Baltic Outlook introduces you to some of the most important people at airBaltic – its flight crew members, who have some of the most interesting hobbies.


Niks Širins became acquainted with disc golf a few years ago, while on a trip with friends. One of them had brought along a disc golf basket. ‘We had a basket, we had frisbee discs, and we even had a bucket lid to throw into the basket,’ he says. ‘Actually, it was the bucket lid, not a disc, that I first landed in the basket. Back then, the thought never crossed my mind that I might seriously get into disc golf. But a year or two later, during the pandemic, my friends started inviting me along to play disc golf.’

From then on, disc golf became Niks’ favourite hobby. He says it’s the competitive spirit between friends that attracted him to the game: ‘Every once in a while, we make a bet with each other,’ he says with a laugh and admits that he finds it just as interesting to observe his own growth in the sport. Eventually, Niks began taking part in various competitions locally and in the Baltics, and he has also taken part in a disc golf camp in Spain. ‘This sport has become very popular, and I joined the community at the right time.’

Niks describes himself as a high-level amateur who also actively participates in competitions regardless of the weather conditions, sometimes even braving deep snow.

The airBaltic Disc Golf Park has now opened in the Mežaparks district of Riga. ‘I think it’s a colossal step by airBaltic to take the initiative and join the disc golf community,’ Niks says. ‘It will definitely help the sport grow.’ He describes the course in Mežaparks as a very good, interesting forest course and definitely one of the best in the Baltics.

Disc golf originated in the United States, but it has quickly gained popularity in Scandinavia. The best female disc golfer in the world, Kristin Tattar, comes from Estonia.

‘In the beginning, you definitely need to have tenacity and patience with yourself in order to get past the so-called beginner’s hump, because at the beginning nobody does well,’ Niks explains. ‘The disc goes right, left, everywhere but in the basket. It takes a lot of perseverance to get past that stage. But I think disc golf is a very mentally and emotionally demanding sport. Anyone who’s proficient at it can land the disc in the basket ten out of ten times, but you also have to be able to do it in competition, when the pressure is on. That requires a high level of concentration.’


Becoming a pilot was not a childhood dream for Niks. It seemed too far out of reach, although he had always been interested in flying. When Niks was 12 or 13 years old, his grandmother told him about an announcement in the local paper that a flying school for youths had opened. That was just the thing for him, he thought.

‘I applied and went to the school, but it turned out that it had nothing to do with piloting. Instead, it offered training in the wind tunnel at the Aerodium in Sigulda,’ Niks recalls with a smile. ‘The school was opened with European funding to help us prepare for an opening show for Riga’s year as a European Capital of Culture in 2014. So we flew for two or three years, practising flips and high flying, and that was a very interesting time in my life.’

Niks eventually turned his attention towards the IT sector, but then an opportunity arose to receive co-financing from the bank to study at the airBaltic Pilot Academy. ‘I discussed it with my family, and my parents were 100% supportive and willing to help me out financially while I trained,’ Niks says. ‘Shortly before I received an answer from airBaltic about whether I had been accepted, I began wondering about whether I should apply to another university in order to have a plan B. But my dad asked, “Wait, are you in this 100% or not?” To which I said, “Yes, I’m in it 100%.” “Well then, it’s decided!” And so I didn’t apply anywhere else, and I got a positive answer from airBaltic.’

Pilot training followed, which was prolonged by the pandemic, and then a job offer. ‘I’m very happy to be here at airBaltic,’ Niks says, ‘and I always say that I have two hobbies: disc golf and flying. Because every time I go to work, it doesn’t feel like work; it feels like indulging in a hobby.

Words by Ilze Pole
Photo by Edmunds Brencis (Picture Agency)