I think that the height might bother me?
There are different types of fear of heights; standing on something solid and looking down (edge of a building, tall ladder, cliff, etc) and feeling uncomfortable is part of a defensive reflex that most of us are born with and this is natural. For most of us, motion through the air changes things. If you’ve been on an aeroplane, looked out of the window and it hasn’t bothered you then you’ll probably be fine.
You won’t start by suddenly being hundreds of feet in the air and not knowing what to do. When you begin, your first flight will only be 2 or 3 feet above the ground and you’ll practice making these very small flights until you’re comfortable and proficient. As you progress you’ll gradually make bigger and bigger flights. Once you’re more than 15 feet above the ground we’ll use radios to communicate with you (with a system of hand signals as an emergency back up).
What happens if I keep going up?
Lifting air is localised phenomenon so if you simply fly straight, you will exit it. All gliders sink as they move through the air however, if the air around them is rising faster than they’re sinking, the net result is that you’ll gain height. If you’re on a training flight and you start to gain height, it’s just a bit of a bonus and will mean that you’ll get a slightly longer flight.
By the time you’ve done a couple of days you’ll be asking, “how do I stay up” and that’s more complicated, will take lots of practice as well a fairly involved explanation. This is one of the major elements of the Club Pilot (second level) syllabus.
Does it suit women?
Paragliding is sometimes perceived as a “male” sport appealing to adrenaline junkies but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, while you’re waiting on take off, you feel excited and are aware that your heart is beating a little bit faster but… You learn to fly progressively your first flight will only be 2 or 3 feet above the ground. As you gain confidence and get better, you gradually make bigger and bigger flights. Excited is good and frightened isn’t, so we’ll work very hard to insure we never put you in a position where you are frightened.
There are more men who paraglide than women (probably 85/15%) but this just means that there are great opportunities for women in paragliding. If you are naturally driven and have a competitive streak, you could be competing nationally within two years and internationally the year after that!
This doesn’t just apply to someone born with an amazing natural talent, if you want to excel and are competitive it’s amazingly easy.
Maybe you think that men learn more quickly, but generally it’s women who make the best students because paragliding is all about technique and not about strength.
One of our former students, Vikki Palmer was an instructor within 3 years and made a bid at the world distance record. She went on to become a senior instructor a couple of years after that. She’s probably one of the best instructors I’ve ever met and she managed to do all this while still holding down a job and spending time kayaking!
Maybe you don’t have that competitive streak and would just like to do something different. You’ll be able to turn up a hill with your paraglider in a backpack (some now weigh as little as 2Kg), unfold it and 10 minutes later be airborne. Typically we’ll fly for an hour or two, sometimes landing back at the take-off, and sometimes covering many miles as we fly cross country.
I’m over 60, is it still ok for me?
Because paragliding is techniques rather than strength, age isn’t an impediment. You will need a basic level of fitness and flexibility equivalent to (for example) playing 9 holes of golf. Much more important is mental acuity. We’ve got a pilot in our local club who’s 77 and is an outstanding pilot.