Episode 69- Armin Harich and Sending Flatlands and Flying accident free

Flying Namibia

Armin Harich is the co-founder of Skywalk Paragliders, started flying in 1989 and has never had an accident, and is the first person to fly over 300km in Germany- and he did it on a EN B wing (the Skywalk Tequila). I was told by many people before speaking to Armin that he’s a flatlands “SkyGod” so we focused much of this show on flatlands flying techniques and how people started flying the flatlands, dealing with airspace, how to assess weather in advance of a potentially good day, how to get established early, the stupidity of frustration, why it makes sense to try early, and a lot more. But we also discuss the genesis of Skywalk, wing advancement, the X-Alps and metrics of having Chrigel on a Skywalk wing for the race, what’s possible in the future, the synergy between kites and wings, certification and how Skywalk plans for the future. There’s a ton of great take-aways in this show- enjoy!

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Show Notes:

  • Armin recounts the best flights of his life in a LONG career of accident-free flying
  • How Armin has never had an accident.
  • Flying the first 300km in Germany on the Skywalk Tequila
  • Dealing with Airspace
  • The genesis of Skywalk
  • Chrigel on the Skywalk for the X-Alps
  • Synergy between kitesurfing wings and paragliding wings
  • The pressure on a manufacturer to come up with the latest and greatest
  • Developing the sport
  • Thoughts on Sink and flying good lines
  • Keys to flying far in the flatlands
  • Getting established in the flats when it’s not yet “on”
  • Flying cross country is not random
  • How to studying areas you plan to fly in advance to identify tricky spots
  • Air and energy air masses
  • The stupidity of frustration
  • Try early
  • Keeping the passion
  • Where to exit a cloud on a cloudstreet day

Mentioned in this episode:

Paul Gushlbauer, Chrigel Maurer, Alex Hollwarth, Stephen Gruber, Arne Wehrlin, Till Gottbrath

Links to Armin’s Films:


Armin Harich

Episode 68- Nik Hawks and weighing the risks

Nik Flying Blossom when things are going well- photo Phil Russman

Nik Hawks returns to the Mayhem to share two pretty scary close calls that ended well, but came with a LOT of lessons that every pilot can learn from including: coming back from “fear injuries”  by using the big 4, time, building exposure, and pattern recognition; how to get better at self-assessment (wingovers, exit from 360, exiting and entering spirals cleanly, avoiding and handling collapses, etc.); how to ask older/better pilots for help and the best way to approach mentors; when a pilot is really ready to go XC and what risks that involves; what groundhandling can…and maybe can’t help with; the safest ways to fly and practice and approach progression; training vs. equipment; eating for mental performance; the lunacy of spending money on gear before training and a lot more. This is a critical episode for pilots who are just beginning their journey to the most experienced pilots in the world. This one will save lives, make you think, and make you a better pilot. Spread the word.

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Show Notes:

  • Fear injuries- what are they, and how do you recover?
  • Intermediate syndrome- how to walk the line
  • Avoiding dangerous positions- what is safe for one pilot scratching is different for every pilot
  • Self assessment- how to do it better and why it’s so important
  • Being a student of the sport
  • Foundational skills that nearly all pilots don’t have well
  • Stalls and SIV- what’s important and what isn’t?
  • Where are you comfortable flying? Understand the jump it takes between flying different places and different situations. How to keep fun as the priority
  • How to approach mentors and learn from the more experienced pilots
  • The questions to ask- 1) What do you see? 2) What do you think about the conditions? 3) Have you seen these conditions before? 4) What happened?
  • It’s a lot cooler to be a better pilot on lower performance gear than a lesser pilot on a wing beyond your ability
  • Developing a routine and a mental framework for “bringing it” and being confidence
  • Be a professional pilot
  • Saving it for a better day and listening to your gut- think in decades, not in days
  • Thoughts on Groundhandling- where it can, and possibly can’t help
  • How to train to stay calm and mentally train yourself to manage fear
  • Visualization- what you can do to imagine your flight going well
  • Optimism vs reality and positive self-talk (the positive power of negative thinking)
  • How to develop a progression plan- write it down, journal, make a plan
  • Eating for performance

Mentioned in this episode:

Ben Abruzzo, Bill Belcourt, Adél Honti, Matt Beechinor, Marko Hrgetic Hrga, Brad Barlage, Trey Hackney, Fabien Blanco, Jocky Sanderson, Nate Scales, Russ Ogden, Josh Cohn, Theo De Blic, Will Gadd, Jon Sylvester, Bruce Marks

Nik and I spoke about his friends input in the show. Excerpts from those emails are here (these are REALLY worth reading):

From Brad Barlage (listen to more in a recent podcast he did with Nik on the Paleo Treats podcast)

“Glad to hear you bounced instead of cratered.  A couple of points from my perspective:
  1. Ground handling is meaningless while in the air flying. (my opinion)  Two different things.  In my mind, it would be similar to sitting in a car explaining how to handle snowy spins and loss of traction vs. going out in the parking lot and spinning out in a controlled environment.  My advice is more SIV time – those are the lessons that stuck for me and how I learn.  Everyone learns differently though.  For me, it was a ton of time in glider and when I had thousands of feet of elevation I’d do collapses over dirt to practice.  Granted this is not likely the smartest or safest thing but my thought was that is how I’d learn with a margin of safety.  Everyone’s margin of safety is different.
  2. Ground flying is by far the riskiest part of flying.  Most top pilots I know don’t spend much time near the ground – this is the danger zone where one has little time to react.  Launch, do what you have to but the goal is to get high enough so you have options to sort things out – when the unexpected happens.  I know it sounds simple.
  3. Fear -Spent a lot of my life figuring out how to manage the fear.  In climbing, I am afraid of falling, but have learned to either take daily controlled falls to help instill that things will be OK or care so much about doing the route that falling is far from the first thing on my mind and as long as set safety requirements (gear) are met – GO FOR IT and sort the details later.  Never once been hurt.  Everyone has different ways but for me, it was rationally building up to it with many small micro goals to give confidence.  SIV clinics are sort of like renting skills, it is a great way to learn but how to OWN those skills is the question.  Think of how you OWN skills in other parts of life.  For me,it involves a lot of muscle memory practice, ability to have the skills to remain calm to make good decisions (but those don’t happen without push boundaries at some point).  Some people just have cool heads, most of my partners have better heads than I do, so I have to build up skills and practice a lot more than they do.
  4. Visualization – totally key.  I’d suggest taking a moment to do a walkthrough of the flight and potential issues before each flight.  It might only get you through the first few minutes but the reality is that is when most issues happen.  Stack the odds in your favor.  I’d pick a well sorted mentally prepared man to a physically honed but not mentally SOLID man every day of the week.  Paragliding attacks all types and I found some got pretty far in flying but when it came down to it they didn’t have the skills to really sort out when the shit really hits the fan.
  5. Surround yourself with OG and professionals.  I find this key.  Find the dudes that have a system dialed and watch them.  Belcourt has a system and ritual before each flight, sure it gets glossed over but I know it is going on, constantly evaluating conditions, options and flight plan.  I’m really into this with climbing.  It is a rare day you don’t find me prepared, with all the gear, with a plan, focusing on sending good energy to those I tie in with and also straight up asking for what is needed.   I also realize climbing is many things to many people and what it is in my life also likely really turns people off being way too serious about a sport/hobby.  For me, it is deeper and a reflection of how I live my life and to what standard. I see this in you also.  How you do one thing is how you do everything.  Often times the point of failure happened a while back in the process (not mentally prepared, didn’t read conditions right, not fed enough to have the energy it takes to concentrate fully…)  There is the moment of failure that we all focus on but I like to take a step back and look at the entire episode not the few second scene.  Find an OG pilot and ask him to mentor you for the day, launch or whatever.  Offer to help him with food, beer or some kind of kindness.  I try to climb with many different people for this aspect.  We all learn little bits and can pick and choose what we bring to our own game.
  6. Sometimes everything can go right (or close enough to right) and things just happen- unfortunately close to the ground.  That is the nature of the sport.  No amount of Monday morning coaching will change that.  Learn what you can and move forward with a lesson under your belt.  Perhaps maybe used a bit of luck and gained some experience.  Think what you could do better next time and move forward, knowing you have used a limited amount of luck.  Hence the reason I have not backcountry skied much in the last winters – my luck is all used up and I’m not sure my experience is enough to keep me safe.  A real tough decision and one I think you’ll have to be real with regarding your paragliding.

And another from Chris (more info on him in this interview on the PT podcast here, episode 10):

Nik’s question:
Is my learning ability so rigid that I only pick up things learned through fear and huge consequence?  I’ve certainly read and studied a bunch about what the right thing to do is, and if you’d given me the scenario on the ground I could have talked you through exactly the right things to do.  Have you guys found this true for you?  I wonder if I haven’t achieved more just because I’m too lazy to push hard and learn all the time and I end up just stumbling upon learning experiences when it comes down to the wire.
Chris’ answer:
“Nik, I think this is mainly pattern recognition. I think most things that happen to us quickly, where we make a quick decision are mainly pattern recognition.
The more experience you have, the more patterns you can discern. You can also see the pattern developing earlier. With enough experience (meaning you’ve made some bad choices) you can adjust to the pattern you see developing.
A vehicle driving towards you and crossing over the center line is out of pattern and catches your attention early on. As a seasoned driver you’ll start making corrections the moment you realize something is out of pattern. That doesn’t happen with a brand new driver. They typically aren’t looking more than a few yards in front of their hood. They don’t see the problem developing, and when they do realize there’s a problem it’s right in front of them and they don’t have the experience to drive off the shoulder, into the dirt to avoid collision.
So the earlier you can see a pattern develop (especially something that’s dangerous) the more time you have to deal with it.
If your responses to this are practiced enough it becomes “unconscious competence.” You don’t have to think your way through the solution, you just do the solution. That allows you to focus on seeing new information and finding the new pattern. (The wing has collapsed enough that I can’t salvage this with the altitude I have – throw reserve, or ride it in, or use the remaining time to pump the collapsed side).
If I don’t have to think about how to shoot something – I can just watch for what needs to be shot. The actual shooting takes care of itself.
Brad’s comments about dealing with fear by taking little steps rings true for me also. Much of what keeps us safe is confidence in our abilities. I get that confidence by taking little steps and by controlling as much in my environment as I can. Gear, health, focus, briefing with other people, radio checks, etc. Same idea as Belcourt having a system before he flies. Same idea as Brad having a system before he climbs, and a protocol when he starts to put his harness on for how he’ll tie in, what gear he’ll bring, what mindset he aims for.
I’ve found that most of us are looking for a feeling of competence in a challenging environment that has high consequence.
Study hard. Prep your mind. Prep your gear.”

And finally, after we wrapped the talk, got this message from Nik after he listened to it again with more 20/20 hindsight:
Had a long chat with Ben today and came away with a few more foundational ideas:
1) Paragliding has huge consequence that are not worth the physical risk, those of us that fly have to accept that.
2) The most effective mitigating factors are the “uncool” ones:
-staying on a mid-B wing and in a padded seat harness until you have wingovers, spins, stalls, tail slides, etc completely dialed
-flying in conditions that are at your skill level with potential to go slightly beyond
Of course, those things can also take away how quickly you learn and how cool you look so we tend to ignore them.  Wilfully ignorant and iirrational, but that’s also paragliding.
Hearing Gavin say that “it’s cool to be a better pilot on lower gear” gave me permission to focus on that.
Gavin, I’d love to see you stress that more in your podcasts.
It seems silly/obvious, but “getting permission” or guidance from experts on what’s “cool” can make a huge difference in how we view ourselves and our actions.  More on “giving permission” in this podcast with Shawn Alladio, big wave jetski rescuer and probably the toughest human I’ve met.  Her story of pulling a dude out of a burning car is riveting, and worth the listen just for that.
3) Fear in flying is a guarantee if you’re going to do anything other than soar in laminar air.  Managing fear and fear injuries is easy to talk about and difficult to do, but all of us do it.  Probably helpful for the community at large to build some structure and vocabulary around it rather than just saying the air was spicy or that you were terrified.  Guilty as charged on both of those, by the way.
4) Without question, the safest way to get really good very quickly is the most expensive: Doing SIV once a month or more and getting lots and lots of guided instruction on all other aspects.  Few of us have the money or time for that, so we’ve got to accept that the sport is going to be riskier than it has to be.
5) Finally, the idea that competitiveness in paragliding increases risk.  Flying with buddies (and pilots) you want to be better than will push you into riskier positions.  It’s done that to me, and it’ll do that to every single pilot who flies and has aspirations beyond laminar soaring.  You’ll get better faster, but it’s riskier.
They all seem so bloody simple, but I’m as guilty as everyone else I’ve seen, flown with, or talked to of breaking all of those rules in full knowledge of them.  Maybe that’s the enticement, that we thumb our nose at safety and ride the sky at risk.  Stupid, but by God it can be satisfying when you get it right.
See ya in the sky!

The Navy Seals use the “Big 4” technique to conquering fear and panic


Episode 67- Fabien Blanco and SIV, Single Surface Wings, Bivvy and Safety

Fabien Blanco enjoying his passion

Fabien Blanco is the founder and head instructor at Flyeo in Annecy, one of the most-respected paragliding schools in the world. Their focus is on teaching SIV, Cross Country and adventure flying. Fabien was a professional acro pilot and is a passionate ski-mountaineer and brings a wealth of knowledge from various “extreme” disciplines to our sport. He discovered when they first started teaching SIV that rather than focusing on ticking off the maneuvers and calling it good they needed to focus more on pilots’ mental fundamentals. By watching a pilot doing very basic maneuvers- like a rapid exit from a 360 turn Fabien can assess 90% of that pilots skill and then adjust accordingly. Many high level pilots have very poor foundational skills and the Flyeo teaching method aims to resolve these basic shortcomings and help pilots do better self-assessments of their skills. In this information-packed episode we discuss SIV in detail- when is a pilot ready for SIV; the importance of becoming an autonomous pilot (and methods for gathering these skills); how to deal with fear in SIV; the fallacy of focusing on glider performance rather than pilot performance; single surface wings; how to “unlock” the genie in all of us; the danger of self-doubt and negative thoughts; the top three reasons for accidents and how they can be avoided; how to get into vol-biv and adventure flying and a LOT more.

PLEASE check out Flyeo’s Patreon page to watch their great instructional videos.

A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.

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Subscribe to the Cloudbase Mayhem Podcast on Stitcher Radio, Google Play, Tune In, or ITunes!





Show Notes:

  • SIV- maneuvers or mental?
  • When is a pilot ready for SIV?
  • The fallacy of focusing on gear rather than the pilot
  • The danger of self-doubt and negative thoughts- keep it positive!
  • The top three reasons for accidents and how to avoid them
  • It’s not the glider- it’s the pilot!
  • Single surface wings- how to learn flying these exciting wings- differences, advantages and disadvantages
  • What should and shouldn’t be done on a single surface glider
  • The dangers of getting lost in the distances and competitions and performance- fly to have fun!
  • What’s essential- just to fly!
  • Bivvy flying- how to learn, where to go, why it’s important to learn
  • Wings are built to travel, that’s what they are built for!
  • The Full Stall. How important is it for Cross Country Pilots?

Mentioned in this episode:

Flyeo, Honza Rejmanik, Karel Koudelka, Adam Robinson, Ben Abruzzo, Bruce Marks, Matt Wilkes, Fabien Blanco, Seiko Fukuoka, Adel Honti, Bill Belcourt, Niviuk, Ed Ewing, Cross Country Magazine, Anneka Herndon, Recaps


Episode 66- Andy Hediger and becoming an Airman

If it flies, Andy Hediger flies it (or jumps out of it!). Sailplanes, trikes, hang gliders, light-weight airplanes, wingsuits, Swift, Archaeopteryx, Virus, but he rates the paraglider as the king of them all. The developer of the D-Bag, Andy was there at the absolute beginning of Acro and cross country, sewing some of the very first wings and his passion and love of the sport is as strong now as it was in the beginning. The “Airman” has pushed the limits of flying, safety, instruction and certification from the advent of the sport and was one of the first pilots to develop SIV to help make the sport more safe, and why most schools still get it wrong and why so many accidents keep happening. One of the original Red Bull team pilots Andy has flown with all of the legends of our sport, many of them sadly no longer with us- Robbie Whittall, Hannes Arch, Guido Gehrmann, Ueli Gegenschatz, Hernan Pitico, and many others and he’s had several of his own very close calls, and several terrible accidents, including a recent trike/D-Bag accident with Hernan that nearly took his life. Andy won the PWC overall in 2000, is the head of AeroAtelier paragliding school in Argentina, and has done way too many things with flight to cover in this write-up or in a single podcast. This talk matches our sport- it has the highs, the lows and everything in between. This talk gave me the chills and made me laugh out loud. An amazing pilot and one of those rare pioneers who has driven much of what we can appreciate and enjoy today.

Don’t miss Andy’s film “Airman”, its amazing: https://vimeo.com/178622126

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Show Notes:

  • Andy discusses the very beginning of the sport and sewing the first wings for Advance, a relationship that exists still today
  • Andy discusses accidents and some of the highs and lows of his career and some of the many heartbreaking losses
  • Why Andy created the first schools, SIV, and how he endeavored to make pilots safer
  • Andy discusses sponsorship, Red Bull and personal risk
  • How age and family has changed his perspective
  • Why most flying schools get it wrong
  • Tragedy and recovery

Mentioned in this episode:

Advance Paragliders, Red Bull, Ulrich Grill, Hernan Piticco, Airman, Catherine Shanahan, Deep Nutrition, Ben Abruzzo, Vespa Energy, Nick Greece, Nate Scales, Anneka Herndon, Recaps, Roman Buhler, Swing, Robbie Whittall, Urs Haari, Alain Zoller, Dietrich Mateschitz, Hannes Arch, Guido Gehrman, Paul Guschlbauer, Bruce Marks, Uli Wiesmeier


Into the Lightness- Review of the Niviuk Skin 2 P and the Roamer 2

A breeze to fly, a breeze to launch (note I don’t have my airbag attached correctly!)

Paragliding was first envisioned back in the 80’s as a way to get down easier and more safely after climbing big peaks. As most accidents happen on the way down if alpinists could fly down they would remove a major component of risk, as well as save their knees (and have a lot more fun!). But serious alpine style mountaineering means going light and fast and carrying an extra 5-10kg of flying kit has kept flying off the big technical peaks mostly out of reach.

This is all there is to it- wing, Roamer 2 reversible harness (with airbag!), and light weight reserve.

Until now. After 30+ years of testing and innovation I imagine the climbing community is getting pretty giddy. I recently received Niviuk’s new Skin 2 P single surface wing. At a measly 1.9 kg I figured it was going to feel and fly pretty weird but when I learned from Fabien Blanco at Flyeo during a recent podcast that pilots were doing 100k triangles on these certified wings I was pretty excited to give it a try.

Before I even got to the hill I was amazed with the Roamer 2 reversible harness. This little bad boy is a MAJOR improvement over it’s predecessor. The rucksack is bomber and built with all the things that paragliding companies typically leave out of purpose-built backpacks. Ice axe straps, well-placed zippered compartments, light but solid straps for extra gear, helmet or jacket net- it’s all there. It rides perfectly and I can barely tell I’ve got something on my back. There’s easily enough room for your wing, helmet, reserve, extra clothing and a small climbing rack. Turn it inside out and you’ve got a harness, speed bar and an optional 250 gram self-inflating air bag! I have opted for the 1.4 kg front mount octagon reserve as well which at 1.4 kg has a remarkable decent rate of only 4.9m/sec.

Ready to launch? Blow on the wing and it’s overhead!

And now lets get to the good stuff. Ready to launch? Groundhandling with the Skin 2 P is as easy as it gets. It’s less than half the weight of a normal light-weight paraglider so just blow on it a little bit and it’s overhead. It immediately feels just like you’re used to, but everything is easier. Responsive and silly light just makes it all a deliciously fun toy. Now granted I launched late in the day into perfectly smooth air so this isn’t mid-day thermal tested but once I was airborne I was all smiles. It didn’t feel weird at all and the glide seemed much, much better than I anticipated. A terrific new bit of gear to add to my kit and makes a lot of big lines I’ve been eyeing over the years here in Idahome possible.

I’m supporting Ben Abruzzo in this year’s X-Pyr race across Spain in a little X-Alps role reversal. We can’t team-fly in the race, but my plan to get back to the van and get into chase mode when Ben is flying is to pack this super-light kit on the days where it’s pretty calm and I just need to get down and fly the Klimber P and my light-weight X-Alps pod harness for the days that are rowdy or I need more performance.

Summary- if light and safe is what you want in a compact, light and well-thought-out package, this is really sweet kit!

Thumbs up!

Episode 65- Myles Connolly and Reserve Toss Hindsight 20/20

Reserves work, let’s get comfortable with them!

Two days before the Monarca kicked off in Valle de Bravo, Mexico this January our podcast editor Myles Connolly had a cascade episode low and threw his reserve for the first time. Myles got hung over 80′ off the ground in a dead tree without injury. Some locals came to help out quickly but when things started getting a little tense a calm head prevailed and Myles got down to the ground safely. In many ways, a benign event. But after a couple weeks of processing and reliving the day Myles breaks down the entire day for us, from the drive up to the launch and talking about the Theo De Blic episode and throwing the reserve (ie setting the mindframe), to the series of small but important mistakes that happened along the way. This is something most XC pilots dread- having to throw your reserve. We’ve talked many, many times on this show about how well they work and how important it is to get out the laundry- but there are MANY, MANY things that lead up to getting into a situation where you have to throw in the first place, most of them preventable. But we don’t often talk about all the little things that once it’s out could go wrong. There are a ton of lessons here for pilots at every level. A great episode to make our community safer.

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Show Notes:

First if you’re looking for the “Pilot needs ride to car” sign I mention in the episode go here.

  • The psychology of throwing
  • Communication mistakes- using the InReach correctly, using your radio correctly
  • What is “scratching” and is it safe?
  • How to avoid complacency and be wary of the signs
  • The importance of SIV and why Myles thinks this was his biggest mistake- not having done one
  • The importance of emulating and being around better pilots
  • Identifying the situation, the time it will take to get out of it and when to throw- ie AWARENESS

Mentioned in this episode:

Eagle Paragliding, Rob Sporrer, Alas Del Hombre, Miguel Gutierrez, Theo De Blic, Reavis Sutphin-Gray, Pal Takats, Garmin InReach, Jon Hunt, Will Gadd, Mitch Riley, Chris Santacroce, Enrique Figueroa, Mitch Mcaleer, USHPA, Ben Abruzzo, Bruce Marks, Nick Greece, Andy Read


Episode 64- Till Gottbrath and Rethinking Performance and Risk

Till and his perennial smile

Several years ago Nova Paragliders changed the way we think about performance when they put some of their top pilots on the Mentor, an EN B wing and the world watched as they ticked off some of the biggest flights that had ever been done in the Alps, including the vaunted 300 FAI triangle. By flying wings that were less mentally and physically demanding pilots could stay in the air for 10+ hours and make less mistakes. Till Gottbrath began flying when a paraglider had a glide ratio worse than a Rogallo reserve in 1986 and has never had an accident. In this episode we discuss the arc of design and increased safety and performance in paragliders, the birth of the Nova Juniors team, Nova’s approach to their team pilots and decision to avoid building competition wings, the risk of competitions and the pointlessness of “fame”, why the sport isn’t growing, how to become a Nova team pilot, and the importance of not being a hero. This is a super engaging talk with a TON of takeaways. Enjoy and please share!

A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.

Support me via Patreon

Subscribe to the Cloudbase Mayhem Podcast on Stitcher Radio, Google Play, Tune In, or ITunes!





Show Notes:

First if you’re looking for the “Pilot needs ride to car” sign I mention in the episode go here.

  • Till recounts learning to fly in 1986 and what has happened in the sport in the last 35+ years
  • How Till became involved in Nova and the birth of the Nova team and the Nova Juniors team
  • Wing performance and risk. By flying a less-demanding wing we can fly longer and make less mistakes
  • The pointlessness of fame in our sport
  • The ego and and our sport
  • How to fly the best line
  • How Till has avoided an accident in 35+ years of sport- how did he do it?
  • How to become an “autonomous” pilot
  • How to be the world champion of having fun!
  • How can we standardize instruction and create better instructors across the board?

Mentioned in this episode:

Josh Heater, Adel Honti, Berni Pessl, Nate Scales, Toni Bender, Chrigel Maurer, Ozone, Gin, Skywalk, Aaron Durogati, Paul Gushlbauer, Simon Oberauner, Theo De Blic, Jean-Baptiste Chandelier, Michael Gebhardt, Michael Witchi, Tom De Dorlodot, Chris Bessi, Fabien Blanco

Episode 63- Adél Honti and what makes a successful pilot

Adel crushing in Colombia- Photo Trey Hackney


What makes a successful pilot? Is it just talent and hours or something anyone can learn with training and application? Sports psychology gives us the answer if we break it down into three dimensions: technical, physical and mental. In this episode Adél Honti explains how her analytical approach and study of human psychology has helped her understand how to operate more adeptly in our invisible world. Adél explains why “races are won and lost in the mind.” How do we get into the “Flow”? How should we approach training? How should we deal with failure? How can we learn to focus for longer periods? How can we radically accelerate our own learning and ability? How can we pay more attention to the technical aspects of the sport to improve our speed? Why fear is so important in not only keeping us safe but making flying enjoyable, and how we can learn to deal with it in a healthy way. How physical training is so critical to flying long XC flights and for maintaining stamina in competitions. We all agree that confidence and the mental side of flying is critical to flying well and staying safe, but if we aren’t naturally confident people how can we build this skill? Adél describes how to set achievable goals and how to identify weaknesses and mistakes (not just in flying, but in your life) in order to tackle them head-on which leads to flying farther and faster and may make some surprisingly positive changes in your life as well. And finally Adél presents some theories that I hadn’t heard before regarding the lack of women in the sport.

This honest frank talk is packed with the most actionable advice of any of the talks we’ve yet had on the Mayhem. This one is urgent and powerful and absolutely packed with incredible advice- ENJOY and please please share!  And don’t skip the Show Notes- there’s a LOT there.

More information about Adél:

“I am a cross country guide and instructor and tandem pilot: I teach in a tandem how to fly fast and long xc, but I don’t do commercial flights and I don’t teach beginners. Teaching is a hobby, a way to give back to my local community as my best friend and club owner taught me all the basics and more, so this is the least I can do.
I started flying in 2004, made my instructor license in 2013, the same year I entered my very first comp as well. Currently I have about 800 flight hours.
I have been sportwoman of the year in xc pg for 3 years in a row. My current world ranking is 172 overall, 8th woman.
Last year at the world championship I was 6th in the female ranking.
I am:
-a sport diplomat in the CIVL and member of the Hungarian paragliding committee of our National Aeroclub member of the national team, 4th in our overall ranking
-admin of the biggest female paragliding and hanggliding community, close to 1000 members on facebook.
-the first Hungarian female pilot ever flying the Worlds or Europeans or ever making it to the national overall podium
I have rewritten our sport codex and harmonized it with the FAI rules plus created a female national team
I organized the last 2 national championships
In my civil life i am an entrepreneur and business developer. I have built so far 3 businesses and sold successfully the first. I have a degree in Law, but I also did 4 years of international relations in the faculty of Economics (no degree there, I skipped as my first business kept me super busy). When I started flying I gave up the international tax law career and switched to entrepreneurship to be my own slaveowner:)”


A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.

Support me via Patreon

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Show Notes:

First if you’re looking for the “Pilot needs ride to car” sign I mention in the episode go here.

  1. What makes a successful pilot: physically, technically and mentally?

Sport psychology has the answer:

Break down your sport to 3 dimensions:


Why do we need to be fit for paragliding? Isn’t it a technical sport?

  • for endurance and ability to concentrate long: records, big comps are often 2 weeks long
  • for safety
  • ability to stall the glider even after a 5 hour long flight and B riser control – not to have tired shoulder muscles
  • being able to land with a 30 km heavy equipment in turbulent conditions require strong ligaments – a lot of balancing exercises are there for it
  • pilots often land near the road so they do not have to carry their equipment
  • more precise glider control – I often feel like sitting on a fitball and balancing all the time in strong conditions. The more aggression I feel from my equipment, I react with the same level of input sometimes moving all the time with my whole upper body from my hips

I work out 3-4 times a week: 1 hour building muscles, 30 minutes cardio (running)

I love food and I have a sweet tooth, so without this I would probably be able to fly an XL size glider very fast J I already have way more built in ballast then necessary J

Also my personal preference is to sit in the middle of my weight range and be able to ballast up or dump the ballast if the weather turns super weak, so for optimal performance I have to keep my body weight at a certain number


  • get to know your instruments and understand maximum capacity
  • get to know the capacity of the glider at SIV training – after a certain point in development Acro is mandatory
  • learn to take off with even 33 kg equipment even in gentle back wind
  • learn a lot of meteorology – understand the sky not just now but predict what will happen in some hours on a comp course route
  • learn to deploy your reserve parachute in the gym, practice landing with a parachute by jumping off a high table to a gym mat with your harness on and roll off the energy
  • g force trainer will teach you to understand the G force in a spiral dive – I started to loose consciousness at 7G


Psychological elements

As I said I believe this is 80% of the success. For me it is certainly true. There are many pilots out there, who are more athletic, or have better glider control. The key of my performance is my ability to enjoy what I do, as it is just a game, and the fact that I am not afraid of the maze of my psyche. To admit my weaknesses is not a weakness but a strength.

Goal is to get in the Flow

(theory from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Hungarian psychologist). NOTE: one of our listeners, Paul Boneo wrote up a really great summary of flow, check it out here:  https://hastyreader.com/flow-psychology-mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/

Y axis: the level of challenge

X axis : level of skill /experience

Confucius: The tiger has to be killed in our mind first, the rest is just formality.


My methods:

  • Modelling: if i have to fly for 10 hours, but i am not sure i can do it, i should sit in a car and drive 10 hours without stopping

if i am afraid of freefall, i can learn skydiving etc


Visualization: imagining the task before taking off, imagining during flight how the thermal we are in looks like (is it a raindrop or a fried egg) i imagine the air a s a river flowing over objects to understand the movement of it


Using a mantra :

hohoho ho, the sea is rough today,

I have done it before, I am a kickass pilot

Huh I am in bad company, this coffee is already brewed, lets just speed up or slow down


  • learning to deal with fear:

lets go back to the flow theory chart:

Fear is always present when one is outside of one’s comfort zone, it is important to understand that it is NOT something that will ever go away.

I often feel that pilots treat it as a macho thing and would never admit being scared at certain situations.


Very few people can actually lose the feeling of fear all-together, but that is a ticket to a body bag. It has the same dangers as a person whose skin looses all feelings and cannot tell when he is freezing or burning.


Jeb Corlis, a top wingsuit pilot said after his near fatal crash that: “I made a big mistake, I lost fear. Fear is a super important thing, man. Without fear… you will die.”





I use many tips from Seven Steps to Dealing with Fear in Paragliding written by Heike Hamann



I imagine myself from one of the best photos where I look cool

mini goal setting: I allow myself to land after 10 more minutes of flight


other things I do to deal with my fears:

Siv training, mental training, listening to deep house

  • goal setting:

set not result type of goals but performance goals

eg: not that I want to be 1st in this comp, but take apart the requirements what is needed to get in goal fast: eg get the start right, how to choose the best and strongest climbs, be the best climber in a thermal, optimize the equipment well, chose the best lines to glide, learn to rule the gaggle, when is it the right time to start the final glide on full speed

work on one goal only at a time and learn to perfect that one element before you move on to the next – write down in a bullet point diary what you do well and what mistakes you have done during a task, and you will see a pattern – mistakes you often repeat.

  • dealing with failure:

there is always a next task, a next comp, every single comp is just a training for the next one. Comp flying is not a destination, it is a constant journey of learning and getting better. As long as I can learn to do things I never believed myself capable, I am proud and happy.

  • self confidence: essential for success

it does not matter who is under the helmet, even if you fly with the world champion, do not get intimidated, you have full rights to be in the air just as anybody else. Do not let the better pilots cut in in front of you at take off or in a thermal, don’t let yourself be bullied

  • meditation: 15 minutes worth with a couple hours of sleep helps to focus


focusing: learn to concentrate long on many things at the same time (instruments, weather, other pilots around you, birds, clouds, dust etc)

from the same level pilots the person who can concentrate longest to most changing factors during a task will probably be the winner


exercise: Fit4Race type of training for racecar drivers where one has to do several times at the same time eg kneel on a fitball and throw with each hand a different size of small ball to a wall and catch it. It feels like training for the circus, but it is highly effective J


By mental training performance can be raised by 40%

according to a study where the brain functions of expert formula 1 drivers and the general public were compared in a high speed high focus driving exercise.



  • choosing a mentor

the right mentor is not necessarily the best pilot, but a pilot with the ability to analyze one’s patterns and offer progression advice

  • objective self analysis: ego has no place here, one needs to be brutally honest with oneself to understand that sometimes even a mentally healthy person can suffer from forgotten trauma, blocks or fear of failure


Final thought: we fly exactly as we feel. Races can be won or lost in the mind.


  1. Do we need a female category in comps? Why are there so few women in freeflight? What are the psychological, technical and physical challenges of a healthy female athlete in this sport?


It is a difficult question to answer and since I have been flying comps I went around a full circle. First I was all for it, then in the rush for gender equality I though it is not necessary anymore, we should have weight classes, then I arrived back to the beginning, saying yes, we do need it, at least as long as certain criteria aren’t met.


Lets start with the obvious:


What is an average female pilot profile? (based on a survey with 290 pilots I made)

30-40 year olds, fly EN B wings, 80% of them has a take off weight of 60-95 kgs, 70 % of them live in Europe, 23 % lives in the US or Canada.


When asked the question if they ever experienced any disadvantages of being female in paragliding, 37% replied with a yes.


We have less time to build a career than men:

To get to overall podium on a smaller cat2 one needs to compete in average for 5 years 4-5 comps a year. Most people start paragliding in their late 20s early 30s, then after a couple of years of cross coutry they start to compete. By this time women are at home with kids, and have zero time for the sport not to mention comp flying.


If you check the average age of a PWC, then you will not be surprised to see many people over the age or 40 or around the age of 50 there. To be that good one needs experience that builds up in decades and not mere years. A woman who wishes to have 2 kids does not have 10 years in paragliding to build a career before she retires to start a family.


Are there any technical disadvantages for women?

Absolutely no. We can thermal, take off, land, push the bar, read the weather or our instruments just as good as any man can do.



  • Women have a different risk taking profile from men in general, especially after childbirth. Not many women are interested in adventure sports to start with
  • Societal pressure to fit in with a gender role: adventure sports are considered sexy if men do it, but the exact opposite for women: reckless, too masculine, these women are not feminine. In many countries racing paragliders as a woman while one has kids are seriously frown upon, and the family puts pressure on a woman to stop.

–    Being part of a minority is challenging: bullying, sexism, being weaker

women don’t win comps in overall, so women often do not have enough confidence to see themselves on an overall podium


There is no male podium. Why? Many comp organizers I asked said that they never considered making a male podium as it is pointless, only men win overalls, and why should they give 2 trophies for the same 3 guys for being the best man and best overall? It is a waste of money. As a comp organizer myself I get that. As a woman I feel it is very discouraging to women, it sends the wrong message: that we won’t ever make overall podiums. What if we do? I have stood on the overall podium twice already, and it was unfair to my fellow male pilots not to be on male podium.


The odds are against us. The female and male brain is working differently, but there is absolutely no evidence that women have a different IQ from men. Why are there less female top pilots then men?

The answer is easy: there are 130.000 pilots wordwhide from which only 10 % are female. If we say that most pilots are average in skills, but there are a few exceptionally good ones, lets say 1 from 10 thousand is a genius with the exact same ability as any other genius, then statistically speaking we end up having 11 genius male pilots fighting wor world champion status and 1 genius female pilot….is is simply 10 times more likely that that woman won’t make it to overall podium, based on stats only.


total no. of pilots 130000 geniuses
men 117000 11,7
women 13000 1,3



  • Gender equality differs from country to country. Pilots are often very independent people, able to afford the equipment and travel alone. Women in many countries still do not enjoy the same salaries as men do and simply cannot afford as much money on the sport as their male counterparts



  • Not a gender issue, but certainly more women are smaller than men Smaller size results in worse performing gliders, also more dangerous ones, an XS CCC glider is not something anyone would be happy to fly as it is more aggressive than the M or L size

80% of Female take off weight is 60-95 Kg:

So do we need a female podium?



  • It is a form of positive discrimination that supposed to balance the effect of belonging to a minority
  • it is encouraging to see successful female athletes on podium and helps new female pilots to set role models and learn the yes you can attitude
  • it is great tool for pushing the sport to the next level: most sport ministries regard sports with grants and financial support that can produce athletes that are in top 5 or 10 in world championships or continentals. For men it is very hard to achieve but for women not so. I was the first pilot in Hungary who could be in top 6 at a cross country world championship. Again, stats.

The money was not given to me but to our paragliding committee that spends the money on moving the competition scene forward.


  1. Is Fear our biggest adversary or best friend?


Definitly best friend! A friend who has an edge, shows us fun times, great adventures, a friend who makes us grow up to our full potential.


I sold my shares in the company I had been building for 12 years last spring then all summer long I had a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about what I will do next. I started to build a new venture and I remember often having sleepless nights and lots of fear about succeeding. I realized that the feeling was very familiar to me: I often felt the same before some big sport or business transformations that were followed with success and happiness. I had the same experience before an SIV for example recently. Now if I feel fear, I know that it normally means change, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on situation, it normally signals that an opportunity of growth is here right now, I have to either take it or retreat.

I do not like being scared or being anxious, but I do not fear “fear” anymore.


Topics for next time:


  1. What is the social evolutional explanation for wanderlust? Do all pilots suffer from it? Is this normal?
  2. How does adventure sport transform one’s personality? How does it affect business success, goal setting, risk taking and overall happiness?
  3. Is team spirit really the secret for world success?
  4. Are paragliding comps just a game for adults who fight for virtual points? What happens if one takes it too seriously? Can a too big Ego be the biggest obstacle for an athlete?



Mentioned in this episode: Josh Heater, Brad Gunnuscio, Krisha Berlinger, Trey Hackney, Chrigel Maurer, Yassen Savoy, Michal Gerlach, Fabien Blanco, Bill Belcourt, Jeb corliss, Tao Berman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dave Snowden, Brian Webb, Nicole Fedele, Klaudia Bulgakow, Laurie Genovesie


Episode 62- Patrick Hennessey and Speed Flying basic to expert


After many many requests we bring you our first show dedicated to speed flying and mini wings. Patrick Hennessey is a pilot based in the Northwest of the US who’s been getting after it but came into the sport via skydiving and has a pretty interesting take on how people should learn and access the sport. In this episode we talk about the inherent risks of flying small wings, the high number of unnecessary accidents, the “cowboy” attitude and the lack of foundational skills, how important your own personal background is before you learn to fly a small wing, how “stupid” small wings are to fly, the best programs to go through to learn, how to safely learn the more advanced tricks, yet another shout out to learn ground handling and a lot more. Speed riding and miniwings are so insanely fun and the sport is growing fast, but a tall price is being paid in accidents. This episode is in some ways a warning, but it’s important for those of you who fly small wings or those of you considering it to have a listen and take note as it can be learned and practiced safely.

Connect with Patrick here:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/patrick.hennessey/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livelifelovelife365ayear/


A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.

Support me via Patreon

Subscribe to the Cloudbase Mayhem Podcast on Stitcher Radio, Google Play, Tune In, or ITunes!





Show Notes:

  • Patrick discusses his background in skydiving and the catalyst to learn to speed fly and learning the basics and building a foundation
  • Where and why most mistakes and accidents happen
  • The importance of taking professional courses
  • How different countries are approaching the sport and what needs to happen from a regulation standpoint
  • WARNING- mini wings are NOT meant for thermalling!
  • How to build up the basics and how to learn safely
  • How to keep the stoke when you get so little canopy time


Mentioned in this episode: Doug Stroop, Denise Reed, Aerial Paragliding, the Ranch, USHPA, PASA, Ultimate edge, Michael Dunning, Christopher Marin, Jamie Lee, Myles Macauley, Five Ten Shoes, KAVU


Episode 61- Marko Hrgetic Hrga and How to Fly FAST!

Marko doing some warped cruising over the volcano de Toluca at 5300 meters

Marko Hrgetic Hrga has been flying World Cups for the past 11 years and has a paragliding school in Valle De Bravo, Mexico which operates under the Swiss APPI system. He also just launched a new style of race in Mexico called the XCSkyRace aimed at finding out who is the best cross country pilot by encouraging pilots to do their own thing. At this January’s Monarca comp Marko absolutely crushed on the Triple 777 Queen, an EN/C three line glider, often out-gliding and climbing the 2-line CCC gliders. In this episode we get technical on how to fly fast. Hand position, use of speed bar, how to climb faster, speed to fly, using macready, using polar curves, using pilots in front, correct weight shift, the importance of relaxing and using rough air to your advantage, not making stupid mistakes, SIV with modern gliders, and a lot more. Many of our listeners have been asking for tactics for races, how to properly fly a three-liner, why they lose the lead gaggle- here are the direct answers! Enjoy this episode, there’s a lot here to digest!

A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.

Support me via Patreon

Subscribe to the Cloudbase Mayhem Podcast on Stitcher Radio, Google Play, Tune In, or ITunes!





Show Notes:

Links that Marko talks about in the show:

APPI – Association of Paragliding Pilots and Instructors

XCSKYRACE Competition
The new XC competition format

Paragliding School FLUMEN – my school

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aprendeavolar.com.mx/
Instagram: @paraglidingmexico

Polar curve tool for McReady

This tool was made by Manu Bonte (APPI) and adjusted by Marko Hrgetic. Free for use and its easy to make your own out of it.

Cool SIV videos on CCC gliders
Daniel Loritz and Swiss team:

French team

Learning SIV Videos

FLUMEN SIV place & video


Mentioned in this episode: Monarca, Alas Del Hombre, Miguel Gutierrez, Claudia Gutierrez, Nate Scales, XCSkyRace, Ryan Bloom, Fabian Blanco, Seiko Fukuoka, Charles Cazaux, 777 gliders



Marko Hgetic getting tall in Valle de Bravo, Mexico