Episode 115- Sky Camping with Martin (11 yrs) and Honza Rejmanek

Honza and Martin having a most excellent adventure!

Honza Rejmanek competed in the Red Bull X-Alps 5 times. His last was in 2015 but apparently nutty runs in the family and he and his son Martin have been doing incredible 8 day tandem vol-biv adventures for the past three years in the Alps. Their style is pure- no mechanical support is allowed (ie they fly or they walk), food is collected or carried, where they start and end is fixed so if they don’t make it one year they just come back the next! Honza says compared to the X-Alps they move at about one quarter of the speed but with four times the weight and no support crew! This inspiring and fun talk takes you on the inside of 3 years of adventures that not too many people will ever get to experience. My greatest ambition after listening to Martin and Honza is to be this cool of a Dad! In this chaotic time, we could all use something to help us smile and relax. This talk will do it!

Some fun stats:

Longest flight: 50km, 5hr
Longest distance hiked in one day: 25km
Most elevation hiked in one day: 1,700m

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Show Notes:

  • The art of tandem vol biv with Dad
  • How it works, gear, and the style
  • The best, the worst, the hardest
  • The treasures along the way
  • The “skull and crossbones” trail
  • Gear tips for vol biv
  • Single surface wings?
  • Food – what to bring and how to be self reliant
  • Fun contacts and encounters along the way
  • How they’ve adapted each one
  • Conditions that work and don’t work on a tandem

Mentioned in this episode:

Nate Scales, Cross Country Magazine, Red Bull X-Alps

 

The Corona Virus- Critical Choices in a Critical Time

 

This is an emergency episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem that everyone needs to hear. I sat down with two people on the front lines of Covid-19, my sister Lesley McClurg who is a Health and Science reporter for KQED in San Francisco, who has covered the pandemic since early January, when only 6 people had died; and Terry O’Connor, an ER doctor in Ketchum, Idaho- one of the most affected towns in the country (on par per capita with New York, San Francisco, and Seattle). We are in the largest public health crisis of our times. Covid-19 is being compared to the Spanish Influenza in 1918, which killed 50 million people. No one alive has ever seen anything like this before. But for many people it’s not tangible. It’s all data and numbers, and until it impacts a loved one, a neighbor, or someone you know it’s hard to understand. It’s called the “Novel” Corona Virus because it’s new and we know very little about the disease. What are the common misconceptions? Can our medical facilities and health workers handle what’s coming? How many people might die? What are the economic implications? And…what are the silver linings in this incredibly scary time? Birdsong and blue skies have returned to Wuhan for the first time in decades. We are realizing our own fragility. We’re realizing we are not invincible and we’re not in control. We’re suddenly faced with abundant time to evaluate what’s important in our lives. And we’re seeing the Earth’s resilience and how fast she can recover if we slow down. And finally- how should we recreate during this period? How should we approach risk? We need to think about it seriously.

PLEASE- share this with everyone you know.

Resources:

John Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

New York Times article about the Two Women Lesley references: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/13/world/asia/coronavirus-death-life.html

A great podcast with Sam Harris and Nicholas Christakis:

https://samharris.org/subscriber-extras/190-respond-coronavirus/

And with Sam Harris and Amesh Adalja:

https://samharris.org/subscriber-extras/191-early-thoughts-pandemic/

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Show Notes:

  • Where we’ve gone wrong in our response and what we need to do now, urgently
  • The biggest misconceptions of the Corona Virus
  • What we don’t understand about Covid-19
  • Corona can hit anyone, and YES- it can effect the young and the healthy
  • “Good for you that your healthy, but stop killing the rest of us”
  • There is no treatment, there is no cure
  • What are the numbers?
  • Can our medical infrastructure handle what’s coming?
  • How are our health workers at risk?
  • “At some point we will not be able to manage this”
  • What Covid-19 does to those infected- it’s not pretty
  • The frustrations of our health care providers
  • “This is a beast, and the best wants in”
  • How our culture compares to Italy
  • The importance of modeling good behavior
  • The importance of flattening the curve
  • How should we recreate right now? Getting hurt is NOT an option
  • When should we go get tested?
  • The psychology of a crises
  • We need to win hearts and minds, but doing it with the numbers isn’t going to work.
  • “This is a common problem for humanity right now. If you’re looking for a sense of purpose in your life, it’s here”

Mentioned in this episode:

Sam Harris, Chrigel Maurer, Gary Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, USHPA, Cross Country Magazine, Sun Valley, Ketchum, KQED, NPR, Wuhan, Mountain Express, Terry O’Connor, Lesley McClurg, Sun Valley Resort, Blaine County, Idaho; David Concannon, Marc Hanselman, SHV/FSVL, FFVL, SBSA, Neal Bradshaw, St Lukes Hospital, Paul Slovek, University of Oregon, Nick Streuli

Episode 113- Manu Bonte and Mastering Autonomy

Manu showing the way in Colombia

THIS ONE IS AWESOME! Don’t delay, listen now and put all these practices into your flying- and life! Manu Bonte is an APPI Master Instructor and has been guiding cross country instructional tours around the world for over 10 years. A Mechanical engineer, Manu has worked as a test pilot for 8 years in the development team of the French paraglider brand Nervures. Manu is also a journalist and author of the book Parapente Sauvage. The “Flying Frog” is internationally known for his amazing pictures and adventurous journeys around the globe. Manu is president of the educational committee of the APPI, an international education training program that has more than 10,000 members in 134 countries. In this episode we learn about how Manu approaches building autonomy with his students; the importance of the mental side of the sport; finding the equilibrium between motivation and safety; chasing the aesthetic over personal bests and kilometer counting; how to get pilots in a positive state of mind; teaching people to avoid making stupid mistakes; the extreme risk of social media and external motivation and flying; how to free the unconscious mind; the three things that lead to accidents; switching to “autopilot”; where “happiness” lies in flying and a TON, TON more.

Some great resources from the talk:

An excellent tool to analyze your flights
https://xcanalytics.fr/en/

https://www.fai.org/page/risk-assessment

Here is the major accident analysis over last 12 years (in French)
https://vimeo.com/382900263

 

APPI (Association of Paragliding Pilots and Instructors) is an association based in switzerland that was founded in 2009.
http://appifly.org/
http://www.appifly.org/?What-is-APPI

The main goal of APPI is to offer to pilots and instructors a worldwide united education system. Many pilots travel, and APPI gives them the confidence to find consistent,  quality education in certified APPI schools all around the world. APPI allows those traveling pilots to progress in the same education system wherever they travel.

APPI has 10.000 members in more than 134 countries
http://appifly.org/?APPI-Worldwide&lang=en

APPI quality is based on:

A: a well documented education system

http://appifly.org/?APPI-Education-System&lang=en#education
click on any level to have details

APPI education system also features:
-Pilot manual
-Pilot Logbook where the contents of each level are described. So far this logbook is available in English, Spanish, French, Serbo Croatian, Macedonian, Greek, Persian, Russian, Turkish…. Chinese and Arabic are in progress
-Online theory training with a pool of 500 question carefully elaborated and regularly updated
-Online Theoretical exam virtual room
-Evaluation forms for practical exams
-Instructor manual

The education system is regularly evaluated and updated by a cosmopolitan pool of master instructors: the APPI Pedagogical Committee. This allows the  system to be in perpetual evolution and incorporate the latest knowledge, which is a major issue when we consider the fast evolution in glider design and its impacts on piloting.

B: a network of APPI certified professional pilots:

The network of tandem pilots, instructors and schools provides a consistent and guaranteed level of quality

C: field pedagogic actions:
those actions are performed:
-by APPI instructors inside APPI schools
-by APPI master instructors for experienced pro pilots (tandem, instructors, technicians) seeking validation or updating of their competence in the APPI system. They are evaluated and validated at the level they deserve in the APPI system.

Actions oriented towards Pro pilots are called Pro-workshop, here is the schedule of coming events, as well as a resume of actions that have been held in the past

http://appifly.org/?APPI-Workshops&lang=en

D: a quality control system based on 2 points:

-Each key level (advanced pilot, tandem pilot, instructor) requires validation of two different instructors or master instructors. Name of validators is recorded into the APPI system and they may be held responsible for the actions or behavior of their rated pilots in case it is due to a lack in the education process.

-Each member of APPI, whether he is a simple pilot or a master instructor, can report any incidents or unsafe behaviors he may witness.

The Disciplinary & Safety Committee will investigate and evaluate possible actions to take in these instances.

If the issue indicates action against an individual, the disciplinary committee may take action to bring the individual into compliance with the APPI standards. If those actions are unsuccessful, sanctions may been taken up to expel the individual from APPI.

If the incident suggests a change to the training protocol, the Disciplinary Committee will engage the Pedagogical Committee to have the training protocol be revised and evolve.

System update:

The APPI system is driven by a competent and cosmopolitan pedagogical committee:
14 experts showing different backgrounds.

The diversity of countries and expertise enriches our understanding of global issues. One thing they have in common is that all travel the world for their professional paragliding activity.

This committee also relies on a network of well known and respected specialists who help on specific topics.
APPI Hall of Fame shows Francois Ragolski, Theo De Blic, Tim Alongi, Franck Coupat (Attaka speedriding school), Kari Castle, Charles Cazaux, Seiko Fukuoka, Pablo Lopez, Bruce Goldsmith, David Eyraud, Fabien Blanco, Mendo Veljanovski, Jordi Marquillas, Marko Hrgetik, Dale Covington, Avi Malik… Among others

APPI and National federations:

− The purpose of APPI is to create a consistent high level of training worldwide, and to build bridges with existing national federations.

− At APPI we are convinced that a strong local federation of pilots in a country is critical for paragliding development, and is key for airspace regulation, national competition, and many other issues.

− APPI’s goal is to promote and strenghten paragliding worldwide.
If we can help any federation or local authority with our experience and training program to build a synergy, we do so enthusiastically.

On the field how does it work?

Some countries use the APPI system as their official system. They like the quality of the contents, the fact that its a ready to use solution with documentation and educational support. Also they like the possibility to call external experts to validate the pros levels which eliminates conflicts of interest.

In some countries where an historic educational system exists APPI certifications are recognized besides the local historic system. APPI functions in a supportive role, and is mainly used when local pilots travel abroad, or for an easy integration of incoming foreign pilots.

There are countries that do not recognize APPI yet, and we work on building a trustfull relationship with them.

APPI and FAI

APPI is recognized by FAI as a trustfull entity. FAI asked APPI to work on the renewal of Parapro system (Safe pro 2017), FAI allows APPI to issue FAI IPPI levels in certains countries, standart procedure requires local NAC autorization.

Pilots that are APPI certified have their certification recognized in countries that recognize APPI certification.

Insurance:

We are working on providing worldwide insurance at a decent rate and very good coverage to all our pilots and professional pilots. We have already succeeded for European citizens (even living abroad) and European residents. Our insurance company is working to extend the offer worldwide

Manu Bonte

President of APPI educational committee

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Show Notes:

  • Finding the equilibrium between motivation and safety
  • Becoming autonomous
  • Teaching people to avoid making stupid mistakes
  • Mental, mental, mental- you gotta feel good in the air
  • Identifying behaviors that betray nervousness
  • disconnecting the piloting from the vision- going into autopilot
  • improving technique for thermalling
  • work on strategy- identify the simple rules and follow them- free your unconscious mind!
  • The four cores: Mental, technical, energy, and strategy
  • The three things that lead to problems- 1) external motivation. 2) ego. 3) incorrect vision of progression- exposing yourself to too much risk. Work the technique, improve your mental skills, pound the fundamentals and you will get good, you don’t need to push hard to get good
  • Paragliding is dangerous. Accepting that it is the first step in the right direction.
  • What makes a good paragliding pilot? What makes a great flight?
  • Adapt- manage your level of exposure
  • Connect your happiness to improvement, not numbers
  • Your goal should be to fly safely and making smart decisions.  Fly for the aesthetic. If your stories include tons of low saves and surviving sketchy decisions then that’s not cool. Who’s the better pilot- the pilot who flies all day without a low save, or the pilot who has 5 low saves?
  • The importance of Analyzing your flight to find weaknesses. There are four parts: climbing, transition, the line, and the searching.
  • How to exit a thermal
  • The importance of Margin
  • Are you having fun or are you looking for recognition?
  • Aligning probability with risk and the severity of the consequences
  • APPI and creating a syllabus and education system for the world

Mentioned in this episode:

APPI

 

Episode 112- Nuno Virgílio and Chasing the Flow

Nuno Virgílio began flying when he was 17 and has been chasing it for 23 years and counting. He competed in the 2011 Red Bull X-Alps, won a task in the PWC in Portugal in 2012, has been Portugal champion multiple times and has a plethora of site records. And he remains as hungry as ever to fly. In this episode we dive into how the Portugal team changed their mental game and mindset after getting coaching in sports psychology; the dynamics of Flow and how to enter it; building mental tools; the importance of visualizing; how to relax before launch; how to let instinct and intuition rule in flight; how flying affects our lives and how life affects our flying; how to fly convergence and flatlands tips; the Red Bull X-Alps; the importance of self-assessment and a lot more. Nuno regularly chases distance with his wife, who is also an exceptional pilot and we learn about how she recently got into a cloud suck situation that changed the way she looks at the world. I really, really enjoyed this conversation and I think you will as well.

Nuno also runs an airbnb type website for traveling paragliders called B.Stoked Paragliding. Check it out!

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Show Notes:

  • Nuno and a lifetime of flight and learning from his father at 17
  • Sports psychology and the Portuguese team
  • FLOW
  • How to enter flow more easily
  • Visualization- the key to training
  • How to go on autopilot and let the subconscious do the work
  • “stop flying and let yourself be flown”
  • Observe, observe, observe
  • The importance of shifting gears
  • Flying and life, life and flying
  • Becoming a natural pilot
  • Maintaining the passion
  • The Red Bull X-Alps
  • Assessing the risk and self awareness
  • Ask yourself these questions: Why did you start flying? Why do you continue flying? What’s your greatest fear?
  • Don’t force it
  • A scary cloud suck story….

Mentioned in this episode:

Adel Honti, Flow, Manfred Ruhmer, Reavis Sutphin-Gray, Francis Reina, FlyBubble, Matt Henzi, Airtribune, Chelan, Three Peaks Paragliding, Chikyong Ha, Nate Scales, Cross Country Magazine

Bonus Episode! Weather Series Episode 1 with Emi Carvalho

This content is only available to Members of the Cloudbase Mayhem. If you have subscribed to our newsletter or have supported us in the past through PayPal, Patreon or another way you should have an account all set up with us and you can login below (username is typically your email). If you aren't a member, all we've ever asked for is a buck a show so please if you can join now! Can't afford a buck a show? We want all our content to be available to the flying community regardless of your financial position, so just send us an email and we'll sort you out.

Episode 111- Steph Davis and the taking the road a LOT less traveled

 

Steph Davis is a professional climber and base jumper who lives in Moab, Utah. Steph grew up on the east coast and originally pursued music and literature. Then she moved out to Colorado to get her Masters and briefly pursued a career as a lawyer before climbing pulled her onto a totally different life path. She’s been a professional athlete and has made a living through climbing since 1996 and later skydiving and base jumping. For Steph, climbing is a metaphor for life:  “You have to do what feels right, what lights you up. Do your best always. Conserve. Never waste anything. You can only have what you can carry: choose it carefully, make it last, take care of it. Appreciate what you have for as long as you have it. Be ready to do without it. No matter what happens, deal with it. Adapt, instantly when necessary. Take care of yourself. Try to help. A lot of times you fail, sometimes you succeed. Either way, you’re never the whole reason for it.” Steph speaks professionally about fear, risk and resilience (see her recent TedTalk here) and has witnessed a lot of traumatic accidents, including the death of her husband Mario Richard in a wingsuit base jump accident in the Dolomites. Why do we need risk in our lives? How do we balance the risk and reward? How do we learn to live again after tragedy? What non-physical training can we do to support performance? How can we reduce accidents in airports? This is a fascinating talk with a fascinating person. Enjoy!

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Show Notes:

  • Steph discusses the difficulty of describing what she does for a living…
  • How to make a living as a professional athlete
  • The plusses and negatives of being a minimalist
  • The “dirt bag” lifestyle- let’s not glamorize it too much
  • People who jump off cliffs- they aren’t what you think
  • Walking a completely different path
  • The risk and reward
  • The death of her husband Mario Richard
  • Why do some people pursue such high-risk activities? Is it the escape or something else?
  • Dealing with tragedy
  • Non-physical training
  • Minimize your life!
  • How do we reduce accidents?

Mentioned in this episode:

GEOS, Global Rescue, IMG Signature, Garmin, Base jumping, Wingsuiting, Climbing, Rebecca Rusch, Jody MacDonald, KAVU, Alex Honnold, Jeff Shapiro, Dean Potter, Graham Hunt, Sean Leary, MSR, Ruffwear

 

Episode 110- Juan Sebastien Ospina “Seb” and Piecing it all Together

 

Sebastien Ospina “Seb” has been chasing all things paragliding for years now. Seb works the tandem scene in Interlaken year round; has been chasing the world record in the Sertau in Brazil the past few years; is a regular on the podium at very high level competitions; is frequently at the top of the XContest every year; and has been an XC instructor with Pal Takats and Mike and Stu Belbas with Verbier Summits. Seb is from Armenia, Colombia and his story from being fascinated with the sky as a little boy to becoming one of the worlds great pilots is a fantastic story in itself and in this podcast we dive into the tactics and secrets he’s developed with the help of Thomas Theurillat (ONEDAY coaching, and Chrigel’s coach and supporter for many of his X-Alps campaigns) to play a better game, and how we bounce back from the times it doesn’t work. Seb has a terrific attitude about flying and he’s always the guy who’s wearing the biggest smile: his thrill and passion for the sport is infectious and inspiring. Enjoy!

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Show Notes:

  • Seb discusses ONEDAY coaching with Thomas Theurillat and how it is affecting his flying
  • Preparing the mind for flying and tools to improve
  • The importance of journaling and mindfulness
  • The right headspace for success
  • Mantras and tips for flying well
  • Being “zen” and cool when you’re flying. Try to be cool!
  • Breath
  • Fly the shit out of your glider before you move up!
  • Stuff the lower hour pilots really need to practice- ground handling, pitch control, observation
  • The breakthrough- flying Brazil
  • How to be consistent in comps
  • Is flying tandems commercially good for your personal flying?
  • Getting into comps
  • Top landing Mont Blanc
  • Chasing it in Brazil- tips for flying in the wind and for flying long days
  • Sink in the flats

Mentioned in this episode:

Blue Fly Vario, Dave Hanning, Stian Volstad, Mike and Stu Belbas, Verbier Summits, Viv Fouracre, Livia Gilstrap, Anze Priztov, Ben Netterfield, Yann Gallin, Andy Read, Wendy Pepper, Miguel Gutierrez, Bowen Dwelle, Alas Del Hombre, British Paragliding, Guy Anderson, Chris Bevins, ONEDAY coaching, Thomas Theurillat, Charles Cazaux, Patrick Von Kanel, Yael Margelisch, XContest, Chrigel Maurer, Alistair Dickie, Maxime Bellemin, Hugh Miller, Cross Country Paragliding, Russ Ogden, Adel Honti, Nick Neynens, Mitch Riley, Bruce Goldsmith, Jeff Shapiro, Will Gadd, Josh Cohn, Ozone, Mark Watts, Red Bull X-Alps, Rafael Saladini, Samuel Nascimento, Marcelo Prieto, FlyWithAndy, Ken Hudonjorgensen, Red Rocks Flyin

Episode 109- Reducing the Carnage with Will Gadd and Jeff Shapiro

Accidents are ubiquitous in free flight but recently there’s been a huge spike in fatalities in our sport and in this podcast with Jeff Shapiro and Will Gadd we aim to take on the subject of risk and where we get it wrong sometimes- and why. We take on a lot in this show, but here’s a little teaser: How well do you understand your own head? Is pushing the limits necessary to learn? What can go wrong and how much margin do we need so we can play another day? Mistakes are necessary to learn, but the ground is hard and unforgiving, so how do we fly with that knowledge and still excel safely? How to have appropriate goals at appropriate times. What’s the end game? Why aviation is unique compared to other high risk sports because of gravity and the ground. The dangers of forcing your will on the day, rather than just flying what the day provides (“Fly the day, not your desire”- Nick Greece). The three stages of combat veterans and how it applies to free flight. And a ton more. This is one of the most important shows we’ve ever produced, I hope you’ll share it with everyone you know who flies or participates in high risk activities. Be safe everyone.

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Show Notes:

  • The 5 hazardous attitudes in Aviation
  • The positive power of negative thinking
  • How well do you understand your own head?- Expect error.
  • Thinking of and understanding the consequences tends to allow you to live longer
  • The importance of having a visceral connection
  • Understanding the difference between someone being negative and someone giving good advice and how not to misinterpret the two
  • Flying is a high consequence sport with a lot of complexities- so you better understand that up front
  • Gravity and speed
  • Fly like the pilot you ARE, not the pilot you want to be
  • Every flight we make is a very personal decision for each of us. Fly the day, not your desire.
  • Combat veterans go through 3 stages. The first stage with novices haven’t seen much and assume nothing will happen to them. The second stage is when a more experienced veteran realizes the dangers and will train hard to try to avoid getting hurt. The third stage is simply realizing that no matter how hard you train and how good you are still means you might not come home. So it’s recognizing that these sports are just dangerous. It’s not resignation, it’s just being real about the risks.
  • Operating from a place of fear is not a good place to be
  • The line between fear and doubt isn’t always very clear.
  • Most aviation events happen in a chain. They are rarely just one thing.
  • “You gotta be stupid enough to launch and smart enough to get it back to the ground.”- Nate Scales
  • Keeping track of the (typically 3) things that are likely going to kill you. Respect the relationship of the stuff that will kill you.
  • How to create a culture of safety. 

Mentioned in this episode:

Will Gadd, Jeff Shapiro, Cody Tuttle, Casey Bedell, Cross Country Magazine, Nick Greece, Josh Cohn, Nate Scales

Bonus Episode- Ken Hudonjorgensen and “Winguistics”

This content is only available to Members of the Cloudbase Mayhem. If you have subscribed to our newsletter or have supported us in the past through PayPal, Patreon or another way you should have an account all set up with us and you can login below (username is typically your email). If you aren't a member, all we've ever asked for is a buck a show so please if you can join now! Can't afford a buck a show? We want all our content to be available to the flying community regardless of your financial position, so just send us an email and we'll sort you out.

The Flying Gear Post

Window? Assessing our rather bleak options above Chur with Tobias (Team Italy 2) during the 2019 Red Bull X-Alps. Photo Vitek Ludvik

As 2019 comes to a close I’m trying to wrap up some loose ends. One of them is to fulfill a request from many of our podcast listeners to review and talk about the flying gear I use and why. For transparency, I’m sponsored by many of the companies I’m going to mention and obviously I can’t possibly personally fly everything on the market. I choose the gear I fly firstly because it’s the gear I’d choose anyway and I can hand on my heart promise my opinions are not being altered because of the sponsorship relationship. These are my truthful opinions. My flying is mainly focused on three different forms of XC- Race to Goal competitions (World Cups, etc.), hike and fly races (Red Bull X-Alps), and vol biv expeditions (Rockies Traverse, North of Known, 500 Miles to Nowhere, etc.). The gear for each of these forms of aviation doesn’t always cross over very well so I’ll cover the gear I use for each.

Let’s talk the small stuff first as that’s the gear I get the most questions about:

Instruments (Vario, GPS, Satellite tracking, etc.):

For hike and fly I only carry three electronic devices: My iPhone, XCTracer Mini II GPS (the Mini III is now out and I look forward to the upgrade!), and the Garmin InReach Mini. Of those three, the Garmin InReach is of course the most important for safety and is beyond the scope of this article as to the why as I’ve gone over this countless times in the podcast and in other blog posts. GET ONE! If you don’t have an InReach you’re putting your family and flying community at massive unnecessary risk.

The XCTracer mini II (and the new mini III) has a solar cell (and is now available with FLARM), pretty much never needs to be charged unless you’re using it for 12 days straight in the X-Alps and using it as a back up tracker for when you are walking and is just an incredible audio vario in a tiny, light package. More than 50% of the X-Alps pilots used the XCTracer in the race in 2019. The XCTracer seamlessly connects to your phone, is loud enough to hear in any condition, totally customizable and just an awesome piece of kit (and paired with your phone makes uploading igc files a breeze). The new XCTracer Maxx (out in Feb 2020) has a readable B&W lcd (perfectly readable in bright sunlight), has Flarm integrated, lasts 60h on a single battery charge, weighs only 120g and has all the features the solar powered XC Tracers have.

The new XCTracer Maxx, out in Feb, 2020. Order now!



For the Iphone I run the FlySkyHy app (similar to XCSoar and XCtrack on Android), which is a super powerful flight computer that integrates airspace, waypoint files, offline maps, has totally customizable screens that allow you easily see whatever data you want (map view, side view, etc.), makes entering tasks a breeze when racing AND a lot more. The app still lacks some handy things in a dedicated race instrument like the Oudie (for example an audible alarm when you can go on glide to goal given current conditions rather than just relying on L/D) but Rene (the app developer) is fantastic to work with and he’s constantly making updates. Running FlySkyHy in the X-Alps easily saved me from hitting air space several times when other pilots flew right in and got huge penalties.

 

For Race to Goal competitions and when I don’t care about weight I add the FlyTec 6030, which is a pretty old flight computer now but just still very hard to beat. Bombproof, reliable, easy to use for those like me who are technologically challenged and has awesome tone settings for coring thermals. All the comp pilots I know who use an Oudie or similar all fly with two, which to me means they don’t trust having just one (but for any comp flying you ALWAYS want a backup, in which case when flying with the XCTracer you’ve already got one)…

I never go anywhere without my Anker 10,000 mAh external battery which is the lightest there is with so much punch and plenty of power for long flights so my phone doesn’t die when flying or during retrieve.

Radio

Yeasu FT-60 with the Thermal Tracker PTT (best there is in my opinion). I don’t carry a radio in the X-Alps, but a radio is a critical piece of gear, right up there with the InReach, especially when something goes wrong. Should be part of your pre-flight checks the day before- batteries charged, ready to go.

Helmet

Helmet I use the Sup’Air Pilot helmet. It’s the only super-light (360 grams) helmet that has the EN-966 certification, which is required for the X-Alps but is also super comfy and the one I use for all flying. I prefer flying this helmet with Smith skiing goggles with chroma-pop lenses instead of sun glasses (eyes don’t water). If I flew more comps and didn’t care about the weight, the Charly Loop would be my choice as I don’t like full face helmets (and would eliminate a ton of wind noise that you get with the light-weight helmets).


Mind and Body

Wait a minute, this is supposed to be a “Gear” post you say? Taking care of the mind and body IS GEAR in my world. We can’t fly well (and certainly not safely) if we aren’t physically and mentally tuned. My trainer Ben Abruzzo and I did a TON of research and work on diet and supplements that I have written about extensively in previous blog posts and articles but for a quick review I had a ton of problems with inflammation in the 2015 race which we solved in 2017 by optimizing fat metabolism (OFM). This wasn’t full-on Ketosis, just a diet heavy on fats and protein (especially organ meats and meat on the bone) and light on carbs, and a major restriction of sugar. Here’s my basic recipe:

For training days and going hard (ie HR is generally going to be high and you can’t digest well and can expect stomach issues if you eat too much), when I need fast recovery and need to keep my brain sharp I use Vespa as a catalyst to access my body fat. I use it at least once a day and for hard days as many as three times a day (ie during the X-Alps). This applies to just flying a big day as well and during regular race-to-goal competition as the brain burns A TON of energy and flying is massively taxing on the mind. Bonking in flight is not something you want to happen, and neither is bombing out on a big day. Follow this link and use the code “2020” to get 10% off for Cloudbase Mayhem listeners!

I also ALWAYS have within reach when I’m training and flying (when flying I drink at the top of every thermal and eat at least one time per hour) a few ONNIT supplements:

  1. Daily I take Total Human. Read the ingredients and you’ll see why. Essential minerals, amino acids, vitamins and herbs to keep the colds at bay. This stuff is amazing and keeps your immune system strong, which can take a beating in the winter, traveling or when training hard.
  2. Also daily I take Alpha Brain. Alpha Brain is like “another gear for your brain”. It’s a Nootropic that supports memory, focus and mental speed (things that are pretty important in flying!) and it’s made from Earth-grown ingredients. Awesome stuff.
  3. I add Mineral electrolytes during any physical exercise or long flights.
  4. Onnit’s Protein bites are RIDICULOUS and BY FAR and away the best protein bars out there. Believe me, I’ve tried them all. Again- look at the ingredients. I’ll eat one of these every hour in flight.
  5. Other things in the Onnit line up I use heavily during hard training loads: Joint Oil, Elk Bars, Warrior Bars, LOVE their Powerfood Active, and I’ll go pretty hard on Glutamine when I’m doing a lot of miles and Creatine when I’m in the gym a lot and in the “bulk” phase of my training.

 

And maybe the most important and most-used piece of gear I never go anywhere without is my Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar GPS watch. When I’m training I add the chest HR monitor for precise heart rate data but the metrics tracking with the Garmin Fenix 6X (and the solar version means you almost never need to charge it) is unsurpassed. Coupled with their Garmin Connect App and the MANY sports you can track (you name it- backcountry skiing, swimming, hiking, running, and yes- paragliding!) Ben can easily and instantly see exactly where I am, how much recovery I need, and where we need to focus when I’m in training. Physical fitness is one of the most important things to not only flying well, but making your body durable…which comes in awfully handy when you land a little hard!


Camera and Fun

The Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is my go-to action cam. WAY better mounts and camera than GoPro and WAY more user-friendly. Just not in the same category. And for the ultimate thrill the VIRB 360 is pretty fun if you want to really impress!

Garmin 728x90 Banner

Footwear

Salewa makes killer shoes that are light and work great in a pod harness/pressing bar and for grinding out hard miles on the trail. For road use I need shoes with a bit more cushion (my goto are Brooks). I used Salewa’s Ultra Flex Mid Goretex training shoe for the wet stuff in the Alps during the race (which work great with micro spikes if you’re in hard snow); the ultra train 2 for nearly all trail running or just normal flying or anytime you need a comfy, light shoe that has support; the lite train when I want super light; and the Speed Beat GTX when I want support and goretex (ie it’s going to be wet).

 


Harnesses

COMPS: With the caveat that I have not flown the Genie or the Exoceat, the Kortel Kanibal Race 2 is in a league of its own for racing, or flying big distance if you can drive or gondola to launch (like all comp harnesses- it’s heavy!). It is the only harness with a super user-friendly “dynamic stabilization” system that makes glides more efficient (the Woody Valley XR-7 tried to copy the Kanibal but I didn’t feel it was very safe to use, especially in combat situations as you have to take your hands off the brakes to engage/disengage). The Kanibal Race 2 is like flying a Cadillac. Two reserves, awesome removable flight deck, super comfy and supportive seat, great 3 step speed bar, and all of the little things you want and need in the perfect place: ballast dump, inReach or audio vario mount on the shoulder, hydration passage for your camelback, SUPER protection, most aerodynamic of all the race harnesses with a huge fairing (best polar and makes twisting up less likely after a collapse), drag chute pockets both sides, radio pocket…this harness has it all!

Vol Biv: For vol biv the magic balance is light but durable and enough storage for all the necessary gear- bivvy or tent, stove, hiking poles, sleeping bag, food and water, camera, safety kit, pot/stove, etc. See my complete vol biv kit gear list if you want a checklist! The Kortel Kolibri is absolutely the MONEY for vol biv. It’s the harness Antoine Girard has been using on his big high-altitude nutters and it’s the harness I wish I would have had for the Alaska Traverse and the Rockies Traverse (and all my Vol Biv expeditions). At 2 kg in the Large size it’s barely (300-400 grams) heavier than an X-Alps harness, has plenty of storage for bivvy kit, has awesome protection and yet somehow they have also made it much more durable than what you would expect in a harness this light. The construction looks like Kortel has some folks from NASA on the team- it’s just brilliant. A warning: light gear is all the rage these days but please understand the compromise of flying light gear. It’s expensive, it’s fragile, you’re usually giving up a seat board (hammock harnesses make wing handling a lot less precise, although exclusive to Kortel their split-leg design compensates for this to an extent), and you’re giving up a LOT of passive safety. My buddy Ben broke his back flying the Strike, if he’d had more cushion under his butt he likely would have walked away. Listen to the “Ask Me Anything” podcast with Max Jeanpierre from Kortel for more details on harness design and compromises with light harnesses. 

Interested in Kortel and live in North America? I am a dealer and will happily get you set up!

Hike and Fly / racing: I have have flown a lot of the “uber light” harnesses on the market. In the 2015 and 2017 X-Alps I flew the Sup’Air Strike (the 2017 Sup’Air harness was awful and in my opinion unusable), and in the 2019 race I flew the SkyWalk Range X-Alps after deciding the new Ozone F-Race wasn’t ready and still needed some refining. I flew the retail version of the Range, but SkyWalk also made a specific X-Alps version that was about 300 grams less (which they didn’t offer to me)- but also a LOT more fragile. The Range is a terrific harness and the “permair” system is fantastic for packing as the harness gets really small when you deflate and provides very nice protection, but I refuse to fly SkyWalk because their customer service is…lacking. I did some moderate damage to my Range in the race (which I purchased, something quite unheard of for X-Alps athletes), sent it to them to repair, they kept it for 3 weeks and then instead of repairing it suggested I just buy a new one and said it was “unrepairable.” I had them send me the harness back, did the repairs myself in under an hour and it is now in the hands of a friend who loves it. Not cool Skywalk! Kortel has a “Kolibri Pro” that isn’t available for retail, but for my future hike and fly races this will be my harness. Like the Kolibri- brilliant, comfortable but ridiculously light.

Wings

 

COMPS: For racing and when I’m going for big distance, I’m LOVING the Niviuk IcePeak EVOX (their CCC glider). Niviuk struggled after the game-changing IcePeak 6 to keep up with Ozone and to some extent Gin and didn’t have a competitive CCC glider from 2016 through 2018. I flew the Ozone Enzo 3 most of the 2017 competition season and it’s an awesome wing. Stable, fast, predictable- there’s a reason so many comp pilots are on the Enzo 3. The EVOX has the same glide speed as the Enzo 3 but I feel like it climbs better and it’s definitely more “searchy” in light air. It’s less stiff, maybe a touch harder to keep open but I love the increased feel that is so typical to Niviuk wings. If I wasn’t sponsored by Niviuk, it would still be the comp wing I’d choose. There will be a new IcePeak EVOX released for the Superfinal in March 2020, and the prototypes that were flown in the PWC in Argentina by Tim Rochas and Louis Goutagny in November looked like they were really, really sweet.

BIG DISTANCE XC: The Niviuk Peak 5 was just released (January 10th, 2020). I haven’t flown it, but Olivier promised me it wouldn’t be released unless it had better performance than the Zeno. A tall order, and from my talks with their test pilots- they pulled it off. They took the plan form of the EVOX and just scaled it back a bit to provide a proper BIG XC machine that will undoubtedly be my choice for when I’m just going out flying and trying to send it big. Have a look at their website- this is an awesome looking wing.

 

VOL BIV, HIKE AND FLY: I was not in love with the Niviuk Klimber at first, but it has really grown on me, especially for bivvy as it’s super light, easy to pack, and really manageable on the ground. But when I don’t care too much about weight, I opt for a light version of the Peak 4. This isn’t really fair, as this isn’t available to purchase, but I prefer 2 liners and I just really prefer Niviuk wings and they were kind enough to make me a few of these (a light version of the Peak 4 for the Alaska Traverse and the 2017 X-Alps). I’m super excited about the Klimber 2, which will hopefully be released this spring and the Peak 5 which will be a bit of a game changer in the EN/D arena.

 

Gavin McClurg (USA 1) seen during the Red Bull X-Alps, Day 10, France

Have a great 2020 everyone and if I’ve missed anything let me know.