A better question might be 'How hard is the ground?' ? Seriously.
I think it can take quite a while to get to grips with properly, a neighbour used to teach it.
There's a fair bit to learn about how the ground can affect air movements, and how the p-glider will behave.
Most of the others who taught themselves ended up crashing and having pretty bad accidents.
In my time as a paraglider pilot I did witness some horrendous crashes so on balance I would probably recommend completing a course.
Another bit of advice if you can afford it, is to do a course abroad as the weather in the UK is often rubbish. Students would sometimes take well over a year to complete a week long course trying to get flyable weather to coincide with days off work.
And a final word of warning, I was climbing quite well and hadn't really reached my full climbing potential when I discovered and got hooked on Paragliding. I didn't climb for nearly 15 years as Climbing felt rubbish in comparison to flying. Truth is most of the time your waiting around for perfect flying conditions which are quite rare in the UK unless you don't have a job and live in the right area.
Wings are much safer than they were in the olden days, but the ground is still as hard.
A club will be happy to help a trained pilot. I'm sure most won't want you on their sites without decent training and insurance - though that will depend where you live. Wilder parts are less crowded, and more 'relaxed' about official stuff like that. (Somerset is going to be busy sites).
Heard nothing but good stuff about Andy at Flying Frenzy. Good recommendation.
Get proper instruction or die.
I was in a similar situation where paragliding took over from my climbing and I found myself sitting on hills waiting for good conditions. In the uk you will find you'll spend a lot of time waiting, but when you are in 8 metre per second thermals over Llantysilio or at cloudbase over Snowdon or the Glyders you forget about the waiting.
It Didnt effect my climbing too much, but to get the hours in to remain current and familiar with your wing can be hard and frustrating at times.
Gosh that's bad. My neighbour who used to teach it had a Frenchman fly right in front of him while teaching in France and took avoiding action and crashed from around 30 feet, and was lucky not to damage his back enough to affect his spinal cord apparently. (For anybody wondering, he just happened to be French, i've nothing against French people.)
He's training in law currently though it's not connected to the accident I don't think.
Having said all that, you could probably buy some second hand gear for £800 and just crack on. I do know folk who've done this and got on alright but obviously the consequences of getting it wrong could be quite serious...
what everyone else has said go to you tube and search for paragliding accidents
flying is very easy knowing when to fly and when not to fly isnt so easy ,
i have been flying for over 20 years and love the sport but i have stopped climbing now and it sort of takes over , if it doesnt you dont get enough flying time to stay currant at it and are more likley to hurt yourself
You may well get confident doing top to bottoms in very light conditions after 2 days, but unexpected conditions often happen when airbourne and a full course will give you some idea how to cope with them. It's a lot better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than being in the air wishing you were on the ground!
You'll also wait on the ground for many hours waiting for conditions to start 'working' it was this huge time commitment that eventually took me down the Microlite route and the onto a Group A PPL.
That being said, I do have some great memories of frigging about in the Peak District with the likes of Geoff Birtles trying to launch converted jump canopies, with zipped up cells for very windy days :)
Are you saying that the flying ain't over 'til the fat lady lands ?
I'm currently in Annecy knocking off another SIV course and learnt to fly in Chamonix. As others have said, yes you can learn yourself. You can also free solo a grade above your normal onsight grade. The choice is yours. Since taking up paragliding I have personally met more people who have suffered spinal injuries and know of more paraplegics than I would ever imagined meeting in my lifetime. Get the sport wrong and you are crippled for a life, and far more likely than in climbing.
I recommend coming out to Cham, learning with a BHPA acredited school, really find out what its about, and realise you know nothing even if you can launch, fly and land a wing. The flying in Chamonix valley and around is great and, while the weather isnt always reliable, you at least get a holiday in an area which has great climbing opportunities in off days. Try Alpine Flying Centre.
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