Are you wondering how to ground handle a paraglider? It is quite important for a paraglider pilot to improve your ground handling skills. We say it is very important both for building your confidence before starting to fly and for your own safety on the launch site. But there are always common questions, such as: “Where should I practice it?” or “What should I try to do?”
Today, at Overfly Tenerife, we will give you some tips about how to ground handle a paraglider and a set of exercises in order to get you started on mastering the control of your wing. Furthermore, if you are interested in more information related to paragliding, you can take a look to other posts of our blog. For example:
Now, it is time to show you how to ground handle a paraglider!
You have to look for a wind with a speed of 10 or 20kilometres per hour on an open slope. We strongly recommend you to try and do ground handling on a sloping field than on a flat field. It is worse because, on a flat field, your wing will sit back slightly from vertical, so it makes it harder to get a real feeling of what your paraglider will do on the launch site.
Normally, if you go to a paragliding site early in the morning, you will arrive there before many people do. It is then when you can just go off to a side and practice there. We recommend you to stay a little bit back from the launching area. This way, you will be more on the flat top of the hill and, although you won’t fly off the slope, that will give you a great real situation to work and find out what the wing will do in a usual airflow on a launch site.
There is nothing special that you have to use for ground handling your paraglider. We recommend you to use the same paragliding equipment that you would normally use for flying. That will give you good practice, gets you familiar with the feeling of your harness and your glider.
Remember that safety is vital when you are practicing this aerial sport. So you always have to wear your paragliding helmet! It is quite important when you are ground handling, due to you are extremely close to the ground. So it is very easy to get tripped over or lifted up into the air. If that happens, you will probably bang your head against the ground. So please, put your helmet on!
You also have to use back protection — it is a good idea to have a harness with foam in the back. That will be really useful if you find yourself lying on the ground. Although you are not flying very high, it is dangerous too. Don’t you want to break any of your bones, right? Then, use your harness, but make sure that it has got back protection in. Most of them do!
It is also important to protect your hands and your feet, so we recommend you to use paragliding gloves and boots too! You must use gloves because it is quite easy to get burnt with the lines, and boots, as you would use them for a normal flight. You can also do it with trainers, but definitely not in sandals. That is quite obvious, because your feet will be dragged across the ground, and we guess that you don’t want them to get hurt.
Now that you know how to ground handle a paraglider, trying this exercises is a must! We strongly recommend you to take a look at the Ground Handling Challenge, where you will find lots of videos which show all these exercises and techniques. But beyond that, down below you will find the list that we have created with our 10 favourite ground handling exercises:
Now, we will show you some exercises in order learn how to ground handle a paraglider.
At the beginning, you just have to focus on keeping the paraglider up in a reversed position. For that, you have to do a reverse launch facing the paraglider wing, pull it up, and work on keeping it up. You can do it simply moving yourself under the wing to centre it. If it falls over one side or the other, you have to move your feet and keep the wing up.
We recommend you to start trying to do small brake corrections, and do the big corrections with your feet. Then mix it up and do it all the way around. This way, you will have the chance to learn what the inputs are doing. You will see how that changes the feeling of the wing and its responses.
Turn around and face forward. If you look at the ground and you look ahead, you will feel what the wing is doing. You will feel which way it is pulling, reacting to move underneath the wing, or if it is pulling one way or another. What you can do is spending as much time as you need just walking around the paragliding site until you feel entirely connected to your wing.
You should practice loading up the chest strap before running. Doing that will help you to prevent the harness from sliding up your legs, and it will also give you a better connection with the wing than running upright. So we recommend you to try it and load the chest strap up. Then, increase to flying speed while you cover the minimum distance. But be patient, because this could take you a few days to get it right.
You have to work on your transitions, so you better go back from a reversed launch position. You must turn, but without bouncing your head — trying to keep a low martial arts stance. This way, you can swing around to face forwards and turn back to face reverse without the paraglider notices that you have moved indeed.
You have to focus on getting a smooth and continuous pull-up from reverse position, bringing the wing up, turning continuously and running with a short launch run. You can get a nice and short effective launch if you keep the process absolutely smooth.
You must work on slowly bringing the wing up. This way, you will control the speed that is coming up with a slow rise. You can control the speed with your own movement, so move away from the wing or towards it to control that pull-up speed, taking the power out of the wing to bring it up as slow as you can. This way, it will still come up all the time and it won’t drop back.
You have to work on a slow descent by controlling the speed. This will give you some control, which will help you developing a feeling of power over the wing. It will also save your wing from being whacked down on the ground.
Explore the stall point. For that, you will have to try and drop the wing back a bit. You can do it walking towards it or using a bit of brakes, or doing both things at the same time. We recommend you to establish where the point is exactly on the arc while your canopy stalls.
Every canopy is different, so it depends on the wind speed and the slope you are standing on. However, it is good for you to get an idea of when the wing is about to stall. Moreover, you have to check if you can get it to fly again just as it stalls. So you better work with the stall point, and letting your wing fly again.
Maybe, you need some help to energize your wing again — it will depend on the type of canopy you have. IN any event, play with your wing and experiment with more or less stall. That is the only way that you will really learn about that transition phase between the wing flying and not flying.
The next step is exploring the pitch forward while you allow the wing to search ahead of you on launch without checking it on the brakes. Then, see if you can anticipate when it will collapse. Later, blowback behind you — but you will need to reverse pull up again for that. You have to do it over and over until you develop a feeling of what does the wing look and feel like just before it collapses in front of you.
You must do tip touches to develop an excellent control on the brakes. You can do it sending the canopy over to the side actually very slow. We recommend you trying to keep your body position fixed and leaning away from the wing. This way, you can rotate your body slightly — so that you will have a nice stabilized position — and then, use the brake to simply fly the wing slowly back up over your head.
You have to do it on both sides of the wing so that you can develop a real excellent control on the brakes. It is so much easier to stall the upper wing tip when it is over on the side. So, if you can fly it back up and put it back down again, you know you have developed an excellent control on the brakes. Those are good news!
Finally, you will have to try some pull-up variations. Then, see if your wing is able to pull-up without the A’s, leaning back into a stiff breeze only. If it is not, you will have to check if you are able to control it just using the back risers. This means leaning back, letting the wing come up and finally, controlling the pitch with the back risers.
We recommend you to try with both A’s in just one hand and put the brake in the other, and you can even try swapping hands. That is a very useful technique for thermic launches. It is also a good option when the wind is changing a lot or when you are not very sure about its direction. Train this technique — swapping hands, pulling the wing up, and keeping control.
All these exercises are about learning. They will teach you a lot about your wing, your different options and yourself as a paraglider pilot.
There are many other things that you can try to do with ground handling. If you get bored with the exercises mentioned previously, you can always vary. Change them! Try launching backward, try a ‘no control’ launch… and if you are still bored, you can always look for some turbulence, or go and find an obstacle. And, if there are not any… put some obstacles out, run around them… do whatever you want, but have fun! This is what paragliding is about.
We hope that you have enjoyed our post about how to ground handle a paraglider, as well as we hope that the information we have provided has been useful. You can also take a look at our paragliding guide for more information! And if you have any doubt, you need more information or you are interested in our tandem paragliding flights in the south of Tenerife, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are waiting for you in Costa Adeje!
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