A Brief Look at the History of Paragliding

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Image: xcmag.com

Jeffery S. Fraser serves as the owner of Tsaina Lodge in Valdez, Alaska, which he reopened following his retirement in 2008. Outside responsibilities in managing the Tsaina Lodge, Jeffery Fraser enjoys paragliding, a relatively new sport with a history that dates back to the 1980s.

Paragliding allows participants to glide through the air while suspended by a canopy apparatus resembling a parachute. The canopy achieves flight by catching wind and thermal currents. Participants attach themselves to the canopy using a harness system that also enables them to steer the glider’s direction. While historians tend to disagree on some of the finer points of the sport’s history, general consensus places its birthplace and much of its early development in Europe. Furthermore, several advancements in product design occurred during the 1980s involving the improvement of various aspects of the canopy, such as increasing wingspan, introducing the use of nonporous fabrics, and modifying the shape of the airfoil.

Some evidence also suggests that aeronautical engineer David Barish may have been the first person to ever paraglide due to his ties to a project for NASA in the 1960s. His work for NASA comprised of developing a space capsule recovery device called the Sail Wing, which he tested on Hunter Mountain in 1965. Barish called the activity “slope soaring,” and based the device’s design on the work of an American aerofoil technology developer, who patented a precursor to the modern-day paraglider in 1963.

The golden age of paraglider design largely took place in the 1990s. Production efforts primarily focused on creating more stable handling characteristics and making them safer for the general population. In addition, the sport’s popularity spread to Asia and the United States, with manufacturers becoming increasingly invested in paraglider safety and glider performance.

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