Paragliding was a progression from the earlier flying sport of hang gliding, which itself took off in the 1970's. Developed from parachuting canopies, modern paragliders can be flown on windward slopes and across country in good conditions.
A summer sky filled with fluffy cumulus clouds provides abundant lifting warm air currents which pilots use to gain altitude. Pilots experience the ability and privilege of drifting from cloud to cloud, in almost total silence, watching the landscape change beneath them as they navigate the sky.
Various forms of flying machines can be seen in the skies over West Bay, the surrounding countryside and coastline.
Launching from West Bay
Paraglider pilots should use the high ground immediately west of Highlands End Caravan Park which has the South West Coast Path adjacent to it. The area of beach immediately to the west of the cliff (Eype beach east) is usually clear for landing.
These pilots are suspended from their gliders by a special harness and launch from hills facing into wind, from winches on flat ground or by being towed aloft from an airfield behind a microlight aircraft.
This is effectively a hang glider which is powered by a small petrol engine, driving a propeller, strapped to the frame. Mounted on wheels, flying this type of machine is far more independent from the prevailing winds and thermal air currents than a standard hang glider.
These are the most popular flying machines seen at West Bay. The equipment is fairly lightweight, making take off and landing achievable in more restricted environments. However, the weather conditions for paragliding are more critical than for hang gliding.
This is effectively a powered version of the paraglider. A small petrol engine, driving a propeller is worn as a backpack by the pilot. This provides the necessary thrust to aid take off, climb and fly fairly independently from prevailing winds and thermal air currents.