Once you have decided that this is a sport you would like to try, your next step is to choose a school.
Professional training is critical and so the first thing to check is that the school or instructor is properly qualified. In the UK the British Hang gliding and Paragliding Association licences instructors and registers and inspects schools. A list of these can be found on the BHPA website: www.bhpa.co.uk
In other countries, there are similar associations.
It is possible you may find individuals offering training who are not qualified by the BHPA or another national governing body. You are strongly advised not to undertake training from an unqualified person.
Apart from safety considerations, they will not be able to award a recognised qualification. This is important as just about all the best flying sites in the UK have landowner agreements with the local club to fly there, and this requires that everyone will be qualified and insured. This has resulted in great difficulties for a few individuals, who did not realise their training was not recognised.
Because of the weather-dependent nature of the sport, your course may well be interrupted, so it is helpful if the school is not too far from your home. That way, a poor forecast and cancelled training means you can stay at home and do something else.
Another option is to do a course on a residential trip, perhaps outside the UK. This has pros and cons. You may well get better weather and make good progress, but nowhere is completely reliable, and if you do not finish, it may be quite expensive to return for a second attempt. If there is a long delay, this is likely to add to the length of your training period.
If training with a school recognised by a different national body, you may need to complete additional theory exams on your return. Although essential skills should transfer without any problems, sites and conditions in your local area may be quite different from the environment you trained in, and this can pose some additional challenges.
Good communication is vital for safe training, so you and your instructor must be completely fluent in the same language!
Upland areas of the UK such as Wales, the lake district, Scotland or the peaks, have some of the best paragliding sites, but unfortunately, they also suffer from the least reliable weather, with more wind and rain than lowland areas. Some places are almost flat, and so the schools use winch launching to get students airborne. This is very effective for the initial part of the course but is less useful for gaining airtime and experience.
Good training is great fun, and you may be surprised by how quickly you are able to progress, it is a great social activity too. Some people have been reticent to embark on a course by themselves, but “solo” students almost always find that the shared experience of learning with a group is a wonderful way to make new friends.