak in expansive views from high altitudes, almost mirroring the flight pattern of a bird. The challenge with paragliding is finding and taking advantage of the pockets of lift, be it from hills or thermals to gain altitude which allows you to explore.

In contrast, with skydiving you only go down. It offers an intense adrenaline surge, marked by a swift freefall phase, reaching speeds of up to 120 mph, and a gentler parachute descent. The highlight remains the initial heart-stopping plunge from thousands of feet above ground.

I personally found the parachute decent the best bit of skydiving so took up paragliding to really make the most of that aspect of the sport. However, other people find the freedom and adrenaline of freefall totally addictive.

The Equipment

The equipment for paragliding comprises a wing or canopy, harness, reserve parachute, helmet, and a variometer (an instrument measuring altitude and ascent/descent rates).

Skydiving, in comparison, demands a parachute system (main and reserve), altimeter, protective eyewear, jumpsuit, helmet, and occasionally, an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) to deploy the reserve parachute in case of an emergency.

The parachute/wings are actually quite differently designed even if they look similar to the untrained eye. A parachute is designed to open in an controlled way and slow you down. A wing or canopy is designed to maximise lift.

The Training Process

Paraglding ground handling

Training for paragliding generally spans several days, emphasising wing handling, meteorological understanding, takeoff, and landing techniques. Starting with small hops before graduating to higher flights. To reach independance it typically takes 10-14 days. Skydiving’s initial ground school is often completed in a day before your first solo jump. To reach independance it typicallytakes 6-12 days.

The Community

Both sports enjoy vibrant communities. Paragliding has a more intimate circle of enthusiastic pilots who relish shared soaring experiences. Skydiving’s community is typically larger and more diverse, reflecting its wider popularity and more extensive history.

The Costs

Initial investments for both sports, including training and equipment, are hefty. However, paragliding’s per-flight cost tends to be lower since it doesn’t necessitate aircraft assistance. Skydiving’s repeated costs are higher, factoring in the aircraft operations, but pre-used equipment might be more budget-friendly. Equipment for skydiving is often available for hire from drop-zones but the vast majority of paragliders have their own equipment upon qualification.

In summary, your preference depends on what you seek: the placid, long-lasting glide of paragliding, or the high-velocity, electrifying plummet of skydiving.

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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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