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Your paragliding holiday questions answered

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What exactly is a Paraglider?

A paraglider may look vaguely like a parachute or commonly confused with a parasail or parasailing because this is where it has evolved. Paragliding is now at a very exciting stage in its development, from being just a fun method of decent from hills, paragliding now offers the pilot the sensation of true free flight for hours upon hours. Using modern high strength materials a canopy only weighs about 7kg and packs neatly into a rucksack. This makes this "aeroplane in a bag" totally portable and can complement other sports such as skiing and mountaineering.

The paraglider wing is an inflatable structure. It consists of a row of tubes open at the front and closed at the back joined together side by side. The wing moving through the air keeps these tubes (or cells, to give their correct name) inflated. The air goes in the front but can't get out the back. These cells are cut into the same cross sectional shape as an aeroplane wing and it is this "aerofoil" section that provides the lift to our wings. The pilot is supported underneath the wing from a web of lines, each one with the strength to support the pilot alone. These lines are then attached to risers, a strap like device that is then itself attached to the pilots harness.

The harnesses we use for training are very simple but the ones used by the experienced pilots can look like a bucket seat taken from a racing car. These incredibly comfortable harnesses can come with airbag back protection systems to protect the pilot from unplanned hard landings, built in reserve parachute systems and all sorts of electronic instrumentation ranging from digital altimeters to global positioning systems. Cross-country flyers can look more like astronauts than paraglider pilots! The pilot holds a control handle on each side to steer the glider into turns. The control lines run to the rear of the canopy from these handles and by pulling smoothly down on one line at a time, one side of the wing slows down there-by turning the glider. With these controls you can perform anything from a gentle turn, to a screaming spiral dive, slow the wing down for landing and damp out turbulent air.

What can you do with a Paraglider?

Paragliding is predominantly seasonal in Britain, the best of the season is from April/May to September. There have been exceptional years and if you are persistent there are occasional windows over winter when you can get some really lovely crisp soarable days. We don't fly in rain and need a maximum wind speed on the hill of at most 15mph for training. We also fly in no wind at all as we can provide our own inertia to inflate the canopy simply by running. For those pilots looking to fly a little more over then they tend to head south to Spain or the Canaries.

You can do many different things with a paraglider. You can hike up a large mountain and use the paraglider to fly back down again but soaring ridges is the most common form of paragliding in Britain and the rest of the world. When the wind blows directly onto a ridge or hill, the air is diverted over the top creating a "wave" of lift. We can soar or surf this "wave" to stay airborne for hours. After your flight you simply land back on the top of the hill where you took off from. Flight times can be anything between 5 minutes and how long one can hold their bladder!

Flying is a tremendously personal thing, for some soaring around on a beautiful coastal site while abroad on holiday with the family or a green British hillside is divine, others like to thermal with the birds and see how high they can get before the sun sets. The ultimate challenge for some pilots is to fly cross- country using rising thermals of hot air to climb to "cloud base" covering great distances. The current world record is over 400km and in Britain, just over 180k from North Wales to Luton…avoiding the airport!

How many people fly... in Britain and Europe?

Don't think for a minute that paragliding is a specialist Sport. Britain has a comparatively small number of flyers, around 7- 8,000, of which Paragliding pilots make up 4- 5,000 the rest are hang glider pilots. However between the French and Germans alone there are around 60,000 pilots, the Swiss boast another 20,000. These figures are based on registered flyers. It’s difficult to say precisely how many Americans, Canadians. Kiwi’s and Australian pilots there are plus the Japanese…. Basically you can fly virtually everywhere in the world. The simple fact is that massive amounts of people are and have tuned into one of the most pleasurable experiences you can do…that is free flight!

What is thermalling?

Thermalling is flying around in circles to stay in the areas of best lift exactly the same way as the birds, like kites & buzzards or Griffin Vultures (which you see in this country all year round). Average good climb rates in Britain during the summer are around 400 feet per minute although 900 to 1000 feet per minute is not unheard off.

There is nothing to compare to the buzz you get from banking a glider onto it's wing tip and rising skywards in a strong, smooth thermal, ground features getting smaller with every turn. One student on his first trip abroad said to me following his first thermic flight "I am so glad that I’ve not gone through my entire life without experiencing that incredible flight". All this and more is open to you in the world of paragliding and it is one of the few adventure sports where women can compete on equal terms with men as physical strength or body weight is not an issue.

Are paragliders safe?

As with any transport, paragliding is a safe as you chose to make it:

Sadly no flying machine can offer complete impassive security. Whether it is a charter flight, balloon, jet fighter, latest aeronautical invention, there is a perceived and appreciable risk with everything you do. Paragliders and hang gliders are not power driven so there is no risk from engine fire or malfunction. If you maintain what little equipment one carries there should never be any reason for structural failure. However, you must be aware that there are potentially inherent dangers in Paragliding. By nature of it being a semi-rigid structure, flying the glider in rough or turbulent conditions beyond ones experience can lead to canopy instability. Paragliding can be as safe as you make it, fly in marginal or rough thermic conditions beyond your experience or on high performance gliders beyond your own perceived ability and you redefine the margin of safe and risk taking.

A good pilot is not just someone who has learnt the basics of flying in a progressive manner but still continues to practice and pursue their flying with a cautious and open mind. Current regular flyers make safe and confident flyers, glider control courses are aimed to build confidence and a certain amount of predictability of the glider’s behaviour. Only fly if you are comfortable to do so, remember paragliding should be a pleasure not a competition with ones nerve or pride. Strive to do the basics well and confidently and you can fly late into life incident free.

A word or two about Safety

Safety is paramount to the sport of paragliding. It is important to understand that paragliding can be a dangerous sport, its about you the pilot making decisions about whether to fly or not, if you are thorough about your approach then you can enjoy years of fabulous free flight. However both Instructors and current paragliding pilots alike already appreciate the importance of sensible and progressive pace setting in tuition, tasks and future improvement. Paragliding can be and generally is as safe as you choose to make it. Like the car driver who takes a corner in wet or icy conditions at high speed, the statistics favour the driver to drives to the conditions of the road.

In paragliding the pilot who flies in an environment that they are comfortable and familiar with will have a long and fulfilled life of flying. Instructors here at Fly Spain do not wish to see any injury or pain to students, so every care is taken that tuition is undertaken in the appropriate weather conditions and tasks are set according to the students current level of proficiency.

Paragliding is a decision making sport, from the moment you are on launch the decision to take-off is ultimately yours. At Fly Spain we endeavor to teach confident and sensible piloting skills with a healthy attitude to the environment they chose to fly in. If at any point prior to launch one is not happy with either the task, personal fitness or confident in the flight plan then it is solely the responsibility of the pilot/student in charge to stand down and rectify this indecision.

What about Personal Fitness?

Paragliders come in all sizes catering for both light and heavy weights a piece. Thankfully for most of the instructors I know, you don't need to be an athlete. Generally as long as you can put one foot in front of another and break into a gentle jog you can safely learn how to fly. Early in your course you will be expected to walk up a few gentle slopes but for the remainder you will be driven. We aim to teach you at your own pace, but if you have any queries concerning some aspect of your health do speak to us regarding them.

Are there any exams?

Yes there will be two multiple-choice papers. You don’t need to know any rocket science to learn to fly a paraglider but there is a need to know and have a basic comprehension of how gliders fly and the rules of the road. Knowledge of the weather is part and parcel of making good safe flying decisions and getting the best out of your flying. Lectures will be given on all aspects of the exam and more.

Some basic background reading can be very useful, for good and easily comprehensible literature that would ease you into the sport try any of these titles;

BHPA Pilot Handbook by Mark Dale: a superb book, very readable and highly informative.

Touching Cloudbase by Ian Currer: Bit of a paragliding bible, not as gripping to read but guides you from the very basics to novice pilot level in a nice logical order.

Understanding the Sky - Dennis Pagen; Brilliant book on the weather, really easy to absorb and understand, not too fiendishly technical.

All these books are available from us just email us info@flyspain.co.uk

 

What qualifications will I receive?

We are primarily a BHPA registered school, on successful completion of the course you will receive a full British Club Pilot Rating. 

If you are a pilot from another country it is possible to convert your qualification to an IPPI Para Pro 3 award (British Club Pilot Equivalent) and a signed British Logbook demonstrating your level of achievement if you wished to be assessed in another country.

We are the most experienced paraglidng school  in Europe offering paragliding lessons and courses abroad all year round. No other school in Spain can offer a BHPA qualification without an extra conversion course.

What if we get really bad weather?

In the very unlikely event of loosing a whole week’s flying we will give you credit towards another course in the future. Any half days during the week lost to bad weather will be used for either lectures or exams. We always try and ensure you get the very most from the week and return for more!

Can I bring a non-flying partners…

All are welcome, we will happily pick them up from airport when you both arrive, our house is lovely and relaxed with terraces to sit and read and wind down. We can't gurantee a place in the bus to watch you fly, if we can we will of course but pilots come first.

There will be an accommodation supplement for partners and children (depending on age). The Non flyer supplement is £200 per week .

Algodonales is a stunningly beautiful area. There are massive amounts to keep everyone busy while you are flying. Stacks of history, horse riding to kitesurfing. Picnics & canoeing on the lake, stunning restaurants, charming bars and beautiful white hillside villages of Andalucia, everything is out there to do and explore. Here are some general links to activities in and around the area . For more ideas have a look at our "what other activities can i do in Spain..."

What do I do about equipment during the course or if I want my own?

If you are on a paragliding course with us all our paragliding equipment will be provided from a safety helmet to glider and  harness within the course price. We also use Radios on bigger hill flights for certain tasks like soaring and Big Ears manoeuvres.

The gliders you fly on in the later half of your course and when you leave the school tend to be a little different from the training gliders you first go out on.

Some students prefer to buy their own equipment from the outset & learn to fly using that. Others choose to buy new or used equipment half way through the course so that by the end of the course they are au fait and comfortable with their new kit in the company and familiar surroundings of their instructors.

Our recommendation is to try and hold off buying equipment until you have completed two or three days of the course, by then you will be familiar with what is on the market and what you might like. The choice is huge and depending on what your intentions, not all equipment is suitable. If climbing and paragliding is an ambition then you will want very specialist light weight equipment, like wise, if you commute with your business a lot and you need something more portable. It just allows you a chance to look around and see what gliders and harnesses are available, we have a good selection of demos paraglider wings and harnesses for you to try. Regardless if you are on the inclusive glider-training package and have bought your kit new, there won’t be any pressure on you to select the first thing that’s put in front of you.

Where can I fly in Britain ?

Potentially anywhere there is a hill or mountain. Britain is quite exceptional in that it has a very sociable and positive community of flyers, regional clubs and schools. The BHPA (Governing Organisation) will happily give you a list of local clubs in and around Britain. Most local clubs encourage new or visiting pilots to make contact and join as members for a very acceptable amount of cash. In exchange you meet club coaches and receive a site map of the area showing a local contact for the sites, access, and subtleties and sensitivities of each hill or mountain. If you are flying abroad for the first time then the safest way is with a local guide or school who know the area and conditions well. The BHPA may be able to help here but generally look in the Association magazines or on the net and find what you are looking for.

When are courses run?

Learn to fly courses are run from January to July and September through to December so as to coincide with the most ideal conditions in which to teach. July is hot but we break the days with time near the pool! Late summer conditions in Algodonales tend to favour the more experienced pilot looking for more thermic and cross country flying. Pilot thermalling and Holidays run from February through to late December.

What clothes do I need to bring?

Well, seeing as you are on holiday, whatever you need, although you can generally buy anything you are missing in the village at very reasonable prices.

The season is super hot from end of April to End of September, It begins cooling doen from october to February and begins to warm up from Mid Feb to end of April.

Clothes for two weeks including any fleece type layers for higher altitude flights. It can be cooler at the top of a mountain, even when it is very warm in the valley.

We provied towels

Bring a swimming costume, as there is a beautiful freshwater reservoir that you can canoe or swim in at the end of a day’s flying. Sun block is essential even over winter.

The Eagles Nest does have a washing machine so if you get too muddy then there always an option  to wash your clothes.

Stout boots, ideally walking boots or similar like Timberlands, or our shop has a selection of the best Gortex paragliding boots on offer.

 

What is the currency and where should I get it from?

Euros. There are cash machines everywhere, which are very useful and only charge, a nominal amount for transactions.

If you need to change large amounts the do shop around, the post office is possibly on eof the worst places to convert sterling to euros. Thomas cook centres offer great rates and a very clever currency card whihch you can charge up with currency and draw out from any bank machine abroad

Where do I fly to?

If you want to make the most of our free airport transfer then you need to fly into Malaga before one pm and return post 2.30 on the saturday.

Ideally you need to fly into the main Airport in Malaga, it is the largest and busiest airport in the south of Spain therefore offering many flights at extremely reasonable prices. There are many companies offering very low cost flights over the Internet, these are the most popular ones; Easy Jet, Travel Jungle, Flight Line. A good new site is Kayak.

Malaga to Algodonales takes approx. one and a half hours and gives you the opportunity to see some of the stunning sights of Andalucia. Alternatively, you can fly to either Jerez or Cadiz, approximately an hour and a half from Algodonales but there will be a more limited offer on flight times. Companies offering flights to these destinations include Cheap Flights and BMI Baby.

Will I be collected?

We only provide a free transfer if you can fly into Malaga airport before One O'clock and return late afternoon or later. For Guided/Pilot weeks and Club pilot week's arrival and departure days are Saturdays.

Elementary Beginners courses are an exception as arrival day is Sunday and departure is as normal the following Saturday.

Meet the Fly Spain driver  outside  Departures of the  mainTerminal building

 Alternatives are Car hire (which is reasonably inexpensive, budget between 70 –120 Euros or out of season much less) click here for car hire options

 The Bus which takes about 2.5 hours, which you catch from Malaga central (very easy), it costs at most 10 Euros and will drop you off in either Ronda or preferably Algodonales. Contact us for any further details or bus timetable

Do I need to hire a car?

Transport will be provided to flying sites and for retrieve. If you wish to hire a car for the evenings or to accommodate your flight arrivals or allow non-flyers to independently explore the many beautiful sights of the surrounding area. 

For a special rate on your Spain car hire, please check the special discount up to 10% Sixt can offer your next stay in Spain. Check the prices here.

How do I pay for my course?

Deposits are required to guarantee a place on either tuition or holiday weeks and can be paid via our online booking system or to our Spanish account - email us for details or click here. The remainder can either be payed online at anytime prior to your arrival by going to Manage My Booking (under Calender) or on arrival by credit card.

Cancellations: Deposits are strictly non refundable. Cancellations less than a month before the course or failure to attend a course or holiday will mean the full payment of the place to be paid. We try and keep our course and holiday numbers sensible so as to achieve the great results that we do, therefore numbers are strictly limited. Please make sure you buy holiday insurance that will cover you for unforseen cancellations or postponements.

 

Car directions and bus timetable from Malaga Airport?

For both directions from the Airport or Bus timetable from Malaga Airport see our Malaga arrivals page.

What Clubs can i join in Wales and the Uk?

Once qualified, the BHPA send out a list of prospective clubs you can join back in the uk, alternatively you could check out their site. There are some great clubs in and around Wales, here is a list:South West soarers is our local club and you could not want for a friendly group of pilots, Mid Wales Club is a very active club with a growing membership and great website, South East Wales club has been very popular club with both pilots locally and as far away as London and the South coast, Malverns, Long Myndd Soaring club. , Welsh Borders club, although the club is fairly inactive and has no school has some fantastic hills to fly.For more information on flying in Wales have a look at the Welsh Free Flight Federation

What other activities are there in Spain for Non-flyers?

What can't you do, there is a raft of things here, many come here just to walk the national parks, wind down in  the local White villages, we wil post a more extensive list when we get the chance,for the minute, if its horse riding then we have local gudies and school that can take you out every and any day, best contact us for a number as few seem to have websites.

For anything to do with Cycling, whether it be Moutnain biking, road cycling or leisure cycling along the via verde with the kids contact  Ashley and Claire At Andalucian Cycling Adventures

If you want to not just sample the local food but learn how to cook it then check out Finca Alta Cocina for cookery courses.

For getting muddy on motorbikes a great company out in Cortes offer daily and week long rides

Following a tour of the Jerez Sherry Houses or a Spanish horse show why not take have a relaxing Hammanm Bath, Scrub and massage at  the Arabic baths iin Jerez.

How about A flight in A Gyro Copter near Medina Sedonia

If golf is your game these guys are fanatastic, they offer be-spoke  Golf tours around the Costa de Luz

Algodonales is right on the edge of the Sierra de Grazelema National park, one of Spain´s Oldest and most beautiful , check out the Grazelema Guide for all that is available withing the park plus books, activities etc

One of the nearest and most interesting 'Pueblos Blancos' [white villages] is Olvera. Here, apart from exploring this fascinating town, you can find Artesanía del Prado a country workshop specialising in the production of hand thrown pottery and hand made glass. Link www.artesaniadelprado.es

Need some Holistic restive treatment or massage then email Lynda Pudney

Want some more detailed information about life and everything in Andalucia then try the informative online guide

 

Can I get a single person supplement?

Yes, we charge £150 person per week but these rooms are limited so it's very much first come, first served. You can select a single room when you complete your Arrivals Form and this will automatically adjust your balance accordingly.

 

How do I choose the right paraglider?

It's not really like going snowboarding for the first time, paragliding experience and hours takes time. So don't rush it or get too ambitious. You need to ask yourself what type of flying you aim to be doing.

What type of flying will you be doing?

Ask yourself how much real time can you put aside to fly, do you work flexi hours, only have weekends, have a family life to juggle, possibly just one paragliding holiday a year or are you giving up work and travelling the world. 

If you're giving up work and travelling the world then you might consider alow-end EnB wing, if you do other sports like kite surfing or sailing then you might feel comfortable on a similar wing.

For the most part if you're only getting occasional weekends out flying and the odd holiday then take your time and get a good En A. Most modern En A' gliders give all the performance you need to fly In thermals and make your first xcs. Plus they give a better level of security when you go abroad and might find yourself in taking off at the wrong time of day or in fruitier conditions you had bought into! Obviously going with seasoned guides will help with all that.

New gliders have all benefitted from the advances in new technology over the last 3 years, En A gliders are now faster and more agile as a result. 

One thing is true or maybe two...

We've never had either a low B or En A returned to us that's been worn out by a pilot in its first three years. You always get a fair return on your first wing especially if it's a popular brand, the lesser spotted or familiar brands get less integrates when reselling them.

Sizing 

Different wings like to be flown at different places on the weight range but I think as an easy rule just aimed to be at least in the middle or towards the top end of your glider weight wise.

How do I work my weight re glider size?

Add yourself clothed plus wing, harness, reserve, helmet and biscuits. That will give you an all up weight which you can then apply to sizing. Some manufacturers are subtly different with sizing so best check, hence why FlySpain offer a mix of manufacturers to make sure you get well placed for a wing. Remember when you start looking at reversible or airbag harnesses, lightweight reserves then you can find a 75-kilo pilot dropping out of the approximate medium sized paragliders and looking at small or medium-small. Again all brands can vary greatly.

Lightweight options

These often shape up into two styles, uber light and semi-lightweight. Your standard wing tends to be around 6 kilos for a medium size. Where's a semi-lightweight will offer 1-2 kilos less. An uber lightweight maybe as less as 2.5 kilos.

Remember these wings lose weight by a change of line type and thinner materials. The uber light needs some love and respect as they will tear if pulled out of a bush, where as a full-fat wing won't notice you ragging it around.

Micro lines are great but they do easily snag and are really irritating when you get them caught In thistles or long crops.

Choice of risers

If your getting a lightweight wing as a first glider the I'd consider going for slim risers as opposed the unltra light string option as they'll play with your uncertainty when you go flying until you've got used to them. 

Most important - handling

So lightweight paragliders can be great in flight, they can offer nice handling, a light touch but some can be a little more chatty or busy in thermic air as they pitch about a little more.

The most noticeable side of flying a semi-lightweight is that because there is less weight sitting on the ground they are easy to forward launch in nil or light winds but they equally prove to be a tad more billowy and unstable in stronger winds as they seem to lift up a little easier. So if you don't put the ground handling time into it when you buy one they'll be a right chore when you want to go flying in soarable winds

Needless to say with a well chosen light weight glider, a lightweight harness and reserve you can round your kit weight down to sub ten kilos. Sometimes getting a lighter weight harness can be enough to bring your kit weight down to nearer ten kilos without adding the cons mentioned above.

Getting the right Advice

You should, in theory be able to ask your instructor if they know much about what you want to buy and can they give you some pointers especially when it comes to sizing. I tend to think that it takes a great deal of effort to gain customers to your door so there's never any need to force a sale or sell them a kipper assuming you want to see them again on a future holiday or course...well that's my theory. Equally, if you've trusted your health and safety with your instructors why should it end when buying equipment, we like to see you make the right choice whether it be new or second hand.

Needless to say, we sell loads of equipment all over Europe and the U.K. every week. We have a rack of instructors at FlySpain, some with interests in speed or mini wing flying that can be more informed than myself for instance - you can, of course browse our online paragliding shop for new and used paragliding equipment

So if you need any advice then do feel free to drop us a line

How do I choose the right paragliding harness?

So harness choice is huge, in short there are some very established firms with a lot of R&D offering great options and some others making poorer copies.

You need to work out what style of paragliding harness to look at and that can depend on what environment you fly in. Let me explain by breaking it down into the main harness considerations.

All paragliding harness do a similar thing, but it's now possible to buy lots of lateral and back support or go more minimalist and light weight. 

Back protection

You can choose the type of back protection, foam or airbag, sometimes a mix of both.

Foam options Seat and back protection have changed  a lot over the last few years [Cross section of foam harness]

So all harness design is similar as they are webbing based with a seat board or hammock style I.e. without. 

Foam options come with a physical padded insert generally between 16-20 cm thick to protect your lower spine against hard landings. They have been used for used are bulky but not necessarily heavy, they end up making a larger carrying package, some new paragliding pilots flying on big hills like the idea of them as in windy conditions they do offer a more consistent level of protection if being dragged across the ground, where as airbag options once deflated offer little but fabric between you and any rocks

Airbag options

So airbags have gone from being huge baggy ideas with inflation through the seat under your legs, they used to require some time after launch to fill properly. They are well thought off and tested to show the best option for first impact in an accident involving a fall from height as they offer a bubble of air that slowly deflates until near popping. Sound design and even better shaping have made theses types of harness a really useful and practical solution in modern paragliding. Modern Paragliding airbag style

Modern airbags are generally pre-filled by the time you get to take through a stiffening rod or foam plate to give shape and act like bellow. An additional side vent helps with full inflation within seconds after take off, they are sized according to harness design. 

Reserve fitting  [Paragliding harness under seat reserve option]

Everyone flies with one and only a handful ever need using, that's the way you want it but get what you want and get the best.

Most harnesses come with an under seat or lower back option, these are the best of the bunch, no one uses shoulder mounted options anymore. They are convenient space-wise and generally only accessible with your right hand, there are some brands that offer a left and right handed option.

One option and arguably the safest but slightly less convenient is the front mounted reserve which allows both hands to reach it in an emergency. The downside for some pilots is that it adds another level of fuss as they sit more of less on your lap in flight. 

Geometry 

A term described to the behaviour of harnesses in flight, the feedback they give and receive from the gliders pitch, roll and yaw in turbulent and thermic air. There was a period of design back around 2002 where pilots were super keen for as much weight shift and feedback as possible, we've since realised that the downside to this is reduced stability at just about the wrong time that you want it I.e in turbulence. 

Sometimes lighter weight harness or poorly fitted harness can offer too much feedback at a time in your flying when a little less rock and roll would be appreciated!

Chest-strap settings are now recommended by manufacturers for optimum use of their gliders and are given out online or with a manual when you buy them. 

Passive safety characteristics of a wing can be compromised by poor harness strap settings. 

Reversible harnesses  [Reversible harness option]

These are a relatively new idea, well five years old maybe and of course there are pros and cons.

Reversible harness offer smaller packing size as the wings neatly folds into the centre of the harness when reversed out. By doing this they stow away smaller and reduce the need for a traditional outer bag, meaning less weight.

They also come with an option of seat plated or hammock style(i.e. each leg is supported by fabric and webbing and move independently to the style of the seat board.)

They prove more comfortable to carry up hills if your local sites need a half hour walk in.

There is a lot of clever stitching that goes into reversible harnesses and often goes hand in hand with cutting down weight. They don't tend to be as hardy as the traditional foam options so you can't chuck them around in quite the same way on the ground or across an airport conveyor belt. 

Remember you can buy airbag harnesses without the reversible option and still get the smaller pack.

A note about materials and second-hand gear

Here's something to consider when buying your kit, buying a lighter weight harness does mean that you sacrifice robustness and the potential damage factor that goes with it. Older style harness were made out of Cordura fabric which you could bounce on the ground countless times before you saw wear and tear. For instance FlySpain has over fifteen training harnesses, all less than 3 years old but all made with Cordura and thick foam airbags, they are guaranteed to open and are scruff proof in a teaching environment. 

The downside of how great Cordura is, means that there are some very doggy old harness on eBay from a time when harness design went through more styling then sensible thought say, they work but you might find they give too much feedback and not enough protection...these harness surface and I guess look the part, so in short if your buying second don't get anything older than six years and you'll not make any obvious blunders.

Harness Sizing 

They mostly come in Small, medium, large and XL. Everyone is a different shape and all harness need a little time to set up to your shape in-flight comfort regardless of how much you spend. 

For instance, if your middling weight but have very long legs then an XL harness might well feel too wide and I truth adding a foot stirrup with a large might be the better option.

Pod harnesses  [Pod harness fro Xc flying]

So I can't really see any reason why a new student might buy one of these harness fresh out of school. I appreciate they look good, but they can add extra faff for launching, it's harder to be nimble on launch and run with something hanging around your feet. They can also be a faff to get into and add an extra dimensions of rock and Pop in rougher turbulent air which again you might prefer to experience later in your flying. The performance gains are in truth mostly wasted when flying En A gliders and on low airtime pilots.

If your upgrading to a higher performing wing, thermally and making your first Xc, then there a great deal of choice in pod harness. Many have again followed the design of big and uber heavy to lighter and lighter, you'll have to ponder the pros and cons obviously and bear in mind that the lighter some of these options are the less you get in back protection.

Paragliding Hike and fly harness Options 

So you can go as skinny as you like, there are options out there that are really minimalist, and they look appealing if packaged up with a lightweight wing about the size of someone's handbag. If you're a new pilot then the downsides are too much feeling and wobble in flight and a scarcity of back protection. So if you want to go hike and fly look at some of the manufacturers who now offer a half way house, say reversible or airbag harness. Once you've spent a couple of years in the sport  consolidating your skills, you'll have a better idea on how to make a more informed choice of harness.

FlySpain have a full-time team instructors who've been flying over twenty years, we appreciate the importance of finding the right equipment to suit your flying and build. Feel free to enquire or ask any of our instructors about what equipment they like or recommend and why.

Whats the best paragliding Helmet to choose?

How to choose a Helmet?

Well, it’s really all about style and colour surely?!

All European helmets now come with a safety rating for their activity or range of activity. If you ensure your helmet has that then it is then down to size, fitting and styling.

Fitting: They don't have to be as snug as a motorbike helmet but you don't want them to fall off to slip and obscure your vision.

Paragliding helmets should conform to EN 966 (airports), using a helmet that doesn’t conform like a climbing helmet or cycling helmet might upset any public liability you have with your flying federation.

As for the helmet design then they generally come in two physical styles

Full face: so full protection of head and integrated chin guard. These obviously offer the most protection and tend to be a little warmer than open face helmets, they can restrict the view a little.

Open Face: Offer less protection but better visibility, they are generally lighter and pack smaller in with your gear.

The choice is massive now with some great styling, it's worth checking your ski or snowboarding helmets as some are now rated for free flight activities.

Visors: the airforce look is always great and visors come in clear and tinted, they also keep the wind and the sun off your face on long flights which in turn keeps you fresher and without the classic sunglasses panda eyes. The downside for me is they are tricky to keep scratch free and can lead to extra faff on takeoff and more stuff to drag with you like helmet bags etc.

Paramotor helmets

Almost always open face but come with visor options and ear defender options. When flying with two stroke engines you need to either wear ear plugs or ear defenders.

Most PPG helmets allow optional ear defender for them to be integrated. If you want to use radios to talk with friends then you’ll want to buy a separate headset with integrated coms. See Microavionics in our shop for an idea

FlySpain have  pretty much a demo of every product we sell and distribute in the UK, so whilst you're here you can see and even buy a helmet that suits.

What's the best Paragliding Reserve to choose?

Reserve design has changed over the last ten years, the early idea of keeping it small with a quick opening has been ditched for big and therefore slow descent rate. A big one that fits your all up weight in is ideal.

Lightweight: The last few years has seen reserves being made out of very lightweight materials, so they’ve dropped from 3 kilos to almost 1 kg, some alpine extreme types can be much less but come with a warning of to be thrown only once. Fine if you never want to try it out, not so good if you are a budding acro pilot.

Latest design: The Square reserve, is a new idea offering the same descent speed as before but more stable or rather less likelihood to pendular swing. It means traditional round canopies tend to roll around a little once opened or if the main canopy is still flapping about they can swing around a little. Square reserves suggest once opened they offer a more stable descent rate with a less pendular wobble. These are fairly new designs and are a little more to buy and in time I’m sure they will be the standard option to have.

Sizing: Make sure that when buying a reserve the weight range covers your all up flying weight. So Add all your equipment plus you on the scales to work that out, it's approximately 15 - 20 kgs plus your naked weight, different manufacturers offer different sizes reserves for different jobs, solo, tandem etc.

Descent rate: Manufacturers will state a descent rate for reserves, do check they state the descent for maximum weight. For example, some offer a descent rate of 6 metres descent per second, Ok if you are light and springy. Personally, I’d go for anything around the 4-5 meters if possible. When thinking of descent rate ponder jumping off a 3-metre high ladder or land rover roof rack, that's approximately 6 meters per second of decent.

Age of reserves: Currently anything over ten years old is likely to be unfashionably small in size and offer very quick descent  rates. Only buy second hand if they have been inspected and repacked by a professional. 

The key thing about reserves is to keep make sure they are repacked at least once a year. They tend to be positioned under the seat so when the equipment is packed away they are compressed by all materials around. Imagine pulling out an old tent that has not seen the light of day, heavily creased. Get them repacked annually and they will stay fluffy and keen to unfurl in the unlikely event that you’ll use them. There are many schools and agents who offer a reserve repacking service. 

The official recommendation is to replace them every ten years. Whether they have been used or not, although they are a porous fabric you can get line shrinkage and fabric can corrode, the best way to find out is to get a reserve repack and inspection from a professional repack house like The Loft or Aerofix, they'll give you a health report. 

When is a good time to buy equipment?

If you know it is what you want to do then crack on, you are not sure then I always believe that once you’ve done your Ep course then that's an ideal time. 

Flying is in truth relatively easy, the common insecurities for new pilots are at take off. The pressure of taking off with or without an instructor in wind especially.

If you are back in Blighty on a club site with an audience of suited and booted flyers on the hill it can feel like public speaking for the first time. As with public speaking know your subject well and there should be no problem.

Its all a head game, the best place to practise Reverse launching  or Alpine launches is on the flat or a gentle slope in light winds, once you’ve got that dialled you can experiment with stronger winds. In no time at all you’ll be back on launch in a delightful soarable breeze confident that you are familiar with launching not just a passenger at the crucial sacrificial alter. We’ve put a quick refresher video on Youtube to help Reverse launch technique. We are constantly adding video tutorials so keep in touch.

The only downside to waiting post Cp qualification is that you might well have to wait four weeks for manufacturers to deliver. The bonus of buying whilst training is that your instructors, who you've trained with and trusted can offer sensible advice and show you how to connect and adjust speed bars, foot straps and reserves. Plus as you’ve already invested in our training FlySpain will be best poised to offer you the best discounts and to encourage you to come back for more flying with our great team.

FlySpain offer demo equipment of everything they sell and deliver around the UK, so be it helmet, harness or glider, you can try, fly and size perfectly your equipment. Just ask an instructor

Choosing the right lightweight equipment

This is aimed at new pilots, by the time you are feeling more seasoned the pros and cons of lightweight gear will be more apparent.

You can essentially buy any paragliding gear from wafer thin to full fat. The concept of taking purely hand luggage onto a Ryanair flight is easily achievable. The main pro is the size…its just so James Bond and minimalist by comparison to other outer toys

The downsides are less obvious, lightweight means often less robust, slightly less performance and less practical in some ways. 

New pilots, I find want easy to recognise risers and lines, simple harness configurations and generally some back protection.

So the choices go from pure lightweight wings where the riser distinction from lines to risers is very subtle to full-fat wide risers all colour coded etc.

There are teasingly some halfway houses, some manufacturers offer a range of lightweight wings, some mostly for a simple top to bottom flight, others with a performance that would allow you to thermal up and go Xc with your friends.

Many of these same manufacturers offer a riser option, they add little in truth to the all up weight but add less concern on take off if you are worried about twisted looking risers etc.

Harness options come in both full fat with back protection and seat boards as the norm to worthy airbag alternatives and reversible harnesses for smaller packs to skimpy harness options which suggest they could be better used for a child's swing. 

The lightweight options generally offer no or limited back protection. That is all good if you are aware of the implications re back protection and safety. Some lightweight gear means they can offer either too much feedback or not enough. Everyone is different and we all have different needs.

If you just want a lighter pack to carry up hills then a reversible harness and lightweight reserve will mean your pack weight drops from 15 kg to nearer 12. Change a full-fat wing like an Ozone Buzz to a Geo 5

Picking a vario, Gps or flight instrument

Do I need an instrument to start…?

The main function of a variometer - that measure the change in air pressure to tell you when you are going up. On a soarable ridge that is more obvious than you might think, thermalling, on the other hand is a little harder and without any inherent spider sense requires as much help as you can get. Audible varios are a real useful tool.

Varios offer audio only so an up and down noise, very small and relatively cheap. They can also offer a visual display with memory that records your altitude and measures the length of your flight. useful for keeping a log of your hours, and especially if you fly during thermic periods near congested or prohibitive airspace areas. 

For instance, If you have a ceiling of a 2,000ft above your local site, flying without would be deemed reckless and potential airspace infringements are damaging to the sport, irresponsible and come with CAA fines and potential prosecution or flying over the back of the hill and landing in a no-flying zone.

Vario Gps: Integrated units are now the norm, so if you're planning to get stuck into thermal flying and Xc then best skip the visual vario and go for the full functionality, you’ll learn more about the instrument as and when you need it. Many instruments come future proofed for free software upgrades.

Basic Gps units offer ground speed which is essential for Xc pilots working out wind strength and direction. Many units now offer a last thermal function, so they track the last piece of lift you entered and fell out off and show you a mate where it is in relation to yourself. The more high-end units offer preloaded airspace maps, warnings, and now live tracking which is both useful fro safety and retracing your best days on google maps when the weather is lousy! Top end Gps are competition rated and allow the loading of predefines tasks route optimisation etc…

So Do you need one…If it’s not a budget decision then go for the integrated Gps, if you are off to the mountains, get some form of live track facility. If you only ever fly at coastal sites I wouldn’t bother and enjoy the peace and quiet. if you are on a budget then start with an Audible only device.