SYDNEY, April 30 (Xinhua) -- While hot air ballooning is mostly thought of as a relaxing pastime for tourists and romantics, there is also a fierce competitive side to the high altitude sport.
This weekend in Australia, some of the best pilots from all over the world took part in the 2018 Canowindra International Balloon Challenge -- a week long competition that was eventually won by American John Petrehn.
"I was just a little baby when my dad started ballooning, so I grew up as part of his support crew and then when I was old enough I stated flying balloons myself," the champion told Xinhua.
"And I'm not good at golf or tennis so ballooning was my competitive outlet."
Given a series of markers on the ground, each balloon team is tasked with flying to the location and dropping a marker as close to the target as possible.
"Some days it's simple, but some days it's very difficult," Petrehn said.
"Because I don't have a steering wheel, I can only make the balloon go up or down so I have to find wind currents that will take us to a predetermined point."
First held eight years ago, the event was created as a way to breathe much needed life into the small farming community, 300 km west of Sydney.
"Canowindra had had 10 years of drought and the town was suffering and the people were suffering," co-founder of the event Jan Kerr explained.
"So we thought, we need to get an injection of money into the town."
"We also thought if we could put on an annual competition that would meet top international standards, that would be great for Australian ballooning."
Since that time, Canowindra and the surrounding areas have gone from strength to strength and the number of inbound visitors has been soaring every year.
"Canowindra only has about 2,000 people so it has had a tremendous effect on the community because when people come here and spend money it means a lot to our local businesses," general manager for Orange region tourism Caddie Marshall said.
"This year it has been so big that people have actually had to come and bring their own beds with them."
"Canowindra only has 200 commercial beds, so many people have turned up with caravans, motor-homes and tents."
"The ripple effect of course is that the surrounding towns and villages, all of their beds start to fill up as well."