Safety is important. A small injury is annoying, big injury is dangerous. Risk approach is individual and change with age, I prefer to mitigate all basic risks and grow these customs from beginning of flying.
Lets focus to most critical parts of flying, takeoff and landing and how to mitigate risk with training to an acceptable level.
Many people have died forgetting something from complete preparation. Identify a list of all actions required for your equipment and use the same order every time. If you feel suddenly strange it means you forgot something, in such case just validate everything again. And please, prepare with others, not in the middle of take off!
If you take your training seriously, get rid of any non-vital part of equipment (cameras, selfie sticks, radios, excessive clothes, spare gloves, beers). It will only take your attention from important things. With fewer things you prepare/pack faster and risk of forgetting something important is lower. You do not believe it? Watch this: https://youtu.be/k-Idkhud5hY
As for instruments, you really need only 3 parameters, listed by importance: vertical speed, horizontal speed, altitude above sea. Altitude is vital on places with limited airspace, otherwise it is possible to fly without it.
For vario (indicating vertical speed) I will borrow the best advice from “the Coach” (E. H.): “Until it beeps, turn”. In medium and strong conditions it is not a rocket science and focus more on glider behavior while thermalling than complicated theories. If it buzzes that you are in sinking air, push speed.
Horizontal speed is more important than most newbies think but for first months you can ignore lack of it too. Before landing you can do a 360 degree turn and watch which direction you have the slowest speed – and simply see how strong the wind is and which direction it comes from, no windsock is required. Awesome! Speed information has also a high safety value as with wind getting stronger you see your speed is dropping and you can land before it reaches your trim speed. Also if you suddenly have trim speed 50 km/h, it means it will be difficult going back. During XC, it shows you all aspects of wind, also sudden raise/lowering of speed can mean a close thermal as they suck near air into them. Wind also changes both with altitude and location.
Takeoff – groundhandling training is a must
Statistically, takeoff and next minute is the most dangerous part of flight.
Until you are on ground, gravity force does not center you to the optimal position; you need move your legs to do it. Coordinating this with brakes it takes some time to learn. Therefore go training groundhandling!
Being good in groundhandling also means you can use smaller takeoffs, and feel more confident before each takeoff, and launch at the time you want to. I too often see pilots being just a passive baggage during their launch.
Groundhandling can be trained anywhere when wind blows, short grass and almost flat is preferred terrain. Ideal wind strength is 4-6 m/s without gusts. With less wind, front launch should be trained, despite its use at thermic take off places is limited, few times a year you will need it. If there are obstacles between you and wind, wind gets broken and good only for advanced training. I found it good to train groundhandling all the time wind was good. Even for 10 minutes before or after soaring/flying. All the actions should be trained to level, where you do not think about an action required, but act correctly without thinking.
For reverse launch there are several ways how to hold risers. Each have advantages and disadvantages, but avoid any technique requiring swapping the hands (and leaving brakes to go during the crucial moment).
You should master following actions:
How to put down your glider – to rapidly speed up your groundhandling training, focus on how to lay your glider in a way it can be immediately launched again. For dummies, go few steps towards glider when it touches the ground.
How to launch glider above head – there is some optimum pressure in A lines required. If wind is weak you need to move away from glider to increase weak pressure caused by wind. Vice versa, if wind is strong, you need to move towards the glider to decrease the lines pressure.
How to avoid overshoot – one of typical mistake is letting glider overshoot. Check how much brake it needs to stay above you. Some gliders has little tendency to overshoot (usually dumped gliders) while others need medium correction (agile gliders). If you push As too much, all gliders will tend to overshoot. Tendency depends on wind strength of course.
How to launch a glider straight, or correct its position from first sign of imperfection – another typical mistake is turning while a glider is not straight. It leads in running to the rocks/forests/fences…. Train launching it up from different positions, even when it is not perfectly prepared or one ear is tucked and correct position before turn.
How to move forward/backward with your glider – shows you how glider reacts to increase/decrease pressure in lines. Useful to kill a glider in strong wind or push it in a weak wind. Pushing it combined with strong wind tends to rise you in the air (backwards) and overshoot, dangerous on the hill.
How to move left and right with your glider – to slip around a German pilot laid his unattached glider in front of you, you will need this often when flying in Alps.
Turn yourself from backward to frontward position and back – if all is fine, there is a lot of time to turn. Turning all the time the same direction should slightly mitigate risk of twists by choosing wrong direction.
Holding your glider between ground and overhead – for increase of feeling of your glider. Just hold A lines and move forward/backward. Increase/decrease pressure in A lines and watch reactions. If you hold C lines with other hand, you will have more authority for this exercise.
Touch an ear of glider with the ground – to see limits of stable position.
Collapses and stalls – absolute safe way to observe reaction to collapses and stalls to followed actions. Frontstalls are difficult to recover on ground but fullstall, negative and asymmetrical collapse should be feasible to train in good conditions.
Take off (finally) – the best terrain is a small ridge (1+ m height difference) or meadow slightly tilted down while groundhandling training conditions are met. After glider launch above your head, turn and add forward speed fluently. Perfect timing is a true mastery. Go too fast and you are raised followed by a smash against the ground, at the moment energy is lost. Go too slow and you never go airborne. With perfect amount you fly the furthest. Other sign is you do not lose any speed or gain any altitude at any moment. During training just try flying as far as possible and you will see what works the best.
Launch with side wind – looks advanced but it is very simple and useful because often you just need to go airborne but wind stubbornly blows sideways. Avoid basic mistake is standing downhill and not downwind, so one ear lies lower. With fluent push, lower part will go first while higher still lays on ground, and levels the glider. Following actions you know already. Best is watch it here: https://youtu.be/Wyn-sEb-iBg – small step for man, big for mankind.
Landing – when training takeoffs, you are training also…
TIP: some pilots check lines several times and refuse to move verified glider. Go not check lines, they are too thin and too many. Check the canopy that there is not a strange part. Also, knot/branch with high impact impacts the handling severely before you go airborne. If glider refuses to rise straight, there is an issue worth deep checking.
Landing – train at every opportunity, toplanding tips
As you need to fly before train landing, it is a slower process. Good start is to watch some busy landing spot for a while, guessing which landing will be good and which not, and identify reasons. It helps you avoid common mistakes.
First focus to land fluently. Having your approach on fully released brakes is a good start. As you are close to ground, gradually pull the brakes. With good timing, you should be able to maintain the same flight altitude for some time, ideally 0,5 m above ground while losing speed. When you lost enough speed, glider will collapse to fullstall. You should be standing before/on the same time as this happens.
The best opportunity to train landing is while toplanding on some easy terrain. You approach to land high and see how much altitude is left, you follow to next round and start little bit lower next time. There is a risk of stalling the glider, try to avoid thermal conditions for first trainings as the stall resistance change when you hit thermal bubble! Landing in medium/strong wind is easier because at minimum speed you can fly down or even backwards; getting cocky after some successes you will get green on next nil wind landing.
Second, focus to land exactly where you want. It does not mean small meadow, but exact place on huge meadow. There are many techniques how to loose extra height and all have its pros and cons. Just experiment, safely.
Advanced technique is landing with extra energy. It means you copy terrain for longer time. If you know how to build the energy, you can try building it about 10 m above ground, followed sink will get you in position close to ground while having more energy. Of course if you mess it up, it pains more but looks great if you do it well.