Is it a bird, is it a kite... it's paragliding

AFP

If you've ever wanted to take to the skies and soar like a bird to get an eagle's eye view on your surroundings, then paragliding just might be the sport for you.

What exactly is paragliding? Google defines it as "a sport in which a wide canopy resembling a parachute is attached to a person's body by a harness in order to allow them to glide through the air after jumping from or being lifted to a height."

Although it's usually not a motorised sport, a small engine can be attached to the paraglider, making it "powered" paragliding.

Hang gliding is a close cousin to paragliding, but while a hang glider's "wings" are rigid and look like those on a plane, the paraglider has an "inflatable" canopy that looks like a modified parachute.

Parasailing, which is often confused with paragliding, is another similar adventure sport, usually seen near beaches. A speedboat pulls a person who is harnessed to a parachute up into the air. But there is no steering control on a parasail, unlike a paraglider, because basically, it is steered by the speedboat.

I've often seen paragliders while travelling in Krabi, Thailand, the Maldives, and closer to home in Langkawi, Malaysia. It looks like a fun sport for the adventurous at heart.

The easiest way for a beginner to paraglide is in a tandem flight, along with an experienced flyer or pilot.

All you need to do is to sit in a comfortable harness that's attached to the paraglider and everything else is taken care of. Although no special skills are required to go on this kind of ride, some coordination really does help. And for safety reasons, tandem riders (usually) can't weigh more than 135kg.

The weather does have an impact on this extreme sport, especially wind conditions, which will either make or break your flight.

Ever since it was invented from ram air parachutes in the mid 1900s, the paraglider has enabled good pilots to fly over 400km and climb up above 6000m.

Some suitable paragliding sites in Malaysia can be found at paraglidingearth. For more information on paragliding in Malaysia, you can also check out: oxbold, mountnear paragliding center or paragliding flight park.