From time immemorial, man has always dreamt of soaring in the sky, free as a bird, unrestricted in his motions and feelings, and bonding with nature. Being in touch with the air and the scenery around has always attracted his mind. It was from this passion for achieving great heights that the concept of paragliding has evolved into a wonderful flying sport all over the world.The convenience Agasthyakoodamand simplicity of paragliding makes it a desirable sport that has gained international recognition. Thanks to this concept, it is now possible for the common man to experience the thrill of flying.
Paragliding is a relatively new sport in India and especially so in Kerala. In the world of flying, paragliding is one of the newest and hottest adventure sports that finds increasing takers year by year owing to its sheer thrill. Paragliding as a competitive sports item got recognition in the country only recently.
Many talented youngsters are bent on taking the less-travelled path when it comes to following their hobbies and interests. One finds unadulterated thrill in flying mid air, with so much to be explored, so much to be seen, so many limits to be pushed and so many challenges to be made.Paragliders report that they ‘feel alive’during the course of their adventure activity. Tourists have vouched the fact that hovering over the Indian landscapes, defined by mesmerizing colors and nature’s vibrancy, is to be experienced to be believed.
Today, paragliding has become as popular an air adventure activity as other sports such as scuba diving, wind surfing, rafting, trekking, mountain climbing, biking, skiing and many other adrenaline pumping land and water adventure sports.
The paragliding destinations in the country range from the hill stations of Manali in HimachalPradesh to Nandi hills near Bangalore, to the hill ranges Agasthyakoodamin Pune and Mumbai. In Kerala, Wagamon has been identified as the hotspot for paragliding by tourists and travelers all over. The hill station which lies nearly 6,000 ft above sea level and where the weather is known to be fickle, was till recently only an offbeat tourism destination for travellers from the State. But today, it has found a place in the international tourism map because of paragliding.
A paragliding holiday in hill top destinations is a welcome activity for the adventure enthusiasts. The bravehearts and challengers among them can take part in the annual paragliding contest held atop the picturesque Wagamon hills in Kerala. The tourist adventure site of Wagamon is situated at the hills of Kolahalamedu, 4 kms from Wagamon, forming part of south India‘s second highest peak namely the Amruthamedu. There is a 10 km long ridge of 3,000 feet in height from top to bottom. This site has steady winds blowing in the south western direction throughout the season. The paragliding season starts from September and offers great flying conditions until January and again, from March to May. Wagamon boasts of a cool climate during most part of the year.
For people who want to learn paragliding, there are a few good paragliding schools in north and south India. It is important that they obtain the required information and understand the risks involved in the sport before undertaking the exciting activity.
The wonderful sport of paragliding has evolved several unique techniques and methods of training by skilled trainers using state-of-the-art equipment that offers expertise on advanced flying techniques including local soaring, ridge soaring, thermalling, cross country flying, paramotoring, aerial photography / advertising, joyrides etc.
Feel like a bird
Adventure sports and activities open the gateway to a whole new world of passion, a world offreedom, a world of thrill and vigour.
AgasthyakoodamOne of the wildest fantasies that man has had since always is to fly freely like a bird in the limitless, boundless sky. Through paragliding, man has been able to fulfill his dream or at least, its nearest approximation. This sport allows him to enjoy a similar feeling as he would have had if he had wings.
Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. A paragliding enthusiast has to go through different stages after being initiated as a pilot. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, whose shape is formed by the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing. An experienced pilot has full control over the machine he is maneuvering. He can glide in the air with eagles soaring close by, and manoevre the glider in whichever direction he wants. Paragliders claim that the experience is ‘something that cannot be put into words.’
Technicalities of Paragliding
The canopy or wing found in a paraglider is an aerodynamic arc of cloth wing made up of nylon, designed to fly through air. The canopy is made up of polyester ripstop nylon. The suspension lines attached to the canopy surface integrate and are attached to the harness seat of the pilot seat.
The wing is spread on a mountain slope within a safe open area. The lines are checked for tangles and then the canopy is attached to the harness. The pilot has to go through pre- flight checks and then begin with running down the slope. The canopy is inflated and surfaces overhead and, in a few more steps with a touch of brakes, the pilot becomes air- borne. The glider is controlled by pulling down the control lines, one at a time to turn and applying both brakes for landing.
A paraglider wing when inflated creates an aerofoil shape, and the performance of a wing in terms of flying speed and glide ratio depends on this shape. The paraglider wing is spread on a flat surface of a mountain perpendicular to the wind and after a thorough check for tangles in the lines, is connected to the harness by the pilot. A pilot while moving into the wind for take off, pulls the ‘A’ risers attached to the leading edge. The wind coming head on enters the cells of the wing. The air entering inside builds up internal pressure, till it takes on a more or less aerodynamic shape.
A three-day course is conducted wherein basic rules, ground running, knowing the glider, controlling the glider, knowledge about wind - speed, directions etc is taught and then various instructed flights are allowed for the candidates.
Tandem Paragliding is an exercise by which the novice Agasthyakoodamparaglider can get in the air without extensive training. In a tandem paragliding flight, the candidate can feel the joy of paragliding without actually steering the paraglider.
In a Tandem Paragliding lesson, the instructor flies a glider that is built for two and can handle over a 500 lb payload. A brief introduction to the techniques necessary and what not to do is instructed before the flight. This is an experience where the instructor manages the safety and the student gets to experience the amazing sights of soaring in a paraglider first hand.Tandem gliders are designed to carry the weight of two people and offer the flier the opportunity to take the controls and experience the sensation of flying a paraglider.
A Report of the Paragliding Prix 2008
Wagamon Destination Management Council, in association with Adventure Sports and Sustainable Tourism Academy and the Tourism Department, organised the 4th Kerala International Paragliding Championship at the beautiful hills of Wagamon here from September 23-27. This was reported as the biggest paragliding festival in south India. Breathtaking acrobaticdisplay by expert pilots including world record holders was the main attraction. ‘Tandem Paragliding’ was a highlight this time.
Sixty eight glider pilots including two women from the Agasthyakoodamcountry and abroad displayed their skills in the adventure carnival. Apart from a team from the Indian Army representing the country, more than about 20 gliders from the US, Switzerland, Italy, France, Nepal, Russia, Germany, Brazil and Thailand participated in the colourful five-day fete. The championship was held in two main categories - cross country and spot landing. Overall sunny weather and favourable wind supported the paragliders.
Visitors converged at the site in thousands to watch the spectacular show and the trial runs mandatorily conducted by the pilots and gliders to test the terrain and wind conditions. On the concluding day, cash prizes were distributed to the winners.The event had bagged the Most Innovative Adventure Tourism Activity from the Indian Government in 2008.
Efforts are on by the Tourism department to popularize the paragliding championship at Wagamon hills and make it a major attraction as the Alappuzha boat race. The Tourism department along with KTDC is gearing up to facilitate paragliding and other adventure sports in various locations in the State. The international paragliding championship is expected to get a boost through wider country wide as well as worldwide coverage in the years to come.