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History of Paragliding

Today thousands of people enjoy paragliding all over the world. Its origins date back to World War I when a parachute was first used for reasons other than landing. Volunteer parachutists were towed up behind a submarine at the request of the navy to observe lands in the distance.

The 1950s is when paragliding as people know it today really began to take shape. It began with the invention of the Paracommender that had an oblong canopy with vents in the back. The vents allowed some rudimentary steering capability.

Domina Jalbert is one of the paragliding pioneers who revolutionized the sport in the 50s and 60s. A native Canadian, he settled in Florida and established a business in researching and understanding aerology. He introduced gliding parachutes that can be easily controlled in 1952. They were much more technically advanced than parachutes of the previous years.

After Jalbert’s work in the early 50′s, people began to see the potential of his discoveries. They began talking about the day when people would be able to fly by running over a cliff or down a steep slope. Francis and Gertrude Rogallo finished off the exciting decade in the world of paragliding by inventing the Rogallo wing, which was originally designed for NASA. The technology came to be used in paragliders and hand gliders.

Domina Jalbert’s most exciting contributions were made in the 1960s. He filed the “Multi-cell Wing Type Aerial Device” patent in 1963. The technology became imperative in a number of air sports including paragliding, sky diving, and kite surfing. In 1964, he created the Ram Air canopy that achieved a wing shape when filled by air.

In 1965, David Barish was working on the Sail Wing that was meant for helping with the recovery of NASA capsules. After first testing it out in Hunter Mountain, New York, he called it “slope soaring” and began promoting it as a summer activity for resorts. David Barish is arguably the most important figure in paragliding history as it is thought that he was the first creator of paragliding as people know it today.

NASA coined the term “paraglider” in the 1960s, and the word “paragliding” was first widely used in the 1970s. The British Air Association of Parascending was the first established organization to put the spotlight on paragliding as a sport. In 1978, three French parachutists by the name of Jean-Claude Betemps, Andre Bohn, and Gerard Bosson perfecting the running and launching technique in Meussy, France. In 1979, paragliding was finally recognized as a world-class sport by Gerard Bosson at the hand gliding world championship. A decade later, the first Paragliding World Championship was held in Kossen, Austria.

Today, paragliding is a recognized sport thousands of people participate in all across the globe. While the Alps are the most famed paragliding spot in the world, paragliders can be found anywhere in the world. The majority of paragliders reside in Europe, but there are many places to get the most out of the sport in North America. Paragliding in the Bay Area offers some of the most spectacular views and an exhilarating experience. No matter where they live in the world, paragliders continue to carry the sport forward into the future.

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