13 Differences Between Wingsuits and Paragliding

A split image showcasing two extreme sports; on the left, two wingsuit pilots soaring amidst fluffy clouds, and on the right, a person is paragliding against a backdrop of clear blue skies and distant mountains.
Paragliding and Wingsuit Flying Captures the Attention of People Worldwide

Exploring the skies has captivated the hearts of thrill-seekers and adventurers alike, leading to two exhilarating hobbies: wingsuit flying and paragliding. Both sports defy gravity and offer unique experiences, but how do they differ? And which one should you pick as a new hobby?

If you seek extreme thrills, high-speed flight, and acrobatic maneuvers, wingsuit flying is more appealing, despite its higher costs and longer learning time. If you value longer airtime, peaceful and extended flying experiences, and the opportunity to explore beautiful landscapes from above, paragliding is the ideal choice.

In the following guide, you will get to know every aspect of the two sports, including the level of danger, speed, accessibility, cost, learning curve, popularity, and unique experiences offered by each sport. This post provides you with the 13 differences between the two sports and the ultimate guide to deciding if you want to pick up one of these two hobbies.

Wingsuit Flying Is More Dangerous Than Paragliding

Statistically, wingsuit flying is 4.4 times more dangerous than paragliding. The fatality rate for wingsuit flying is approximately 0.0015%, resulting in one death per 68,904 jumps, while the rate for paragliding is 0.00032%, causing one death per 312,500 flights.

Interestingly, wingsuit flying has a lower injury rate than paragliding. The injury rate for wingsuit flying is approximately 0.0027%, meaning that about 2.7 out of every 100,000 wingsuit jumps result in medically critical injuries. The injury rate for paragliding, in contrast, is 0.0037%, meaning that 3.7 out of every 100,000 flights result in an injury.

Wait, what? How can there be fewer injuries in wingsuit flying than in paragliding? There are primarily four reasons why there are fewer injuries in paragliding than in wingsuit flying.

  1. First, paragliding landings can be more challenging compared to wingsuit flying, especially for beginners. The paragliding wing’s size is greater and its glider characteristics require precise control during the landing phase. Mishaps during landings, such as hard landings or improper techniques, can lead to injuries.
  2. Second, paragliding equipment, including the wing, harness, and reserve parachute, can be heavier and bulkier than wingsuit equipment. The additional weight and size can increase the risk of injuries, especially during handling and packing.
  3. Third, collisions or accidents during paragliding may result in injuries, but not always fatal outcomes. In contrast, wingsuit flying accidents, especially at higher speeds and proximity to terrain or objects, can have more severe consequences, often leading to fatalities instead of injuries.
  4. Fourth, wingsuit flying typically requires individuals to have 200 skydiving jumps before one can even start wingsuit training. By the time individuals are eligible for wingsuit training, they have already gained significant experience and competence in skydiving, which likely reduces the likelihood of injuries. In contrast, paragliding might attract a broader range of participants, including beginners, who may have less experience and training, leading to a higher injury rate compared to wingsuit flying.

That being said, the dangers and hazards in each sport vary significantly. Wingsuit flying involves flying at high speeds in close proximity to the ground and other objects, leading to a higher risk of collision or impact. Paragliding, on the other hand, is more focused on gliding and soaring, with a lower risk of high-speed collisions but higher risks during landings.

Weather conditions play a crucial role in the safety of both activities. Strong gusts and poor weather can be dangerous for both wingsuit flying and paragliding. Therefore, it’s essential for enthusiasts to be aware of weather forecasts and avoid flying in adverse conditions.

If you regularly read about wingsuit flying you might have come across statistics that say that the fatality rate is 1 every 500 jumps. This is simply not true and one of the common misconceptions about wingsuit flying. That statistic often refers to the combination of base jumping and wingsuit flying, which is much more dangerous than normal wingsuit flying.

If you want to learn the complete truth about the dangers of wingsuit flying, make sure to check out my blog post about how dangerous wingsuit flying is in reality.

That being said, if you want to be on the safe side, paragliding is your choice to go. If you love danger, you should go for wingsuit flying.

Wingsuit Flying Is More Expensive Than Paragliding

As a rule of thumb, wingsuit flying is much more expensive than paragliding. The cost of learning wingsuit flying combined with the cost to buy your own equipment can range between $15,500 – $20,300. The cost of paragliding only lies between $4,000 – $5,000.

More specifically, the total cost of learning wingsuit flying is between $7,500 – $ 8,500, the cost of equipment lies between $8,000 – $11,800 and the lifting cost per jump is around $20 – $50.

The cost of learning paragliding lies around $1,000, depending on the country. The cost to buy equipment is around $3,000 – $5,000, whereas renting costs around $2,500 – $3,000 per month. It, therefore, makes sense to buy your own equipment if you go paragliding regularly.

As you can see both hobbies are quite expensive. If you do not want to spend so much on a new hobby, I would go for paragliding. You can find an overview of the full cost breakdown below.

Wingsuit FlyingParagliding
Learning CostSkydiving Course: $3,000 – $4,000
Cost of 200 Jumps: ~ $4,000
Wingsuit Course: $500
Total Learning Cost: $7,500 – 8,500
~ $1,000
Equipment Cost
(if you chose to buy equipment)
Skydiving Gear: $7,000 – $10,000
Wingsuit: 1,000-1,800
Total Equipment Cost: $8,000 – $11,800
~ $3,000 – $5,000
Renting Cost
(if you chose to rent equipment)
$200 – $300 per month$ 2,500 – 3,200 per month
Lifting Cost
(plane ride)
$20 – $50$0
you can start from the ground
Overview of Wingsuit and Paragliding Costs

One way to offset the costs of wingsuit flying is to obtain a tandem license and earn money as a tandem instructor on the side. If this is an option for you, check out my article about the salary of tandem instructors.

Wingsuit Flyers Achieve More Speed Than Paragliders

As a whole, the speed in wingsuit flying is much higher than in paragliding. The speed of wingsuits ranges from 100 to 165 mph (160 to 260 km/h), depending on body positioning and wind conditions, whereas paragliders only reach speeds of 20 to 50 mph (30 to 80 km/h).

As you might guess, the core elements of the wingsuit experience are achieving high speeds and dynamically maneuvering through the air. The design of the wingsuit allows the pilot to transform their body into an airfoil, generating lift and enabling horizontal gliding while maintaining a significant vertical descent.

This design gives flyers the feeling of being like a bird. If you want to dive deeper into the topic of flying speed, check out my blog post about the fastest wingsuit flights ever performed.

In contrast, paragliding focuses more on stable and controlled flight rather than achieving high speeds. The parachute-like wing allows pilots to glide and soar gently through the air, embracing the landscape around them. The paragliding experience, therefore, offers a slower and more relaxed flying experience compared to wingsuit flying.

Stability and precision are essential in paragliding, as pilots need to control the wing carefully during takeoff, flight, and landing to ensure safe and enjoyable flights. Paragliders often embark on longer flights, exploring cross-country routes and enjoying the breathtaking views from higher altitudes.

Wingsuit Flying Is For Adrenaline Junkies

People often ask: is wingsuit flying or paragliding more fun?

There is no objective answer whether wingsuit flying or paragliding is more fun. In general, it holds true that wingsuit flying is more suited for adrenaline lovers who enjoy the feeling of speed and danger. Paragliders are often attracted by the peacefulness of the sky combined with the beautiful landscapes.

As you can imagine it is a very subjective decision whether you enjoy paragliding or wingsuit flying more. Both sports share the common element of defying gravity and exploring the skies, but the emotional experiences and physical sensations they evoke differ significantly.

Wingsuit flying appeals to adrenaline seekers who crave the excitement of high-speed flight and acrobatics. It often attracts skydivers and BASE jumpers, who revel in the thrill of navigating close to the terrain and experiencing the rush of freefall. The body releases a lot of adrenaline during the jumps, which can make it addictive.

However, adrenaline is not the only hormone that is released during wingsuit flights and skydiving jumps. If you want to learn about this topic, check out my article about the incredible effects of skydiving on your body.

“Chasing after the unattainable is the fun part.”

Dean Potter – Wingsuit Pioneer

On the other hand, paragliding tends to attract those who appreciate a more peaceful and reflective experience. Paragliders are drawn to the meditative feeling of floating on air currents, as they glide above stunning landscapes and take in the picturesque views below.

But do not be mistaken, even though the gentle, graceful movements of a paraglider look like an easy activity, paragliders need to focus and pay attention to the air currents around them and mistakes can result in severe injuries.

What is the difference between wingsuit flying and paragliding?
Overview of the key differences between wingsuit flying and paragliding

It Takes Longer to Learn Wingsuit Flying Than Paragliding

In general, it takes longer to learn wingsuit flying than paragliding because you need to learn regular skydiving before being eligible for wingsuit flying. Without skydiving experience, this process can take between 12-19 months, with many people taking longer. Paragliding in contrast can be learnt within 10-15 days.

If you already have skydiving experience, learning wingsuit flying can be done faster than learning paragliding. Experienced skydivers, who meet the wingsuit requirements (at least 200 skydivers), can learn skydiving within 4-8 days.

If you want to learn more about the difficulty, duration, and challenges of learning wingsuit flying, feel free to check out my article on how long it takes to learn wingsuit flying. It also includes secret tips to learn it faster.

Paragliding training can generally be completed in a shorter timeframe. It focuses on fundamental skills such as ground handling, launching, and controlling the paraglider wing. Acquiring a paragliding license usually involves demonstrating flying proficiency and passing theoretical exams, making the overall training duration relatively shorter.

Both sports come with challenges that can affect the learning timeline. Factors such as weather conditions, access to suitable flying locations, learning capabilities and the availability of qualified instructors also influence the learning process for both sports.

Paragliders Can Start From the Ground

In general, paragliders start their flight from the ground when enough airspeed fills their canopy and generates an upward lift. There are various techniques to create enough airspeed in the canopy, some of which include running on the ground. It is also common to launch a paraglide from high-altitude locations such as mountains.

Wingsuits, in contrast, are typically launched from an aircraft or an elevated position, with pilots initiating flight through a jump and immediate deployment of the wingsuit. There is a common misconception about wingsuit flying that it only involves jumping from cliffs and performing proximity flights through beautiful landscapes.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of the wingsuit flights start in the same way that skydivers do – by jumping from an airplane. The misconception is due to the videos, that we often watch on Youtube, in which extreme athletes conduct a base jump with a wingsuit.

If you want to learn more about common misconceptions and the similarities and differences between skydiving and wingsuits, feel free to check out my article about the 11 stunning differences between skydiving and wingsuit flying.

More People Do Paragliding Than Wingsuit Flying

There are around 200,000 certified paragliding pilots around the world which is much higher than the estimated 11,000 wingsuit pilots worldwide. In the USA, however, there are around 6,000 wingsuit pilots, which is slightly more than the 5,000 certified paragliders.

In contrast to wingsuit flying, paragliding offers a more straightforward entry point for enthusiasts. Its accessibility, lower costs, and less stringent entry requirements have attracted a larger community of participants, contributing to the higher number of paragliders compared to wingsuit pilots. The popularity of paragliding in Europe is particularly noteworthy, with around 125,000 paragliders calling the continent their home.

One of the reasons for paragliding’s widespread popularity in Europe is the region’s long-standing gliding culture. Europe has a rich history of aviation sports, with a legacy that spans several decades. Aviation enthusiasts in the region have embraced various forms of flying, including paragliding, which has become ingrained in the European culture.

Moreover, Europe’s diverse and picturesque landscape, which includes vast mountain ranges like the Alps, hills, and coastal regions, provides an ideal playground for paragliders. The availability of suitable launch sites and favorable weather conditions in many European countries make paragliding experiences more accessible and enjoyable for enthusiasts.

Furthermore, significant events like the Paragliding World Cup and Red Bull X-Alps, hosted in Europe, have contributed to the sport’s recognition and attractiveness. These high-profile competitions showcase the excitement and skill of paragliding to both participants and spectators, further fueling interest in the sport.

In the United States, advancements in equipment, safety standards, and the presence of influential figures have also contributed to the growth of paragliding as a thrilling aerial activity and might overcome the community of wingsuit flyers soon.

Wingsuit flying, while enjoying a devoted following, remains a niche activity due to its higher costs, specialized training requirements, and stricter safety considerations. Nevertheless, the remarkable achievements and record-breaking feats of wingsuit pilots have garnered admiration within the adventure sports community. If you want to learn more about this, make sure to check out my collection of the 13 most mind-blowing wingsuit stunts ever performed.

Paragliders Can Go Up

One of the major differences between paragliding and wingsuit flying is that paragliders can fly upwards for hundreds of meters while wingsuit pilots can only go up for a few meters and seconds.

Paragliders go up by harnessing rising air currents like thermals and ridge lift. These upward currents are influenced by factors such as the sun heating the ground or wind interacting with terrain, providing the lift needed for upward movement. Specific weather conditions and geographical features, such as mountains or cliffs, enhance the availability of these upward currents.

The ability to go up in paragliding expands exploration, allowing for extended flights and the opportunity to discover new territories from above. It adds excitement and thrills to the sport, providing paragliding enthusiasts with unforgettable experiences in the skies.

Going up with a wingsuit, in contrast, is a very complicated maneuver that only elite pilots can do. If you are interested, check out my article about the difficult maneuver of going up in a wingsuit. Make also sure to check out my article about the misconception of going up with a parachute when it is opened.

Paragliders Can Travel Greater Distances Than Wingsuit Pilots

Due to the ability to ascend in the air, paragliders can travel greater distances than wingsuit pilots. This is beautifully illustrated by the world record of the longest paraglide flight, which lies at ~380 miles (610 km). The world record for the longest wingsuit flight only lies at 19.9 miles (32.1 km).

Paragliders Can Fly Higher Than Wingsuit Divers

Paragliders can reach impressive heights during their flights, typically soaring at heights around 18,000 to 23,000 feet (5,500 meters to 7,000 meters) above the ground. The highest recorded paragliding flight stands at 27,582 feet (8,406 meters), showcasing the sport’s potential for extreme altitudes.

Wingsuit flyers in contrast cannot really fly to high altitudes. They rely on an aircraft to bring them to around 10,000 to 15,000 feet (3,048 – 4,572 meters), at which they exit. They usually deploy the parachute at around 4,000 feet (1,219 meters), transferring to the canopy flight of their jump. The highest-recorded wingsuit jump, however, is around 37,425 feet (11,407 meters).

If you want to learn more about the typical jumping heights in skydiving, make sure to check out my ultimate guide about skydiving heights.

People Are More Fascinated By Wingsuit Flying

In general, it holds true that more people are fascinated by wingsuit flying than paragliding due to its extreme thrills, high-speed flight, and acrobatic maneuvers, creating an adrenaline-fueled experience. If you want to pick a sport, that draws people to you and makes you more interesting, you should go for wingsuit flying.

That being said, people find individuals who have paragliding as a hobby also extremely interesting because it reflects a sense of adventure and a willingness to explore the skies. Many people will tell you about their first tandem flight if they know that you are a paraglider. If they have no paragliding experience, they will ask you a lot of questions about the sport.

So either way, you will make a good conversation partner.

Paragliders Are Longer in the Air Than Wingsuit Pilots

Due to the ability to go up with a paraglider, you can be in the air much longer than with wingsuits. Paragliding flights can last anything between 15 minutes to 2 hours. The longest recorded paragliding flight lasted over 7 hours.

Wingsuit flying is much quicker and typically only lasts around 75 – 120 seconds, excluding the canopy and aircraft ride. If you want to learn more about the full wingsuit experience including canopy ride and aircraft flight, check out my article about the duration of wingsuit flights.

So if you are looking for a hobby in which you can enjoy longer airtime with a peaceful and extended flying experience, you should go for paragliding.

Paragliding Is Older Than Wingsuit Flying

Paragliding is the older sport, as it was invented in the 1950s. While the concept and early attempts of wingsuit flying can be dated back to the 1910s, it wasn’t until 1999 that Jari Kuosma invented the first commercial wingsuits and turned it into a real sport.

However, both sports have a rich history with many incredible stories that you can dive into. If you want to learn more about the invention of wingsuits, check out my post covering the pioneers who contributed to the development of wingsuit flying as a sport – and often paid with their lives for it.

Both sports have their unique charm, attracting fascination from people who admire the adventurous spirit of those who engage in them. Ultimately, it comes down to what excites you the most and aligns with your interests and desires.

Enjoy your gliding!

Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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The image shows the 13 most important differences between wingsuit flying and paragliding.