The Evolution of Paragliding

Many people know what paragliding is, but it might take some time to get past the “cousins” of this sport that include hang gliding and parasailing before the sport of paragliding is really understood. Once a person understands that paragliding is much like being attached to a kite that they control, the concept is much easier to grasp. However, many people wonder how this sport in particular came to be.

It’s easy to imagine that someone that loved flying kites thought how fun it would be to be “attached” to the kite, but it’s much more likely that this sport was developed through a few different channels.
They say it has a French connection
It might be up for debate where paragliding started, but the bottom line is that this sport really started to “boom” in the French Alps during the 1980’s. Is this where it started? That’s not entirely clear, but it is known that this sport did become very popular in France at this time.

At any rate, it’s likely that many different athletes were developing their paragliding techniques at the same time. So the exact birth of this sport as we know it today might be a bit foggy.

Influences from all around the world
You probably know that paragliding takes its influences from all around the world. It’s a little like hang gliding, it’s a little like parachuting and you use similar principals when paragliding as you might if you were flying a kite. The desire for man to feel like a bird is undoubtedly behind the birth of paragliding, but it isn’t credited to just one or two people like hang gliding can be.

For instance, in 1958 when Gertrude and Francis Rogallo were working for NASA, they invented the Rogallo wing. This was developed for recovery. Rogallo is also known for innovative development of paragliders and hang gliders that were more rudimentary.

It is thought that the first paraglider as we know it today was invented by David Barish in 1965 while he was also working for NASA. At that time, he called his invention a “sail wing” and took his first flights in New York.

It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that three French parachutists named Andre Bohn, Gerard Bosson and Jean-Claude Betemps began running to launch their paragliders. In fact, the practice caught on and that’s why it is often said that France is the “birthplace” of paragliding as we know it today.

Paragliding the sport and the equipment that is used today has undoubtedly evolved. It’s become safer, easier and more fun to do. Paragliding has also become a science, with the study of thermals (or the air currents), and how a paraglider can use them.

If you’re interested in learning to paraglide, the first step is to find a good instructor or school and take the time to learn all you can about it. While paragliding is safer than many extreme sports, it’s important to learn all you can and get started with an experienced instructor so you can enjoy the sport at your pace.

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