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YASA to train local youths in paragliding

Staff Reporter

D. Gopalakrishnan

A paraglider taking off with the pilot and a tourist on the second day of the 3-day Paragliding Festival at Yelagiri Hills on Sunday. —

TIRUPATTUR: With Yelagiri Hills finding a place in the paragliding map in the country, the need of the hour was local participation to promote adventure sports among tourists. In a step towards this, the Yelagiri Adventure Sports Association (YASA) is all set to rope in local youths and provide free training in paragliding to offer tandem joy rides to tourists throughout the year, according to experts.

Pascal Hanggi Gopal, a paraglider from Auroville, who was instrumental in opening a few paragliding sites in the country, said, “What we mainly need now are local people learning the profession of paragliding. Some of the tandem pilots from Maharashtra are farmers who learnt to paraglide and have become extremely good pilots. That should happen here.” If local people enter the scenario after training, Yelagiri will become an active paragliding spot in five to six years as tandem joy rides are important, as it is the first way people discover the adventure sport, Mr. Gopal said.

YASA is taking steps to train local youths to paraglide, noted C. Jayakrishnan, Joint Secretary of YASA. “We have got 20 names so far. We are planning to conduct a two-month training programme for them next year during May and June. We are looking at a group comprising a minimum of 15 persons,” he explained.

Selvaraj, a farmer from Nilavoor at Yelagiri, who was involved in carrying the equipment of the paragliders, said he has registered for training in paragliding. “No one from my village came forward to undertake the training as many are scared. But I got interested in learning to paraglide after seeing last year's festival,” he said.

The three-day paragliding festival which concluded on Sunday saw the participation of 68 pilots, including four foreigners. There was 100 per cent increase in the number of persons who came for tandem flying. As many as 30 persons flew in tandem, Mr. Jayakrishnan said.

According to Mr. Gopal, only pilots from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra participated in the festival in the last two years. “But this year, we have pilots from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Haryana and Sikkim. This is an indication that Yelagiri is on the paragliding map. After two paragliding hotspots in India — Billing at Himachal Pradesh and Panchgani and Kamshet in Maharastra — we can add Yelagiri in Tamil Nadu to the list now,” he said.

Collector C. Rajendran, who visited the festival on Sunday, said the possibility of creating a landing site on the hill itself will be explored.

“We can look at the possibility of setting up a landing site here. This is called top landing. Negotiations are on to purchase a two-acre private land near Ponneri which is being used as the landing site presently,” Mr. Jayakrishnan pointed out.

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