Water Landing

Paragliding Site Guides > Mussel Rock > Water Landing

Why it’s Dangerous.

There have been a number of fatalities over the years as a result of paraglider pilots landing in the surf. If your harness gets wet, silt suspended in the seawater is likely to jam your harness buckles, making them difficult or impossible to open. A typical paraglider has 80 to 100 suspension lines attached to it, when you land in the surf all those lines get churned around you by the water making it very easy to become entangled. If you become entangled in your lines, you will likely be dragged underwater or out to sea by your glider, which acts like a giant sea anchor. Watch the video below if you need more convincing on how dangerous landing the surf is. The pilot in the video had many years of experience flying the coast, and four pilots were trying to rescue him. He did not survive.

How to avoid it.

Landing in the surf is easy to avoid if you follow a few simple guidelines.

1. Don’t EVER scratch for lift on the north ridge unless there is plenty of beach.
2. When headed north as you pass the end of the retaining wall, where the beach begins, if you’re not gaining altitude turn back.
3. On NW or SW days, unless you are at or above the top of the cliffs, don’t fly the north ridge.

Landing on the beach safely.

The sooner you realize that you’re going to land on the beach, the better chance you have of doing so safely. If your glider sinks below the old highway, 90% percent of the time you’re not going to be able to save it. As soon as you realize this, you need to decide whither the direction you’re currently headed offers you a safe place to land. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to execute a 180-degree turn and land the other direction. This decision needs to be made quickly, many pilots have waited to the last minute, then tried to turn too low and ended up spinning their glider or run out of altitude mid-turn and ending up in the surf.

Land cross wind, parallel to the cliff and in as close to the cliffs as you can. Try to bring your glider down in such a way that if fall towards or even on the lower part of the cliff so that it is as far as possible away from the surf.

What to do if you land in the water.

If you land in the surf or even on the beach near it, your number one priority is getting out of your harness and clear of your lines. Use your hook knife if necessary. Forget about saving your equipment until you are completely disconnected from it and out of the water. Only when you are completely out of your harness, lines, and clear of the surf should you evaluate whether it’s safe to try to recover your gear.


SF Coast Guard Direct Phone: (415) 399-7300
(Faster response time than 911)

One of the better Hook Knifes: Hook Knife
(Make sure that it is attached to you with a lanyard)