This episode was first scheduled as a quick primer to be released on the front of a “normal” podcast interview, but as we began recording it became clear it could stand alone as a show on its own. The World Cup is as high as it gets in competition hang gliding and paragliding. For many it is the ultimate goal in cross country flying. But getting an invitation to fly in the world cup isn’t very straightforward. First there are the many organizations- the FAI, CIVL, PWCA, and a nations flying organization (USHPA, BHPA, etc.). What’s the difference between Cat 1 and Cat 2? What is the WPRS and how does it play into selection? What are letters and why are they important? How do you make the World’s team and how is that different from a world cup? The road to a world cup isn’t very straight, but with a little clarification of the acronyms, and an understanding of how it all works together you can navigate the process quite easily. I sat down with Bill Hughes, who is the treasurer for the PWCA, is on the board at CIVL and USHPA and also works with the FAI to take us through the ABC’s of flying the highest level comps there is. If you have a goal of competing on the world cup this show is for you.
A common question we ask on the Mayhem is “what would you do if you could rewind the clock to your 50 hour self?” One of our listeners reached out awhile back and wanted to know what we should tell our zero hour selves. When we first begin we know absolutely nothing other than we want to fly! But getting into the sport is daunting. How do you pick the right instructor? What qualifications or qualities should we look for? Should we consider connecting with a club and mentors BEFORE signing on with an instructor? What are the RIGHT questions new pilot students should be asking so we don’t turn off potential mentors. How ALONE you are in the air but how big and friendly and helpful the PG community is (ESPECIALLY for women). What SHOULD we be spending money on initially? How flying is an addiction and how it might affect relationships. How learning is a “Long and Winding Road” and how limited you are in your abilities as a P2. (Note to self, you are not a YouTube worthy pilot as a P2!). How important it is to be social so you can connect with the right people and how social media can help with that. Why it is important to connect with local flying clubs and pay dues. That it’s going to cost a lot more in travel time, Gas and mileage than you think! I reached out to Greg Hamerton to ask these questions and a lot more and we had a blast. I found a lot here that is applicable to pilots at any level. Check out Greg’s website and incredible courses at FlyWithGreg.com.
Elizabeth (Eli) Egger is one of the rookies in the 23′ Red Bull X-Alps. She’s also a paragliding instructor, Niviuk team pilot, high-level competition pilot (we sat down after the Superfinal in Mexico to have this chat), has supported Simon Oberrauner (2017) and Aaron Durogati (2019 and 2021) in the X-Alps, and has a very interesting professional background in earth mapping and engineering. In this wide-ranging talk we discuss her training for the upcoming race and what she’s learned from supporting Simon and Aaron, preparing for comps, progression, instruction, and going to bat against the best in the world. Enjoy!
We keep the absolutely nutty going this week with 5-time Red Bull X-Alps competitor, 2 X Superfinal champion, and winner of just about everything in our sport, Aaron Durogati. Aaron and I sat down in person on the final day of the Superfinal in Valle De Bravo in Mexico and he had me in stitches from the get-go. Aaron is a fantastic story-teller and his triumphs and beat-downs in the X-Alps are jaw dropping. Enjoy these incredible amazing tales from the edge!
We’re continuing the theme of radical stories from radical people this week with Honza Rejmanek, who competed in 5 Red Bull X-Alps from 2007 to 2015. Honza begins the storytelling in 2007 with what has to the hardest start in the history of the race after eating some questionable food the night before the event even started, puking (and worse) all night, spending the night on the Dachstein because he could barely move, and then the long fight back. We learn about his podium in 2009 shared with Red Bull X-Alps legends Chrigel Maurer and Alex Hofer (the only two athletes other than Kaspar Henry in 2003 who have ever won it), and many more of the great and not-so-great moments over nearly a decade of a battling it out in the Alps. Stories, fun and heartache that live tracking never captures. Enjoy!
In the opening house keeping I discuss a few things:
- The Paragliding based PhD position at the Max Planck Institute. Find out more here: https://imprs-qbee.mpg.de/56495/Social-sampling-of-airflows-in-competitive-soaring-flight
- Have you suffered a fear injury? Let me know.
- The Nayarit flying epic I discuss that Miguel Gutierrez and his team are hosting in Mexico Dec 19-21. The details are here. Don’t miss this!! It’s going to be amazing!
Tom De Dorlodot has done more Red Bull X-Alps than everyone other than Toma Coconea (who has done them all!). The Belgian explorer extraordinaire started at the tender age of 21 in the 2007 race and hasn’t missed one since. He is currently training for the 2023 event, which will be his 9th! We got together recently to dive into his campaigns just after he and his family moved into their new home on the island of Faial in the Azores. We rewind the clock to a time where teams didn’t have GPS, athletes used paper maps (in the air!) to navigate, and a Russian athlete carried over 20 kg on his back! As we wander through Tom’s highs (getting to Monaco in 2019…) and lows (getting evacuated in 2015…) of his campaigns we tap into all kinds of great advice for pilots dealing with risk (who doesn’t?), family (ditto!), and living life to its fullest. Enjoy!
With the 2023 Red Bull X-Alps quickly approaching I thought it would be fun to sit down with Chrigel “The Eagle” Maurer to take a walk back through his 7 winning campaigns. No one in our sport has been and continues to be more dominant than Chrigel. He won his first X-Alps in 2009 and hasn’t lost since (2023 will be his 8th campaign). He’s won everything (many at least 3 times)- Bornes to Fly, X-Pyr, Dolomiti Superfly, EigerTour, Dolomitiman, VercoFly (which he won flying tandem too!), and of course dominated for several years on the world cup, is a test pilot for Advance, heads up the X-Alps Academy and is without rival as the best mountain pilot on Earth. This summer alone Chrigel won the Gruyere Fly, a nail-biter against Maxime Pinot in the X-Pyr, then a few days later won the EigerTour, then the Dolomiti Superfly (another nail-biter against Aaron Durogati) and the Dolomitiman. Enjoy this walk (and fly!) with us down memory lane as we dive into his seven wins. Can he do it again?
Tim Rochas is a long-time Niviuk Test pilot (he did his first testing for Niviuk at the age of 12!), wing and harness designer, French team member and veteran World Cup pilot. Tim has has recently gotten into hike and fly racing not only for his own pursuits but to become a Red Bull X-Alps supporter of Tanguy-Renoud Goud in the 23′ race this summer. He and Tanguy joined us last week for 3 days of racing in the XRedRocks, a hike and fly stage race in southern Utah and we sat down a few days after he and Tanguy roamed all over Utah’s wonders by road, foot and by air to discuss the race, the upcoming X-Alps, being a test pilot, SIV, progression, racing at the highest level and a lot more. Dig in!
During a weather day of the Red Rocks Wide Open this week, a US Nationals and Pre- PWC race to goal competition in southern Utah we held a panel discussion with some of our most veteran competition pilots- Evan Bouchier, Matt Beechinor, Josh Cohn, Bill Belcourt and Reavis Sutphin-Gray. Between the five they have 119 years of xc experience. The opening topic was competition strategy but the talk wandered into all kinds of fascinating areas including strategies for dealing with gust fronts, team flying, planning for going huge and a lot more. It was incredibly interesting seeing the differences in approach and while most of the topics centered on the uniqueness of flying in North America the takeaways would apply to pilots anywhere. The results were gold. We recorded the talk in an open park during a rain storm so it was hardly a good venue for capturing clean audio, but stick with it- there’s a ton of valuable information here!
Matt Warren is a keen pilot and has been a long-time journalist for Cross Country Magazine and is also a veteran science writer. He and his co-author Miriam Frankel have just released their incredible book “Are you Thinking Clearly, 29 reasons you aren’t, and what to do about it.” In a line, it explores the science behind why you might not be in the driver’s seat of your own brain – and everything you can do to change that… It investigates everything from genetics, personality and intuition to habits, what you eat, social media, attention and bias – and how these factors influence and manipulate the way we think. We learn in the podcast that all KINDS of things get in the way of thinking clearly, which obviously isn’t very good when we’re in the air. Matt paints a pretty clear picture that nearly all humans have psychological traits which in the flying environment can be deadly, but there’s good news- we can improve how we think. Matt articulates what’s going on upstairs incredibly well and we had a blast with this talk. Get the book and start making better decisions in life, and in the air!