How do hang gliding and paragliding differ?
The major difference lies in the wing shape and design. Hang gliders have solid wing structures utilizing an aluminum frame to create a V-shaped wing that resembles a stealth bomber. Paragliders have soft wing structures (no internal frame) that once inflated have an elliptical shape. Aerodynamically they both fly the same, utilizing the Bernoulli Principle to get the best lift possible. Due to their heavier weight, hang gliders tend to have slightly faster flying speeds but need more winds to stay aloft. Paragliders typically have a bit slower flying speeds, but since the pilot is suspended from the wing, he can use his pendular momentum to perform some stunning air maneuvers (aerobatics). Due to their lower flying speed, paragliders are much more forgiving and thus generally have a lower learning curve.
Paragliding is a more recent sport which has grown in popularity quickly over the last several years. It’s advantages are: easily transportable, easy to learn, fly, and land, and flyable in wider ranges of conditions than hang gliders. Paragliding wings are capable of many of the same aerial acrobatics as hang gliders, plus a few more, including spirals, various spins, and stalls and looping reversed or tumbling.
Hang Gliding has been around much longer than paragliding. It is based on an internally-supported, rigid wing with a control bar that gives the pilot very direct and immediate control over the flying surface. It is a more active style of flying since the pilot is more connected to the wing in terms of how they hand and manipulate the control surfaces.