The main difference between paragliding and parasailing is that parasailers are attached to a vehicle (usually a motor boat) that generates enough momentum and connects the parasailers to safety.
Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. Parasailing is a recreational activity where a person is towed behind a vehicle (usually a boat) while attached to a specially designed parachute, known as a parasail. There are two types of parasailing: aquatic (over water where a motorboat is used) and terrestrial (over land towed by a jeep). With a paraglider, you can fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paragliders routinely stay aloft for 3 hours or more, climb to elevations of 15,000', and go cross-country for vast distances.
The paraglider consists of a canopy (the actual "wing") constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by sturdy kevlar lines called risers, and a harness. In addition, the brake cords provide speed and directional control and carabiners are used to connect the risers and the harness together. The pilot sits in a harness for maximum comfort. A paragliding harness should let you feel like a king on the throne; check out the ones with a lumbar support adjustment strap for extreme comfort.
The wing or parafoil needs to have a total area of 250 to 350 square feet and a span of about 30 feet. The weight should be no more than 10 to 12 pounds. The more cells of the leading edge are closed the better chance to have a smoother aerodynamic experience.
A variometer allows the flier to find the right air hub to continue flying high or a sinking jet stream to return to the ground. Pick up a clearly audible version with an integrated GPS. These are worth the extra pricing. The newest GPS positioning devices have links to Google earth, which can show terrain changes and be extremely valuable in preventing a run-in with the unknown. you are subject to the air currents around you much more so than when in a private airplane. The variometer is a useful instrument for telling you how fast you are rising and falling, information that will help you fly with precision and control.
Parasailing requires a parasail, tow rope, boat or land vehicle with a winch. Safe parasailing takes place behind a boat that has an engine with at least 90 HP. The company that organises parasailing must provide a body harness, a canopy for the start and a towline. In addition, safe parasailing requires an experienced boat driver, a skilled observer and a ground crew.
Safety is paramount when paragliding. Safe conditions include the right location such as a high cliff. Wind speeds can vary by the minute, but a paraglider should never take off into winds more than 15 miles per hour unless highly trained. Never fly in winds of 25to 30 mph.Never take off in wet conditions such as rain or snow. The wing will soak up the moisture quickly and an uncontrolled descent is likely to occur. Cloud cover can affect atmospheric pressure.
One should not parasail in winds exceeding 50mph. All parasailing participants need to wear life jackets to prevent drowning and helmets to prevent head injuries.there are no obstructions in your take-off path. Some obstructions include, trees, other boats and mountains.
There are 3 basic principles to paragliding: how to launch, turn and land a paraglider. To launch the paraglider, run into the wind and down a slope with the paraglider behind you. This technique is called "hopping" and lets you get a feel for the lift the paraglider receives when it encounters air.
In parasailing, a rider (sometimes two) is put into a harness that is attached to a parachute. As the vehicle he is on goes faster, air fills the chute and the parasailer is lifted up, but remains attached to the vehicle by a tow line. Parasailers ride to the rear of boats equipped with winches--machines that pull tow cables and parasailers back to the boat. As the boat accelerates, the parasail catches air and increased pressure within it lifts the parasailer into the air, at which point his altitude is dependent on the speed of the boat.
An introductory lesson in paragliding costs about $500. A tandem lesson may cost less, around $150. A certification course costs an average of $1500. A paraglider costs between $4000-$5000. As safety is paramount, it is recommended that only new equipment be purchased.
A one hour 40 minute parasailing flight can cost up to $55 in the U.S.
The best way to start paragliding is with a tandem introductory flight. This gives you a taste of flying. You fly solo during your first day of paragliding instruction, which is one of the advantages of the sport. Under radio supervision, you will fly solo from the training hill and progress to higher flights, all in two days. The basic techniques of paragliding - launching, turning, and landing - are fairly easy to learn. However, in order to acquire the basic skills necessary to fly on your own without instructor supervision, you need to take a Novice (Para 2) Certification Course, which generally takes a total of 7 days and a minimum of 25 flights. As this is a self regulated flight one does not need a license to fly.
Parasailing requires no formal training, and most beaches and holiday destinations offer parasailing activities. The ground assistants take their positions holding open opposite sides of the sail. The boat driver slowly begins accelerating to take up the slack line while ground assistants and the parasailor move forward with the rope. Assistants hold the guidelines to help the sail fill up with air. The parasailor should take a few long strides with the rope taut, but not aid in the liftoff process by jumping or pulling up his or her feet. The canopy will do this on its own. Steer the parasail by pulling down on risers on the side of the desired direction. No steering should actually ever be necessary. Release the safety pin to allow the parasailor to float gently down into the water at either a high or low altitude.
Paragliding was originally used by the U.S. military and NASA. During World War II, the US Navy recruited and trained sailors to fly paragliders towed by submarines. The vantage point of the glider allowed the men to see over the horizon for any approaching warships. This was the first documented use of a free flying, foot launched aircraft in such a fashion. In 1961, Pierre M. Lemoigne invented the paracommander parachute, which had vents in the rear to allow for longer gliding From that time, paragliding has developed to become a popular recreational activity and a competitive sport. In 1978, three French paragliders, Jean-Claude Betemps, Andre Bohn and Gerard Bosson practiced a technique of running and jumping off the face of cliffs in the French Alps. This form of paragliding became increasingly popular, and in 1979 Bosson flew a paraglider at the Hang Gliding World Championships.
The first mentions of parasailing is a flight by Colonel Michel Tournier from France flying behind a tractor in 1961. In 1963 Jacques-André Istel from Pioneer Parachute Company bought a license from Lemoigne (who invented the paracommander parachute) to manufacture and sell the 24-gore parachute canopy he had developed for towing which was labeled as a "parasail".
The first Paragliding World Championship was held in 1989 in Kossen, Austria. Since that time, the championships have been organized by the Paragliding Commission of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FIA, which governs all air sports. The championship is now divided into three separate events. One is for cross-country, another for aerobatic stunt, and one for accuracy. In addition to its championships, the FIA also maintains world records for paragliding.
Land based parasailing has been formed into competition sport in Europe. In land based competition parasailing, the parasail is towed to maximum height behind a 4 wheel drive vehicle and then releases the tow line and flies down to a target area in an accuracy competition. The sport was developed in the early 80's and has been very popular ever since. The first international competitions were held in the mid 80's and continue to run today.
Here are some good videos on parasailing and paragliding: