Ready, Set, Go! Competitive Paragliding
Competitors ride a thermal current in the sky during the 10th FAI Paragliding World Championships on March 9, 2007 in Manila, Australia.
Paragliding is fast becoming one of the more prevalent adventure sports in the world and with that popularity comes an increased interest in national and international paragliding competitions. There are national competitions in almost every country throughout the world. The competitions are based on a series of “tasks” that the paragliders must complete either individually or as teams. Most tasks are based around time and distance. Winners can be crowned based on who finishes first, longest distance flown in the shortest amount of time, or longest distance flown.
Many races contain a series of “turnpoints” to let the paragliders know how to stay on track for the race, though some do not. GPS monitors with altitude-recording capabilities are used as the measuring tool for the competitions. A majority of paragliding events consist of a day of orientation followed by 6 days of competition. All of the professional competitions are sanctioned by the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale or World Airsports Federation).
Due to the nature of paragliding and its reliance on proper weather conditions, not all events go as planned. Visibility, wind and other factors can cause what is called a “No Fly Day”. These are tournament days where paragliders are not allowed to fly due to incremental weather conditions. During these days, there are often other activities planned to keep the paragliders busy in the downtime.
The USA National Paragliding Tournament occurs annually at different locations in the U.S. The 2007 competition, supported by the USHPA (United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association), took place in Lakeview, Oregon. The tasks associated with the National competition are cross-country speed runs flown with or without turnpoints.
Related Paragliding Video: Paragliders coast over the cliffs in Santa Barbara, California.
The entry fee for the race is $350, which includes an awards ceremony and planned activities for “No Fly Days”. Some of the activities on the 2007 “No Fly Day” itinerary were a basketball tournament with a $500 prize and a street dance competition with local residents of Lakeview. The 2008 U.S. National Competition will take place in Owens Valley, California.
The Rat Race Paragliding Competition is another annual tournament held at Woodrat Mountain in Ruch, Oregon. This is more of a unique paragliding competition as it allows novice paragliders to be mentored by experienced paragliders. Held in late June, the entry fee for the Rat Race is $375 and includes the mentoring program, GPS training and other useful events.
The Paragliding World Cup is an international competition that takes place throughout the year at different locations around the world. The 2007 events were held in Japan, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Argentina. Each competition is based on tasks that range from racing, flying an allotted distance in the shortest amount of time and flying the longest distance over a set course. There were a total of 23 tasks flown throughout the 2007 competition. This year’s champion, Christian Maurer, is the first person in World Cup history to win the title three consecutive years in a row. The 2008 World Cup will take place in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Bulgaria and Brazil.
The FAI World Paragliding Championships decide the overall, women’s and team world champions of paragliding. The 2007 competition marked the 10th anniversary of the World Championships. Located in Manilla, Australia, these world championships were the first to be held in an English speaking country. The World Championships are held during odd-numbered years to accommodate for the pre-world championship qualifying events held during the even-numbered years. The 11th FAI World Paragliding Championships will be held in January 2009 in El Peñon, Valle de Bravo in Mexico.