What is paragliding? Paragliding is the most accessible flight sport ,in France this is called 'parapente'. Floating from one thermal to another we can, with enough experience, spend hours above the earth and travel large distances (distance record to date: 500 km!) To "paraglide" we use a parachute, but a very special. You sit comfortably in a harness and using only two control lines, you stear where you go. All your gear fits in a backpack: all you need is one mountain to start from. In the absence of mountains in the Flemish (Northern) part of Belgium, we start with a winch, a 1000 meters cable pulls you like a glider into the air. At the highest point you disconnect the cable and then the world is yours! Air sports are known to many people as expensive to practice hard and to learn. But that is not true for paragliding. Paragliding is the most accessible of all air sports and very affordable.
The charm of paragliding is the simplicity. Although the achievements of 'our' wings get better every year, we're still capable of putting a full equipment in a single backpack. The first paragliders in the 80's flew in a few minutes from the top to the valley, but with the current material experienced pilots have flights of several hours are earlier norm than exception and there are record distances of over 400 km (2006) non-stop flying . It's also possible to fly by two, one pilot and one passenger, this is called biplace paragliding.
Who can do this wonderful sport? Almost anyone can learn to fly a paraglider. The minimum age of 14 years is required for BVVF affiliated schools. You do not need a very good condition and paragliding is definitely not weight training, though the first days of physical training are fairly intense. Both women and men practice paragliding with heart and passion, and both are represented in our club. Although women are still in the minority, however, their number is still growing. Young people learn about the sport in general a little easier, but people over 50 with no experience can successfully complete the training.
The paragliding equipment Every experienced pilot has his own opinion on what should include a complete equipment. If you walk to a peak that climbs 2000 meters above the valley, you can imagine you have other demands on your equipment (weight) than when the ski lift or the winch is pulling you up.
A 'basic' equipment usually looks like this: -The flying device (paraglider or wing) The wing allows us to continue to soar. On the ground it looks like a pile of fabric and lines, but in the sky is the device, filled with air, creating enough lift to keep us away from the ground. - The harness (the seat) The first armor seemed to be nothing more than a climbing harnesses, but these days it are comfortable seats with storage compartments, back protection and a place for the reserve parachute. - The reserve parachute For the (rare fortunately) situation that the screen does not fly anymore, we have a reserve parachute with us. It can be opened in seconds and allows us to safely reach the ground. Many pilots never use the reserve in their entire flying career, but still carry it always with them. - Tools An altimeter is usually required. A radio is essential during training, but also after the training is the radio for contact with other pilots and people on the ground. A compass or gps is handy when you are flying XC (cross distances). - Clothes Helmet and gloves are required for protection. Decent shoes are preffered to protect you on rough landings.
This is all you need to fly for hours. Some pilots have a special fly suite, a GPS, a compass, food, first aid kit, etc. with them. Pilots come in all shapes and sizes, from minimalism to gadget freaks and there is room for everyone in the free world of paragliding.