Paragliding has a long and illustrious history.
Paragliding, like hang gliding, arose partly as a result of NASA space program ideas. Other designs, as well as test flights done separately on the other side of the globe, contributed to the foundation and development of paragliding.
David Barish Was Born In 1965.
David Barish, an American pilot, invented one of the earliest airfoils, which aided in the development of modern paragliding. Barish left the Air Force after WWII to study aerodynamics at the California Institute of Technology, then worked for NASA as a consultant. He created the Vortex Ring in 1955, a lighter, more stable parachute with better gliding characteristics. Then, in the early 1960s, he expanded on his prior work to build the Sailwing, a parachute that helped NASA space capsules return to Earth.
In 1965, Barish flew his Sailwing—a single-surface, rectangular parachute—from a ski resort in New York for the first time. He coined the term “slope soaring” and spent the summer of 1966 touring ski slopes from Maine to California in an attempt to promote the ground-skimming sport. Barish, on the other hand, transferred his emphasis to other projects once NASA opted to use alternative means to retrieve the space capsule.
Others were working on parachute designs at the same time. Domina Jalbert, an American, patented the Parafoil, a multi-celled, double-surface, ram-air type parachute, in 1964. The parachute was inflated by the velocity of air moving through the cells, giving it an airfoil form that enabled it to glide.
In 1978, paragliding became a popular sport. Jean-Claude Bétemps and André Bohn, skydivers from Mieussy, France, decided to attempt to fly aloft on June 25 by jumping from the steep slope of Mont Pertuiset. Bétemps was the first to take off, and they both glided to the valley below. Their flights drew media attention, encouraging other people to the activity, and Bétemps was dubbed “the founder of paragliding” by many.
Following that, the sport exploded in popularity. Bétemps was a teacher at the first paragliding school, which opened in 1979. Laurent de Kalbermatten started making and marketing the first paragliding wing in 1985, and other firms quickly followed suit. Paragliding first became popular in the United States in the mid-to-late 1980s, and it grew in popularity during the 1990s.
New paraglider pilots entered the competition immediately. In 1989, Austria hosted the inaugural Paragliding World Championships. The World Air Sports Federation recorded Hans Jörg Bachmair’s first straight distance world record of 69.15 km in the same year (FAI). By the end of the year, two additional pilots had broken it, and by December 1990, it had increased to about 150 kilometers. The longest straight distance flown by a paraglider continues to climb, surpassing 400 kilometers in 2007. Donizete Baldessar Lemos, Rafael Monteiro Saladini, and Samuel Nascimento established the current straight distance record of 564.3 km (350 miles) on October 13, 2016.
Learning to paraglide is now simpler, safer, and more enjoyable than ever before. Glider designs are constantly evolving, making paragliders lighter, more stable, and simpler to fly while also boosting their performance. With thousands of enthusiasts throughout the globe, paragliding offers something for everyone: trekking (and even camping) with your wing, soaring along the coast, flying cross-country to set personal—or global—records, performing aerobatics, and competing, to name a few. The sport is also evolving, with new designs reducing paragliders to speed wings and mini-wings, allowing pilots to fly low and fast down mountain slopes.
If you’ve ever fantasized about flying, paragliding is the most accessible method to do it. There’s no better time than now to get started, so look for a school or instructor and come fly with us!