A soaring adventure

Paragliding enthusiasts in S'pore often travel to nearby countries to get their fix

Standing atop a hill in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, a group of paragliders from Singapore gazed into the shimmering distance, the expanse of rolling hills beckoning.

This was the day they would go airborne, the thrill of flight and freedom theirs for the taking.

Searing midday sun and steady wind make for good flying, they knew.

The hills, baked all morning by the sun, would warm the air above, creating columns of rising air called thermals.

Paragliders can ride for hours on these columns, circling to gain altitude.

One by one, the gliders from Paragliders Association Singaporepicked up their lines, ran down a slope and launched themselves into the sky, 426m above sea level.

Finally, it was my turn.


You fly in different sites in different countries and it seems like no matter where you go, you get to meet a lot of interesting and like-minded people.

MR SHANE SOH, an engineer, who says the supportive community makes paragliding an even more enjoyable experience.

Tethered to my tandem instructor - I was certainly not going to fly solo -  my heart was thumping hard and my hands turned cold.

A man of few words, he had none to reassure me.

Suddenly, it was time to go.

"Run," he said.

Run, I did.

I drove my legs hard into the ground, and as we picked up speed, our sky-blue ripstop-nylon canopy blossomed into a fully-grown aerofoil, large enough to bear our combined weight.

Suddenly, the sandy slope beneath my feet gave way to a blur of treetops. We were airborne.

My heightened senses tried to pick up everything at once - the air rushing past my face, the smell of the rainforest beneath, the endless vistas of hills.

All at once, my excitement gave way to serenity as we glided soundlessly in a vast, three-dimensional space.


(It is) the best feeling in the world because once you're in the air, you forget about all your worries... It is also the cheapest way to fly that allows you to be your own pilot.

MR CHRISTOPHER HSIEH, a design manager, on paragliding.

I now understand why this sport is so addictive.

"Paragliding is the best feeling in the world," said Mr Christopher Hsieh. "Once you're in the air, you forget about all your worries."

"It is also the cheapest way to be your own pilot," added the 30-year- old design manager.

Mr Shane Soh, 25, an engineer, said the supportive community makes it an even more enjoyable experience.

"You fly in different sites in different countries and it seems like no matter where you go, you meet a lot of interesting and like-minded people."

Due to the restricted airspace in Singapore, paragliding is not allowed here.

Paragliders practise their ground-handling techniques in an open field in Marina East to familiarise themselves with their glider's characteristics, but actual flying is done overseas, said Mr Ivan Chang, vice-president of the Paragliders Association Singapore.

The association, which has about 50 members, organises weekend trips to nearby countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Mr Chang, who has been flying for 19 years, was excited to learn that the Olympic Council of Asia would include paragliding in the 18th Asian Games 2018 to be held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia.

He believes there is a good chance the paragliders might bring home medals for Singapore.

He cited the achievements of Ms Jessica Goh, a Singaporean whose exploits have largely flown under the radar.

Last year, Ms Goh was the female champion of the Paragliding Accuracy World Cup, the culmination of a series of competitions held in six different countries.

As the paragliders here are not familiar with competing in a multi-sport event, Mr Chang has written to the Singapore National Olympic Council to seek guidance on the requirements needed to send representatives to the 2018 Asian Games.

"I can't promise anything, but I can only hope for an opportunity," said Ms Goh. 

"Given the training and if offered a chance to do my best, I believe I have a chance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'A soaring adventure'. Print Edition | Subscribe