Paragliders and How They Work

by Kimberly Turtenwald
Paragliding was originally used for descending mountains.

Paragliding was originally used for descending mountains.

Jupiterimages/ Images

Some people enjoy participating in activities that are often categorized as extreme and may strike fear in the hearts of some. Paragliding is one of those activities. Those who participate in paragliding can be compared to those who participate in the dangerous stunt of cliff diving. However, paragliders have the forethought to use a parachute-like glider to slow down the fall.

Basic Controls

A paraglider actual works similar to an airplane. The fabric parachute is long and wide and serves as a wing that helps the rider fly. However, unlike a parachute, a paraglider is designed to use the air currents to float, rather than drop toward the ground. Riders control the direction of the paraglider by pulling on either the right or left line to make the paraglider turn. If the rider keeps himself in the rising air flow, he will stay in the air much longer.

Air Flow

Paragliders use the air flow just like many birds do when they glide through the air rather than beating their wings. Pockets of warm are often burst upward from the surface of the ground. These pockets of rising air help paragliders climb higher and remain in the air for longer periods of time. Paragliding near cliffs can also provide this upward lift needed to remain in the air. When the lift stops, the paraglider drifts gently toward the ground for a landing. Because the paraglider relies on this air flow, rides must begin from a high point, such as a sand dune or cliff.

Paraglider Construction

While a paraglider may look more like a parachute, it is actually constructed differently. Parachutes are designed to slow down the downward fall of a person to keep him from crashing into the ground at high speeds. Paragliders are built to keep a person in the air. Because of this purpose, a paraglider is made of two layers of fabric. The two layers are left open at the front of the paraglider to allow air to flow between the layers and keep the paraglider inflated. This helps maintain the lift. A paraglider is inflated from the start of the flight, unlike a parachute that must be opened during the downward plunge.


One of the concerns you may have is the safety of flying with a paraglider. You may be afraid that it isn't something a novice can do without training. However, paragliding is very safe. Even if you do not utilize the controls, you will glide straight until you gently land on the ground. If you are afraid to try it on your own, many paragliding companies offer tandem rides so you can enjoy the ride while taking advantage of someone else's experience. But those who want to go out on their own can easily do so after minimal instruction.

About the Author

I have been writing as a hobby for many years now. I am involved with several freelance opportunities for the last 5 years or so. I specialize in web content including search engine optimization and blogs. I pride myself on being able to learn to write various other types of content with little instruction. I currently work outside of the home full time, but have plenty of free time in which to write various articles. In addition to the above mentioned areas, I am capable of writing on pretty much any topic with just a little bit of research. I have always been very good at completing assignments by the deadline and can be counted on to fill in when articles need to be completed ASAP.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images