#214, Galen Kirkpatrick and Creating New Lore

Galen Kirkpatrick came into flying just seven short years ago and is the 2023 US National Champion, the first female in the history of paragliding to do so. Not long after her first flights she quit her day job and dove into into the deep end of the paragliding pool. She sought the best mentors, got into acro, became a sought-after tow tech, became and instructor, got into comps and hasn’t looked back. Her story is a remarkable climb to the top against a stiff headwind. It began with a fascination (and considerable fear) of flight, an early tree impact and eventually a complete course correction- in life, and in flying. The result has been an absolutely astonishing year of flying lights-out. After some very nice results in Brazil a year ago Galen headed over to Europe to compete in a world cup in Spain to get warmed up for the Worlds in France. But life had other ideas. Instead of flying in the competition, Galen, in her own words “had a complete break down.” The result? Galen took the pressure off and started writing a new script. One that was based on fun first. One that overcame self-doubt and created space for creativity- in her air game as well as her ground game. Galen was 3rd at US Nationals in Chelan (overall). Then she won US Nationals at the Red Rocks Wide Open (one task was a personal best!). She was 3rd overall at the Monarca last month. She’s on a role, and in this episode we dive into how she’s done it, and the tools she’s built we can all use to succeed.

Follow Galen on Instagram and her guiding adventures @readysetgalen

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Takeaways

  • SIV training is crucial for becoming a safe and skilled pilot.
  • Emotional safety is essential in flying, allowing pilots to be creative and have fun.
  • Creating a new story and believing in oneself can lead to success in competitions.
  • Confidence is an asset in flying, while arrogance is a liability.
  • Applying lessons from flying to life can lead to personal growth and self-awareness. Preparing for competitions requires finding the right emotional space and being self-aware.
  • The US comp scene is experiencing a shift, with more cohesion and support among pilots.
  • The momentum of women in the sport is growing, with a focus on working together and supporting each other.
  • Being yourself and having mutual respect within the community are important for personal growth and success.

Chapters

00:00Introduction and Syncing Up

00:28Background and Flying Career

03:03Transition to Making a Living from Flying

04:51Teaching and Training

06:33The Importance of SIV

07:06Willful Ignorance and Risk Tolerance

08:35Creating a Safe Cross-Country Pilot

09:52The Midair Incident in Turkey

11:15Will Gadd’s Mindset and Risk Assessment

12:11The Concept of Willful Ignorance

16:20Applying Flying Lessons to Life

19:03The Relationship Between Flying and Life

21:21Getting Into Competitions

22:21Becoming the National Champion

26:59The Spain Experience and Creating a New Story

27:12Course Correction and Self-Reflection

30:48Creating Emotional Safety in Flying

37:18The Importance of Confidence

39:20Creating a New Lore and Emotional Safety

46:00The Importance of Fun and Creativity in Flying

49:22Dealing with Mistakes and Emotional Exhaustion

50:10Preparing for the Super Final

56:05The Momentum of Women in the Sport

01:02:06The Shift in the US Comp Scene

01:06:36Being Yourself and Mutual Respect



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Transcript

Gavin McClurg (00:18.446)
Perfect. Galen, finally, how long have I been trying this for four, five, six years? Before you were famous even.

galen Kirkpatrick (00:29.568)
Oh, Gavin. Yeah, we've been trying to get together for four or five months since the Red Rocks.

Gavin McClurg (00:36.67)
Yes, this is the Red Rocks. We have a lot to talk about, especially with your last year with just the new national champion. You're wearing your medals there. I love it. So we'll talk about how you got to this place, but let's dive into some background first. How did you get to this place? What was the, give me the give me the resume version of Galen's flying career getting to this year.

galen Kirkpatrick (00:45.728)
Oh

galen Kirkpatrick (01:01.118)
Um, yeah, I started in Santa Barbara about six or I guess it was seven years ago now. So I actually did a one-day lesson with Andy McCray up in Bozeman and I was like, Andy, when am I going to get back here and learn how to fly properly? And he was like, you know what, you should just go to Eagle. It's close to where you live. And then two weeks later, I was signed up for the P2 program.

So.

Gavin McClurg (01:31.702)
Was it just the instant hitch? Why did you, what was the catalyst? Why did you want to get into it in the first place? Was it just looking up in the sky or was this something you'd always wanted to do?

galen Kirkpatrick (01:40.57)
You know, I've always wanted to fly and I got really close a couple times to doing my private pilot's license and I'd always dreamed of free flight. I just thought it was the coolest thing, but I was never on the right position in my life and financially. And so I was twenty seven at the time and it was just like, this is the time. It's now I got a.

I wasn't super happy in life. I was living in downtown LA and I wasn't being outside much. And so it was just like a way to connect with this new medium and be out in nature and totally thrilling and yeah.

Gavin McClurg (02:17.558)
And when you did the first stuff in Santa Barbara, which is a nice place to learn, it's beautiful in the ocean and the mountains and the community's amazing there, was just instantly, I love this, or was it scary? Do you remember those first days?

galen Kirkpatrick (02:34.066)
Yeah, no, it was instantly incredible. I was like, I was working like kind of a stressful, high demand job. So I felt like in a life sense, I was really keyed in. And yeah, and it was, it was just a place for me to use that energy. And I had incredible instructors. And yeah, it was just instantly I was like, wow, this is incredible. There wasn't really much fear starting out because I didn't really know what I didn't know.

Gavin McClurg (03:03.878)
Sure, Vaynerchus was. As it does. And I know the answer to this, because we were just talking about doing the show a couple of weeks ago down in Columbia, but at some point you transition, you're one of the few, there's not a lot of people I think in the sport who also make their living from the sport, you are one of those people. When did that happen? When did you throw away old life and begin new life?

galen Kirkpatrick (03:03.942)
But that came along.

galen Kirkpatrick (03:32.902)
That happened about a year and so I learned in Santa Barbara and spent a couple months like traveling up to Santa Barbara on my two weekends off every month and Trying to get like thermic flights and I ended up on a Columbia tour with ego paragliding my first winter like three or four months into flying and I was like, wow, this is incredible. I definitely

very afraid and I need to like become an expert at this. Listening to your podcast was really helpful while I would be stuck in LA traffic. And so I kind of made the plan my first week in Columbia to work my job for another year and then quit and spend like five weeks in Columbia. So it happened, yeah, about a year, a year and a half into flying.

Gavin McClurg (04:20.17)
Wow.

Gavin McClurg (04:24.583)
You dove in hard.

galen Kirkpatrick (04:27.063)
Yeah.

Gavin McClurg (04:28.882)
And you began teaching at the training hill, right? You got into teaching and then towing and working with Dylan and talk about some of that stuff because I know that impacted a lot with the pilot you've become. You know, you spend a lot of time still do, acro, you know, and training acro and all that.

galen Kirkpatrick (04:51.434)
Yeah, I was really gifted to have incredible P2 instructors. I had Mitch Riley and Dylan Benedetti, also Brian Howell and Kevin and a couple guys, but especially Mitch and Dylan being such experts. It was super inspiring because I got to see what was possible in the sport.

So yeah, I started working for Rob at the training hill, just driving the van, and I was super afraid to instruct because I didn't really know anything. And I was like, gosh, if I say the wrong thing to someone, it could be, you know, devastating for them. And so eventually Dylan sort of like forced me to start instructing people. And he tapped me to come out to the lake, and I have some experience on boats. So I dropped into the...

to tech job really well and spending all that time at the lake watching people do stuff to their wing and just being surrounded by paragliding was, you know, I was immersed. So it was really helpful. It wasn't necessarily time flying, but it was time thinking about paragliding, watching and visualizing and imagining. Yeah.

Gavin McClurg (06:11.162)
I've asked quite a few, we've had a bunch of SIV instructors on the show over the years, Dylan and Jocky and many others. And I'd love to get your take on that, both from being in the boat, just seeing so many people go through the sequences and the systems and.

getting stuff out of it and also just your own take. I mean, I know your own flying has been dictated a lot by Acro and overcoming fear. And before we move into this last year, that's been phenomenal in your comp season, I'd love to just get your take on that because it's still, it was really interesting for me to hear, I've heard this from several SIV instructors that it's not really necessarily for everyone.

find that pretty interesting, especially for flying cross-country.

galen Kirkpatrick (07:06.694)
You know, I can see that angle that it's not for everyone, I suppose. The way I would think about that is that it's, everyone has their own personal risk tolerance or risk tolerance is an expression of self. And so some people are comfortable, you know, not really knowing what they need to do. And maybe if they're flying a passively safe wing

in a really limited set of operating conditions, that's okay. Personally, I feel like having some standardized set, and this probably comes from having Dylan as a mentor of mine, but having some standardized set of things that people know. For example, the idea of requiring SIV for a P3 or a P4 introduces,

I think a control to what is otherwise kind of maybe a Yahoo or Lose Cannon sort of sport. And so I think that's valuable. Certainly with my own clients, I want to know who they did SIV with and what they've done at their experience with SIV. And for me, I was super afraid for a really long time. And so...

Gavin McClurg (08:11.326)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (08:35.922)
I shunned the idea of being an acro pilot, but I was like, I need to spend all this time here to become a safe cross-country pilot because I'm really afraid. So I need to get this experience so that I can trust myself so that I don't spend all this mental energy while I'm trying to fly cross-country dealing with the lack of trust in my skills. So.

spending all that time at the lake, there was a couple occurrences that I experienced that could have ended up in a reserve toss and didn't. And so I credit all my time at the lake for that, Dylan's mentorship and watching all those wings and watching what people did wrong, hauling people out of the water after they had done the wrong thing.

And so by having these experiences where things didn't go super well or my wing didn't stay open and then handling it the proper way, or the mid-air that I got into was another good example that you know I just sort of did what I had practiced in my head a whole time and so that experience gave me confidence going forward that I would you know do the right thing if something happened.

Gavin McClurg (09:52.246)
Gael, I mentioned the midair there. I'll put some color on that. I believe that was your first World Cup, correct? In Turkey, in Aksaray? Yeah, having a really good week. And I don't know if that was the last day, second to last day or something like that, but it was wild and somebody caught it on video. It was pretty hairy and really windy. It wasn't over when you hit the ground. I don't think I've ever seen a harness that dirty. That was really impressive. That cannibal was brown.

galen Kirkpatrick (09:58.734)
It was, yeah.

galen Kirkpatrick (10:19.274)
Yeah, my water, my water bladder burst that day just randomly I was trying to shift weight around in my harness so I put the drinking water underneath the seat and when I landed it three liters of water exploded everywhere so then as we were getting dragged across the field it all became mud and so yeah I was like in mud as I was trying to unbuckle and stop the dragging it was yeah it was kind of

was a whole nother thing.

Gavin McClurg (10:49.59)
I'm not sure if this is a perfect tie, but you were just, you said some things that made me think of something I heard in a previous podcast you did with an actual client of mine at one point in time back when I ran the boat business. But tell me about willful ignorance. You had some really good things to say about that on that show, which I thought were very applicable to what we do.

galen Kirkpatrick (11:15.994)
Willful ignorance. Yeah, let's see. I feel put on the spot here now. So I mean I think people don't necessarily want to think about what they're not good at. Like for example this is a risky thing we're doing like just like boats or

Mount Nearing or anytime you go put yourself in an unforgiving environment.

galen Kirkpatrick (11:52.211)
you're some level of prepared, and hopefully you're very prepared. You probably think you're very prepared, but it's, and certainly having confidence in that environment is really important, but.

galen Kirkpatrick (12:12.522)
I don't know, I guess, you know, we tell ourselves that things are going to be okay and we're probably less likely to look at our weaknesses or things we could improve on because that might take away from confidence. Does that sound or do you have an extra cue for me?

Gavin McClurg (12:29.742)
Thanks for watching!

Yeah, I mean, no, I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I, one of my favorite people to follow on social media, which I try not to do too much social media, but I really like following Will Gadd because he, it's not just, hey, look at me. Every post he does on there is some kind of technical skill to learn about ice climbing, which I'm not an ice climber, but I still find it fascinating. But he always talks about risk and...

I've said this on the show before, one of the things he taught me literally, I mean, the day before we did that Rockies Traverse with the Red Bull film up in Canada, I didn't know well. We met the day before we went and did that. And so he was, you know, on the way to the first launch was kind of, who is this guy? He likes to know who he's doing stuff with and we just met. And so he was, he had pinned me right away for as someone who was way too optimistic.

He hated that about me. And he said, you know, Gavin, I'm...

I'm not even the guy that thinks that the glass is half full. I'm looking for what's going to break the fucking glass. And I thought, wow, man, you're really negative. And it's not negative. It's the opposite of willful ignorance. He looks at these places, like you said, you're putting yourself into environments that have risk and just inherent in them. And he's looking at what's going to go wrong here.

Gavin McClurg (14:03.728)
that what's possibly going to kill me? What can I eliminate from this equation that gives me better odds? What's gonna break the glass? And it was a huge mind shift for me that I still struggle with, but I think it's an important mind shift. You know, this whole, I think when you were talking about it in the podcast, you were talking about that this thinking that it's not gonna happen to you is bad thinking.

galen Kirkpatrick (14:30.266)
Yeah, well, it's also self-protective. I mean, I can credit my instructors, you know, Dylan and Mitch, especially, kind of knowing or hearing stories that you can die or you can get super injured if you're not careful. And I crashed into a tree in Parma Park on my first mountain flight.

Gavin McClurg (14:33.204)
Yeah.

galen Kirkpatrick (14:54.246)
So by the time I got to the LZ, I was super gripped. I just didn't have the capacity to make wise decisions anymore. And I object fixated on a tree, hit the tree, kind of fell through the entire tree, landed on the ground with my wing above me, and I was fine. I didn't even have a bruise. I had a little scrape on my arm. I landed right next to a barbed wire fence. So that was this experience, which right off the bat, I...

Like kind of when I came down from the adrenaline of that, I was like, oh, that could have been so awful and I could have died. And so instead of, you know, I basically thought about that a lot and it made me reflect on my life on the ground and it made me reflect really objectively on my own flying skillset and who I was as a person and how I...

undertook risk and so that was a formative thing going into pursuing expertise, immersing myself in the sport. And I certainly encourage my clients, anyone, P2 students, whoever, to think about that. I think it's addressed non-directly a lot. It's like, oh, if you just

Gavin McClurg (16:20.013)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (16:24.139)
I think it's worth zooming out a little bit and thinking about like, you know, what's going on in your life? What things in the past have you done that make you better at managing risk? What's your experience with that? What are times in any aspect of life that you've just, you know, been careless? Because you don't want to do that when you're flying, hopefully.

Gavin McClurg (16:49.646)
Mm.

Yeah, in that same conversation, I've got an arrow that goes down that you led, that kind of thinking leads you to two things. One, reducing risk as much as possible. So with you, that was immersing yourself in instruction, SIV, making this your life, learning as much as possible, trying to get a grip on this fear through increasing skill set. Do I have that right?

And then two, you said you should be happy in life. You very often do this, you draw, you parallel from piloting and from the sport to your own personal life, which I love this about you, that you tie it all together. And I think often we kind of keep it in, sometimes we keep it in two separate boxes. We all pursue this, I hope, because it's fun and it makes us happy and that's why we should be doing it. But...

Even in my mind, it's often kind of two separate things. You know, one of them is pretty intense. And, you know, I have often felt like I use it as an escape. And I know that makes you go, no, we shouldn't be doing that. I've heard you say that. We shouldn't be using this as an escape. Talk about that. There's some fun stuff there.

galen Kirkpatrick (18:11.734)
Yeah, I mean, I don't want to tell, unless you're paying me, I don't want to tell other people what to do. Like, I just sort of, you know, I think people are just going to be themselves and I don't want to concern myself too much. Like, I have to shut out the noise of, you know, what people think you should do. But, yeah, I think it's different for everyone. But for me, it seemed obvious.

Gavin McClurg (18:25.71)
Sure.

Gavin McClurg (18:29.844)
Mm-hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (18:42.431)
to use the lessons you've learned in life and apply them to flying. And likewise, use the lessons you have in flying and let them apply to your life. With some caveats, of course, but you know.

Like if you're just, if you want to get good quickly or being excellent is important for you, I don't know that seeing it as an escape from life is the way to do that. Now, certainly I have a joke where I'm like, anyone who's gotten good at flying really quickly is running from something or is like, you know, avoiding something on the ground and.

Gavin McClurg (19:26.23)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (19:29.614)
I think that was certainly the case for me in some capacity, but, and perhaps for you as well. But I don't think it's one or the other. I mean, flying is still somewhat of an escape for me. You know, there have been times in my career where I feel like flying is easy and simple, and being on the ground or living life is difficult. And then other times when

Gavin McClurg (19:57.969)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (19:59.05)
Um, like being on the ground and living life is really easy and putting myself in that place of, um, being present and, uh, performing a skillset is really difficult. And, um, so yeah, I, I think it's just good to be aware of that. And, and at the, the basis of really good piloting, I think, is self-awareness. Um, cause

It's not that hard, you know, flying a paraglider, there's only, you know, three controls, you press the speed bar, you pull the right or the left brake. But putting all of the things it takes to like do cross country or fly acro, or even just fly at the ridge safely, is, you know, that's difficult. And so...

you need to, I think, be really aware of yourself and what patterns you have and when you shut off and what you do when you get stressed and even how you relate to other people, you know? So, yeah.

Gavin McClurg (21:13.442)
Hmm.

Gavin McClurg (21:19.04)
When did you get into comps?

galen Kirkpatrick (21:21.93)
I started doing comps maybe two and a half or three years into flying and kind of like with Acro I wasn't trying to be a comp pilot. I was just like this is going to be the most efficient way to learn cross country. And yeah, so I did the.

sprint race at the Applegate my first year. And it was just thrilling. Chris Garcia and I, we were working at Eagle together and we went up and did the demo days. And then we, yeah, we did the sprint comp and it was totally a thrill.

Gavin McClurg (22:05.134)
Mm-hmm. Good place to start. And when did you decide, and it was that kind of a natural progression, when did you decide to become the national champion?

galen Kirkpatrick (22:21.403)
You know, I have a habit of questioning myself a whole lot and maybe a problem of lacking self-belief. And there was something that Rob Sporers said to me a year into my comp flying maybe and he was like, you know.

you could be incredible someday. He might've said, you could be national champion or world champion or something. And he's like, but you need to start having an ego. And for me, that was like risky. I was like, oh no, you know, I'm not arrogant. I don't have an ego. But I think it was through, A, really good performances, sometimes in tasks. And...

being encouraged to keep going and needing to like prove something to myself that I could do it that yeah that sort of led to that and realistically I think I told myself I could be national champion after the world championships last year because I did

the best flying of my career. I wasn't super consistent, but a couple of days, I stuck with the lead gaggle all day. And even on the famous, I think it was task eight, where Maxime and Hanner and escaped and the rest of the lead gaggle bombed out in between power lines and a big row of trees.

I was like, I was right there with those two guys and they kept drifting. And I just made this one little decision that was wrong, but I was like, okay, I can do this. So if I can do this here, I can go. So I just told myself that it was possible. I made a joke to someone. I was like, well, I'm just going to go win the national championship. And I forgot about it. And then he messaged me after I had and he was like, ooh, it looks like you did it. Good job.

Gavin McClurg (24:20.906)
I can hang with them. Yeah. Hmm.

Gavin McClurg (24:37.226)
Hahaha

galen Kirkpatrick (24:38.35)
I was like, oh my gosh, I had some delusion that it was possible and I think that's important.

Gavin McClurg (24:46.702)
We talked about that down in Columbia that you think it's important to, you know, delude yourself every once in a while. That's all right.

galen Kirkpatrick (24:53.486)
If you don't believe something's possible, then it definitely isn't. You don't wanna have a bunch of expectation around it, but you know, on my first task finished, the first time I made goal, I had been, this was in Applegate at the sprint, and I had this big cascade right over the mountain, and...

Gavin McClurg (25:00.043)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (25:21.13)
I was with the lead gaggle and I cascaded down like 1800 feet or something and managed not to throw my reserve. And then I was behind and I was like all rattled and I was like, what do I do now? And then I flew into the thermal, which had violently ejected me, you know, 2000 feet above and I started thermaling again. And I was like, you know, I was like, well, it's still possible for me to catch up.

Gavin McClurg (25:26.737)
Oh.

galen Kirkpatrick (25:47.606)
In fact, and maybe I wasn't telling myself that, I was just like, well, I'm here to fly the task. And so I was a couple of minutes behind and I saw the lead gaggle make this poor choice. And so I was able to get higher and just glide straight to goal. And I think I got second that day or something like that after being five minutes behind in the last 25% of the race. And so I realized it's like,

it was possible, you know, it's, and that's what made it such an intriguing game to me is because something can happen that's not ideal, falling out the back of the lead gaggle, and then it's still possible for you to go like win the task potentially. And yeah, so.

Gavin McClurg (26:34.338)
Hmm.

Gavin McClurg (26:38.442)
You had a really interesting experience that I'd love to dive into that in some ways, timeline-wise at least, it predicated the success you've had this year. You went over to Spain before the Worlds this year, so that was basically a year ago now.

And you wanted to warm up at the, I don't know if that was a pre PDBC or a PDBC or whatever it was, but some event in Spain, you're going there to warm up and take it from there. Uh, you had a pretty interesting experience.

galen Kirkpatrick (27:12.562)
Yeah, I was there on the warmup day. It was a World Cup and I was training the submarine. I kind of told myself that I needed to do this race to get used to the submarine before kind of to train for the World Championships. And so I felt obligated in a way. And also I was coming off of the two comps in Brazil last April.

where I had done the best flying of my career to the point, but I was inconsistent. Basically, I used two or two and a half drop days each comp and especially the second one, the World Cup, the last day I was in really good position in the overall rankings and I just, I put so much pressure on myself that I totally messed it up and I was so hard on myself.

you know, landed and cried and just felt awful. And so basically those experiences, the last time I had been racing of like doing the best, but also putting myself under so much pressure, colored that flight on the training day in Spain and I launched and I was in this new position and the submarine all bundled up and.

There was just a sea of olive trees, not very many landings, and I basically just couldn't fly. I mean, I could go in circles, and I think I went and tagged the first turn point or two, and then I was just like, I cannot do this, and I landed and just completely broke down. And yeah, I mean, I call it...

a nervous breakdown, but I don't know, people that have other sorts of nervous breakdowns might say, well, that's not a nervous breakdown, but I basically just, yeah, I couldn't hold it together. I was looking at tickets home, I was thinking, gosh, I can't be part of this world's team, I don't even wanna fly, I didn't wanna look at a paraglider, I've organized my life around this for so long and I can't even, it was awful. So.

Gavin McClurg (29:25.345)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (29:28.686)
So yeah, some friends came and talked me down and I was staying in a cave. And it was like an Airbnb cave and I couldn't stand up. And I was like, and it was dark and there was no windows. And they were like, we're gonna bring you with us. Like you come stay with us. So they stole me away, brought me to an olive plantation house that they were living in.

And I just stayed there for four days and I didn't leave and I dropped out of the race and I watched the race come overhead and I remember looking up and kind of giggling and being like, oh, I recognize that person and that person. But having no, just being completely estranged from the concept of pilotage. And yeah, it was really alarming and kind of terrifying.

being inside, sitting on the couch, I was reading like a book a day and I just sort of like, I just couldn't be in a position where I put pressure on myself. And I was putting an undue, unfair, unreasonable amount of pressure on myself. I wasn't having any fun.

Gavin McClurg (30:42.838)
Hmm. And how do you how do you course correct?

galen Kirkpatrick (30:48.922)
Um, well, you know, Evan and Emily, that's who rescued me. Um, they, you know, basically I was chatting with folks on the team. I was trying to still go to the worlds, maybe not fly. Um, I, I basically did a ton of self-reflecting in that space that wasn't flying. I mean, I needed to get my head straight on the ground. And um,

We as a team had hired Maxime Bellemin, who's like kind of my flying guru. I love his books and just the sort of approach mentally and preparation that he takes. And so I called him up and he gave me some tips, but really it was opening myself up, being vulnerable with someone that I really respected that...

basically forced me to self-reflect and be like, oh, I am a good pilot. I am doing this for fun. I am a safe pilot. And I put way too much pressure on myself. So I need to be realistic with myself. I had answered this questionnaire that he had sent us prior to working together.

and I had rated myself really low on a bunch of fundamental skills. And he kind of challenged me on that and he said, you're definitely not a three out of five on thermoling. Like what is that? And he actually called me delusional to say, like to assess myself as three out of five. And that was super helpful because I...

I mean, there's the delusion believing you can win, but there's also the delusion believing you're not good enough or you don't have skills. And so he challenged me on that. He was like, why did you say three out of five? And I was kind of like, I came up blank and I was like, because I have a lot more to learn because I wanna leave room for improvement. And he is like, if you were at a three out of five, it would, you wouldn't.

galen Kirkpatrick (33:10.49)
you wouldn't be saying that. If you can keep up with the people you can keep up with, you're not a three out of five. So you need to be realistic so that you can go out there and express yourself and do what you're capable of doing. You need to have self-belief. And so I hid from the world for another four days and interlocking and then...

grouped up with the Worlds team and I basically changed my whole, I was like, you know what, I'm going to go out and fly. I've done all this work to be at this point to qualify for the Worlds and I'm going to go out and have fun. And I'm going to ask myself at every point, am I having fun? And how could I be having fun? Would it be more fun to be on the ground? And that...

created the biggest change in all of my flying because I had to be accountable to myself and decide, yes, this is fun. I want to make the fun decision here. And only once, I mean, when I instituted this process of asking myself if it's fun, I

was like, gosh, it might mean that I'm just like, not flying the task, I'm just gonna go land. And since then, I had one task, it was at the Worlds, where I was in this nasty spot I shouldn't have been, and the guy right next to me threw his reserve, and I was like, ah, you know, this isn't fun, I'm not having fun. And so I just went and landed, and...

There was this really excellent experience for me because usually when I'd land on a task, I would beat myself up and I'd be like, oh, you made this mistake and this mistake. And I would obsess over what I could have done differently or how I could have performed my skill set better. And, and there I just was there and I was looking up at the pilot on the mountain and the trees. And I was like, well, I am here on the ground, but I'm fine. I'm having fun.

galen Kirkpatrick (35:23.25)
I'm in France, at the Worlds, and I could be there, but I'm not, and so I like, I sort of created this safe space for me, for myself, and I was like, well, that's what it is. And then after that, yeah, and since then, I've been able to, I'm not actively doing it so much anymore, asking myself if it's fun, I'm just, it's part of my.

Gavin McClurg (35:38.478)
Thanks for watching!

galen Kirkpatrick (35:51.886)
preparation. I just realized what is going to be fun and what about flying is fun. And it's being with all my friends and it's performing a skill set and expressing myself and the beautiful views and you know, I don't need to beat myself up. Flying has to be, especially competition flying.

task-flying, it has to be an emotionally safe place for me. If the worst possible scenario is me beating myself up, because the real worst-case scenario is getting really injured or dying, but if the worst possible scenario is me being really, really hard on myself, then I can't go out and be creative and have fun.

get to look over at my friends and do thumbs up or hoot and holler at them. So I kind of completely changed my mindset. And like Maxime encouraged me to, I have a confidence now. I believe it's possible. I believe that I can go win a task or I can keep up with the best pilots.

Gavin McClurg (37:18.914)
I'm curious, when he asked you that and you rated yourself three out of five, too low, was that because it would have been arrogant to put what you really were, or did you really not believe that you were?

galen Kirkpatrick (37:37.634)
Um, I, yeah, so it was delusional to say I was three out of five and, and basically, and this is sort of this new concept, but there's aviation aphorism that, um, uh, confidence is an asset and arrogance is a liability. And so I think, I think actually a lot of people in general in life and in flying confuse

confidence with arrogance and so they're not gonna be confident. So yeah, I would have answered four or four and a half out of five but that felt like, A, I was shortchanging myself so I was saying, ooh there's only this little bit of improvement and sometimes I'm only three out of five like, oof, that last task in Brazil I was maybe a one out of five like I just couldn't hang. So yeah, I felt like it would have been

delusional or excuse me, it would have been maybe arrogant and it would have short changed how much I had to learn.

galen Kirkpatrick (38:46.45)
But yeah, I've stopped doing that. I've stopped confusing arrogant, or confidence with arrogance. Because I'm not an arrogant person, but I aspire to be a more confident person.

Gavin McClurg (39:01.302)
It sounds like there's a few things here that actually, and some of this isn't from me, it's from you. We talked down in Columbia a week and a half ago, but you talk about you created a new story for yourself. It's a new lore. Love that word.

Gavin McClurg (39:20.946)
And you've also mentioned safety quite a few times, but more emotional safety. I think you also said that you feel like comp flying is actually really safe. It's a really safe thing for you to do. If you've created, once you've created this new story, do I have that right?

galen Kirkpatrick (39:37.646)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I guess I just want to, you know, I've flown a lot of comps in the last couple years and I'm drawn to comp flying, I think because it's kind of structured and not particularly adventurous. I've been dealing with enough stuff the last couple years, like on the ground and in life that going and having this sort of

going to do a sort of flying that doesn't require the like need for adventure. I mean, I love it. I flew tons in Columbia and I am excited to do more adventure flying, but it wasn't what I needed. That having a bunch of people there around me, having everyone flying the same route, having people watching out for you, that all gave me this like

sense of confidence and allowed me to like not worry about, oh, what, what could happen? What could happen? So yeah, let's see, you asked a couple questions there, maybe.

Gavin McClurg (40:50.858)
Well, I just wanted to make sure I had that right. I mean, I loved this that you've kind of created a new lore for yourself, a new, and I always feel people like Honorin and Maxime and Josh Cohn, and they've kind of, they've cracked the code, right? There are certain myths that you turn into facts and you...

Like you said, when you're racing well, it's actually quite easy. When you're in position, you're not making a lot of decisions, you're just in flow, you're smiling, it's easy. It's kind of working out. And it seemed like this event that you went through in Spain and working with Maxime and coming out the other side and kind of creating a new story for yourself. Since then,

You did remarkably, we had some remarkably good days at the Worlds. You got third and then Chelan behind Russ Ogden and Matt Hensie who were both flying really lights out. And you were, I looked up at you the whole week. I mean, you were just in position and then you won the wide open.

set an incredible precedent there and you're our new national champion because of our those two amazing results. It's a hell of a year and one that most people who spend a lot of time at comps will never experience. And so my question wasn't even a question. It's just this, it seems

Gavin McClurg (42:40.33)
the more you can share about it, the better. That's fantastic. I mean, you did it quite, in some ways, quite quickly. You know, your first World Cup was in Turkey. I was at that one with you. That was 21, 22, one that long ago.

galen Kirkpatrick (42:43.23)
Thank you.

galen Kirkpatrick (43:01.342)
Yeah, I think it was, yeah, I was 21.

Gavin McClurg (43:04.534)
Yeah, fall of 21, right. So.

galen Kirkpatrick (43:07.626)
Yeah, I just think, I mean, I knew having some good task finishes, I had a one good task finish in Turkey. We were flying all day together actually. And so I guess I feel like in that day, I think I got top five and I was on a serial class wing. But I think I just sort of stumbled into it. I just had this self-belief. I had no expectation on myself.

Gavin McClurg (43:19.562)
Yeah, we had a great one that day.

galen Kirkpatrick (43:37.894)
And I was like, gosh, well, these people know what they're doing. So I'm going to follow along with them and imitate and play by the rules that I, you know, learned in the books, perform this skill set. I was kind of removed from it, my ego. And like, I just like, OK, I'll just go try. And then it worked out really well. And so I think that gave me this like

sense of confidence or possibility and instilled the delusion, gosh, I can do this one day. So I can do it six and a half out of, or five and a half out of seven days. But, and I had a couple really good comps in Brazil, a World Cup and the Pan-Americans following that recently are,

following that first World Cup. And I had no expectation on myself. I was into the imitation game. I trusted myself. My ego was removed from it, pretty much. And I flew really well, almost like very consistently also and had great results. And so I like, it was, I think, I knew it was possible.

But I think I started to place all this expectation on myself. And I started, instead of zooming out and being like, oh gosh, what did I do that week that worked and that didn't work? I was obsessing over each little decision. And so that is what basically led to the putting too much pressure on myself. And there was no mental power left for.

Gavin McClurg (45:09.294)
Thanks for watching!

Gavin McClurg (45:31.181)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (45:31.226)
just going out and flying because I was obsessing, ooh, is this the right choice or the wrong choice? Is this a high chance or a high probability option or a low probability option? And so with that sort of breakdown and feeling like super estranged from flying and then reentering, and I had some good results at the Worlds, but I was tender. I was like...

Each day I was like, do I want to fly today? Do I belong here? And I mean, I was just being so gentle with myself and just focusing on the connections I had with my teammates and the fun of it. That experience of seeing what, making it fun and just going out and performing.

um, was like allowed me to believe in myself. And, um, even in the moments in shell and, and in red rocks, when I was like alone or had made a mistake instead of, you know, um, basically I just didn't care. I was like, gosh, well, I, I did well at the worlds, uh, you know, I had some good flights, I am a good pilot sometimes. And.

I like this, so I'm just gonna keep going. And that freed up so much mental energy for, you know, just staying in a good position. And like, I mean, this'll sound obvious, but it felt like this process that just reinforced itself because if I'm going out and trying to have fun and I'm trying to have a nice finish,

The best way to do that is to stay in a good position and not be stressed, not be low, make high chance options and just kind of trust myself. I think as much as you try to, I don't know, there's just so much feeling and intuition involved in flying and hunting cores and trying ideas or hypotheses out that...

galen Kirkpatrick (47:59.766)
I guess I felt like, or I feel like now, my flying is really creative. I don't think you can be creative, and artists will probably attest to this, but I don't think you can be creative if you're really afraid of making a bad product. I feel this with my own writing, it was like I start to put things on the page and then I go, oh, that's awful. Instead of not caring and just continuing to write,

Gavin McClurg (48:15.51)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (48:29.382)
you just stop or you feel disparaged from continuing to be creative, it's vulnerable. And so while it's a completely different sort of creativity that's required in flying, I think the same sort of philosophy applies. It has to be, like you said, an emotionally safe place to try and fail or try and succeed. And...

Gavin McClurg (48:55.046)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (48:57.582)
And yeah, it's worked out really well. I still make mistakes. I had one finish on the Monarca that I just landed and I was super frustrated because I had been kind of fighting with Manuel all day and I had gotten stuck on the south end of Mordor and then at the end of the day, you and a few others, Farmer, you guys just came and flew over my head and I was just like.

emotionally exhausted. I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself but it was this emotional exhaustion from not just flying but from kind of like fighting and being really and like trying to trying to win and so I don't see that as a failure but I landed and I got really emotional and I was frustrated and so I had to just like be like okay cool well you still had a great finish and

Gavin McClurg (49:37.195)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (49:52.122)
you had fun and you got to practice these things. And there was still emotional involvement and I was still really frustrated, but I wasn't beating myself up at all. I was just like, okay, cool, throw it out, reset, tomorrow I'll try again. And yeah.

Gavin McClurg (50:02.402)
Hmm.

Gavin McClurg (50:05.811)
Mm.

Gavin McClurg (50:10.706)
You're leaving here pretty shortly for the super final, which we were gonna go to and decided to go to. I'd love to, you've had some repetition now with Chelan, White Open, Menarche, all really good results. How, what's the...

What's the lore you operate around now going to the super final? How do you find this space? How do you find this emotional space that's working so well? How do you, how do you repeat this? Is I have found that hard to, to this really works. Just do that again. It's not quite, at least for me, it's not quite that easy. I mean, when you're saying, you know, I love when you're having fun. Things work. And so.

It's one thing to say, I'm just gonna do this, I'm just gonna have fun. But sometimes our egos get in the way of that. At least they do with me.

galen Kirkpatrick (51:06.654)
Absolutely. Well, I mean the one thing that makes me think before I answer your question is like, you know What is your level of self-awareness? When you have a really good result or performance. I felt that in shell and I would just harken back to the emotional journey I went on that May of dropping out of a competition and you know

suffering and then coming back, being really gentle with myself, being able to perform well at the Worlds. So that was all in really recent memory and I was like, okay, well, I'm just gonna do my best to replicate that. And if I had been, you know, I guess I think probably in Brazil, I wasn't being particularly self-aware. And so then when I went to go fly again, I was

despite having some great results in recent history, I was unable to replicate or even fly. And so having that added level or higher level of self-awareness that I had at the Worlds as like of understanding myself, I just took that and I sort of replicated it. I think...

we're all learning to be more self-aware, especially in comp flying about our decision-making, about how competitive we're being, about how we're interacting with all our other pilots and what self we're bringing to it. And so, you know, you just do it sort of one day at a time and you realize it's a really long game and you forgive little mistakes.

I did the same thing at Monroe. I was like, gosh, am I? Because I was like, there's a possibility that I could win the national championship. You know, I need to beat this person and do well enough. But is it even possible? And I was just like, okay, well, I'll just be tender with myself, be really self-aware, play in this. And I had the same thing in Monarcha. I was like, gosh, well, I've had a couple of good results, but...

galen Kirkpatrick (53:26.19)
you know, can I continue it? And I just, I like kind of harken back to this, be gentle with yourself. You belong here. You know what you're doing. And, um, and so, you know, those are all nationals levels comps. And, um, so I think there's a piece of, uh, foregoing expectation that's maybe easier at the super final.

Gavin McClurg (53:53.699)
Hmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (53:55.31)
I did my first super final in Valle last year, you were there, and you flew really well every day and then kind of had issues with the end. And I remember going into it with no expectation and I think I was 40 minutes slow on the first day and then 30 minutes slow for a couple days and then 20 minutes slow and then I was starting to... Basically, I was just, you know...

building on what I had experienced. And so for this, I'm just, you know, I feel like I have a great six or eight or 10 months of flying to draw on. And I was really tender and gentle with myself and self-aware during that flying.

But I'm also going with 120 pilots that fly faster or as fast as the leaders on any of those competitions that I've done this year. So, kind of all expectations off. Just go, have fun, feel privileged to be there and trust the Gaelen that got me here, that qualified me for the super final. And she'll...

Gavin McClurg (55:01.006)
Thanks for watching!

galen Kirkpatrick (55:16.854)
she'll like, you know, be there for you. And you just go out and have fun. But I've been thinking about it a ton. Every day I'm just like, I'm visualizing that sort of mental process of just, you know, I'm here. I get to be here, so just go have fun and don't get competitive.

Gavin McClurg (55:38.958)
We're gonna do a show specifically with you all, you and Violetta and Alexia and Jenny, hopefully before the super finals. So those of you listening, I've kind of alluded to that. We're gonna try to make that happen before you guys get going on that race. So we'll learn more about this. But two things I wanna talk about is this momentum that you women have right now and what has.

sparked that and I said we're going to do a whole show on that but I'd love for you to talk about it because it is really thrilling. And then the other thing I would love to talk about is

I see you as the pivotal member in our community that has sparked all this. I'm quite new to the party side of our competitions in the US. I'm feel like I'm the thing for that, not this wide open, but the one before. There's an amazing thing going on, at least from my perspective, with the US comp scene. We saw it.

loud and proud at Monarka, with nine out of the top 10, and there being US pilots, that's pretty amazing. I'd love for you to just talk about those two things as much as you want to right now, because there's something happening with our community that is really exciting to be a part of, and I think you've been...

You're kind of a leader there. You're the one that's made it happen. I mean, of course it's a community effort, but it's been a beautiful thing. And I mean, beautiful in a lot of different ways there. That word encompasses a lot, but it's been a beautiful thing to be a part of and to witness and to see this kind of sea change, really, in our community.

galen Kirkpatrick (57:13.196)
Oh.

galen Kirkpatrick (57:35.098)
Um, yeah, well, I wouldn't call myself a pivotal member of anything because that would be arrogant Um or confident i'm not sure i'm a yeah i'm a three out of five, um Well, no, so I um With the With the women's team thing. It's it's really been violetta who um, you know, she's been a huge supporter of me She's an incredible person

Gavin McClurg (57:38.881)
Thank you.

Hahaha

You're a 4.8 out of 5.

galen Kirkpatrick (58:05.73)
She's an incredible pilot and we, post pandemic, we both started just doing loads of comps. We basically were able to qualify for World Cups and so we got really close and we've been there for each other as we, you know, figure out how to fly as best as we possibly can.

galen Kirkpatrick (58:34.29)
And so then also with Alexia and Jenny, who are a little bit newer or who have done less races, but are also just doing incredible on the world stage and giving the US women maybe a little bit of a reputation, which I've heard about. It's really cool. And I think where we're at is...

as we start to organize and work together. And this is just in its infancy, but we all, you know, you talk about it all the time on the show of the French teamwork and camaraderie and you've alluded a ton and that's just a reality that there is somewhat of a cowboy nature to US flying, US comp flying and pilots. And so.

I feel like at least Violetta and I have come up through that system of where it's been sort of everyone for themselves and there hasn't been this emphasis on working together and Gosh, you know except for maybe the five or ten best pilots in the world everyone else and comp flying in general is It's you have to work together

it's that's your ability to work together will make or break your comp flying. So we came up through this and I think Alexia and Jenny also have become incredible pilots on their own so independently we've found this vein of performance that we're able to tap into and so what

we're doing is trying to not replicate what the French have or what any team, and Macedonia has an incredible team rapport, the Germans have, you know, we're trying to say, well, gosh, if we got here on our own, what could we do if we're working together or if we support each other, you know, if we wanna see each other or if we wanna share a podium together, the overall podium that is.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:00:49.594)
What can we do to support that? How can we lift each other up and support each other? And so again, this is in its infancy. We did a couple of days of flying together. We're learning how to communicate with each other and trust each other. And yeah, it's just really exciting because, you know, and yeah, I just think it's incredible. And each woman brings something.

really different to the team. We've all struggled in different ways to get good really quickly. And we've all faced different challenges in our ground life that have led us to be able to do this. And we all have a lot of love and respect for each other. And so it's like, gosh, if we incorporate and support each other, what's possible? And it feels like the...

It's just exciting. Yeah. Um, and we're excited to be on the podcast. And, and then I, I have the second question you asked, was that about the, the parties or the sort of the U S comp scene being more cohesive of a community?

Gavin McClurg (01:01:50.723)
Hmm.

Gavin McClurg (01:02:00.019)
Just.

Gavin McClurg (01:02:06.646)
Maybe even more than that, yeah, it seems like there's something that has shifted in our community that has aspired and inspired results and performance and stoke and desire. And for the first time in ages, there's young people coming into the sport that are really good, really fast. And it's...

And it seems to me that the one bit of glue there, the stick is the parties at the end of the comp. You share this pretty radical experience during the week, you're all kinda throwing it out there a bit, and then you get to hug it out for a night. And I don't know, am I putting too much on it? It just seems like that's a big part of.

the collective success.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:03:09.178)
Yeah, you know, I guess I think...

Yeah, I think, you know, again, there's so much talk in comp flying or in task flying of working together. And especially when, but you know, before you're going off to make your own decisions, you're working together with a group of people. And I think I see comp flying or task flying as a social game, primarily. Almost everyone has a similar set.

of knowledge and a similar set of skills. There's very little that separates that, but it's your ability to interact with others. And so I guess I think knowing that you're gonna

galen Kirkpatrick (01:04:02.19)
knowing that you're gonna get to hang out and hug all your friends on the last night of the comp, or that having that experience of loving them, of loving the people that you're racing with and supporting them, is only gonna make you better at flying. It's like being part of a community and having shared goals. And there's also, I think,

You know, there's that sort of, but there's also just that a lot of US pilots have done a lot of high level racing across the world in the last couple of years. And so we know each other a lot better and we know the sort of choices that we're gonna make and we feel supported. You know, if you're flying in a gaggle of people and you're fighting every single one of them,

Gavin McClurg (01:04:55.179)
Mm.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:05:01.062)
That's a lot of extra energy and only so much can be achieved with, you know, egotistical, ruthless competitiveness. And maybe that's what it takes to be a world champion or to fly at the very best or to get first place every day. I don't know. But certainly to fly really, really well, you can, you know, you don't.

Gavin McClurg (01:05:12.682)
Mmm.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:05:29.51)
You don't want to be wasting energy on...

you know, feeling at odds with people. And I think being yourself and, you know, letting your freak flag fly is really important. I know you're a big fan of that. And yeah, you know, I, if there's anything that I serve as a pivotal example of, it's maybe just

Gavin McClurg (01:05:48.186)
Thanks for watching!

galen Kirkpatrick (01:06:02.982)
like fully realizing yourself and being yourself in the face of, you know, dissenting voices or just existing, you know, it's existing as an art and living life, life as art. And so I'm hesitant to say this about myself, but I also, I think, or I've heard from people that they,

they look up to me and being myself and they feel a permission to also be themselves, which if you're going out to express yourself or to express a skillset that you have, is really important. And certainly I've looked up to a lot of pilots who are very much themselves. So yeah, I don't know. I think it's a mutual love and respect we have for each other.

Gavin McClurg (01:06:36.964)
Mm.

Gavin McClurg (01:07:01.658)
And that's a very nice place to end. Galen here at Treasure, thank you very much for sharing all of this. I wish you the best of luck at the Superfinal with the gals. I can't wait to watch. It's gonna be really exciting as you're all kind of hitting this incredible peak right now, which is really fun. But thank you.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:07:03.742)
Thanks.

galen Kirkpatrick (01:07:19.25)
Thank you so much, Gavin. Yeah, we'll miss you there, but we'll look forward to talking again.





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