Paragliders take Azerbaijani skies

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Paragliders take Azerbaijani skiesExtreme sports have begun to gain popularity among youngsters in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s open skies and high mountains provide opportunities for those who want to soar in the clouds to enjoy the free flight sensation of paragliding.

The recreational and competitive adventure sport of paragliding is a great activity in that it is relatively easy to master turning and controlling speed, you have a non-motorized inflatable wing that you launch manually, and the equipment is easy to transport, easy to launch, and easy to land.

The capital’s adrenaline junkies flee the tumultuous Kahzri winds of Baku to find calmer winds outside the capital in the country’s regions.

Jamal Kashkay, a representative of the RockStone club, is one of the more than 20 professional paragliders in the country.

He is the first Azerbaijani to represent the country in the International Paragliding Accuracy Landing Competition alongside the world’s best athletes, which took place in Saudi Arabia this summer.

AzerNews asked the 42 year-old athlete to share his impressions and talk a little bit about this novel sport for Azerbaijan.

This year for the first time, Kashkay received a national license and was admitted to international competition carrying the Azerbaijani flag. This is his second after his Dutch pilot license.

The competitions, Jamal says, are being held with strict observance to safety regulations. “One of the conditions is flight license, which means exam passing and knowledge of the theory of flight. Until recently, Azerbaijani pilots did not have national licenses and they had to either represent foreign countries or they simply were not allowed in competitions.

Among the 41 participants, he placed 12th. “The landing zone was not even visible from the start, I only knew the direction and previously had studied the area map.”

The most important thing is the pleasure of flying to a new place, says Jamal, and of course the intrigue of a precision landing.

Jamal’s next flight is at the Uludeniz resort, located on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. “This is the ideal place to acquire skills. I hope that many of our pilots will also attend the festival.”

But most of all, Jamal likes to fly in motherland, where he can fly with his friends, with whom he began to conquer the skies three years ago.

He said that even if the weather does not allow one to enjoy a good flight, it can always be compensated with a good conversation amongst friends.

Today, the country has four paragliding clubs that are registered with the Federation of Air and Extreme Sports of Azerbaijan (FAIREX), established in 2005. RockStone is the most advanced and only experts, but also provides training for beginners.

Each club has its own program, Jamal stresses. There are those who seek flights in the highlands. They go to the mountains, exploring possible places to launch, wind direction, and plan flight routes. Then there are those scouting more relaxed runs. Lastly, there are those who want to win prizes in competitions.

He believes that the greatest achievement of Azerbaijani pilots is the fact that they were able to unite and develop the sport in the country. “At first this process went at club level, but now all clubs are working together for a common cause. In many countries, this sport is individual, and this makes it difficult for newcomers and experience exchange,” he said.

The geographical locations for flights are constantly changing, he said. So far national pilots have flown in Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia (where there are good opportunities for training), as well as Gulf countries, the U.S. and UK.

“Travel and training are costly and it is the only factor limiting us. There are foreigners among the members of RockStone, and they also fully cooperate in expanding the geography,” he said. While many may consider paragliding too extreme for women, especially in eastern countries where women are traditionally considered to be homebodies, Jamal says that Azerbaijani girls are in fact more often interested in the extreme sport than Azerbaijani men.

“Training to fly is not difficult, it is difficult to learn to fly well. And this requires practice and experience exchange,” he tells.

Talking about future plans, Jamal said that national paragliders still need to gain experience by participating in international competitions. And he has a couple of ideas to achieve this.

“We need to hold such competitions in our country. Practically, we have all the opportunities for this. We have already held competitions close to world standards in Lokbatan, Goylar, and Pirikishkul, but those lacked of official recognition.

By Amina Nazarli