Paragliding is both a recreational and competitive sport taken up by adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers. This sport implies flying the paraglider, a lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure. This is what makes paragliders unique–the fact that they are easily portable and can be carried in a backpack. Throughout the years, paragliding has become a popular sport and has manage to gather numerous “followers”.
How did paragliding got to be, though? Here is a short history of this wonderful sport.
1952: Domina Jalbert developed governable gliding parachutes with multi-cells and controls for lateral glide.
1954: Walter Neumark, in an interview for Flight magazine, predicted that there will be a time when a glider pilot would be “able to launch himself by running over the edge of a cliff or down a slope…whether on a rock-climbing holiday in Skype of skiing in the Alps“.
1961: Pierre Lemoigne, a French engineer, brought significant improvements to the design of parachutes, which led to the production of the Para-Commander, or simply the PC, which had cutouts at the rear and sides. These cutouts enabled the parachute to be towed into the air and steered, therefore leading to parasailing.
1963: Domina Jalbert patented the Parafoil, which had sectioned cells in an aerofoil shape. It also had an open leading edge and a closed trailing edge which was inflated by passage through the air. This is also known as the ram-air design.
1965: David Barish developed the Sail Wing, a single surface wing for recovery of NASA space capsules. Tests were performed on Hunter Mountain, New York. He then went to promoting “slope soaring” as a summer activity for ski enthusiasts.
The term “paraglider” was originated by NASA in the early 1960s. “Paragliding” was not used until the early 1970s, when it was meant to describe foot-launching of gliding parachutes.
1973: Walter Neumark wrote Operating Procedures for Ascending Parachutes and formed the British Association of Parascending Clubs with a group of enthusiasts passionate about tow-launching PCs.
1985: Canadian author Patrick Gilligan and Swiss author Bertrand Dubuis wrote the first manual regarding this sport. It was called The Paragliding Manual; that is when the word “paragliding” was officially coined.
The equipment needed for paragliding continued to improve ever since. The number of paragliding pilots and specially designed paragliding sites kept on increasing, as well. The popularity of flying a paraglider was so high that in 1989, the first Paragliding World Championship was held in Kossen, Austria.
The greatest paragliding growth was registered in Europe. In France alone there are registered more than 25,000 active pilots. The truth is that France has some spectacular places where it would be a real shame not to experience paragliding. However, there are many other locations in which enthusiasts can fly a paraglider, such as Germany and Turkey.
As it can be seen from its short history, paragliding is a relatively new sport. It is regarded by many as a recreational activity rather than a professional sport. No matter how you call it, paragliding has surely seen a major popularity growth. If you want to try your hand at flying the paraglider, do your research and see what paragliding schools are in your area. You did not think that flying a paraglider is like flying a kite, did you?