The take-off of paragliding in France: Development, evolution and federal structurationof free flight activities (1980s, 1990s)

Research papers
By Dominique Jorand, André Suchet

Born from the influence of the first hang-gliding pilots and the cultural context of 60s Californian counter-culture, but with parachute gear, paragliding quickly became one of the major forms of air sport. The original practice of hang-gliding is now an endangered activity in many countries (Jorand, 2000; Jorand & Suchet, 2017). On a theoretical level, it must be said that the emergence followed by the development of such a sporting, cultural and technical novelty result from the appropriation and the closure of a legitimate definition of the activity by the first practitioners (Pociello, 1995; Defrance, 1998). The history of free flight air sports is a perfect illustration of these cultural and social mechanics. This work presents the development, evolution and federal structuring of paragliding during the 1980s and 1990s. This article aims to show how the practice of paragliding appeared in France and the stakes of a commercial supply related to nature/adventure tourism followed by a federal offer including participating in a sporting normalization, with French championships.


  • air sport
  • paragliding
  • parachuting
  • legitimate definition
  • field
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