#208 A Love Affair with Flying- Phil Hystek

Phil Hystek

“Flat out Phil” Hystek has been instructing free flight in Australia longer than anyone. It began with a fascination of hang gliding in the 70’s, becoming a hang gliding instructor in the late 80’s in California, being “forced” into paragliding in the early 90’s and his energizer batteries are going stronger than ever today. Phil has racked up 171,000 meters of vertical ascent in his back yard to date this year (at age 65!), just returned from a 4 weeks of vol-biv flying in Bir, India and is a story teller for the ages. We travel the world, meet the legends, pull off the absurd in Telluride, pack it hard in Bali, and find out who thrives in this sport and who should maybe take up a different activity. Sit back, crack a cold XXXX and enjoy, this one will have you in stitches!

Phil’s bivvy site in India

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#207- Behind the Scenes of the Red Bull X-Alps with Tarquin Cooper

Patrick Von Kanel approaches the Tre Cime Turnpoint in the 23′ race

Tarquin Cooper has been the voice of the Red Bull X-Alps the last few editions and this year was joined by your host and four-time X-Alps competitor Gavin McClurg to add some commentary and live footage from the air. In this episode the two of us sit down to share our own unique perspective of the race as we chased the athletes and teams around the Alps and had our own adventures (and misadventures!) in our mostly frantic attempts to keep up. I go into the full details of the unfortunate “tree incident”, we hear about Tarquin’s wild sail in the Fastnet race immediately after the Red Bull X-Alps ended, the athletes who most impressed us this year, Chrigel’s continued dominance, what it was like for me to be covering the event instead of racing and a lot more. If you’re in a bit of Red Bull X-Alps withdrawal this episode should help bide some time until 2025! Enjoy!

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Bonus Episode! Decoding the Invisible with Calef Letorney

The bonus episode on leaving the nest with Calef was such a big hit we decided to do another show, call it the "201" version, or the next step. At this stage pilots are a couple hundred hours in. They are chasing cross country, getting more comfortable with bumpy air, they've hopefully done an SIV and are actively trying to decode the invisible. We take a deep dive into finding the special sauce of flying XC.

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.

#206- A Walk (and Fly) down Memory Lane with Paul Guschlbauer

Paul Guschlbauer has been on the podium more than anyone in the Red Bull X-Alps other than of course Chrigel. He began his X-Alps journey back in 2011 when by his own account, he was a pretty beginner pilot. But that year the weather was horrific and he is a beast on the ground and he managed to nab 3rd place. This result lead to becoming a Red Bull athlete, a spot in that year’s Dolomitimann, and the rest is…well at least history in the making as Paul is far from done! This year’s Red Bull X-Alps was Paul’s 7th edition of the incredible race and a lot has happened over the more than a decade since. Paul now has two children; he’s flown his supercub from Alaska to Argentina; crossed the Alps not only 7 times in the race but twice more (once with Tom De Dorlodot during their ill-fated “Adriatic” expedition”); and he and Aaron Durogati have their own hike and fly series, the Wanderbird. In this episode Paul and I dive into his races and get into the stuff that fans probably haven’t heard. His huge mental struggles during the 2013 race; being in “flow” in 2015; his amazing run through the Lakes in Italy in 2017; what led to the very cool finish with Benoit in 2019; some very funny moments in 2021; and finally some thoughts on the outrageous pace in 2023.

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#205- Chasing the Monster with Gordon Boettger

On June 19th this year in the blackness of night Gordon Boettger and his copilot Bruce Campbell donned expedition clothing mountaineers use to climb the highest peaks in the world, stepped into a specialized high performance sailplane, put on their night vision goggles and took to the skies of the Sierra mountain chain at 0230. They didn’t know it yet, but they would be in the air flying “wave” (aka the “monster”) for over 17 hours and go farther than anyone ever has in a glider, ultimately ticking up 3055 kilometers, or 1898 miles. Gordon has been chasing the monster for years. It’s his specialty. It’s a little more tame than his day job, flying commercially for FedEx…and it certainly isn’t tame. Flying in the lee of mountains with winds that border on hurricane strength isn’t for the feint of heart. When you get it right you fly straight for huge distances, the vario beeping consistently and you can enjoy the view, which is pretty astonishing at heights that can reach well over 30,000 feet. But when you get it wrong it’s a pretty serious game of holding on and trying desperately to find an out. Rotor is extreme, the sink is alarming and it’s like trying to stay on a very pissed off bucking bronco. As the saying goes, when you’re high you’re high, when you’re low you’re low.

The pilots approach Mt Whitney at 0500 on second leg northbound

In this episode Gordon takes us through his history of flying gliders since he was a teenager and we crescendo with the record flight. He discusses a very close call on a previous flight in the Sierras where he missed the wave and found himself battling obscene sink. And we discuss what’s possible looking ahead. On a day Gordon called at best a 5 out of 10, what could pilots who chase the monster pull off?

“Watching with the (goggles) it was amazing to see the sky,” he said. “The Milky Way was blowing up, there were shooting stars all over the place — it was absolutely breathtaking. We were at 23,000 feet in the middle of nowhere. It really kind of opened a whole new door.”

Buckle up, this one will blow your mind.

The conditions at high altitude can be pretty extreme, even in a protected cockpit
Over Lee Vining looking east over Mono Lake on 2nd leg northbound
Looking south into the Owens at 1400 12 hours into the flight
Crossing 3,000 kilometers…

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#204 – Flying High with Martin Jovanoski

Martin wins the PWC in Aksaray, Turkey 2022

Martin Jovanoski has been flying his entire life. Sailplanes, Hang gliders, Paragliders- in any and all forms. He got started in accuracy, moved into cross country competitions and pretty much does it all when it comes to free-flight. He’s one of the big reasons Krushevo, Macedonia has become such a mecca for competitions, and he instructs, guides, flies tandems, designs wings, consults and more. I’ve been lucky enough to compete with Martin many times in World Cups and hands down Martin is the cream of the crop when it comes to unabashed love for our sport. He’s always got the biggest smile on launch. He’s the pilot who seems to have retained that first flight wonder of flying we all have throughout his long and very storied career. In this episode we dive into his history, how he turned accuracy flying into sponsorship and a means to pursue flying full time, competition flying and how to become successful at the highest end of the sport, how to fly safely, and a lot more. Enjoy!

Launching Aksarary, Turkey

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#203- The French Domination with Julien Garcia

The French own the podium at the Targassone PWC. Maxime Pinot, Honorin Hamard, Baptiste Lambert

It’s no secret that the French are operating on a very different level. If you’re French and into flying and lucky enough you can start young at the Polisport (the French Olympic training center) which aims to develop pilots into the future French team members. The objective is simple- be the best in the world, and win championships. In other words- you can go to University to paraglide! Charles Cazaux, Luc Armont, Pierre Remy, Honorin Hamard, Meryl Delferriere, and Maxime Pinot are all products of the French training program and Julien Garcia, our guest on today’s show is their coach. For years he was the coach of the junior team and is now the coach of maybe the most elite team the world of paragliding has ever seen. 5 of the top 10 pilots in the WPRS ranking are French right now. In last week’s PWC in Targassone, home of the Polisport training center all three top spots went to French pilots. In this episode I grill Julien on the secret sauce of winning. What are the steps the team takes; what does it take to get on the podium with consistency; how do you strategize winning with such different talents; should you focus on strengths or weaknesses; flying “defensively vs offensively”; the “three rules” of paragliding and a lot more. We also dive into Julien’s remote navigational and weather support of Maxime Pinot and Eli Egger in the Red Bull X-Alps. A fascinating talk with a generous individual. Enjoy!

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#202- “The Flying Yogi” Jim Mallinson

Jim Mallinson has a lot of titles. Baronet, Sir, Professor, Doctor, Mahant, and of course Pilot. Jim is the world’s leading expert on Hatha yoga and Sanskrit. He has translated texts that go back thousands of years. Jim became fascinated with India on a trip there when he was 18 years old and for every year since other than during Covid he has spent 6 months of every year there living as a Sadhu, or “one who has renounced worldly life”- basically a vagabond, but then during the other 6 months has achieved an unbelievable resume in academia, mostly through Oxford University. He’s the author of nine books and scores of academic articles. Described as “perhaps the only baronet with dreadlocks” Jim is one of the most fascinating individuals in our sport. He was one of the Sky Safaris founders who guided XC trips in the Himalaya with legendary pilots Eddie Colfox, John Silvester, Debu Choudery, and Antoine Laurens for over a decade. In this episode we discuss Jim’s views on western and eastern culture, the concept of “dissolving the mind”, his recent amazing flight across the Solent, finding the balance between stillness and achievement, losing his dreadlocks, language extinction, guiding, racing, and what he would do differently if he could rewind the clock. A fascinating talk with a fascinating individual. Enjoy!

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Bonus Episode! Leaving the Nest with Calef Letorney

Right after Calef and I recorded the #201 Podcast he reached out to say he thought he'd missed an opportunity to talk about instruction, namely that very fragile time in a pilot's career when they first get their license and are sent off on their own to figure it out. So here it is, a veritable primer on leaving the nest.

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.

#201- Calef Letorney and Community, Confidence, and Cloudwhispering

Calef Letorney was a professional whitewater kayaker back in the early 2000’s who made the switch to paragliding and has never looked back. When you think of places to fly, you don’t often put the North East US on the list. The mountains are relatively small and flat, there’s a lot of trees, cloudbase is low, and the weather is fickle. But after a few seasons in the Colorado Rockies, Calef moved home to Vermont, and soon realized that to continue enjoying paragliding he needed to build a community to fly with. So he learned to be an instructor, then a tour guide, then an SIV instructor, and finally started training other instructors to help the cause… and the rest fell into place. Where a few years back you’d be lucky to have two paragliders on launch in Vermont, these days when the weather cooperates there’s often 40+ and a solid crew chasing cross country flights. In this fun episode Calef discusses his own approach to SIV (no scary stories, it should be “anticlimactic”), a few  “code brown” mishaps from his  early days (including standing on speedbar while taking a pee, oops!), the psychology of decision making, the Dunning Kruger effect, the low probability / high consequence nature of accidents, how losing a close friend early in the sport affected his approach to flying and a lot more. Enjoy!

Check out Calef’s school, Paraglide New England

To hear the bonus episode we did with Calef about “leaving the nest” click here.

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