Groundhandling, the instructors often tell the students in training course, it is the foundation of paragliding. The main goal is to practice taking off following different techniques with different conditions. Forward launch, reverse launch, face wind, side wind with more or less power, the situations are infinite. It is not only a practice that is done at the beginning of a pilot’s progression but throughout his life; the exercices will vary as you go along, but the benefits will always be as useful.

1. Build a strong foundation

Since the primary objective is to acquire the movements to take off safely, the forward launch should be done with your eyes closed. Be sure to master the timing with different wind speeds to know how to dose the braking, or to inflate with a prepared crosswind wing to recentre properly. It is by exploring many scenarios that you will ensure that good reflexes are ingrained in the long term.

Fun challenge: inflate the wing without the controls but only with your impulsion!

2. Mastering reverse launch

Reverse launch is a complementary technique to forward launch. There are many different ways to control the glider; with both As in one hand, with one A in each hand, with the brakes on or without the brakes, in short, the possibilities are endless, so test it! When you have learned the logic of the front wing, don’t forget to practice reverse and then forward launch to simulate take-offs (turn in the right direction for example). It is essential to approach groundhandling in strong wind, knowing how to safely lower your wing. That is to say, with the reflex to quickly grab your brakes or your Cs to avoid any uncontrolled take-off.

3. Strong wind techniques

To practice inflating in strong wind, it is a good idea to try rolling the wing beforehand to get the tips to touch the ground. This will allow you to fly the glider at the edge of the inflation window, where traction is low, and to start the next exercises:

  • From a backfly position, guide the wing at the edge of the inflation window. Fabien’s example in the video shows that the feeling of the wind is less thanks to this sequence. The most important thing is of course to train yourself to manage your backfly position.
  • The cobra technique allows you to set up your wing by starting with the tips. To do this, put your wing perpendicular to the wind. If you position yourself so that the wind is on your left side, remember to have the left risers above (and vice versa if it is coming from the right) in order to lift the left front first while managing the impulse with your brakes. The finesse of piloting is required to fully understand this technique.

Once raised, your canopy will be in the window position that you have been working on in reverse launch, and from there you know the rest!

4. Ground spins

Once the basics of groundhandling are clear, some people (often acrobats) have fun doing spins on the ground. Tim Alongi has made a video demonstrating this. The ingredients for success are mastering the backfly, recognising the stall points when initiating the spin and turning it, and reading the canopy’s movements and positions.

Our advice to better understand the steps is to practice with a small wing! The reactivity to the controls and the energy will allow you to better see the effect of each action initiated by the pilot.

Have patience and perseverance for each exercise because as they say: one hour of inflation is equivalent to two hours of flight!


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