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Hang Gliding Heaven-Experiences of a Gliding Junkie

Hang Gliding Vs. Paragliding - What's The Difference?
October 23rd, 2016

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How do you suppose the first hang gliders were invented? With all inventions, it is the thinking that gets the ball rolling. Back in the 1960s a couple of water skiers, who must have gotten bored simply gliding on top of the water, wondered what it would be like to soar above the water. After brainstorming a bit, they decided to hook themselves up to a couple of kites and get back on their water skis. As the boat began pulling them, the air caught the kite and there they were above the water, though certainly landing back in the water! Through much trail and error, the current form of the hang glider has been developed and now they are launching themselves from mountains instead of the water!

Paragliding began in Europe from those daredevils who enjoy both the thrill of skydiving and jumping off cliffs. The first few attempts were nothing more than parachutes attached to the back of those jumping and off they went. There were a few modifications, which have led to the paragliders we have now. They must have thought, "I wonder if we can fly if we do this?" and paragliding is born. Like hang gliding, after a few trial and error designs, they have developed into what we use today.

The primary difference between hang gliding and paragliding is the structure of the wings. The wings of a hang glider resemble a V-shape and are constructed with a frame that makes the wing structures solid as opposed to the paragliding wing structure, which is soft, and take on a more oval-shaped shape. Another primary difference is that paragliding has a learning curve to it because its flight is done at slower speeds. A hang glider is heavier due to the solid structure of the wings and can weigh between 70-100 pounds. Paragliders can be carried in a large backpack. Also, hang gliders have the speed but rely more on the conditions than do paragliders.

Besides the shape of the canopies, the structure is another difference between hang gliding and paragliding. The paragliding canopies are much thinner and therefore more susceptible to ultra violet rays which can destroy the canopy. The hang gliding canopy is constructed of sturdier material and is not as affected by the ultra violet rays.

The safety conditions between hang gliding and paragliding are primarily the same and normally the equipment is not the reason. The attitude of the pilot goes a long way towards safety. If the pilot is reckless with no regard of the elements or the other pilots, then there will be safety issues. In most extreme sports, though you have individuals who are considered mavericks and simply refuse to go along with the perceived norm. There are times when this can lead to creativity and adventure and other times when taken to extremes it can be down right dangerous.

There are some things to consider before deciding whether to invest in hang gliding or paragliding. If you are a family person and want to bring the kids along for the adventure, you may find it a bit of a challenge. Consider this as you and your family are packing for this wonderful day trip and gathering supplies, remember the hang glider does not fold easily and is cumbersome both in setting up and dismantling. Once you are at your destination, will you be the one going to the top of the mountain or the entire family, will you be taking a tram or driving. Once you are there, will there also be a place for your family to relax and enjoy the launch? Or will they have to be shuffled back in the vehicle to the place you are going to land? Now for the hang gliding enthusiast and their family, these considerations may appear small in contrast to thrill of flying or supporting the family member ready to jump from the mountain.

Paragliding has the ability to be a bit more spontaneous in that you can toss (with respect of course) the paraglider in your vehicle or on the back of your motorcycle and go. You do not necessarily have to launch from a mountaintop although many do.

Ultimately the choice is yours and is definitely dependent on your lifestyle. Certainly, whether you choose to enjoy either sport the experience will be incredible