Episode 58- Théo De Blic and becoming a professional

Théo De Blic is one of the new generation of professional acro pilots who has been staggering audiences around the world with his incredibly difficult twisted sequences. In this episode we learn how Théo has become one of the most-winning pilots on the World Cup tour and how he’s making a living from flying and then we get into the essentials of progression, the ardors of competition, the best equipment for acro, the safest way to learn acro, the steps of throwing your rescue, why you should learn on a non Acro or Freestyle wing, how to find your reserve handle when things are going wrong, training over the water vs the ground, the problems of competing in a judged sport, the fundamentals that most cross country pilots are missing including incorrectly throwing your reserve, the importance of having full stalls dialed, WHEN to throw (ie recognizing and identifying how much time you need) and a lot more. Please share this episode with your pilot friends, it will save lives!

 

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Show Notes:

  • Théo talks about how he learned at age six from his dad and how becoming a professional pilot became a reality
  • Training acro over the ground vs over the water
  • Flying just for the enjoyment
  • The essential skills- including throwing your reserve!
  • A warning for Cross Country pilots- learn your stalls!
  • Learning helico and deep stall and why you should learn on a EN B glider rather than a Freestyle or Acro glider.
  • Recognizing when to throw and the mental preparation of throwing
  • Being wary of optimism and the importance of being prepared
  • Training acro in the off season and the best sites in the world to get hours
  • Get on the Tour!

Catch Théo’s instructional videos here.

Watch the “Sounds of Paragliding” video here.

Mentioned in this episode: Cross Country Magazine, Tim Alonghi, Niviuk, Ondrej Prochazka, Sup’Air, Raul Rodriguez, Pal Takats, Feliz Rodriguez, Horatio Llorens, Gradient, Jean-Baptiste Chandelier

 

One or Two Reserves for paragliders?

We’ve covered reserves and throwing on many of the Mayhem Podcasts, but they came up specifically in the podcast with Russ Ogden and Tom Payne. One of our listeners, Daniel Schmitt broke it down really well and I wanted to share his thoughts on this incredibly important safety subject (thanks Daniel!):

If I remember correctly Russ in Episode 31- Russ Ogden, a Masters Class in Paragliding
said something like “You should fly with two reserves since it doubles your chances.”

In Episode 34- Tom Payne and Insights into our world, Tom mentioned something like: “Wait a minute, if the first one did not open you would probably be in so much trouble (rotation, fallen into the sail, etc.)  the chances are lower that the second one will not open either.”

Tom’s point is very valid but what does it mean to “double your chances anyway”? Maybe it seems obvious at first glance but it really is not. Let me explain:

Let us say, the probability that your reserve opens if you throw it, P(open), is 95% and the probability that it does not open is then P(not_open) = 5%. If your chance of the thing opening is 95% one cannot double (probabilities above 1 or 100% are not probabilities anymore in a mathematical sense).

If the second reserve throw was independent (like throwing it on a different day with no previous trouble) the probability that both of them do not open was P(not_open) * P(not_open) = (5%)^2 = 0.25%

But of course Tom has a point so maybe let us assume that the probability of the second reserve opening conditional that the first one did not, P(open|notopen) was 50% instead of P(open)=95%. In this case P(notopen|notopen) = 1 – P(open|notopen) = 50% and the probability of being fucked carrying two reserves and both of them failing, P(notopen)*P(notopen|notopen) = 2.5%.

I would argue that intuitively most people would agree that Russ intuitively meant something like that: “Half the chance of no reserve opening” with two reserves compared to one. Of course, if you think that P(open|notopen) is much lower than 50% carrying a second reserve seems less and less attractive.

I made a spreadsheet where everybody can play with the numbers/probabilities:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1I5qsMKpbEk09DIQuAA2z9h6wUJuOl3JEzBtQYgEm46Q/edit?usp=sharing

An excellent article on when to throw and how can be found here on Flybubble paragliding. WHEN IN DOUBT- GET IT OUT!!! Make sure to listen to Episode 58 with Acro master Theo De Blic which covers throwing in detail.

Episode 57- Phil Glutz and Confidence, Complacency and Chasing it

Phil puts a smile on his passengers face!

Recorded live from Mexico! During the Pre PWC in Zapoltitic I had the honor to sit down with Phil Glutz, a pilot I’ve been keenly following on XContest for years. Phil sends big lines in the biggest terrain in the Alps and decided a couple decades ago to ditch his engineering career because the sky was calling. An Australian native, Phil discovered Zermatt over twenty years ago and made it his home. We discuss the business of tandem flying and the inherent risks involved; the importance of confidence when flying XC; how to “own it”; the best flying sites in the Alps; the call of the big mountains; how to make a career in flight; what makes the “perfect” student; and how to always be wary of complacency. Enjoy!

For a limited time only (December 15-30, 2017) listeners of the Mayhem can get a 10% discount on a Garmin InReach device. Visit garmin.com and use the code “GAVIN2017” in the checkout. 

 

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Show Notes:

  • Matterhorn and the Alps- a local’s guide to the big mountains
  • From Engineering to paragliding- how to make a career in flight
  • Why engineers fly?
  • Why confidence matters
  • What makes a good student?
  • Who do some pilots choose to fly in the big mountains and why most are scared of them
  • Best FAI chances out of Zermatt
  • Best flying sites in the Alps if you like big terrain
  • A warning- identifying complacency
  • How to be receptive to advice when you’re learning
  • Phil discusses his accident in Zermatt a year ago and the lessons we can all learn from it

After the episode one of our listeners was having trouble visualizing exactly what happened with Phil’s accident. Here is some follow-up information from Phil to help us visualize what went down:

Sketch 1: We are ridge soaring in light lift with our right wingtips closest to the ridge. I am following my colleague.
Sketch 2: He turns 180 and returns to the slope and I follow him.
Sketch 3: He turns 180 and returns to the slope. I continue along the ridge as I felt a little more lift there.
Sketch 4: We both then turn 180 and start to return to the slope, now flying towards each other.
Sketch 5: Because of our relative positions (my colleague is slightly closer to the slope than me), we both hesitate slightly as to how to avoid each other. He decides to hug the slope rather than turn out, and I turn hard left, avoiding a collision but spinning the glider.

The question of how to avoid that situation ever happening is a tough one. I guess it just comes down to flying conservatively around other pilots, and understanding that the risk certainly doesn’t diminish around trusted colleagues.

Mentioned in this episode: Miguel Gutierrez, Garmin, Inreach, Bruce Marks, Chris Banford, Michael Vichi, Scott Schmitt, Glen Plake, Tom Payne, Heinz Gluer

Christmas Bonus Episode with Chrigel Maurer!

For a limited time only (December 15-30, 2017) listeners of the Mayhem can get a 10% discount on a Garmin InReach device. Visit garmin.com and use the code “GAVIN2017” in the checkout. 

It’s here folks! The bonus episode you’ve all been waiting for. We released this follow up episode with Chrigel Maurer a couple months ago for our Patreon supporters. Don’t miss these! Sign up to support the show through Patreon and get immediate access to bonus material like this on a regular basis. All we ask for is a buck an episode.

In this episode I rattle off all the questions that came through from our listeners about everything everyone wants to know about the greatest pilot on Earth. Not much more to be said- ENJOY!

 

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Show Notes:

  • Chrigel talks harnesses- seat board or not and much more
  • Instruments- what he uses and why and does he use those thermal assistants?
  • Does he use a sink alarm?
  • How to thermal more efficiently and how to make a plan on the go
  • Speed-to-fly
  • Why three liners in the X-Alps?
  • AND SO MUCH MORE!

 

Episode 56- Miguel Gutierrez and a century of flight

For all of us who make the yearly winter migration to Valle De Bravo, Mexico we have Miguel Gutierrez and his incredible Alas Del Hombre team to thank. But the comps in Mexico are just a scratch of the surface of this legend of free flight. His father (nicknamed El Gato because he had more than 7 lives!), born in 1910 was very likely the first person in the world to base jump (in the 1930’s!)- off the end of an airplane with an unsteerable round parachute that he sewed himself! Miguel is the youngest of 10 children and his love and passion for flight runs strong in his family and began long before hang gliding was even considered a sport in Mexico. In this episode Miguel recounts building the first hang gliders literally from garbage he and his brothers found on the street to cutting his teeth with legends like John Pendry, Larry Tudor, Chris and Bob Wills, Bill Bennett, Peter Brock, Eric Raymond, and Steve Moyes in the Owens Valley of California. Miguel recounts the first time they flew 100 miles, what it was like learning to fly such terrible gliders, how they found Valle (he was the first person to fly there!), skipping school in order to fly, and how he’s turned Alas Del Hombre into the premiere paragliding company in the world- from tandems and instruction to the most professionally run competition organization the sport has ever known. Miguel has seen it all and from the very beginning. Prepare to be entertained!

For a limited time only (December 15-30, 2017) listeners of the Mayhem can get a 10% discount on a Garmin InReach device. Visit garmin.com and use the code “GAVIN2017” in the checkout. 

 

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Show Notes:

  • Miguel tells the amazing story of his father and how he got the nickname “El Gato.” The obsession with flight begins…
  • Learning to fly terrible gliders in the early days and the many accidents that pilots suffered in their pursuit of the sky
  • The beginnings of Alas Del Hombre and making a living from flying
  • Discovering Valle De Bravo
  • Cutting his teeth every summer in the Owens
  • Flying the first 100 mile flight
  • Controlling your ego

Mentioned in this episode: Miguel Gutierrez, Gabriel Bass, Jeff Shapiro, Troy Bainbridge, Jocky Sanderson, Dustin Martin, Larry Tudor, Garmin, Alas Del Hombre, Bob and Chris Wills, Bill Bennett, Pete Brock, Eric Raymond, Bob Trampanow, Steve Moyes, Rich Pfeifer, John Pendry, Dave Bridges, Chris Santacroce, Roy Haggard, Dixon White

Miguel making his mother very nervous!

Miguel’s father

The flying cat!

Episode 55- Xandi Meschuh and building a foundation

Xandi doing his THANG

Xandi Meschuh has been in the flying game since the very beginning. He learned to fly RC planes from his father, a pilot before he was ten years old and got the paragliding bug soon afterwards. Xandi has his own flight park near Gerlitzen, Austria where he teaches new students looking for their first flight as well as seasoned professional pilots looking to nail their first Infinite loop. He has taught SIV since SIV began; has been a test pilot and designer for Icaro paragliders since 2004; operates a successful tandem business; is a skilled XC pilot; co-authored the acro bible “Acrobatics” with Mike Küng and has been witness to paragliding since it began. In this episode we dig into the most essential maneuvers pilots need to have dialed, the stumbling blocks that lie in wait for pilots at each level in their career from beginner to expert, the dangers of risking too much early and a lot more. Enjoy!

Read more about Xandi, the trips he offers, SIV courses and more here.

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Show Notes:

  • Xandi takes us back to the start in the late 80’s and how he made flying his life
  • How flying RC planes helped him understand air and paragliding
  • How wings are developed and come to market
  • Wing testing- how it works and is it fair?
  • SIV essentials and how a proper SIV course should go down- and what you should get out of it
  • The two most important maneuvers to have down pat – the full stall and wingover
  • Where beginner, intermediate and expert pilots go wrong
  • After a lifetime of flight, what would you change?
  • The danger of playing too much.
  • Safety is cool

Mentioned in this episode: Icaro Paragliders, Mike Kung, Werner Weissman, Chrigel Maurer, Acrobatics, Noco, Flymaster

 

2006 World acro champion

Garmin InReach Best Practices for Adventurers

Step 1- GET FAMILIAR with your INREACH! Photo Jody MacDonald in the Alaska Range

In the past couple years it’s been really heartening to see pretty much every pilot on launch use an InReach or a SPOT satellite tracking device. And I’m seeing them more and more in the backcountry with skiers, mountain bikers, climbers and people playing in remote areas. This is a very good thing. What isn’t great is that many people are not really familiar with their device and not utilizing them properly for messaging, maps, and hardly know how powerful they are, and this can become a serious problem when things go wrong, which is when an InReach immediately becomes the most valuable thing you own.

So here’s a quick best-practices post on how to get familiar with your InReach. Knowing just a few things makes retrieves, communications and rescues when needed a LOT simpler. If you take a few minutes to get familiar with your device it could literally save your life.

If you haven’t decided between a SPOT or an InReach, read this then come back here. SPOT is better than nothing, but in my mind there is no decision here. Get an InReach and let’s carry on.

Grab your InReach and your phone and let’s get started.

  1. Download the Earthmate App on your Iphone or Android and connect it to your device via Bluetooth. This only needs to be done once. Apple instructions here. Android instructions here.
  2. Download the maps for the area you will be in to your phone (if you have the Explorer, this isn’t available on the SE). Instructions here  (this video also shows how to navigate, enter waypoints, update mapshare page, etc- which is all worth knowing so watch it!). This is an important step- MAKE SURE YOU GET THE MAPS!
  3. Go into the settings of your device and make sure you’ve got your device set up like you want it. Go to SETTINGS then UNITS and put coordinates in DEGREES for example, which is what all pilots use (ie rather than Degrees, Minutes, or UTM). Whatever you choose, just make sure you and your group are all using the same so you’re speaking the same language.
  4. Log into your Garmin account and set up your mapshare page (instructions here) if you haven’t already and put this link somewhere in your phone for easy retrieval. Once you are under the “SOCIAL” tab of your InReach account you can configure what people see on your mapshare page and can connect it to your Twitter or Facebook account, etc. There are many things here that can be useful for the folks at home who need to know where you are. You can even allow anyone who has your mapshare page to directly message you when you are out playing!
  5. Sync your device.
  6. IMPORTANT– Make sure you know your device email (in the device go to SETTINGS -> ABOUT THIS DEVICE). Or you can see it on the ACCOUNT tab of your InReach account (that you have logged into above). This is how your friends who also have an InReach can reach you. For the outside world to reach you they can send you messages via your mapshare page, or they can reply to a message you send them. This is widely misunderstood- the email address for your device IS NOT the one people without an InReach can use to reach you directly.

 

 

Ok now for the fun stuff.

  1. BEFORE you head off on your adventure send everyone in your group, and your loved ones at home a message FROM your device. PILOTS- SEND IT TO YOUR RETRIEVE DRIVER! Then then can just reply back to you and presto- you now have everyone’s message thread that from now until eternity you can reply to and they will get it (and vice versa). Just use the Earthmate app and press the new message button in the upper right hand corner. The app acts exactly like sending a normal message from your phone (ie all the contacts in your phone will come up when you press inside the “TO” area). Instructions here. This is the step that most people screw up. If you don’t do this before you take off and you all get separated and DON’T have each others address, well now you can’t message one another (you can still send messages to anyone’s cell phone, but then they have to be in cell coverage!)!
  2. Here’s a trick most people don’t know about. Every message that you send out has your coordinates, regardless of whether it’s going to someone at home on their cell phone or email, or to someone in your group who has an InReach. If you send out a message to someone at home it will have the message, ie “Hi honey, I’m out having an awesome time in deep pow and I won’t be home til dark!” and then the coordinates AND a link to where you are on your mapshare page! Now even more cool- if you send a message to someone with an InReach that person gets the message in the device, as well as the Earthmate app (assuming they are connected) that looks something like this:

See that little icon next to the message?

Press it! This will bring you to another window that has all the details from EXACTLY where the message was sent from. ASSUMING you have done step 2 above and have your maps and BINGO- you now know exactly where your friend is, how far he or she is from you and in what direction! Pretty cool right?

Need to look up your location really quickly? Garmin has made it incredibly simple- just go into the menu of your device and scroll to “LOCATION.”  Presto. They even have a little “Share Location” from this menu, but sending messages is MUCH easier from your phone with the Earthmate app, and when you send messages it has your location automatically so no need to use this.

Ok let’s summarize the important stuff:

  1. Get your maps downloaded to your device and phone. They are free and only takes a few minutes.
  2. Make sure the SETTINGS are correct (units- DEGREES or whatever your group uses)
  3. Know your mapshare address and your device address (ie email address) and have it in your phone. SHARE this with those you play with and those at home.
  4. Message your friends and understand how to see where they are so you can get to them if they are in trouble.

If it all goes to shit? Hit that handy SOS button on the side of the device! Here’s what happens when you hit the SOS (this is a great article- READ IT).  Then Read this article about insurance and search and rescue services to make sure you have what you need.

 

 

Episode 54- Dustin Martin and finding the magic

Dustin doing what he does best

In 2012 Dustin Martin beat out legendary Red Bull pilot Jonny Durand by a couple kilometers in Texas to go farther than anyone ever has in a hang glider- 761 km. And the record still holds. Was it his most memorable flight? Hardly. Dustin began his flying career in his early teens by flying RC airplanes and his love and interest in the sky hasn’t abated since. From RC he graduated to sailplanes but his first flight in a hang glider at the age of 15 lead to being fired at the local Sailport because the first flight became an obsession that didn’t allow for much on the side. In this wide-ranging and laugh-out-loud episode Dustin takes us through some close calls with tornados (plural!); how to assess a gust front; a brief history of hang gliders; the importance of mentors; how to find good lines; avoiding sink; working light lift; reducing drag; advice for new pilots; chasing world records; sponsorship; being a student and building a foundation; the origins of the Cloudbase Foundation, the dangers of moving to a higher performance wing too fast; what it takes to win; speed to fly; maintaining passion and a TON more. This was one of the most enjoyable and informative discussions we’ve had on the Mayhem, please don’t miss this one!

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Show Notes:

  • Dustin discusses a few scary but super memorable flights flying in gust fronts and tornados
  • How to increase performance/ reducing drag
  • The origins of the Cloudbase Foundation
  • RC flying and the crossover to flying hang gliders, paragliders and sailplanes
  • A brief history of hang gliding and some of the technical aspects of the craft
  • Finding the magic
  • Comp flying, sponsorship, passion
  • The world record in Texas (check out this AWESOME article in the NY Times) and chasing world records and the incredible end of the day eeking it out over Jonny
  • Stepping back for safety and perspective and coming back from some discouraging comps
  • Moving from Moyes gliders to the Wills Wing Team
  • What’s happened to hang gliding in the last decade and the loss of the community
  • What PG pilots can learn from Hang gliders
  • Finding good lines, avoiding sink, working light lift, using cloud streets, flatland techniques, etc.
  • Speed to fly, macready, bar…how fast should we fly? The importance of staying with the lead group and the dangers of trying to outsmart the guys early in a race
  • Checking the ego
  • Overcoming lulls in the love of flight and the importance of flying the good days- and skipping the bad
  • What would you change if you could?

 

Mentioned in this episode: Onnit, Play Hard Give Back, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, Jeff Shapiro, Larry Tudor, Daniel Velez, Kevin Carter, Moyes Gliders, Wills Wing, Tom Wisenburger, Kraig Coomber, Rafael Saladini, Donizete Lemos, Marcelo Prieto, Frank Brown, Jeff O’Brien, Cloudbase Foundation, Ricker Goldsborough, Davis Straub, Raul Guerra, Joao Manuel Brum, Steven Pearson, Xandi Meschuh, Matt Beechinor, Jonny Durand, Hans Heydrich, Bob Thompson, Jeff Reynolds, Brad Lindsey, William Holmes, Kurt Warren, Joel Ribecki, Zac Majors, Tyler Bradford, Manfred Bohner, Brett Hazlett, Kevin Brooker, Perlan Project, Will Gadd

Episode 53- Gavin reviews the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

Gavin McClurg (USA1) prepares for flight during Red Bull X-Alps on Mangart, Slovenia (TP 2) on July 5, 2017. Photo Vitek Ludvig

This episode went up a few weeks ago for the supporters of our podcast but as I am in Brazil and am not able to get out a new show for another few days we decided to put this one up this week. In this episode we turn the tables a bit and I get interviewed by Nik Hawks, who followed the race closely and had a bunch of questions about how it all went down. Why did we pull the nightpass the first night? What mistakes were made? What did we learn from the 2015 race that came in handy this time? Nutrition, physical training, supplements and a LOT more on how we prepared. That bomb-out on day three when we were in such a strong position- what happened and what were the consequences? This and a lot more. Enjoy!

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Team USA 1- Ben Abruzzo, Gavin McClurg, Bruce Marks. Photo Olga Schmaidenko

Episode 52- Pal Takats X-Alps, Acro, and what you can do to stay safe

Pal Takats (HUN) performs during the Red Bull X-Alps in Lermoos, Austria on July 6th, 2017

Pal Takats began flying 16 years ago in the flatlands of Budapest, Hungary and has since created a career any pilot would envy. One of the first Red Bull acro pilots and the man responsible for many of the current and modern acro combinations (the Joker, Cowboy, Esfera, etc.) Pal does paramotor demos for Red Bull at air races around the world, base jumps in his free time, founded JustAcro.com, flies speed wings, has twice competed in the Red Bull X-Alps (he was 8th in 2009 and 7th in 2017), is an exceptional cross country and World Cup competition pilot but it hasn’t all been a walk in the park to get there. In 2012 Pal had an accident flying a 6M speed wing that put him in a coma and nearly ended his life. Later the same year he demolished his knee cap making a poor decision on landing after a base jump. What can the rest of us learn from his mistakes and how can we eliminate a huge, huge percentage of accidents in our sport? How paragliding schools are missing out on the foundational stuff, the importance of ground handling and how this is leading to way too many accidents. This talk covers a lot of ground. A fascinating discussion with a fascinating, passionate individual.

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Show Notes:

  • Brief history of Pal’s many, many accomplishments
  • Pal breaks the Tandem Infinity Record
  • Moving from caving to flying- the inception
  • Becoming a professional pilot and making a living from flying
  • How not getting into University became a blessing
  • Transition from Acro to Cross Country and getting disillusioned with Acro and judging
  • Pal’s accidents in 2012, coming back from a coma and the takeaways
  • Becoming a Red Bull athlete
  • How does media, sponsors and making films affect decision making? What are the bad and good sides?
  • How to avoid bad situations and the IMPORTANCE of training
  • The IMPORTANCE of groundhandling and where the schools fall short and why the basics are being skipped and how this is failing new pilots
  • Where to learn acro, and what wing to start on
  • When to move up to a higher aspect wing? Beware!
  • How paragliding doesn’t have structured rules across the board and why that’s bad for our safety and our sport
  • Highs and lows of the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

 

Mentioned in this episode: Nik Hawks, Red Bull Media House, Reelwater Productions, JustAcro.com, Sidetracked Magazine, Squash Falconer, Will Gadd, paragliding schools, Theo Le Blic, Cody Mittanck

 

Pal in the air during the Red Bull X-Alps