A tandem paraglide is the perfect way to experience the joy of free flight and see the world from a brand-new perspective.
Are you considering booking your first tandem paragliding flight but feel a little nervous about what to expect? Never fear! We have answered all your burning questions about paragliding tandem.
What Is Paragliding?
Paragliding is an adventure sport and a form of free flight.
Paragliding pilots cover vast distances and climb to great heights simply by using naturally occurring forms of lifting air, known as ridge lift or thermals. You can soar freely in the sky and sightsee as you’ve never done before, giving you a whole new meaning to the phrase “a bird’s eye view.”
The aircraft, known as a paraglider, consists of two layers of special hard-wearing fabric that uses ram-air technology to maintain the airfoil shape required for flight. The pilot is connected to the paraglider by several lines between the wing and the pilot’s harness.
What Is Tandem Paragliding?
In tandem paragliding, the paraglider pilot flies with a passenger.
To do this, a larger paraglider wing is used (one specially designed to support the weight of two people and all their equipment). The wing is attached to two interconnected harnesses– one for the experienced pilot and another for the passenger (placed in front of the pilot).
Tandem paragliding companies are often located in stunningly scenic, mountainous areas. Tandem paragliding is a wonderful way to enjoy the view from a new perspective while experiencing the thrill of flying like a bird.
Besides a short brief from your paragliding pilot (before your flight), you don’t need special skills or lessons to be a tandem passenger. Your pilot will tell you exactly what will happen before your flight, how you need to run a few steps during take-off and keep running until you’re no longer touching the ground.
The paraglider pilot will have complete control of the paraglider at all times (you may get lucky and be able to take control for a short time while flying!). You’ll be able to chat with your pilot throughout the flight, and they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
OK, now you know what tandem paragliding is, but what does it feel like, and is tandem paragliding safe? Read on to find out more.
Your Tandem Paraglide: All About the Experience
What Does Paragliding Feel Like?
Paragliding is often a gentler, calmer experience than most people may expect.
When you picture paragliding, you may have visions of jumping head-first off a cliff and having that stomach-flipping feeling you get on a rollercoaster as you plummet toward the earth. However, the reality is that paragliding feels like you’re floating effortlessly through the sky, unlike falling.
To be more specific about how you feel while paragliding, let’s break down each stage of the process:
- Take off.
Before take-off, you’ll be standing on a hill or mountain, facing forward, with your pilot and paraglider behind you. As the pilot inflates the paraglider, you’ll feel a backward tug on your harness, and you may need to take a step or two backward. Then, the pilot will control the paraglider and give you the signal to run forward. As the paraglider starts flying, you’ll feel an upward tug on your harness. It is essential to keep your legs down until you are completely clear of the ground.
Once you’re clear of the ground, the pilot will guide you in sitting back in your harness to get more comfortable. Then, the bliss of flight! There is nothing like it. You’ll feel the air rush over your face, and it may be a bit disconcerting– after all, you’re hanging out in a comfortable chair while suspended in the air. Next, the pilot will likely ask you if you’d like to experience some higher-adrenaline maneuvers or possibly if you’d like to take the controls yourself (this depends on the pilot and weather conditions).
As you get closer to the ground, your pilot will let you know to get ready for landing. Depending on the pilot and weather conditions, they will likely tell you to keep your legs tucked up away from the ground as you come into land or to keep your legs down and prepare to run again. Don’t worry about the landing; you won’t hit the ground with a thud. Landing a paraglider feels like taking a large step down.
How Safe Is Tandem Paragliding?
Paragliding is an extreme sport involving aviation. Therefore there are always risks involved.
However, you can mitigate these risks by booking your tandem paraglide through a reputable company that only employs highly-experienced paragliding pilots who carry all the required ratings to fly tandem paragliders commercially.
Paragliding equipment needs to be inspected regularly for airworthiness, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about the age or condition of the equipment if you feel uneasy about anything. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and the pilot should be able to answer any questions you have without hesitation.
For even more peace of mind, or if you’re interested in learning to paraglide solo, you could book a flight with a paragliding pilot who is not only tandem rated but is also a paragliding instructor. Instructors have years of experience, thousands of hours of airtime, and they will be able to answer all of your questions about learning to paraglide solo.
Flying with a paragliding instructor is probably the safest way to experience tandem paragliding.
Is it Scary to Paraglide?
It is natural to feel nervous before attempting any new activity– paragliding included– but most people find that paragliding is not as scary as expected.
If you’re feeling nervous, let your pilot know, and they will do all they can to ensure a smooth, calm paragliding flight, making only gentle turns. On the other hand, if you are a thrill-seeker and the weather conditions are pleasant, your pilot will be more than happy to oblige by performing more dynamic moves to give you that exciting adrenaline rush.
The Nitty-Gritty of Booking Your Tandem Paraglide
So, you’ve got the basics of what is involved in tandem paragliding, and now you want to get down to business and book that flight. Keep reading to learn more!
How Much Does Paragliding Tandem Cost?
You can expect to pay upward of $100 for a tandem paragliding experience.
The cost of a tandem paraglide varies depending on where you’re flying, if there are any additional transport costs involved in getting you to and from take-off/landing, and if the pilot gives you an SD card of any GoPro footage (sometimes the cost of the SD card is separate).
To give you an idea about what to expect, the following prices (converted to USD and valid in July 2022) are quoted by some companies based in popular tandem paragliding destinations around the world:
- $175 for an instructional tandem flight in Torrey Pines, California
- $150 for 25–30 minutes in Oludeniz, Turkey
- $120 for a thermal flight in Annecy, France
- $80 to paraglide in Cape Town, South Africa
- $107 for a 50–60 minute cross-country flight in Sarangkot, Nepal
- $147 for an aerobatic flight in Queenstown, New Zealand
- $261 for a sunset flight over the lake in Interlaken, Switzerland
What Is the Weight Limit for Tandem Paragliding?
The maximum weight limit for tandem paragliding is around 220 lb (100 kg).
Weight is, unfortunately, an essential consideration in paragliding because the paragliding canopy needs to be able to safely support the weight of the pilot, passenger, and all additional equipment.
Fitness, Age, and Disability: Who Cannot Do Tandem Paragliding?
You do not need to be very fit to tandem paraglide. You just need to be able to run a few steps, be fit enough to carry a rucksack and be able to withstand minor trips/falls without sustaining injury.
Children as young as four or six years old can go tandem paragliding as long as their parent or guardian signs a consent form. This age limit may vary depending on your region.
You cannot book a tandem paraglide if you are pregnant. Depending on the tandem paragliding company, you may also be unable to book a tandem flight if you have certain medical conditions, such as a heart condition, epilepsy, or a bone disorder.
Paragliding pilots are eager to help people with all abilities achieve their dream of flight, so more and more pilots are trained to cater to people with disabilities or physical impairments. Especially at places such as Project Airtime in the United States or the Flyability initiative in the United Kingdom.
What to Expect on the Day of Your Tandem Paraglide
Alright, so you’ve taken the plunge and booked that tandem paraglide!
You’re ready to fly with the eagles and hope to document this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but can you take your phone, and what should you wear? We’ve answered your questions about what to expect on the much-anticipated day.
What Do I Need To Prepare for Paragliding?
Your paragliding pilot will provide all the necessary equipment you need for your tandem flight, but the following tips will help ensure you have the best possible experience:
- Ensure you arrive at the meeting point on time– preferably a little early.
Because paragliding is so weather dependent, the tandem pilots are likely to be very booked up on a good flying day, so you don’t want to be late and lose your spot. A few admin tasks need to be done before your flight: your tandem pilot will require you to complete some forms, get your helmet fitted correctly, brief you on safety and what to expect, etc. It’s best not to feel rushed during these preflight steps.
- Be sure to be well-fed and hydrated before your flight.
Depending on the weather and location, you may spend a fair amount of time waiting for ideal conditions or transport to or from the take-off/landing, so be prepared– you don’t want to be too woozy/dehydrated to enjoy your tandem paraglide. In other words, pitching up for your flight after a big night out with no breakfast may not be the best idea!
- Apply sunscreen.
Ditto, as for the above– you may be standing around in the sun for a good few hours and not even realize you’re burning because of your excitement.
- Leave your valuables at home.
Ideally, have a friend come along and hold your bag/keys/phone/wallet during your flight. The tandem pilots may not be able to store your valuables for you. If you don’t have any non-flying friends with you, be sure to wear clothing with zipped pockets so that nothing valuable falls out during your flight.
What Do I Wear for Paragliding?
For the safest and most comfortable tandem paragliding experience, you should wear:
- Hiking/walking shoes: Preferably with some ankle support and cushioning in the sole. Open-toed sandals should be avoided because they could accidentally come off during flight or get caught up in rocky terrain during take-off.
- Long-sleeved top and long pants: These items will protect your arms and legs from the sun and also from any grazes or scrapes during take-off or landing (such injuries are very unlikely, but minor accidents do happen, for instance, if you trip on a rock while running during take-off).
- Layers: Arrive at your tandem paragliding session prepared for all weather conditions. It may be very warm while waiting for your turn to fly, but do not underestimate how chilly you may feel once at altitude.
- Secure pocket: As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to wear something that has a zipped, secure pocket for essentials (such as your car keys) that you need to take with you on your flight.
Can I Bring My Phone to Go Paragliding?
This is one of those times you should rather leave your phone behind and live in the moment.
No matter how careful you are, you may accidentally drop your phone while flying, and the tandem pilots won’t accept liability for any loss or damage to your belongings. However, don’t worry, because your pilot will be flying with a GoPro, so those precious memories will be recorded for you.
How Do You Use a GoPro While Paragliding?
Tandem pilots generally fly with a GoPro attached to an extendable selfie stick, with the camera recording even before you take off.
The camera will be mounted securely on the pilot’s harness. Once you’re in flight, the pilot will extend the selfie stick, move the camera around for different angles, and hand it to you so that you can capture that perfect selfie moment.
If you wish to bring your GoPro on your flight, you will need to discuss this with your pilot beforehand. Many tandem paragliding companies do not allow their clients to bring their cameras.
If you are allowed to bring a camera, your pilot will insist that you use a safety harness/mount for it– helmet mounts are usually forbidden due to the risk of hooking the paraglider’s lines.
As we’ve discussed, tandem paragliding is an ideal way to get a taste of free flight. It is a truly wonderful sport with something for everyone: great views, the serenity of floating through the sky, and just a dash of adrenaline (or more than a dash, if you’re after something more aerobatic).
All extreme sports involve some risks. But you can put your mind at ease by booking your tandem paraglide through a reputable company that hires experienced, fully qualified paragliding pilots.
Paragliding is also one of the most accessible forms of flying. You don’t need to be particularly fit or have any special skills or equipment to go paragliding. A tandem paraglide won’t break the bank either; you can expect to pay somewhere around $100–$200 for an experience of a lifetime.
We hope this article has answered any lingering doubts about tandem paragliding and that you’re feeling inspired to book that tandem paraglide!
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