beginner paraglider

Beginner Paraglider: Choosing Your First Wing

How to Chose your First Paraglider

Finding your first paraglider is a stressful task, there are these ratings, so many different brands, so many colors and this is not to mention the cost. Do you buy new or secondhand? 

There is so much to consider. Hopefully, we can guide you with making your decision here.

Work Out The Kind of Pilot You Are

Knowing the kind of pilot you are or want to be will go a long way to determining the kind of wing that you should be looking at and the relevant rating you should be looking into.

How Much will you fly?

Are you a pilot that will be flying 2-3 days every week for the foreseeable future? Or are you the kind of pilot that will be flying once less than 50 flights in a year.

If you are a casual pilot then you would be better off going for a lower level wing that doesnt take a lot of skill to handle. You dont want to be worrying and fighting to control the beast every tiem you go to fly. This is why many pilots are fine with flying an EN-A for many years as they are easy to handle and these days have quite good performance.

Where will you fly?

Will you fly in accross the mountains for long distances, challenging cross country records? If so a higher aspect will will probably be better for you.

Or are you a casual Pilot that will be ridge soaring by the sea in the afternoon? If this is you then an easy to fly canopy that is very easy to fly and very safe is more likely what you are after.

Safety: Choosing the Correct EN Rating

Firstly lets get one thing out of the way. A “safe” paraglider is not the one with the best test rating.

A Safe wing is one that YOU as the pilot can control and recover in all conditions that you will be flying in, nothing else. The passive safety of the Paraglider can help improve this especially if the pilot is a beginner, but a “safe” wing can still be dangerous in the wrong conditions or flown incorrectly.

A lot of pilots feel the temptation to buy wing with a higher EN rating when they first start out.

They hear more advanced pilots saying that the EN-A wings are slow and not very responsive. That they don’t have as good of a glide ratio as higher aspect wings so they are not as good for cross country.

Remember: The EN Testing system focusses on how a wing recovers not its tendency to enter the situation in the first place.

This means that even if a wing is highly rated, it could be very prone to collapse, spirals and stalls, it will recover well yes. But how quickly and easily it enters these states is also very important especially for a beginner. A wing that collapses easily will most likely scare a pilot out of flying even if the recovery was fast.

paraglider classification chart

What Size Paraglider?

All manufacturers have different sizing. Even if two companies use the same numbering system it’s almost never consistent. Hell, it can even change between paragliders from the same company. Always check the weight range of the wing you are looking to buy not the size. 

For example, a 24 might be the correct size for one, but you might be a small in another and a 26 in another.

You need to check the weight rating for each wing. 

Should you be at the top or bottom of the weight range for your paraglider? 

Try to aim for the middle of the weight range for your paraglider, there aren’t really any benefits from being too big or too small for your wing. 

Remember to work out your flying weight, you need to add the weight of all the equipment you will carry plus the weight of the wing itself and the harness. 

Tip: Total Flying Weight = Your body weight + 15kgs (As a general rule)

Tips for Buying a Paraglider

Buy a wing that makes you feel confidentBuy a wing without flying it first
Test fly your wing before you buy itChose your wing by its color
Buy a wing that makes you feel comfortable in the airBuy a higher rated wing than you can handle thinking that it will help you progress
Chose a wing you think you can handle in bad conditions

Myths and Reality

Myth: You need a higher performance wing to fly long distance XC and EN-A gliders dont have a good enoughh glide slope for this.

Reality: The small difference in the glide slope of gliders between classes is not enough to meaningfully extend how far a beginner pilot can fly. The biggest factor in the performance of a wing is the pilot. It comes down to how well the pilot can fly the wing they have through the air while losing the least altitude.
Rough turns and bad maneuvering of the glider will cause much more sink than the difference between any two gliders, regardless of their performance.
I personally know people that have broken XC site distance records on EN-A gliders so it is defiantly not something that is impossible to achieve.

Myth: School gliders are sluggish and dont handle well

Reality: Any paraglider you use will be able to turn quite tightly when it is the correct size and is adjusted properly. The biggest factor here is the pilot. If a pilot knows how to handle a wing, weight-shift the right amount at the right time, and similarly with the breaks then they will be able to get the glider to perform well.

Myth: You need all the performance you can get!

Reality: Low-end paragliders are getting so advanced these days that they have much higher performance than even the top-level gliders years ago. Pushing for the last little bit will not see you improve you a lot you will just get a wing that is more unwieldy to manage.

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