Paragliding is the simplest form of human flight, and fastest growing type of foot-launched flying. A paraglider is a non-motorized, foot-launched inflatable wing. It is easy to transport, launch, and land. Paragliders are an advanced evolutionary aircraft that can go places and do things unlike any other vehicle. The wing itself is constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by strong Kevlar/Arymid and Dyneema/Spectra lines. These high-performance fabrics coupled with a growing comprehension of our micro-meteorology have permitted the development of our incredible sport. The pilot is buckled into a harness and finds the sitting position which provides the most comfort. You actually fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paragliders operate in unprecedented harmony with the natural elements. Our slow flying speeds (about 15 to 25 mph) enable us to climb in small thermals and dual with the Red Tail Hawks. Red Tails are playful and it is common to share the same thermal within a wingspan.

These other activities are often confused with paragliding. Parasailing is what you do out on the ocean behind a boat. You have no steering control on a parasail, and you are at the mercy of the boat operator. Parachutes are used in skydiving from an airplane and are designed to be deployed during a free-fall from an airplane and to then descend to the ground. Paragliders are not deployed. We inflate our paragliders and fly them upwards like a kite, and ease them overhead. Base jumping is a form of skydiving. Base jumpers leap from Buildings, Antennas, Span, or Earth. Base jumpers experience free fall before deploying their parachutes and descending to the earth. Paragliders are different in many ways from these other activities. A Paraglider is already inflated before it begins to fly, while skydivers and base jumpers build their aircraft as they plummet toward the earth (I hope this works!). Paragliders don’t leap off a cliff or mountain hoping the paraglider is open and ready to fly. The wing is inflated while we are on the ground and flies away only after it is inflated. Our gliders don’t endure the stress to the lines that parachutes lines do with a shock load opening. We launch from gentle sloping hillsides with our gliders already inflated overhead ready to fly. We can check the glider and abort before we launch if we don’t see something we like. Launch is never rushed. We can pull the glider overhead and stay there kiting it until we decide to launch. Paragliders are much lighter and aerodynamic, designed to go up and take all that altitude gained on long glides,  rather than float down with not much glide at sll. We gain altitude with our activity catching thermals and rising to altitudes high than the spot we launched. Paragliders can soar for hours and cover great distances. The feeling of flying a paraglider can be very peaceful and serene.

Santa Barbara offers the best year round paragliding in the nation. Our training hill is very consistent which allows you to maximize the time you have dedicated to your training. Our mild climate and south facing mountains provide pilots with unique flying opportunities. The Local mountains produce thermal flying from the fall through the spring. Santa Barbara offers spectacular scenery and the convenience of a paved road to our mountain launches. The coastal ridges provide soaring opportunities year round. Ojai is soarable almost everyday during the dry season, and Pine Mountain behind Ojai has the big air and high altitude for advanced pilots.

Local flights along the coastal range from Santa Barbara to Ojai are common. When conditions are favorable, seasoned pilots are launching from Santa Barbara and extending past Interstate 5. Pilots fly from Ojai to Fillmore and beyond on a typical summer day and from Ojai to Santa Barbara when LA is raked by the Santa Ana Winds. Pine mountain is omni-directional and pilots typical reach altitudes of 9 to 15 thousand feet from the 7,000 foot South Side launch. It’s not uncommon to climb above 17 thousand when cloud base is high.

A huge part of whats makes Santa Barbara the best place to learn to fly, and visit as a pilot is our flying community. The Hang Gliders who started here in the early 1970’s are still here, and continue to make big flights showing us how it’s done. Our local club the SBSA is organized and passionate about having visitors, and acting as ambassadors in are shared goal to have fun flying our range, and protecting our cherished flying sites. The clubs technical team are both Eaglets (Jon Blake and John McMahon). These guys have absolutely knocked it out of the park with the club website and chat box. Their joint efforts has raised our community awareness of all things flying. The communication tools have enriched our flying scene immensely. Thanks Jon and John. The community has a huge amount of gratitude for your efforts. Community member Aaron LaPlante received a USHPA commendation award after spending countless hours creating materials which educates and inform pilots new and old about the intricacies of staying high and going far while flying the south coast. Aaron is known by his friends in the flying community as “Cracka”. His educational videos are known as his “Cracka Sauce”, and if you haven’t tried any you need to change that right now. Cracka also started the SB Hoedown in 2017. The SB Hoedown gives pilots a chance to fly tasks in our local mountains. These monthly tasks give pilots the opportunity to gain experience flying to designated points, and finally to goal. These tasks give pilots experience on all the facets of paragliding racing, and what we can expect to see at paragliding race to goal competitions. Cracka may be enabling our next US champion. Who knows what Cracka has up his sleeve next, but his efforts have made a huge impact on our flying community. Thank you my Cracka! Tom Truax, also known as “Sundowner” has been a huge contributor. Sundowner certified many of us as P2 pilots when he was running his school Skysports. Sundowner has an amazing flight log(light) documenting his flights in rich detail. These logs provide a huge educational opportunity for flying the South Coast and our surrounding mountain ranges. Mitch Riley, and Marty DeVietti have also presented at the local club meetings. Their presentations have been educational and entertaining. A huge thanks for the efforts made by all of these guys, and the continued efforts our mentors and instructors make daily.

The best place to get answers to this question is to read the “What To Expect” section on our Pilot Certification Program page, and to read all our Paragliding Testimonials.

Whether your looking to become a certified paraglider pilot, or fly a paraglider solo for a day or two, Eagle Paragliding has got you covered. Our all star staff has been operating year-round seven days a week since 1998, and have likely instructed more one day student paragliding lessons than any other school in the North America. Our famous flight park, and the largest all-star staff of current instructors in California allows us to engineer the environment to get a wide variety of ages flying solo like a bird within a few hours of arriving for the training. People are amazed at how quickly they fly.  The Eagle Team provides unmatched service and attention to our students, and is why referrals make up the biggest portion of our participants. Only Eagle will give you the opportunity to fly from the top our bunny hill on your first flights. We will continue to fly as long as Mother Nature is cooperating. We provide all the equipment. Our proximity to the ocean keeps you from overheating, and all your energy is saved for flying since there is no hiking. We pick you up after landing, and drive you back to launch.

Eagle was the first sister school chosen by American paragliding icon Dixon White (the first USHPA Instructor of the Year award recipient), and his world renowned Airplay Paragliding School. Dixon began working with Eagle in 1998 and the two schools merged in 2006.

Eagle Paragliding is recognized as the student pilot and advanced pilots best choice for all levels of paragliding training in the United States, and tours all over the world. Eagle owner/instructor Rob Sporrer earned Instructor of the year honors in 2002. Articles about the Eagle and Airplay training program have appeared in the New York Times, Air and Space Magazine, the cover of the Santa Barbara Independent, and many other periodicals and film productions. We have received many testimonials from pilots all over the world. Our ongoing support of our alumni is unparalleled.

Our programs have become the standards in the paragliding industry and the basis for the leading training manual, “The Art of Paragliding” and the paraglider video/DVD training series, “Starting Paragliding”, “Weather to Fly”, “The Art of Kiting”, “Paraglider Towing” and “Lifting Air”.

TRAINING AND TANDEM FLIGHT PRICING

$200 1 Day Training

$400 2 Day Training

$1500 Novice Pilot Certification with purchase of complete basic equipment package

$2450 to $3500 Novice Pilot Certification with NO purchase of complete basic equipment package

$2500 Eagle for Life Program

$125 Flight Park Tandems (2 one minute flights)

$250 Mountain Tandem (15 minute minimum)

$300 Mountain to Beach Tandem (30 minute minimum)

$300 XC Training Tandem (30 minute minimum)

You don’t need to be a stellar athlete or physically strong to fly paragliders.  Its more about finesse and decision making.  Its pretty amazing to get up in the air within a few hours of showing up for your first training session, and for most students to be completely certified pilots in 8-9 days of training.   Flying is really the easy part. The ground handling (also called kiting) is counter intuitive in the beginning, and becomes almost as fun as flying once you have gained skills through practice. We work to build your skills and knowledge, in order to help you exercise good judgment as a pilot. It is important for pilots to spend the first year of flying acquiring knowledge from their own experiences, and from other pilots. The wonderful thing about this sport is that the learning never ends. The sport is immensely popular in Europe. Pilots are as young as 10 and as old as 80. Being physically and mentally alert and prepared is more important than physical conditioning. To be a successful paragliding student and pilot, you need to be able to think clearly and enjoy the learning journey at an appropriate pace .

You will be flying solo within a few hours of your arrival to your first day of paragliding training.  However, in order to acquire the basic skills necessary to fly on you own without instructor supervision, you need to complete the course and get your Novice Rating. Eagle Paragliding spends 8-10 days with you on your Novice training. This takes place at the training hill for an average of 7 days. We spend at least 7 full days at the training hill, and head to the mountains and ridge for the rest of your training. Whether you complete your training in consecutive days or spread out over several months is up to you, although the more concentrated the training, the better.

A Paragliding Gift Certificates is a unique and original gift idea. Gift certificate recipients simply contact eagle paragliding via email to schedule their flying. Our email address and phone number are located on the gift certificate we email you after purchase.

The best way to start is to schedule a One or Two day Paragliding Training session. You will be flying solo you’re your first day from our training hill as long as Mother nature is cooperating. Our training hill is like the bunny hill at the ski slopes for paragliding. We meet you at the hill in the morning and introduce you to the equipment. We work together on getting you control of the wing on the ground. Once we get a feel for the glider on launch simulations we head to the launch area at the front of the hill. We talk about a flight plan and observe other pilots making flights. When you feel ready we get you your first flight under radio supervision. You glide through the air experiencing the freedom of flight. After you land we pick you up at the bottom for the hill and bring you back to the top for more flying. Most students in the landing zone have a huge smile after flying solo like a bird for the first time.  That is when we get to say, “You didn’t know you could do that did you?” The student usually replies, ” I had no idea!” We jump in the van for the quick drive back to launch rack up more flights.

Paragliding Tandem Flights are another option.  We offers tandems at our flight park year-round, and mountain tandem September through May.  The summer weather conditions in the Santa Barbara mountains make launching tandems a challenge.  We very occasionally fly at the coast since scheduling this flight is dependent on a very specific window for wind velocity and direction.  We encourage you to come and watch us train at Elings Flight Park or fly from the local mountains or ridge to get an idea of how this sport works.

The entrance to Elings Flight Park is located at 2650 Cliff Drive. There is also an entrance to Elings Park off Las Positas, however that will NOT get you to the flight park. Direction to the flight park can be found on our Elings Park Directions page.

Paragliders fly a ram air wing while hang gliders have an aluminum frame and fiberglass batons. You can’t really say one is safer than the other. It all comes down to pilot judgment and decision making. The main difference is practicality, portability, and the set up and break down times.  You can simply check your paraglider in as a normal piece of luggage on commercial airline flights anywhere in the world.  Doing this with a hang glider is time consuming since it doesn’t pack down as small, and getting it travel ready for a commercial flight where it needs to be “short packed” is time consuming.  The associated time and cost with contacting the airline to make arrangements for transport can be a hassle, and costly. The learning curve is much quicker with a paraglider as well. You will be flying solo your first day of paragliding instruction, which is one of the advantages of the sport.   being able to hike up to launch with your entire flying kit in your backpack is alluring, and opens op a huge amount of possibilities. Paragliding designers and manufacturers continue to innovate the equipment, and everything seems to be getting lighter all the time compared to how much the gear weighed in the past.

This equipment is very inexpensive compared to most forms of aviation.  A wing should last you 3-5 year depending on how much flying time and care your glider see. The rest of your gear should last you at least twice that time. You should count on an investment of at least $4,000 fro a modern used equipment setup. The wing is the big purchase, and the price on a used wing depending on the year it was manufactured, and how much life it has left in it.  The Eagle Paragliding Service Center uses a porosimeter to determine the use a paraglider has seen, and we value it accordingly. A brand new state of the art basic equipment set up starts at $6350.  You can spend over $7,500 when purchasing all the bells and whistles. We will guide you toward the most ideal new and used equipment available. This basic set up should include a wing, harness, reserve parachute, helmet, safety knife, and a radio. There are plenty of other pieces of equipment you can add to your list, but these items make up the bare minimum.  Some used gear is still great for flying, we just need to test it out at our shop to be certain of its air worthiness and value.. We encourage you to purchase your gear from the school who is training you. You can never be sure of what you are getting when you buy a paraglider from a stranger. The wing does not have an odometer, and may have been dunked in the ocean. A school has a reputation to uphold, and has every reason to sell you a quality product they can stand behind. The sport is evolving rapidly; newer paragliders can have significantly better performance and behavior than older ones. At Eagle, We ask that you trust us to choose the correct equipment for you. With that trust you should know you aren’t married to anything you purchase from us. You can exchange anything you purchased fi you are happy with it ay any point in the future.  You may have to pay depreciation cost if the article you are returning is well used. We will let you sit in a few harness models to determine which size is best, and which harness model fits with your pilot profile. Read the information on our Suggested Paragliding Equipment page to get more information on what to look for and what avoid. You can also look at various Paragliding Accessories.

The material on a paraglider loses its porosity after prolonged UV exposure. After years of fairly active usage and exposure to UV light from the sun, a paraglider is generally in need of replacement. This of course varies with how you care for your equipment ad the intensity of the UV exposure. It’s easy to test your lines and sailcloth for strength and thus determine your need to replace your paraglider long before it becomes unsafe. We recommend doing an annual inspection on your wing every 2 years or 100 hours of flying. .Harness last many years with good care, and reserves should last 10-12 years with good care.

First, you need to know how to fly. No would-be pilot should purchase a wing before learning at least the basics of paragliding from a well respected school. It is the Instructor’s job to help you select our first wing, and really the rest of your equipment. You will have done well if you chose a school that offers to let you exchange anything you purchase if you are not happy with it at any time.  One of the key consideration is accurately determining your Take Off Weight.  Your school should have a variety of brands, which is important to you can purchase a glider that is the perfect size for you.  There are many premium glider brands at this point in the sports development.  As long as you are purchasing a premium brand wing, the take off weight and rating level are the only considerations to decide upon.  We stress that you put your faith in your school to have them decide what level wing you should be flying.  Your instructors have a firm understanding of the paraglider rating system. We end up putting most students on Low EN-B wings since those wings have enough passive safety for most new pilots.  However, there is nothing wrong with going with an EN-A wing to start. The gliders have plenty of performance, and have the most passive safety. You won’t be landing early, or not getting as high as other pilots because you are flying an EN-A glider.  We see EN-A gliders going bigger distances and staying up longer than pilots on wings with higher ratings. Its mostly about the operator and not the machine when it comes to flying success. Read the information on our Suggested Paragliding Equipment page to get more information on what to look for and what avoid.

Paragliders are regulated under the Federal Regulations Section 103 and therefore a license is not required to paraglide. In essence, paragliding is a self regulated sport under the authority of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA). To keep it self-regulated, pilots and instructors adhere to the policies and guidelines of the USHPA. Local flying regulations may require the pilot to have certain USHPA certified ratings, such as P3 or P4, in order to fly a particular site. Anytime you show up to flying site pilots will act as ambassadors to protect their flying site.  They will not let you fly there if the site is USHPA insured in order to protect the site.

Paragliders are designed to soar. The flight duration record is over 11 hours, and the distance record of just over 350 miles happened in Brazil in 2016. In training, your first flights will be off our gentle 250 ft. slope at our training hill. As you progress and become more skilled and confident, we will take you to the mountains and the ridge. This is where the paraglider is used for its designed purpose–SOARING! Average recreational pilots, utilizing thermal and ridge lift, routinely stay aloft three hours or more. Pilots soar to altitudes of 18000 ft. and travel cross country for great distances. Paragliders can be carried and launched off most mountains. Paragliders have been flown of almost every major peak in the United States and Europe. Once you become an advanced pilot, you can pioneer launches that have never been flown.

1) Coastal Ridge Lift Flights– take place locally at the Wilcox Property (The Douglas Family Preserve), Bates, and More Mesa. The wind direction decides which of the sites is working. The wind must be coming on-shore for the ridge or cliff to be working. The direction is best when the wind is coming in perpendicular to the ridge. All this wind pushes into the cliff and has no place to go but up. This creates a giant lift band, a cushion of rising air. The wind speed usually needs to be blowing in at a minimum of 10 mph for it to be working. The higher the cliff, the less wind you need.

2) Sled Flights– take place when thermal activity is non-existent or weak. These are the types of flights experienced at the training hill, although the training hill occasionally gets soarable. After you receive a few days at the training hill, we take you to the mountains for your first high flight. This high flight will be a direct shot toward the landing zone. A sled flight is basically a non-thermaling, or non-soarable flight.

3) Soaring or Thermal Flights– are flights when the pilot can gain altitude by navigating the paraglider into rising pockets of air called thermals. This is where the fun really begins! The pilot connects with thermals and climbs thousands of feet at a time. When a pilot reaches higher altitudes the flight plan options increase since there are more locations reachable on glide. The pilot can fly out over town, and land at the beach. Flying over the local mountains for hours on end is another option, or fly down range to Carpenteria, Ojai, or Fillmore. These long distance flights are called cross country flights. Cross Country flying takes place at the advanced level of the sport.

Paragliding is the simplest and most serene way to fulfill man’s oldest dream — free flight! The pilot jogs down a simple slope and glides away from the mountain. Most people are afraid of heights. Fear is somewhat an apprehension of the unknown. Your fear will fade as your confidence in your ability to operate in a reasonable manner grows. Your instructor will help you identify your capabilities and limitations. You’ll learn that altitude is usually your friend. There is no free falling or jumping off cliffs. The launches and landings are slow and gentle. Once in the air, most people are surprised by how quiet and peaceful the experience is. The solo training requires more effort (physical and mental) than a tandem flight lesson. If the idea of watching the sunset from a comfortable seat in the air, supported by the buoyant evening air, with perhaps an eagle or hawk joining you off your wing tip, appeals to you, then paragliding is for you.

Paragliding is as safe as you make it. Modern paragliding wings are very stable. Pilots are rarely injured due to equipment failure. Paragliding accidents are likely due to a lack of judgment and poor execution on launch and landing on the pilot’s part instead of equipment failure. One thing to realize is that serious injuries in most adventure sports happen when people impact the ground, or something man built on the ground (electrical lines, structures). Significant impact with the ground or these man made objects is what hurts people. Trees are usually a paragliders friend in most cases, but skiers and mountain bikers have collided with a tree suffering devastating results.  A paraglider is the slowest flying aircraft on earth, and we don’t generate enough speed and energy when making a landing to make impact a tree causing injury from what we have seen over time. The one attribute decreasing risk for paragliders compared to other sports is we have the ability to get away from the ground gaining hundreds and thousands of feet of altitude in rising pockets of air we call thermals.  Adventurers who ski, snowboard, mountain bike, road bike, rock climb, skate board, and many other sports never have the luxury of getting far enough away from the ground where these violent collisions with injury can occur.  None of these other sports mentioned can climb high above the terrain and objects man built on the ground giving them the safety buffer with terrain or objects that are a safety advantage to paragliders compared with these other sports. When you are flying high above the terrain you significantly diminish your chance of being injured, and paragliding is the only sport that gives you this advantage. Paragliders will always be close to the ground liek the other adventure sports mentioned when launching and landing.  The paraglider pilot must keep their launch and landing skilled polished, and choose appropriate launch conditions, and head out to land if the sign of windy or turbulent conditions are on the horizon. Pilots choose to fly when conditions are manageable to minimize their risk. Once pilots are at least 250-300 feet above the ground they can deploy their reserve parachute system if they were to ever have an event with their paraglider where it was not in its normal flying configuration. Reserve parachutes work, and are the insurance plan paragliders have if they are ever needed to deploy.  There have been successful deployments as low as 50-75 feet, but having 250-300 feet gives you adequate altitude for your reserves opening time. I saw 26 deployments in 9 days of racing at the paragliding world championships in Valle De Bravo Mexico in 2009 when I was there coaching the US team.  There were 125 pilots per day racing, and they were flying prototype wings pushing the gear and themselves to the edge of the sport.  Out of the 26 deployments, only one person ended up with an injury, which was a slightly sprained wrist.  Reserve parachutes work, and pilots should never hesitate to throw their rescue.  I have never seen a pilot seriously injured who threw their reserve, and followed all the steps in the reserve deployment sequence. We can minimize our exposure to risk by becoming educated and making conservative decisions about when and where fly. Each person needs to evaluate the risk and reward and make their own decision. We can make very conservative choices as a pilot and still get an amazing amount of flying and fun out of the sport. We don’t need to make risky choices about when and where we fly our wings. We can operate conservatively in a manageable weather conditions and enjoy the sport well into our golden years.

1986-87 Paragliding arrives in the US. The gliders were squares with 8 or 9 large cells, glide ratios of 3:1, and a sink rate of 3 meters per second. Harnesses consisted of leg loops and a chest strap, with loops near the shoulders to hook in carabineers. The average flight was less than a two minute sled ride. There were 150 paraglider pilots in the US at the end of 1987.

1988 The design of the paragliders had evolved into the current elliptical design by 1988. Glide ratios were 4.5:1, soaring was becoming possible in ideal (strong windy) conditions. The American Paragliding Association was accepted, as the US governing body of the sport in September 1988. The development of detailed training programs was becoming standard practice. The first US training program was held in Bishop, CA and all ten US instructors attended. The US had approximately 300 pilots.

1989-90 As the sport continued to develop, paraglider design features and capabilities surpassed most of the current pilot’s skill levels. Accidents were in the forefront as pilots pushed the limits. Gliders were achieving 4-5 hour flights, glide ratios were 6:1, and sink rate was 1.3 meters per second. Harnesses now had seats and some had speed seats. Many pilots began to wear reserve parachutes, and gaining altitude above launch became more common place. Paragliding the Magazine was started in June of 1990. The longest recorded flight in the US in 1990 was 24 miles; pilot Mark Shipman, site; Chelan Butte, Washington. There were 24 US instructors at the end of 1990 and approximately 600 pilots. The US saw the first powered paragliders, made by Adventure, in France.

1991 The APA grew to 785 members, with 73 certified instructors. Part of this large increase was due to a seminar that introduced 50 current hang gliding instructors. Back protection for crashes was being developed. The longest US foot launched flight recorded, was 63 miles, pilot; Bob England, site; Horseshoe Meadows to Bishop, CA. Longest US flight off tow was 81.8 miles, pilot; Robert Schwaiger (Austria), launch site; Hobbs, New Mexico. ACPULS developed the 12 test rating for certifying paragliders, (gliders were rated with 12 A’s or 9 A’s and 3 B’s etc…)

1992-93 gliders reach 7.7:1 glide ratios, during a contest in New Hampshire. Two pilots set records in the Owens Valley, CA; Kari Castle set the Women’s World Distance for paragliding with a flight of 60 miles. Both flights began at Horseshoe Meadows, near Bishop, CA. Tandem paragliding is accepted by the FAA, under the USHPA tandem waiver. The APA joins the USHPA in December 1992 with 1800 members.

1994-96 Paraglider development has leveled out in terms of new innovations, more emphasis is now going into producing safe, stable gliders with a good speed range and user friendly handling characteristics. ANFOR rating changed to Standard, Performance, and Competition, rather than the A’s and B’s system. A typical paraglider has 7:1 glide ratio, 1.1 meter per second sink rate, and a top speed of 28 mph on average. The USHPA reported 2,692 members in December. The USHPA buys Paragliding the Magazine.

1997-2006 Paragliding has really started taking off the past decade. The designs of canopies have increased performance while maintaining stability. As more and more people find out about the sport, the pilot population continues to grow. Records are being broken all the time for distance and duration. The future is bright, and things will only get better.

2006-2008 The technology seems to continue to improve. The New DHV 1 wings perform as well as some of the intermediate advanced wings from the early 90’s. Pilots are able to fly wings that perform very well with all the security of a DHV 1 wing. A few pilots from Brazil break the world paragliding distance record by flying a distance of 461.8 Kilometers(almost 289 Miles).

2009-2019 The technology improvements seem like they will never end.Wings designs have evolved significantly.  Designers have used thinner and fewer lines to reduce drag and increase performance.  The crazy thing is while making these adjustments for performance they have also managed to make the gliders safer. Designers have gone too a 2 riser system for performance wings, and are using flexible rods called rigi-foil to stabilize the gliders shape on the leading edge of the wing. The gear is only getting lighter, and high tech.  Cocoon shaped pods harnesses have also hit the main stream glide pilots another point on glide. The square rescue has reduced the sink rate and oscillations on reserve parachutes.  The world record was broken a handful of times, and not the current mark is just over 350 miles in Brazil in 2016.