Thermals, warm pockets of rising air, are among the most helpful updrafts to gliders. The pilot can either circle the updraft to continuously gain more altitude, a maneuver known as thermaling, or can engage in dolphining, slowing the craft through the thermal and speeding up in the space in between, thus rising and falling in a pattern like a dolphin swimming. However, thermals are only present where there is warm air, making this type of gliding all but impossible in the winter months. During this time, gliders can make use of ridge lift, air rushing upward as wind hits a cliff or steep hill, and wave lift, air near mountainous regions that rises and falls in a wave pattern.
Gliding functions as both a solo sport and group competition. Cross country glider races can last for weeks and involve many participants. For the more thrill seeking, aerobatic competitions test a pilots ability to roll, loop, and perform other challenging manuvers.
Gliding is a challenging and rewarding sport. It can be expensive, as one need a glider, a method of getting into the air, and a home landing field, but if you can afford it, this sport has enormous potential.