Episode 146- Maxime Pinot and turning up the Volume

Maxime approaches the Titlis Turnpoint, Red Bull X-Alps 2019

Maxime Pinot is a very accomplished world cup competition pilot and French team pilot who came up through the French Juniors team. Maxime has been making big waves in the last few years in the world of serious hike and fly racing. He was second in the 2018 X-Pyr, and second in his first Red Bull X-Alps in 2019, when he gave Chrigel probably his toughest run to date. He just jousted Chrigel for 1st place in this year’s Bornes to Fly in Annecy and he’s already laid down two 300+ flights this season, including an FAI world record for speed over course. In this episode we discuss how Maxime approaches training (physical and mental), his thoughts on just making better decisions instead of doing SIV for pilots who don’t have the money or time, how to manage your emotions, how to thermal and glide better, dealing with the “mental pain” that sometimes comes with flying, finding the opportunities from mistakes, the importance of visualization, and we look back at a couple key moves that made all the difference for Chrigel in the 2019 race. Please enjoy this information-packed episode, there’s a lot here!

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Show Notes: 

  • Gavin recounts a low reserve and hard pound this weekend
  • Maxime and Gavin discuss the difficulties of preparing for this year’s race due to the Covid situation
  • The new Red Bull X-Alps route
  • Maxime discusses how he’s changed his training going into this race and specifics for physical training
  • To scout or not to scout?
  • Dealing with irrational fear
  • Thermalling, planning and gliding- get the volume
  • Have a plan before you get to cloudbase- ie on the way up
  • How to approach speed to fly in a race like the X-Alps
  • Learning from the best
  • Identifying the big days and weather forecasting
  • The art of finding a thermal low
  • Dealing with the “mental pain” of flying
  • Dealing with the emotions of flying
  • Active dreaming and the importance of visualization
  • The importance of rest and recovery
  • Review of a couple of important moves in the 2019 race

Mentioned in the Show:

Malin Lobb, Annecy, Dilan Benedeti, InReach, Garmin, Nate Scales, Willi Canell, Matt Beechinor, Thomas Theirillat, Chrigel Maurer, Robbie Whittall, Nick Greece, Laurent Valbert, Tom Payne, Jon Chambers, Maxime Bellemin, Ayvri

Episode 145- Standing on the shoulders of giants with Mitchell McAleer

Mitchell McAleer properly crashed a hang glider on literally his first flight in the early 70’s. But he shook it off and was in the right place at the right time and had the right mentors and right attitude and eventually became the winningest aerobatics pilot in history. Southern California was one of the true meccas of hang gliding in the 70’s and 80’s. It was the home of UP during their reign with the Comet, remains the home of Wills Wing and was where Mitch took on the sport in his teens and remains today after nearly 45 years of obsessed flying. Mitch was an early adaptor of paragliding (as a reference his go-to glider when we recorded this show is the Ozone R-12), has traveled all over the world competing in aerobatics and doing glider testing for a number of companies, and is just an absolute giant in free flight. Mitch has an encyclopedic memory and this podcast is a fascinating and at times totally unbelievable stroll down memory lane. Flying without reserves, folding gliders, incredible wrecks, “maneuvers” clinics with no reserves, clipping in incorrectly, flying the very first totally sketchy paragliders, flying in the first world cup…It is a story of joy, sadness, incredible feats and incredible carnage but throughout it is a story of love and passion for flying. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. The men and women who laid the groundwork who have taken the sport from where it was to where it is today, spilled a lot more than tears and hard work to make it happen. Their vision, commitment, excitement and durability in the face of phenomenal setbacks, all the while losing so many friends along the way…is truly remarkable. Huge thanks to Bill Belcourt for running this interview. This was special to witness and we hope you enjoy the result.  

PLEASE- check out the video below of Mitch getting a “killer loop” just barely wrong in Austria at a Red Bull Vertigo Event in 2003. It’ll blow your mind (he walked away). 

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Show Notes: 

  • The first crash. And then some more.
  • UP and the Comet
  • Japan and folding gliders
  • Aerobatics ‘
  • Becoming a comp pilot
  • Becoming a meet director and the early years of comps
  • All the old wings…
  • Sex, drugs and Rock and Roll!
  • The European scene compared to the US Scene
  • 15 years to get one maneuver
  • The Twister- the crash in Villaneuve at the Red Bull Vertigo
  • The Crestline Massacre
  • Self Sabotage
  • “If you die, we split your gear”
  • Why do some walk away?
  • The mental game
  • Can you regulate the problem away? Risk Homeostasis
  • Nothing else gives you peace

Mentioned in the Show:

Eric Fair, Annie Green Springs, they and EZ Wider the rolling paper company sponsored a meet at Sylmar, < https://hghistory.org/hang-gliding-2/hang-gliding-1973/1973briefingphotokey/ >Volmer Jensen, Wills Wing, Gary Applegate, Steve Pearson, UP, Japan, Gin, Rob Kells, Oichi Onsuka, Yoichi Onitsuka, JC Brown , Larry Tudor, Yusuke Yamazaki, George Fulman, Pete Brock, Roy Haggard, Mark West, Heidi Blumhuber, Enrico Egli, Heinz Zwissig, Etsushi Matsuo, Greg Smith, Andre Bucher, Bob England, Ted Boyce, Jeff Greenbaum, Rick Masters, Edel Gliders, Dave Bridges, Robbie Whittall, Dave Frank, Mr. Suh, Ed Stein, Chuck Smith, Bouchard, Ken Baeir, Xavier Murillo, Jennifer Toms, Joe Gluzinski, Dave Prentice, Lee Kaiser, Bill Gordon, Richard Gallon, Sebastien Bourquin, Urs Haari, Othar Lawrence, Chris Santacroce, RC David Freund, Dan Racanelli, John Heiney, Chris Bolfing, Soderquist, Jeff Huey, Chris Bulger, Jon Pendry, Crazy Wayne Denny, Dusty Rhodes, Rob McKenzie, Brad Gunnuscio, Ozone Paragliders, Tammy Burcar, Mark Axen, Patrick Sugrue, Marcus Meyer, Russ Ogden, Rick Garrett, Jamie Lasser, Rich Collins, Bill Rehr, Raleigh Collins, Andy Hediger, Jan Stenstadvold, Dave Frank, Chrigel Maurer, Dilan Benedeti, Ben Abruzzo, Recaps Hats, Anneka Herndon, Joe Bostik

Training for the Red Bull X-Alps

The May/June Issue of USHPA pilot just came out and there’s a thorough article about how Team USA 1 approaches training and preparation for the Red Bull X-Alps. In a month we’ll be competing in our 4th race. Here’s what we’re doing now, and what we’ve changed from previous editions.

Bonus Episode- Bastienne Wentzel interviews your host!

A few months ago I interviewed Bastienne Wentzel about her book “Paragliding, The Beginner’s Guide” and at the end of the interview Bastienne turned things around and interviewed me for her magazine about the upcoming X-Alps, my history in flying, preparing for this campaign vs previous campaigns, why learning is so addicting, flying and family, making a living through flying (sort of!), the book (Advanced Paragliding), why the X-Alps and flying itself is so addicting (and could it be without the risk?), comparing the Alaska Traverse and the X-Alps, what the spectators miss in the race, the most memorable days, how to eat for the race, dealing with the physical trauma, the wonderful impact of the fans and a lot more.

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 144- Jeff Longcor and (mostly) Inexpensive Mistakes

Bliss

To learn we have to make mistakes. But in aviation a mistake can be painful, or a lot worse. When we’re learning how do we balance the desire with ability? How do even recognize when we’re making poor decisions when we don’t understand the risks that we’re taking? When flying starts to click and the joy rockets our skills very often aren’t up to the task. It’s called intermediate syndrome and it’s not something that just starts and ends, it’s a spectrum that catches out nearly every pilot at some point in their career, and in my opinion lasts much, much longer than most pilots think. Navigating through this period safely is tricky. We can’t improve if we don’t push, but we’ve got to make sure we push the right amount, and that amount changes every day. Jeff Longcor has been flying only a few years and has a full time job, which makes getting hours tough, but he’s completely enamored with the sport and has been chasing it hard, sometimes too hard. Jeff has made some inexpensive mistakes, and a few expensive ones. They’ve all provided volumes of learning, and his desire for the sport is as high as it has ever been. In this show we dig into all the little things that add up to help us all become better pilots, and in the end- better people. Enjoy.

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Show Notes: 

  • The joy outpaces the ability. The need to want to launch. 
  • “I felt like I could say something because I WAS that pilot”
  • Getting critical feedback can be hard. But necessary. We have to embrace the wider world of knowledge
  • Should we ever give up on a pilot who’s making too many mistakes?
  • Screwing things up
  • Flying in wind
  • Peer Pressure
  • Evaluating conditions on each flight
  • Analytical vs feeling pilots
  • Don’t make launch a foregone conclusion
  • Throwing the reserve/ SIV
  • Confidence and respect for the sport
  • The forever of learning

Mentioned in the Show:

Niviuk, Dilan Benedeti, Bill Belcourt, Andrew Byron, Tom Truax, Logan Walters, Bruce Goldsmith, 50 ways to fly better, Greg Hammerton, Jason Lombard, Othar Lawrence, Matt Beechinor

 

Episode 143- Matt Scutter and SkySight Soaring 101

the magic of skysight…

Matt Scutter is an Australian competition sailplane pilot and software engineer who leads a team that runs the popular global soaring forecast platform SkySight. Unlike other platforms that use existing weather models to produce interactive forecasts for free flight enthusiasts like Meteoparapente and XCSkies, SkySight uses their own supercomputing systems to gather a wide range of weather data to create their own daily models. Initially designed for sailplane forecasting SkySight is now a go-to platform for paragliding and hang gliding forecasting as well. In this podcast Matt gives us a quick audio history of SkySight and how their system differs from other resources and then we switch over to a video screen recording of Matt taking us through a tutorial of how SkySight can help you achieve bigger distance with greater confidence and how to use their powerful convergence forecasting, route planning and other tools. Enjoy!

All Cloudbase Mayhem listeners! Use the promo code “CLOUDBASEMAYHEM” to receive 14 days extra for free when you sign up for their free trial. 

After the audio section please watch the video tutorial here:

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Episode 142- Urs Haari and the Sweet Spot

Urs on glide towards the Matterhorn

Urs Haari has been at this game since the game began. He got several world records early in his career in South Africa in the early 90’s, stood on the podium multiple times at World Championships, PWC’s and at the European Championships and brought home champion titles at the Swiss, AND US Nationals. This past season he won the sport class in the Swiss Cup Championship for the remarkable 5th time, and is now the permanent holder of this coveted award. Given he only gets to go XC 4 to 6 times a year because of his work- a hell of an achievement! Urs is the owner and creator of High Adventures AG, a company that makes and tests reserves. He invented the Beamer steerable rescue that many pilots have adopted and use today. In this podcast Urs discusses his early success; a couple of very scary incidents; leaving the sport and going through a very difficult period and then rediscovering flight; creating High Adventures and the art of the reserve toss and what we all need to know about reserves and their correct use; and how he’s developed some very interesting mental exercises and techniques to stay safe in flight. This episode is packed with laugh-out loud moments and incredible take-aways. Enjoy!

PLEASE watch Urs’ reserve testing videos on any of these pages, you’ll learn a ton!

https://www.youtube.com/user/flyhighadventure

https://www.instagram.com/highadventure.ch/

https://www.facebook.com/HighAdventure/

https://twitter.com/High_Adventure

 

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Show Notes: 

From Urs Haari:

In March I will be 56 years old and live in Switzerland. I spent my childhood and adolescence in Matten, a small mountain village of 700 souls in the Bernese Oberland. I had the privilege of growing up in the great outdoors. In winter we made the ski slopes unsafe and in summer we were otherwise incredibly creative. You can take my word for that 😉

My father was a model airplane pilot and co-founder of the local gliding group. We spent countless weekends somewhere on a soaring slope or at the airfield.

At the age of 17 I had enough savings to afford the training to become a glider pilot. In the first year I was not allowed to leave the airfield within a radius of 50 km. Shortly thereafter, I was retrained to fly my first composite glider, and I found out quickly how to loop it quite nicely. The high alpine terrain offered enough side valleys to avoid being caught by the club’s umpires. The glider fleet was limited and four years later I had had enough of having to share the gliders with my club mates part time.

At 20 I was drafted into the military, completed a career in the army due to lack of career prospects and inbetween I hitchhiked through South America for several months.

In 1988 I grabbed my older brother’s paraglider and did a few jumps with it. It felt like proximity flying but in slow motion. In the following spring, I made my license and trimmed the newly acquired Condor HP9 (9 cells) right away. At a competition in Verbier I met the manufacturer, two months later he offered me a job. In addition to working in the atelier and sales department, I was also a test pilot.

In 1990, the pre-World Cup took place in St. André les Alps. I wanted to go there at all costs. I didn’t have enough results to qualify for the Swiss team. At that time, we were producing in Israel and a good friend of mine was the president of the paragliding association there. So, I started under the Israeli flag and finished the pre-World Cup as the best Swiss. That was the time of the flashy full-body preservatives, the hot gliders, and the all-night parties ;-). We were rock stars!

My successes continued, followed by several world records in South Africa, podiums at World Championships, PWC’s and at the European Championships as well as several champion titles at the Swiss- and the US-Nationals. What a time! I enjoyed the competition groove, the many trips and especially the friendships around the globe.

However, my medals also had their downsides. One month before the World Championships in Verbier in ’93, I had a near-death experience. After a small incident with a prototype, I landed in a lake a hundred meters from the shore. I was not prepared for it and there was no boat on the water. Ten minutes later I was tied up by my own lines and gave up. A fisherman had been watching the scenario from shore and pulled me back out by my paraglider. A month later, in the first run in Verbier, I bombed in on a grassy ledge in a rock face on the reserve. Fortunately, all this did not leave deep scars in my soul. In the mid-nineties I ended my career as a competition pilot. The serious accidents on the competitions increased and I lost a few good friends.

After the turn of the millennium, I was in a deep crisis and was hardly in the air. I had to find myself again. I found support in nature, hugged trees, dealt with my spirituality and shamanism, traveled alone on foot and horseback through Mongolia and hopped around on broken glass in Indonesia.

In 2008, I rediscovered cross-country flying. Since then, I enjoy the freedom in the air, the play with nature, the cocktail of experience, intuition, and adventure.
It all started a good 30 years ago and I’m still in the thick of it. We work with the same suppliers as back then, develop our own products (accessories and rescue parachutes) and employ 6 people.

My time budget is limited, and I can free myself for 4 to 6 days for cross country flights per year.

Before each take-off I get in touch with my power animals and other spirit helpers, thank them for everything and do my protection exercises. I visualize my flight plan once again and ask for my wish to come true. During the flight I influence wind and weather, chant in difficult situations, ask my power animals for help and enjoy the incredible privilege of free flight. Yes, I really can do this, but have no idea if it does anything. But believe me, it feels incredibly good. No negative thoughts and lots of confidence in what is.

I fly a High EN B. And of course, I am jealous when the competition orchids pass me by. I would love to fly something like that. But I do not have the routine. Maybe in the next life…

Mentioned in the Show:

Cross Country Magazine, Kevin Brooker, Urs Haari, High Adventure, Beamer Rescue, Nik Hawks, Till Gottbrath, Nate Scales, Nova Paragliders

 

Niviuk Klimber 2P First Impressions

Groundhandling the Klimber 2P with the Kortel Kolibri Pro. Photo Ben Horton

In all my years of flying I’ve never been so excited for a new wing to arrive. With the 2021 Red Bull X-Alps getting close I’ve been thrilled with what I’ve heard from Niviuk’s test pilots and their lead designer Olivier Nef; and the photos I’ve seen on social media have displayed an extraordinarily profile, but you never know until you have it in your hands and take her for a spin.

Mine arrived a few days ago and I wasted no time to take her out in really gusty winds to see how she felt on the ground. At 2.67 kg the first thing you notice is just how incredibly light this wing is. I didn’t think it was possible to come in below the Zeolite (2.9 kg in the same size range), but a fantastically mesmerizing internal construction combined with even thinner Niviuk trademark nitinol rods in the leading edge and canopy and a combo of skytex 27g and dokdo 25g fabric (which also makes it SUPER small to pack) and it feels very close bundled to a single surface wing. For more info on the construction visit here.

 

Happy. Photo Ben Horton

But after unpacking this beauty she begins to really come to life. The first thing I noticed was the proper B-toggles just like Niviuk puts on their high-aspect EN D Peak 5 and CCC X-One. Score! Then I noticed the long bar travel. Somehow I knew before even letting her fly this was going to be a very fast and capable cross country machine!

With very unsteady gusty winds cranking I was a little worried about getting plucked when I first brought her up on the A’s with one hand and the B’s in the other. I needn’t have feared. She responds beautifully to inputs on the b’s to dampen or change the trajectory. You can learn a lot about how a wing flies through some kiting on the ground, and I really liked what I saw and felt.

I spent a lot of time admiring the construction of the new Klimber 2P. Photo Ben Horton

Tim Rochas, the lead test pilot for Niviuk promised me months ago that according to their tests the Klimber 2P was faster on bar and had a better glide than the Zeolite, but had better “Niviuk” feel. I’ve been a Niviuk pilot for over a decade, but I flew the Zeolite in the 2019 race as it was so ground-breaking and shaving a half a kilo on other light EN D wings in it’s category just couldn’t be ignored. If it had Niviuk feel (which I adore), better performance, AND its lighter? Well well!! The next evening I got to take my new toy out for a proper flight to see how she felt off the ground and how she felt compared to the Zeolite.

In one word- ENERGY. If Niviuk got one thing wrong about the Klimber 2P it’s possibly the name. I’ve been flying the original Klimber now for three years. It’s a really fun and capable hike and fly wing. But it’s not the XC hungry animal that this new wing is, and it’s bar performance isn’t close to the new Klimber 2P. My instant read on how much energy a wing has it to take them out and do BIG wingovers. In a few wingovers you can tell how a wing turns, how stable the tips are, how much energy it carries, how it dives, and how it responds to inputs. In other words- how fun they are and how well they perform. There is actually almost nothing similar between the two wings. The Klimber 2P isn’t just a few small improvements to the original. This is a completely new wing, built entirely new from the ground up. Risers, B-Toggles, fabric, nitinol, internal construction, optimized leading and trailing edge, completely different profile (which you can see in the pics below)- all new.

Big energy in this new EN D hike and fly wing by Niviuk. Photo Ben Horton

Toplanding and launching? Simple. She’s featherweight, precise and responsive. Bar performance? Boom baby! B riser handling? Gorgeous, pinpoint, and excellent feedback. Speed? I got to try that the next day in slightly thermic air on a couple vertical training sessions. Without someone flying next to me it was hard to get an exact read on trim and bar speed, but the acceleration felt similar to what I experience on the Peak 5, which is at the top of the EN D class. So…I think we’re going to be very good friends.

The Niviuk Klimber 2P. Look at that blade! Photo Ben Horton

Episode 141- Robbie Whittall- Creating Connections and Changing Perceptions

Robbie competing in the Isle of Man Race. Photo Keith Fothergill

Where do you start with Robbie Whittall? He’s one of only three pilots in history to have won the world championships in BOTH hang gliding and paragliding. He co-founded Ozone. He’s considered the “godfather of the Serial class.” He raced superbikes for several years in what is considered the most dangerous motor sports event in the world, the Isle of Man race. We begin this podcast with a couple of crazy stories (getting plucked in Foehn off a flat field clipped in backwards, and winning the 89′ Hang Gliding worlds after tumbling- TWICE), then dig into Robbie’s remarkable life journey, much of lived with the throttle pegged, but it’s also been one with plenty of instrospection. Robbie discusses the importance of connection; the difference and importance of flying in “Flow” vs trying; how to “let it happen”; finding your potential; why the British have been so successful in free flight; being tenacious and the value of practicing in poor conditions; how to get the best results by going against yourself rather than the competition; the learning process; the Open Class carnage that lead to the Serial Class; why we’ve lost so much of the purity of flight by removing the human element and relying on increased instrumentation; what “unleashed fun” means, and how to find peace with the inevitable. Get comfortable and tuck in, this is a masterclass from a genuine master. 

Watch the 2019 trailer for the Isle of Man race. CRAZY!

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Show Notes: 

  • The marionette!
  • Winning the World Championships in 89- AFTER tumbling twice
  • The addiction begins out a frustration with school
  • The importance of connection- to people, to nature
  • Flow vs Try
  • Finding your potential
  • The Brits- why so good?
  • Tenacity
  • Poor conditions? Good!
  • Compete against yourself, not others and you’ll learn to win
  • The learning process
  • NOW
  • The Open Class Carnage
  • Leaving the comp scene
  • Unleashed fun
  • Coming to terms with death

Mentioned in the Show:

Jon Pendry, Thomas Theurillat, Bill Belcourt, Bruce goldsmith, Russ Ogden, Pepe López, Colin Rider

 

Robbie gets plucked in Como. Photo Giorgio Sabbioni

Episode 140- Michael Witschi and Experiencing the Amazing through Competition

Michael (SUI 3), Gavin (USA 2) and Gaspard (FRA 4) discuss options at the Aschau turnpoint, day 2 of the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps

Legendary Swiss pilot Michael Witschi has an extremely impressive flying resumé. He has over 20 years of World Cup and Swiss League experience, was 4th in the Europeans, has several  world cup task wins, competed in the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps; is a current coach of the X-Alps Academy; and is the mastermind, founder and organizer of the incredible EigerTour, a 4-day hike and fly race in the Bernese Oberalps. Michael is the father of two adorable children and is a very successful businessman and eloquently shares his vast competition experience with us in this engaging, very fun talk.

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Show Notes: 

  • Michael discusses his 2015 Red Bull X-Alps campaign and his reserve landing in a lake during the race
  • The catalyst for the Eigertour and all about the hike and fly race
  • The model for the race and the Eigertour academy
  • Thoughts for setting up a hike and fly race and the future of live tracking
  • Michael discusses his long history of world cup racing
  • The downwind, uphill landing
  • What does the X-Alps Academy teach?
  • Creating guidelines for managing risk
  • Engineering in flight
  • Paragliding isn’t dangerous if…
  • Groundhandling again!

Mentioned in the Show:

Paul Guschlbauer, Aaron Durogati, Chrigel Maurer, Yael Margolich, Toma Coconea, Tom De Dorlodot, Ștefan Gruber, Tarquin Cooper, Thomas Theirillat, Honza Rejmanek, VercoFly

 

Michael Witschi (SUI3) lands on the Float in Monaco during the Red Bull X-Alps, Monaco on July 17th 2015