When I learned to fly paramotors, I was always told to never treat paramotoring as an extreme sport. There's good reason for this! So many new pilots have been killed or injured because they pulled some extreme manoeuvre that was way above their skill level. But after many years of flying, would I class paramotoring as an extreme sport? Let's find out.
Is paramotoring an extreme sport?
For most pilots paramotoring is not an extreme sport, it's simply another form of aviation. But there's a totally different side of paramotoring that is very extreme, and we'll explore it later. So yes paramotoring is an extreme sport, but only if you want it to be!
Let's check out both sides of paramotoring - The mellow, and the extreme!
The mellow side of paramotoring
I mentioned that paramotoring is not an extreme sport for most people, that's because it's a simple form of aviation that in my opinion, has no extreme nature to it.
Sure, when you first see somebody flying a paramotor, it looks pretty crazy and extreme, but it really isn't. Once you get past the initial flights, paramotoring is actually a great stress reliever, and floating along on a beautiful summers evening is pretty relaxing.
There's nothing extreme about taking off, flying along at 30 MPH in level flight with your buddies, and landing back in the same field. It's just another awesome form of aviation, that even the extreme guys love to return to every once in a while.
The extreme side of paramotoring
When paramotoring becomes an extreme sport, it also becomes much more dangerous. Pilots who fly acro will push fabric wings past their limits on most manoeuvres, and they can easily end up in a hopeless situation, fighting with a totally collapsed wing, or twisted risers.
When this happens there's very often no way to recover the wing in time, and the only option is to use a reserve parachute to carry you down safely to the ground.
You need to learn the basics of paramotoring, and get at least 100 hours of flying under your belt before you start trying anything more adventurous than a steep turn.
Basic manoeuvres like spirals and wing overs can be learned fairly easily by most pilots, but more complex manoeuvres like you just watched in the video will require some expert training.
Should all paramotor pilots learn extreme paramotor manoeuvres?
Although extreme manoeuvres can be fun, they can also serve an important purpose in normal everyday paramotoring.
One great example is deep spirals, where you place the paramotor into a steep turn. You'll need to pull massive amounts of brake, and the leading edge of the wing will face directly downwards.
This is the fastest way to loose height, and you can loose over 20 metres of altitude every second. You'll also accelerate around the centre axis at up to 68 MPH, which can generate massive amounts of G-force.
Every pilot will need to use spirals at some point, to escape dangers like cloud suck, or approaching aircraft, but they need to be learned very slowly, and shown a massive amount of respect.
Because of the high G forces generated in this manoeuvre, there is an extremely high risk of G-LOC, where pilots can loose consciousness and black out.
When you start practising any paramotor manoeuvre, you should realise that the risk increases, and the potential for a violent wing reaction is much higher. This is why an SIV course is recommended for all pilots who wish to learn these manoeuvres. More on SIV courses later.
More examples of extreme paramotoring
Paramotor acro is pretty damn extreme, but pylon racing, also known as slalom, takes things to another level!
Pascal Campbell-Jones is one of the OGs of pylon racing, and he describes it as, quote: - “Like Harry Potter’s Quidditch in real life.”
This is where pilots pair the biggest motor they can find, with the smallest wing possible, and blast around a course of pylons while racing within milliseconds against the clock.
Pilots need to fly with incredible accuracy, otherwise contact with a pylon can, and has lead to quite a few nasty crashes. For this reason, many slalom racing events are held over water, but this makes it nonetheless extreme, or awesome to watch.
Parabatix is one of the best known pylon racing events, and since 2012 they've been putting on events all around the world, with the goal of bringing this awesome sport right in front of the public.
Parabatix is just like usual pylon racing, but with a few extras.
As the worlds best pilots fly around an aerial course, they have to pick up various objects with their feet, and drop them into drop-zones dotted around the course. This adds another degree of difficulty to the race, and is a real test of pilot precision and skill.
Pushing the limits
Most of my readers have heard of Bear Grylls, the former SAS serviceman who's famous for his many extreme survival shows on TV. But many of you probably don't realise that he's a keen paragliding and paramotor pilot!
On a sunny day in May 2007, Bear did something pretty extreme, when he flew a specially built paramotor over Mount Everest, and up to an altitude of 29,494 feet!
That's pretty extreme!
Other extreme flights to note would be the Icarus Trophy, where paramotor pilots fly across 5 states from glaciers at the border with Canada, to the desert at Las Vegas.
They fly all day for as many days as it takes, regardless of weather and turbulence, and they are totally unassisted, only landing to refuel, and to sleep. The race is super tough, and pretty extreme!
Attempts at altitude records, distance records, and long distance flying during tough conditions are all great examples of extreme paramotoring.
So how do you get into paramotoring as an extreme sport?
I mentioned at the start that you need to progress slowly, and this means starting with regular paramotor training just like everybody else in the sport.
Learn everything about paramotoring by reading THIS BOOK (link to Amazon), take a course, then take things one step at a time until you are ready for the next step....
There's no extreme paramotoring courses as such, but if you want to learn acro manoeuvres you'll need to take an advanced SIV course.
A SIV course will not only teach you some advanced manoeuvres, but it'll also teach you how to recover the wing if you end up taking a collapse, which you most certainly will at some point.
Things you'll learn on a SIV course include:
- Asymmetric tuck <50% Right then left. Showing good recovery (Repeat with different harness settings)
- Asymmetric tuck >50% Right then left. Showing good recovery
- 100% tuck Showing good recovery
- Search for stall point & recovery (brakes)
- “B” line stall Showing good recovery.
- Spiral dive showing good recovery
- Incipient spin showing good recovery
When a SIV course is completed, and you wish to progress to acro, you'll need to learn from experienced pilots who can tell you exactly what to expect from each manoeuvre.
All manoeuvres will first be practised without the motor, with a paragliding wing that is specially designed for acro. It's also common to practise all manoeuvres over water, this way landing with a reserve will be much less likely to cause an injury.
Acro should only be practised over water when rescue boats are on standby. If they see you coming down on your reserve, a rescue boat will pick you up quickly, but you will need to pay to have them on standby.
So paramotoring is an extreme sport!
I think we've gathered that paramotoring is an extreme sport if you want it to be, but I'm by no means encouraging all pilots to go out and pursue it in an extreme fashion.
You really can't rush this sport, and you need plenty of experience before getting into the extreme side of it. Although normal paramotoring is super easy to learn, advanced manoeuvres aren't as easy, and paramotor wings can be extremely unforgiving, even to very small mistakes.
If you do decide that you want to pursue paramotoring as an extreme sport, be sure to take all of the steps I've listed in this post, and take things slowly, learning the most basic of manoeuvres first.
Although the mellower side of paramotoring isn't an extreme sport, it can still be very dangerous. Check out THIS POST to learn all about the biggest dangers, and how to prevent your paramotor from biting hard.
You can also learn from a few of my own biggest paramotoring mistakes HERE.