I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville



Sep 30, 2015

Top pilots to compete in India’s first Paragliding World Cup 2015

Over 100 paragliding pilots will take to the skies for the Airports Authority of India Paragliding World Cup 2015 trophy.


Melvin Michael

The wait is almost over for the first Paraglding World Cup 2015 to be held in India next month at the scenic hill station and gliding hub of of Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh.

As many as 130 pilots from over 35 countries including hosts India will battle it out in the skies during the competition that starts from October 24, announced  the Billing Paragliding Association (BPA) at a press conference on Monday in New Delhi.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI), a public sector body that overlooks India’s civil aviation infrastructure, is the main sponsor of the prestegious competition.

The Paragliding World Cup (PWC) 2015 trophy ( designed around the concept of Garuda, a Hindu mythological creature which is a symbol of impetuous violent force of speed and flight) and the mascot, which is the snow leopard, were also unveiled on Monday.

L-R : Mr Mohan Chauhan (Commissioner Tourism & Civil Aviation, Mr R K Srivastava (Chairman AAI), Mr Sudhir Sharma (President BPA), Mr Anush Aggarwal (President AAI Sports), Mr Rajesh Srivastava ( Senior VP BPA)

The Billing Paragliding Association will be conducting the AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 with the help of the Paragliding World Cup’s apex body based in France, Federation Aeronatique International (FAI).

BPA president, Mr Sudhir Sharma said India’s role as hosts of the PWC was the outcome of “a dream bid” for the mega competition. Bir-Billing has been at the forefront of paragliding activities in India for many years and these days nearly 1000 pilots take off from the site every day.  The competition will also be the first-ever World Cup of Paragliding in South Asia. The World Cup will not only give a boost to the sport in India but will also improve the local economy and promote tourism in the state.”

The Airports Authority of India said it was a ‘clear as bell’ reason for them to come on board as the title and trophy sponsor for the PWC 2015.

AAI chairman Mr R K Srivastava said, “AAI had been on the lookout for a discipline which could be a perfect fit for its main task of providing infrastructure of flying. When the Paragliding World Cup came around we were extremely pleased to be associated with it. We plan to start with paragliding and take adventure sports in India to a new level.”

Mr Sharma said he was pleased with the world class infrastructure the Himachal Pradesh state government had developed for the World Cup, increasing the take-off capacity at the site to 45-50 pilots. He also added that roads and public amenities have also been upgraded to international standards for the arriving pilots and spectators of the global competition.


Over the seven days at the competition, a designated Task Committee will set a daily ‘task’ for the pilots. A specific course will be decided for the task and the pilots will be required to fly the entire course in the fastest time.The format  will be cross country/marathon flying, where the pilots will cover around 140 kms per day. PWC is an individual event where points will be awarded for various tasks and cumulative points will determine the winner.


The organizers confirmed participation of 130 pilots from over 35 countries. Top ranked para gliders, Vidic Jurij of Slovenia (Rank 2), Julien Wirtz of France (Rank 3) and Torsten Siegel of Germany (Rank 4) will be participating and competing at the World Cup amongst other top ranked pilots.

The Indian Contingent will be lead by Ajay Kumar and the rest of the team will comprise of Gurpreet Dhindsa, Jyoti Thakur, Arvind Pal, Prakash Chand, Gautam Nath and Sanjay Kumar


Dr Raj Kumar, the Technical Director for the World Cup said,  there will be trained rescue personnel, both for retrieval and medical emergencies. There are dedicated teams for retrieval at landing and take-off sites, as many as 80 vehicles with volunteers will be tracking the locations of the pilots once they are air- borne. Along the flight path there will be aid stations and two choppers will be on standby to evacuate a pilot in case of an emergency.


Paragliding in Billing

Bir-Billing is considered a ‘Paradise for paragliding’. Located at a distance of 500 kms from the national catipal Delhi. The villages of Bir and Billing are 14 kilometers apart in Himachal Pradesh. The site, Bir-Billing is almost naturally suited for the sport. The site offers as much as a 200 km expanse for flying.

Arvind Paul, ranked sixth in India said, ” Bir-Billing is an open valley where the flight paths are along the tree line. There are plenty of safe zones for emergency landing which make it the ideal location for paragliding”

Jyoti Thakur, an experienced paraglider of the Indian team told The Outdoor Journal,” Bir-Billing is one of the best sites in the world for paragliding as its easily accessible, there are plenty of landing sites which makes flying safer and during the day there are good thermals to gain height while flying. Along with all this there are roads along the flight path which can help in rescue and evacuation.”

Images: AAI and BPA

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Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.



Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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