Nepali Times
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Two feet firmly not on the ground

UPDATE: With the death of a Russian paraglider in Pokhara on 25 February, paragliding events have been put to a halt, including the Paragliding Acrobatics Contest that was supposed to be held on the same day. Sixty paragliders from 15 countries were expected to participate. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the event was cancelled because the organisers has not sought approval from the authority, nor paid taxes. It is unclear if the authorities intend to halt normal paragliding activities in view of this incident.


It might not have rained over the past week, but mini rainbows were colouring the skies over in Pokhara. However, the strange celestial sight did not invoke surprise among the locals. An annual occurrence for the past ten years, it was a sign that the 11th Open Paragliding Competition was in season yet again.

Paraghliders with their multi-hued wings soared and swooped to claim the top spots and prizes. The three-day event, organized by Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal Western Regional Chapter (TAAN), ended on Saturday.

Some spectators sat quietly, observing with their necks strained from looking up while eating their snacks. Others happily gave chase to the landing paragliders one after the other. Over at one side, a rock band was doing numerous covers, blasting the normally quiet fields with loud music.

However, this year, the locals have much more to celebrate. For once, Nepali names dominated the rankings in the various categories (see box). The most popular of these names is Rajesh Bomjan, Nepal's rising paragliding celebrity.

Another popular name was Narayan Parajuli (pictured), Nepal's second pilot and owner of Blue Sky Paragliding. Although he did not participate in any of the competitive categories, Parajuli stole the show with his comical theatrics by wearing a yeti suit while paragliding. His antics brought laughter and cheers from those watching from the Khapaudi landing spot. "I just wanted to make the children happy and make the event more interesting," Parajuli explained.

Rising Nepal

And the winners were...

GROUNDED: An international competitor takes off from Sarangkot, Pokhara, as a local pilot looks on. The competition was held from 18-20 February 2010.

Pokhara's paragliding scene has been picking up over the years, and Nepali paragliders are now competing with the best in the world. In the first paragliding competition 11 years ago, Rajesh Bomjan was the only Nepali, this year there were 42, and the numbers are still rising.

"The new generation is more interested and has a love for adventure," says Som Bahadur Thapa of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal and coordinator of the competition. Sarangkot has also been widely mentioned as one of the best locations in the world for the sport, making it a very attractive option.

Alas, it is not all good news. Despite being able to match up well with international competitors, none of the Nepalis are legally eligible to participate in competitions overseas because the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal does not have a provision for flying licenses which is required by Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the international governing body for gliding sports. At present, only three Nepalis have international licenses.

Sanobabu Sunuwar (left) and Damodar Prajuli (right) were among the many Nepalis who won.
Another issue raised was the lack of funding and advertising. Lacking in sponsorship, money for the event was, for a large part, raised by the paragliding companies and local businesses. Hopefully, next year?s competition, coinciding with Visit Nepal Year 2011, will be a bigger hit with Nepali fliers flying even higher.

Overall Category
1st - Jaime Messenger (UK)
2nd - Aja Kumar Sharma (IND)
3rd - Claudia Mota (CAN)

DHV1/2 Category
1st - Eva Wisniserka (GER)
2nd - Sachin Bomjan (NEPAL)
3rd - Rabin Gurung (NEPAL)

Overall (Nepal) Category
1st - Rajesh Bomjan (NEPAL)
2nd - Sanobabu Sunuwar (NEPAL)
3rd - Bimal Adhikari (NEPAL)

Best Acrobatic Category
1st - Damodar Prajuli (NEPAL)

Best Spot Landing Category
1st - Moon Seov Lim (KOREA)

Best Landing Category
Brinad Bomjan (NEPAL)est Costune Category
Narayan Parajuli (NEPAL)

Feeling high - FROM ISSUE #491 (26 FEB 2010 - 04 MARCH 2010)
Fly, fly away - Paragliding, in pictures FROM MY CITY

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)