Paragliding – First Lesson

By Greg Lindstrom on 2014.05.20 In Paragliding

After graduating with my Master’s degree this past weekend I decided to give myself a present – a paragliding lesson.  I researched a few schools in the area and went with “Let’s Go Paragliding” (www.LetsGoParagliding.com).  It was only an hour south of me on Mt. Brace and had good reviews.   I had to drop my mother at the airport at 6am so I ended up showing up at the school two hours early.   The first thing I see are five tents and six travel trailers.  As I’m pulling up I notice someone attempting to remove the morning dew from his ground cloth.  I introduce myself and he mentioned they had a great day of gliding yesterday and several club members spent the night.  I later find out this is quite common, with many people staying for the entire weekend.

Groundhog Paragliders

Groundhog Paragliders (FlyOzone.com)

I can tell immediately that this is a hands-on club as a group of five individuals were trying to determine the best way to paint a bulls-eye on the Land Zone.  Apparently you must be within a 25’ of the target as a requirement for your first pilot rating (P2).  In the end, small rocks were painted white for the circumference with a winking smiley face in the middle.I finally met Benoit Bruneau, the founder and head instructor.  He’s running a four-wheeler up the path to the top of a hill where I spy someone with a strange looking pack.  I later find out that he’s “kiting”, a technique to test new equipment on the ground and also for beginners to learn; as I was about to find out.  The wind was blowing hard and steady like the top of a mountain peak which I assumed was great for paragliding.  A club member explained that too much wind acts as a counterbalance to moving forward and could push you backwards from your launch point into the trees.  Ok, that makes sense – landing in trees is bad.

There were two other first timers (one I’ve seen on TV if I’m correct) and two others from New York City with a previous weekend of experience.  We were provided with helmets, harnesses and finally our Groundhog gliders from Ozone to start learning.  The gliders are 22.6’ in length when laid flat on the ground.  There are dozens of cords but it basically comes down to a left and right side red strap to control lift/speed, green to support and yellow to break.  The right side is attached to your left harness and left to your right harness to start.  The yellow webbing has a circular strap snapped to it which provides for hand control of braking.

To start, I put my index fingers under the red cords, while holding the brake strap, and gently lift.  The kite suddenly shoots straight up over my head and dancing all around.  It crashes to the ground.  Ok, that would not be good if I was at 1,000 feet.   Benoit explains that when it dips left, move left like on a tennis court, and pull the left brake.  I struggle to get the glider back flat on the ground and try again, and again, and again.  This is not easy.  As it was chilly at the start of the lesson I layered in Fjallraven clothing.  That quickly changes to sweating with all the work.  As I’m in a harness I can’t remove layers so I just unzip my outer layer.  Benoit sees this and says I’m working too hard and points me towards a more advanced student.  He looks like he’s ballroom dancing with the glider.  Ok, I get it – work smarter.  I first learn to use the wind to flip my glider into position on the ground by a combination of braking maneuvers.  That save me a lot of time and frustration untangling cords.  Next is learning to dance.   Suddenly I have the glider above me for a solid minute without crashing.  I’m excited and it’s time to break for lunch.

Student Kiting

Student Kiting (Let’s Go Paragliding)

The lunch area is by the travel campers and there were a few advanced pilots sitting around tables hoping the wind would die down.   Even though it was outside, there was a microwave, sink and a radio.  Everyone was very talkative and helpful with tips.   One gentleman named Jerry was in this 3rd year and travelled over 70 miles from the launch site during a cross-country trip.  He soared to over 4,000’ using thermals and landed in a field.  He packed up the glider and walked to the nearest town and found the local pub.  He called his wife, waiting at the launch site, who drove and picked him up; along with other pilots who landed along the way.

After lunch I successfully get some control and Benoit says it’s time for the next phase, getting into launch position.   With the glider in control above you, you quickly turn clockwise, bend forward like a skier, and put your arms straight behind you like a ski jumper – except you’re still holding onto a 23’ giant kit moving all around.  I start walking forward glancing upwards to the left and right while moving my hands up and down to keep the glider from crashing.  I walk the length of the landing zone before it crashes.  Now I’m really excited.  I spend the next few hours practicing the technique but never fully mastering it.  I’m hooked.  Despite graduating with my MBA I need to finish up my thesis and we have two weekends of classes left.  I’ll sign up for the Pilot training program in July or after the Fjallraven Classic in August.  I can’t wait to finally get more than a foot off the ground.

1 Responses to "Paragliding – First Lesson"

    Comments (1)

  1. Judie wrote:

    Paragliding sounds like it would be quite an adventure ~ albeit a scarey one. Continue working on that ‘bucket list’ Greg. You only live once. And, time goes by so quickly. Go for it!

  2. Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Welcome to Lagom, a blog about living life "just right". My name is Greg Lindstrom and I love adventure in many forms.

Once an avid mountaineer I moved to more hiking, scuba diving, photography and travel. I love the outdoor life with my wife and four rescued dogs. Some highlights of my outdoor life include climbing Aconcagua 22,835' solo via the Polish Glacier Falso route, Eiger via NW ridge, Mt Rainier, Zugspitz, Jungfrau and half the Colorado 14,000'ers. I'm an avid Scuba Diver (PADI Advanced Open Water) and recently participated in Fjällräven Polar 2014.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on LindstromGregory@gmail.com.

Archives Search