Three new extreme sports will debut at this year’s Asian Games and all of them will take place outside the stadium. We find out what to expect from these new events and how they came to be
Opinions differ on who invented paragliding: American aeronautical engineer David Barish, who developed the first paragliding device in the 1960s using advanced aerofoil technology, or the American military, who were said to have launched the first mass parachute landing exercises. Barish’s contraption, called the Sailwing, was launched off grassy slopes, and he envisioned them being the star of a new sport at ski resorts, “slope soaring” – but the idea never took off.
Nevertheless, it was in 1978 that the sport gained popularity, after a group of three Frenchmen – testing out alternative methods to train for aircraft spot landings – used a modified parachute to jump off a mountain in the Alps and glide to a football field 1,000 metres below. Today, modern paragliders are lightweight, resembling a winged parachute, and competitors fly solo along a course called a task, which they aim to complete in the shortest time possible. Pilots must navigate weather, land features, and turning points from a harness underneath the paraglider wings.
Jet skis first developed from the “water scooters” of the mid-1950s, which were pretty much what their name suggests: scooters modified with motors and pumps to function on water. People stood on the flat bottom of the scooter and controlled the craft using an upright aluminium handle.
As the design and popularity of jet skis improved over time, Japanese industrial and motorcycle manufacturer Kawasaki began mass-producing them in 1973. Subsequently, they became a popular water sport when people started using them for races.
In a jet ski race, racers compete to complete a fixed number of laps around a buoy-marked water course in the fastest time possible. There are different races held for different engine capacities. The action-packed sport requires protective gear like helmets, goggles, and even back braces. In the upcoming Games, riders will compete on a closed course track measuring 3 kilometres long, or an endurance track 6.5 kilometres long.
The earliest versions of rock climbing began when shepherds first scaled steep rocky terrain to herd their sure-footed flocks. People across the ancient world also started climbing up large rocks and cliffs for exploration, and the sport began to emerge in prominence in the 19th century with the advent of mountaineering (and its accompanying mountain rescue operations).
The first and most prominent record of sport climbing was the scaling of the Alps’ Mont Blanc by two French nationals. Rock climbing grew more and more popular over the 20th century, with the invention of gear such as nylon rope, carabiners and pitons, and the creation of artificial ranges soon allowed for indoor matches.
Today, people climb to enhance their agility and strength. In competitions, athletes have a fixed time to observe the climbing wall via binoculars before the race begins, and can make sketches or notes to formulate a winning strategy. A climber clocks in a timing when they hit a switch at the top of the wall.
For other stories from this issue, see Asian Geographic Issue 131, 2018