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What is Thermal in Paragliding? Complete Guide

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

What is Thermalling? Read complete guide

Alright, let me break it down for you in simple terms. Thermal paragliding is like a magical elevator that can lift a paraglider higher into the sky. Imagine warm air rising from the ground like bubbles in a pot of boiling water. When a paraglider comes across one of these rising air bubbles, it can ride it just like a surfer rides a wave.

These rising air bubbles are called thermals. They are created when the sun heats the Earth's surface, and this warm air starts to rise because it's lighter than the surrounding cooler air. As it rises, the paraglider can fly into it and gain altitude. The more a pilot centers their glider in the thermal, the faster they climb.

Thermals are essential for paragliders because they allow us to stay up in the air for longer periods. Without thermals, we would quickly descend and have to land. So, finding and using thermals is a crucial skill for any paraglider pilot, especially when flying cross-country or in competitions.

Discover the joy of thermal flying in paragliding. Gain altitude with warm air bubbles, dance with the wind, and experience the freedom of flight. A thrilling adventure awaits!

The process of finding a thermal is both exciting and challenging. We use various clues to detect them, such as looking for birds flying in circles, watching the clouds, and feeling changes in the wind direction and temperature. Once we find a thermal, we need to skillfully maneuver our glider to stay inside the lifting air, like dancing with the wind.

Riding a thermal can be compared to flying on a roller coaster. It's an upward thrill where we're constantly adjusting our paraglider's position to stay in the rising air. As we climb higher, the view becomes even more breathtaking, and we can cover longer distances.

To maximize the benefits of a thermal, we must learn to read the signs that indicate the strength and direction of the lift. By doing this, we can predict where the thermal will take us and make informed decisions about our flight path.

Thermals come in different sizes and strengths, and their behavior can change throughout the day. In the morning, they are usually smaller and weaker, but as the sun heats the ground, they become stronger and more abundant. In the late afternoon, they may start to weaken again as the Earth cools down.

Being skilled at using thermals is a significant part of what makes a paraglider pilot successful. It allows us to extend our flights, fly long distances, and even achieve record-breaking performances. But, it's also important to remember that thermals can be unpredictable and challenging to master. Sometimes, we may encounter sink (descending air) or turbulence within a thermal, requiring quick reactions and adjustments.

Thermal flying demands both technical expertise and a deep connection with the elements. We must be aware of the ever-changing conditions and be ready to adapt to the dynamics of the atmosphere. It's a continuous learning process, and even the most experienced pilots are always refining their skills.

Overall, thermals are the lifeblood of paragliding, and mastering them elevates our flying experience to new heights. So, as paraglider pilots, we chase these rising air bubbles with passion, curiosity, and a sense of adventure, reaching for the sky and embracing the freedom of flight.

How do thermals work paragliding?

Thermals in paragliding work like rising bubbles of warm air, created by the sun heating the ground. Paragliders ride these columns of lifting air to gain altitude, using skill and technique to stay inside the thermal. It's like a natural elevator that keeps us flying high.

How do paragliders find thermals?

Paragliders find thermals by looking for clues: circling birds, observing clouds, feeling temperature changes, and sensing shifts in wind direction. These signs help us locate rising columns of warm air, which we skillfully maneuver within to gain altitude and extend our flight.

How do you catch thermals in paragliding?

Catching thermals in paragliding requires skillful flying. When we find a thermal, we turn our glider into the rising air, centering it carefully. By maintaining our position within the thermal, we're lifted higher, like a surfer riding an updraft, extending our flight and enjoying the view.

How do you detect thermals?

Detecting thermals involves observing signs in the sky and surroundings. We look for birds soaring in circles, watch cloud formations, sense warmer air, and notice changes in wind patterns. These clues help us identify rising columns of air, allowing us to ride thermals and gain altitude while paragliding.


Thermals are the secret to staying airborne in paragliding. Detecting and riding these rising columns of warm air is a thrilling skill that elevates our flights, enabling us to soar higher and cover longer distances. It's a dance with the wind, a journey of passion, skill, and freedom in the skies, making paragliding an exhilarating and unforgettable experience.



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