Do you wonder how and who invented Paragliding? I have 🙂 Here is a short summary of how Paragliding came about, with a number of resources and references below if you wish to read more.

1965 – David Barish, widely thought to be the father of Paragliding

David Barish flying his “slope soaring canopy”

Paragliding’s origins can be traced back to Da Vinci’s parachute drawings during the Renaissance as well as to the modifications to the parachutes of the WWII era. However, it is widely understood that the probable inventor of the airfoil paraglider is David Barish who made “sail wings” to recover safely NASA space capsules in the mid-60’s.

He made a number of scale down prototypes that he used to try out himself to test their viability. His designs were never used for their intended purpose as NASA favoured an alternative design.

However, he got, so excited by his invention that he took to the US ski slopes to demonstrate his newly find “slope soaring” sport, throughout the summer of 1965.

1978 – Jean-Claude BETEMPS and the first “Parachute de Pente” flight

First Parachute de Pente flight – JC BĂ©temps flies the StratoCloud in 1978.

On the 25th of June 1978, members of the Parachute club d’Anemasse (Haute-savoie, France) decide to experiment launching with their parachutes from the Perthuiset mountain in Mieussy.

Jean-Claude BĂ©temps launched first to slope land shortly after, followed by AndrĂ© Bohn who did a top-to-bottom, landing in the valley football pitch.

This is understood to be the first Paragliding flights.

“Parapente” (“Paraglider” in French) is the contraction of “Parachute de pente” or “Slope Parachute”.

On the 5th of May 1979, the first Paragliding club is created in Anemasse, “Les Choucas”.

1985 – La Randonneuse – the first manufactured paragliding wing for sale

La Randonneuse, first wing manufactured specifically for Paragliding
La Randonneuse, first wing manufactured specifically for Paragliding

Laurent de Kalbermatten, a swiss hanggliding champion, invents the first wing made specifically for Paragliding in 1985, “La Randonneuse”. He founds the company “Ailes de K” to manufacture it industrially.

The rest, as they say, is history…

These photos and the stories going with them should inspire admiration and respect to the pilots who actually flew these contraptions (AKA death traps) and by trial, error, and good fortitude, lived long enough to develop better, safer, gliders. We all owe them all an immense amount of gratitude for their tenacity, perseverance, and more than just a hint of recklessness.

UPDATE: Reddit user and pilot _Piratical_ has kindly shared this gem of a video from 1987 to finish the collection. So 80’s! Already, pre-flight checks were a very important stage as the narrator goes to great length explaining! Enjoy

Sources and references can be find below – Thank you!