March 2011

Paragliding in the heart of South America-Bolivia!

Paragliding competitively in Bolivia ....a growing sport?

Hersha Mistry
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For some, paragliding is a passion, it is an enthusiasm and way of life. When we interviewed some members of the paragliding team here in Bolivia, they really showed a high level of devotion, interest and love for the sport, which seemed to have an inspiring effect on the interviewer. In this article, Hersha Mistry finds out more on the popularity of paragliding in Bolivia, as well as the first paragliding competition which took place in the country based in one of its major cities- Cochabamba.

So what exactly defines Paragliding? Paragliding can be classified as a recreational or competitive flying sport where the pilot sits in a suspended harness below a fabric wing. Some pilots like to take recreational flying to another level and choose to fly competitively, the reason being, these flyers want to work towards an objective and believe this can be best achieved through competitive flying.

Competitive flying involves the use of high performance wings and a higher level of skill than recreational flyers. There are many different types of competitive flying. These include cross country leagues, national and international records, acrobatic manoeuvres, spot landing competitions and competitive flying based on completing a number of tasks. In this article, we talk more about competitive paragliding.

Paragliding can be a very safe sport however, those pilots flying with lack of preparation, lack of good equipment or are simply unlucky are prone to injury. Safety of the paraglider is affected by the experience, skill, reaction time and active nature of the air at the time of flying. The individual pilot is responsible for his her own safety and as a rule of thumb, the paraglider will only fly on days when the weather is good, avoiding any kind of turbulence, excessive wind speeds, rain, snow and a wind direction that will not allow a takeoff(or landing) into the wind.

 

The first paragliding school in Cochabamba

Parapente, located in Cochabamba is one of the first paragliding schools in Bolivia. It was the first institute to be legalised as a paragliding school in Bolivia. Prior to this, the sport was practiced only as a hobby as unfortunately, no laws in Bolivia existed for paragliding to be practiced as an official sport.

Since 2001, the Parapente school offers paragliders both personalised and professional training. Their flight zone is situated in the north east part of Cochabamba which has the perfect geographical conditions all year round for both the learner and the expert. responsible for his her own safety and as a rule of thumb, the paraglider will only fly on days when the weather is good, avoiding any kind of turbulence, excessive wind speeds, rain, snow and a wind direction that will not allow a takeoff(or landing) into the wind.

The first paragliding competition in Cochabamba, took place between the 30th of October and the 2nd of November 2010 in the regions of Huayllani, Parque tunari, Vinto and Tiquipaya.

An overview from the flyers

In this article, we interviewed a very keen team of paragliders; two members of the Parapente school; Jaime Bohrt– President of the APC and Cristian Bustilllos-vice president, to gain an insight and overview into the first Paragliding competition and to see their opinion on how this sport is largely growing in Cochabamba.

“Paragliding is addictive, it is a beautiful experience”

Jaime Bohrt says “This is an extreme sport, and many deaths have occurred in the past due to the lack of good equipment being used and more importantly flying without proper instruction” However, paragliding is an addiction. Once you start paragliding you feel the need to do it again and again” During the interview, one could feel an inspiration to fly high in the sky and a wanting to experience such an addictive feeling.

Cochabanner : Who was the winner of this first competition of paragliding in Cochabamba? Jaime Bohrt : The winner was Miguel Alem Morales from La Paz, Bolivia.

CB:How many people participated in the first competition of paragliding in Cochabamba?-

JB:Fifteen participants were involved from across the country.

CB:What type of competitive flying was carried out in the first paragliding competition in Cochabamamba?

JB:Time of flight and precision paragliding.

CB:How does it feel to participate in the first paragliding competition in Cochabamba?

JB:It feels beautiful “we have made history”

CB:Did you enjoy the experience? Cochabanner : Who was the winner of this first competition of paragliding in Cochabamba? Jaime Bohrt : The winner was Miguel Alem Morales from La Paz, Bolivia.

CB:How many people participated in the first competition of paragliding in Cochabamba?-

JB:Fifteen participants were involved from across the country.

CB:What type of competitive flying was carried out in the first paragliding competition in Cochabamamba?

JB:Time of flight and precision paragliding.

CB:How does it feel to participate in the first paragliding competition in Cochabamba?

JB:It feels beautiful “we have made history”

CB:Did you enjoy the experience?

“There are people out there who devote their whole lives to paragliding”

JB:Yes, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience; it was a beautiful feeling when all 15 paragliders flew together all at once.

CB: What motivated you to paraglide?

JB:Paragliding is addictive and it’s a beautiful experience. Flying competitively means working towards an objective; otherwise, it is just a hobby.

CB:How long have you both been training?

JB:We have been training since 1998, almost 14 years in total. A learner can start to paraglide within one and a half weeks of training. The learner however must be accompanied by a professional in their initial stages of flying. For the more advanced flyer, he has to study in order to attain an in-depth knowledge on flying techniques, knowledge of the sea level and oxygen in the air. The best pilots are usually the oldest in age and are therefore more experienced with this sport.

CB:What type of competitive flying have you carried out in the past?

JB:Cross country and acrobatic flying.

CB:Do you use special equipment whilst paragliding and how much does this cost?

JB:The cost of equipment very much depends on what equipment is purchased. The cost can start from two to three thousand dollars up to six thousand dollars. We generally use a radio, some pilots use GPS. We also use helmets and of course and dorsal protection.

CB:Can these pieces of equipment be purchased within Bolivia?

JB:Yes, we have two main dealers here in Bolivia; all equipment is imported from outside countries.

CB:For paragliders like yourself, what are the opportunities to compete on an international level?

JB:There are many opportunities to compete on an international level. We have been flying in Chile, France, Argentina and Austria.

CB:Do you believe Cochabamba has everything to offer to those flying competitively?

JB:Yes, Cochabamba has very good potential, we have a chain of hills here, weather conditions are always ideal and generally, there is good access to facilities.

 

CB:Do you think Paragliding is a growing sport in Cochabamba?

JB:his sport attracts a lot of tourists and over 90% of our customers who attend the school are travellers from abroad. They find the cost of the sport here in Cochabamba considerably cheaper compared to their home countries. However, for the Cochabambinos, this proves to be an expensive sport, we would like to think that we are growing in popularity and are doing all we can to attract more customers; for example internet advertising, creating

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