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Paragliding, like many air sports, offers a unique flying experience. With the thrill, the contact with nature and the health benefits, this sport is becoming more and more popular. Many paragliding competitions are organised at various levels to give pilots the opportunity to prove their skills. What are these competitions and what are the criteria for participation?

The different types of paragliding competitions

Paragliding offers various competitions related to the different types of paragliding practices. These are open to licence holders who have their Advanced Pilot's Licence. Among the competitions present in this sport, we find :

  • cross-country competitions
  • aerobatics competitions
  • synchronised flights
  • distance events
  • walking and flying 

These competitions can be organised at various levels, from local to international.

Cross-country competitions

Cross-country is currently one of the best known paragliding competitions. It is a race that follows a course defined in advance by the race committee before the start of the round.

The course is generally between 50 and 100 km and is marked by markers, obstacles that must be crossed in order. Each marker constitutes a GPS coordinate which is automatically recorded in the GPS of each competitor.

The objective is to complete the course and reach the goal as quickly as possible. With one round per day, the competition can last more than a week.

Distance events

The aim of this competition is to complete a course linking a number of beacons set up in the competitor's GPS on the day of the event. Competitors must use their knowledge of the weather and wind to optimise their trajectory and cover the longest possible distance. The events are conducted under the supervision of a DTE and a pilot committee. Starts are given in different ways depending on the organisers.

Aerobatic competitions

This is by far the most spectacular and visual competition in paragliding. Aerobatics consists of acrobatics scored by judges. The highest scores are given to the most popular and difficult aerobatic manoeuvres.

Competitors have several rounds to accumulate the maximum number of points. In principle, they have two rounds, one solo and one in synchro. These competitions usually take place over water... 

To get maximum points, you not only have to perform several tricks, but also link them up beautifully and land in the best way. The possibility of doing several rounds also helps the paraglider to get points.

Speed riding

Speed riding is a recent paragliding competition. It is similar to speed flying, but is done on snow. The pilot must have good quality skis that allow him to glide easily. You can then fly as well as ski.

The choice of the method of travel is of utmost importance to succeed in the passages imposed in the Derby version of this competition. The pilot has to fly a downhill course and be aware of penalized actions. There is also a free ride version of speed riding. Here, the respect of the imposed trajectory is optional. In addition, the pilot is scored on different parameters, such as the technical aspect of the movements.

The walk and fly event

The walk and fly race consists of flying and walking in the mountains following a trajectory with compulsory passages. The objective is to be the first to reach the end of the trajectory. This competition requires high physical abilities. The pilot is assisted during this flight, which is particularly popular with mountain lovers.

Participation and selection criteria

To participate in paragliding competitions, you need to have some experience, a valid licence and a medical certificate.

Paragliding experience required

Paragliding competitions are open to both amateurs and professionals. The experience required varies according to the requirements of each competition. For demanding competitions such as aerobatic competitions, the pilot must have a confirmed pilot's licence. This is a prerequisite for entry to most competitions. There are, however, competitions that are open to those who do not have one. These are particularly competitions for beginners which still require a minimum of experience to fly well.

The valid licence

The valid licence is a document issued by the French Free Flight Federation. It proves that the pilot has undergone adequate training at an approved school and that he has passed the relevant theoretical and practical examinations. With the licence, you certify that you know the meteorology, the rules of the air sport and all the information that allows you to fly safely. The paraglider must ensure that the document covers the entire competition period.

A medical certificate

Paragliding is a sport that requires a good physical condition. To enter competitions, it is essential to present a medical certificate in addition to the licence and the certificate. This document certifies that there are no contraindications preventing the pilot from practising paragliding in complete safety. Indeed, people with nervous system, cardiovascular or visual disorders cannot take part in competitions. The same applies to people with locomotor or metabolic disorders.

Paragliding is a sport that combines several competitions such as cross country, speed riding and aerobatics. With increasing professionalisation, the integration of new technologies and the diversification of competitions, this sport is on its way to a glorious future.

The challenges of paragliding competitions

Paragliding competitions are more than just fun and exciting activities, they share the beauty of the sport with a wider audience. They also encourage spectators to try the sport themselves.

Promoting the sport

The main challenge in organising these paragliding competitions and events is to promote the sport, which is still too little known. The Para-Club of Annemasse is the founder and the first paragliding club in the world to be created.

The discovery of new talent

Another challenge of these flying sports events is to reveal new talents. Paragliding world championships and other competitions allow the most deserving to be rewarded and above all to encourage those who have made the effort.


The Coupe Icare

The most prestigious event in this sport is without doubt the Coupe Icare. It has become the largest free flight event in the world and takes place every year in the town of Saint-Hilaire-du-Touvet, near Grenoble in France. It brings together professionals, amateurs and the general public around original flight shows.

Created more than 40 years ago, the Coupe Icare never ceases to reinvent itself each year, keeping more than 90,000 spectators on their toes. For four days, amateurs and professionals of sports such as paragliding, hang gliding, paramotoring and other disciplines take to the skies from the surrounding mountains for spectacular aerial demonstrations and competitions. This large open theatre to the sky is graced by hundreds of pilots around several activities, including:

  • the Icare Test
  • the Icare Mômes
  • the Icare Balloons
  • the Icarnaval...

There is also the Icare Expo, the Icare Folies and other exciting activities.

Despite its low popularity, paragliding is a sport that combines several competitions such as cross-country and aerobatics. With increasing professionalisation, integration of new technologies, innovations and diversification of competitions, this sport is on its way to a glorious future.

paragliding competitions
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