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Hang gliding and paragliding ➞ 7 important differences!

Hang gliding and paragliding are two sports with a lot of things in common, but they also have great differences. As we want you to distinguish these two sports perfectly, we break down the 7 important differences between hang gliding and paragliding. This way, you will have the chance to choose which one of these aerial sports you would like to practice during your next holidays in the Canary Islands.

At Overfly Tenerife, we are lovers of paragliding and we offer you the best tandem paragliding experience in Costa Adeje, located at the south of Tenerife. If you are interested in paragliding too, you can find more information related to this topic in our paragliding guide or in our blog. For example:

The 7 differences between hang gliding and paragliding

Although hang gliding and paragliding may seem very similar aerial sports because they share their approach to motor-free flight, these two sports have many differences. We are not saying that hang gliding and paragliding are two opposing sports but, if look a little closer, you will see the differences between them. Check our list with the comparison of both down below:

1.       Structure of hang gliding and paragliding

One of the most remarkable differences between hang gliding and paragliding is in terms of structure — the shape of the glider. While hang gliders wing design count on a more rigid structure — consisting of sailcloth stretched over a metal frame —, the paragliders wing design is made up of a paragliding harness suspended below a fabric wing.

Both hang gliding and paragliding count on looking for updrafts of air to extend the flight, but their differing shapes mean that pilots need to take different approaches in order to operate the craft indeed.

2.       Position Posture for Hang Gliding and Paragliding

There are profound differences between hang gliding and paragliding in terms of the position posture of the pilot. When you are practicing hang gliding, as a pilot you must lie in a prone position and manoeuvre with the bar that you are clinging during the flight. The hang glider pilot is dramatically in a completely horizontal position.

Nevertheless, when you are practicing paragliding, as a pilot you adopt a more comfortable and less weird posture. You are sited in a high position in a harness below the paraglider wing. The wing and the harness are linked by suspension lines. Then, the swaddled paragliding pilot guides the direction of the paraglider by pulling one of two lines integrated in the paraglider — they are called brake lines.

The brake lines are very accessible and easy to use for changing speed and direction. Moreover, if the brakes fail, the risers connecting to the rear of the wing can be deployed to drive and slow the flight. From the pilot position, you can propel yourself right where you want with the string pulling instead of just going with the flow of the wind.

3.       Physical demands of hang gliding and paragliding

Once again, both hang gliding and paragliding are very safe and relaxing sports, so much more than what you probably think. They both require very little in terms of pilot flexibility, strength, and activity in general. Nevertheless, we could say that it is so much easier to control a paraglider than a hang glider.

On the one hand, paragliding pilots change direction and pitch by pulling on the cords connecting them to the canopy. This way, they change the wing shape and consequently they change how the wind interacts with the paraglider wing. This may sound a bit threatening, but it is so much simpler than it sounds. Moreover, knowing how the glider will react to your input becomes an instinct over time.

On the other hand, hang gliding pilots have their body attached to the craft, so they have to change the direction by displacing their body weight. We have to say that, on extended flights, you can feel a bit tired if you are that kind of person who does not have good core strength.

4.       Speed of hang gliding and paragliding

The speed of the wind plays an important role in determining the speed of the glider, but while both types of glider have a similar minimum speed (approximately 25 kilometres per hour), hang gliders normally have a higher maximum speed.

This means that hang gliding and paragliding provide a different experience for people who are flying. If you are looking for high speed, we recommend you to try to hang gliding. Nevertheless, if you are looking for enjoying the views and the beautiful blue sky while you are relaxed in a comfortable paragliding harness —similar to a hammock — we strongly recommend you to try the paragliding experience!

5.       Duration of hang gliding and paragliding flights

Hang gliders and paragliders stay airborne thanks to the thermal updrafts, so we could say that the duration of each flight is very dependent on the topography, the weather conditions, and pilot skills, experience and intentions.

To sum up, you have to know that both gliders can remain in the air for almost the same amount of time — from 10 minutes to an hour or even more. At Overfly Tenerife, our paragliding tandem flights tend to last from 15-50 minutes (depending on the weather conditions).

6.       Taking-off styles — Hang gliding vs. Paragliding

In terms of taking–off, the styles of hang gliding and paragliding are very different. On the one hand, hang gliding offers countless options of launch styles and techniques including foot-launching from a hill, aerotowing behind a powered aircraft or a boat, or even tow-launching from a ground-based tow system.

On the other hand, paragliding only offers two different choices. You can choose to perform the standard forward launch, in which you have to lean forward as much as possible and keep your arms as far back and up as possible while you run. The other option is to do a reverse launch, which is often better than the first method because it is easier.

Remember that if you are launching a hang glider or a paraglider, you must remain completely in the moment and launch perfectly. You cannot afford to make any mistake during the take-off in strong winds.

7.       Landing a hang glider vs. landing a paraglider

We have to admit that landing a hang glider is much easier than launching it. Furthermore, the hang glider can reach a wide variety of landing areas thanks to its excellent glide range. Nevertheless, you should know that the hang glider requires a longer approach and a bigger landing area, but this disadvantage can be counterbalanced using a drogue chute.

However, the truth is that it is easier to land a paraglider, due to it comes in at a slower speed and it needs less space than a hang glider. Apart from that, if we bear in mind that the paraglider is very easy to carry, it also means that you don’t need to land right next to your car. In this post, you can find some of the best paragliding sites in Tenerife.

Then, what is the difference between hang gliding and paragliding? Is it clear now? We hope that we have solved all your doubts about that! Now that you have read the differences between these two aerial sports, which one do you prefer? We honestly think that paragliding is the best option. Hence, if you agree, don’t hesitate to share it with us!

If we haven’t solved all your doubts, if you need more information or if you are interested in our services, don’t hesitate to contact our team! We will be waiting for you at the south of Tenerife. Feel free to make your dreams come true!

We want to fly with you; we want to be your wings.

Judith Escudero

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Judith Escudero

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