James “Kiwi” Oroc is a journalist, photographer, artist and pilot born in the small South Pacific nation of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Since 1998 he has been pursuing and reporting on the cutting edge of extreme sports in more than 40 countries around the globe and has written three books- the non-fiction cult classic Tryptamine Palace, The New Psychedelic Revolution and the just-published fictional Under the Influence, 20 Tales of Psychedelic Noir and has been flying paragliders since the mid 80’s, when gliders had 7 cells! Kiwi and I sat down together in Texas (we’re here mostly unsuccessfully chasing big distance!) to do what I’ve wanted to do for years- have him recount some of the insane stories he’s been witness to in his last 35+ years of flying. In this episode we hear about the early years in Jackson Hole, time spent doing the absurd (not just flying) with Robbie Whittall; learning how to “thermal” (tongue in cheek); flying off Cotapaxi in Ecuador; Many, MANY close calls; bringing flying to MTV sports; theft of a glider leading to saving a life; the history of Edel and Pro Design and all many legends back in the day; competing in the first-ever PWC (with more than 250 pilots!) in Venezuela in the 90’s; the early crazy days with Richard Gallon, Othar Lawrence, Chris Santacroce, Will Gadd, Dave Bridges, Josh Cohn, Miguel Gutierrez, Bill Belcourt, Bob Drury, Raul Rodriguez, and many others all over the world. Light a fire, pour yourself a glass of wine and soak in the stories!
To find out more about Kiwi or his incredible books, visit here.
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Starting to fly in Queenstown on 7 cell gliders in in the 1980’s
Learning how to “thermal” in Jackson Hole, Wyoming:)
Becoming the Spin Doctor
The early craziness
The first PWC in the world
The Valle discovery
A whole bunch of carnage and leaving the sport
The early wings certifications
The early days of Ozone
The carnage in Spain in the 2001 Worlds
The dream of the Serial class
The early days in Bir
Flying in a reenactment of an ancient battle near Cuzco, Peru
The carnage in Piedrahita
“My imagination has never kept up with the reality of paragliding”
The 2 Liner revolution and chasing big distance
Breaking the New Zealand distance record in Brazil
The flying tribe
Mentioned in this show:
Queenstown, Robbie Whittall, Nate Scales, John Patterson, Kurt Kleiner, Jon Hunt, Nick Greece, Andre Agassis, Hans Rey, John Yates, Josh Cohn, ProDesign, Mitch MacAleer, Greg Smith, Dave Bridges, Alex Lowe, Chris Santacroce, Othar Lawrence, Xavier Murillo, PWCA, Richard Gallon, Raul Rodgriguez, Miguel Gutierrez, Bill Belcourt, Monte Bell, Larry Tudor, Will Gadd, Bob Drury, Russ Ogden, Matt Taggart, Andy Hediger, Cross Country Magazine, Hugh Miller, Jim Mallinson, Eddie Colfax, John Sylvester, Jeff Crystal, Peter Chernowski, Guy Anderson, Garmin InReach, Matt Beechinor, Matty Senior, Steve Ham, Chris Mueller
Speaker 1 (24s): Hi there, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the cloud based man. My guest today is my dear friend, Kiwi or James or rock Kiwi pilot from New Zealand, who is just recently, actually in the last couple of weeks, immigrated officially to the United States. But Kelly is one of the most fascinating people in the world. Certainly the most fascinating person I have ever met. And he's been to burning man, I think every year, since the late nineties and has written a couple of books on psychedelics and has been flying since the mid eighties and has come across in all that time with pretty much every big name and flying and paragliding.
And this is basically story time with James Ron, with Kiwi. We had a blast. We are down in Texas, Jason, the world record been down here for almost two weeks now, and the weather has not been totally cooperative, a couple of pretty nice flights, but so we're just camped out waiting for it being patient and a key. We came over today and we just had a nice fireside chat. Of course, without the fire, we don't need any fire down here in Texas. It's warm enough as it is, but I'm having a blast.
And this was a fun talk about kind of the history of flying and all the crazy things that Kiwi has seen along the way. And we also talked just very briefly about his brand new book, his third book called under the influence 20 tales of psychedelic noir, which I just started yesterday and I'm loving it's hysterical and thoughtful and poetic and a lot of fun. So Kiwi's a great writer. You've all probably read a lot of his stuff in cross country magazine over the years and others. So enjoy this talk with James rock.
Hey Kay. Kiwi
Speaker 0 (2m 19s):
Speaker 1 (2m 26s): Kiwi dude. We've been trying to do this for a long time. I'm excited that we're down here. Jason, Jason distance in Texas, and the weather's not corrupt cooperating. So it's perfect time to sit down with you and hear about the craziness. I've just been enjoying your third book. Fantastic. It's hysterical. And I think we're going to all be entertained by your stories of, of flying and the collision that you've had with lying over the years. Take us back to the very beginning.
How did you get into this madness when you, you know, thinking
Speaker 2 (3m 0s): Back? I think I was at university in New Zealand and I was about 17 years old and my friends took me skiing and I'm pretty sure that was the first time I saw somebody flying because guys were flying off the road there in 86 or 85. And then the next year I ended up moving to Wanaka for the winter pursue skiing. And that was when I first got my first paragliding, many flights with some of the younger guys out of Queenstown.
And I hadn't actually bought a glider at that point. And then at 87 and I went to Jackson hole once again, just purely by luck really is I didn't really know a lot about the place continuing my pursuit of skiing at that point. And my roommate was Jim Olson, who was the first person, probably the only person who's legally flown off the grand Teton a night. And he'd done it about six months earlier in 1987. So it felt like a paragliding, which was a pretty obscure small thing at that point just kept popping up for me fairly regularly.
And then we had a guy Kleiner in Jackson hall who was given lessons. So there was the first opportunity to really be able to go. And what were the gliders? I remember exactly what Q is very simple, seven, nine cell square. You know, we're all climbers that just thought it was a great way to get down. That was the real attraction at that point, because down clothing was definitely a danger of its own. We had a guy, a Renee Swiss guy in Queensland.
They might've glad to called the Renegade and it had little pins in the colors. You could pin it to a snowman. A Queenstown was going to have paragliding in the late eighties because a lot of New Zealand mountain guides would go to France Chamonix. And what have you for the summers or opposite seasons. And then they were coming back with all the gear. I mean, my first manual was in French. It was definitely a very French aspect to the sport in those early days. And that was when you know, these, what we now call it extreme really started to sort of come into focus or the French called bliss say, and remember what I went to Jackson hole and getting to Jackson.
I really thought I was on my way to Chamonix. And John might move on. We're just photo with Everest in 88 on an elder car. He and Bruno and guys like that were a huge influence on a 20 year old and New Zealand thousand dollars in one way ticket in the fear of skis. Well, I ended up staying in Jackson for 14 years or something like that. Like sad when the first one I arrived, I pretty much had everything dropped in my land in a typical 20 year old Peewee.
I burned my bridges and then spend the next 14 years trying to rebuild. But yeah, I feel very fortunate that a lot of times, just through sheer luck, I leaned it up really in the right place at the right time. And certainly my paragliding career, I've been an observer to a lot of really interesting things. Always amazes me that I keep, keep pumping back into it. But Jackson in the early nineties was a really awesome place to be, you know, paragliding was new and we didn't have much hand gliding out there.
There wasn't really a hang gliding history. It was really a climber's place. So we were sort of a double edged sword. We didn't know anything, but we were all figuring it out ourselves. And it was a great, great early group of us and included guys that are still fine. I think John Patterson was probably the pilot most responsible for sort of giving us a bunch of structure cause he was an engineer and obviously being paying attention, you know, like I look back at some of my early mistakes and it took me years to figure out something as simple as wing sizing.
Like you're buying wings that are too small. Cause I thought they were fast and silly things like this. I remember John Pattison had this Adele one of the early ones and the thing was just seeing massive. And I realized now why because it's sizing and I'm a big guy. So I should've been on big gliders, but you know, John was responsible for my first thermal and the first cross country in Jackson hole, we were were was me and having another pilot we're living together.
And I was working something manual. I came home from the day and John and Sloan like five miles right kilometers. But what I couldn't understand was he flying off? What are the Buttes? And there was no rich, right? Cause we're just restoring at this point, the hell did you manage to get way down? There was no rich, you know, that was a symbol, you know? Oh, sweet. What's that explain? And he's like, Oh, it's really easy to manage. So you're going to go up East crave off, you fly out over the gravel pit and you'll feel that air moving and lifting and just start tuning your glider and then you'll go out and get as high as you can and just point it.
That sounds fantastic. So I'm determined to do that the very next day. So I go up by myself three o'clock in the afternoon, it's hailing windy, which at this point I think is exactly what you want because I'm flying small gliders, rich, silver. Right? So yeah, this looks good. I'm on an Adele era, which was this one of the early ellipticals, supposedly more of an intermediate glider at in little fiberglass bat. It was in 1990 and we had no reserves just to add that.
So I got to flying out the gravel pit and hit the STEM, which immediately just wipes my winning out. And I start spiraling towards the ground and I'm sure I just threw my hands above my head and Tierra and the glide miraculously reopened. And I crossed the power lines across the highway and set it down. And the McDonald's cop shaking like a leaf. And I had two buddies who were sitting about a mile away in front of them. That's said, I'm going to go out there.
I'm going to fly and watch. They were watching the whole thing from your couch. And I disappeared behind my, the Kmart or something. So they called nine one one two minutes later. An ambulance comes roaring in and caught guys and I'm like shaking, packing my shit up. I remember going back and going to John, he been, you can stick your face even away from that. That was definitely the start of XC falling in Jackson hole, which now is about 200 miles, Which you witnessed, you were there for that later,
Speaker 3 (10m 2s): But like did JP and hunt and you guys, and who'd you say the instructor was correct?
Speaker 2 (10m 8s): Was the, was there in the late eighties? And then he was more of a base jumper type and he ended up coming down here and takes us mean he was a national parks guy and they've seen him walk to one of these parks down here, which kind of free to so because then there was no, we had no instructions that it was just figuring it out. We were in the area, you know, a lot of times you'll get an instructor seems to take quite a strong grip personality wise on an area. And I think there's value and no one really filled the void. We just had this weird little niche.
Speaker 3 (10m 40s): Nate's got this story when he learned that, you know, the guy that taught him, he took him up green horn and at home and in the litter Valley. And, and he, he Bart brought him up the Hill and they flew off and they landed and the guy said, okay, now, you know, as much as I know, that was like, like one flight.
Speaker 2 (10m 59s): I mean the place where taught us is hilarious. Like when you look at it now, you can't even imagine how you could fly paraglider, golly, you know, backside of the thing. And you know, those, we all had the same side glide, same size gliders that we're learning on. And I was really annoyed that my other friends were getting off the ground and getting so much higher and I couldn't get up and I'm running down the home thinking my techniques poor. It's just, I was the heaviest one of the group. I don't even know if I actually got that far up 10 or 15 feet off the ground probably.
Speaker 3 (11m 30s): And did, did JP have like a, I mean, cause at that point, the hangings were, had figured out to Maxine. So did, did he know thermals existed? I mean, did
Speaker 2 (11m 42s): The hang glider pilots that were around didn't really fly Jackson much. They went more over Idaho. Yeah. Yeah. Or they'd be out there in the middle of Southern view that wasn't meeting all of them. And I think JP was, you know, we had salt Lake city and point of the mountain as a contact point, but it was funny. Like we were all very isolated little islands.
Jackson hole was an Island. Sun Valley was an Island. Utah was an Island. And then Joe , we're all on these all radio gliders. And then Joe Luzinski, who was a sort of rolling pro design. Ray heard that there was this bunch of potential pilots up in Jackson hole. So he came rolling up and this is how funny it was these days. It gives hon challenges see probably as on Joan to see which would be the equivalent of D or CCC, John's been fine.
One of these Excalibur bags and rigs things that doesn't get any better and we've went up Phillips and John launched and went straight up and cross the Valley for the first time. And I remember turning to John and said, Oh, that's a sale. Well, she was flew the hell out of it to see for the next couple of years. But the kind of glide is we got put on collect, terrifying. Simon gave it to me. I went back to New Zealand and I ended up being sold this rag out advance or make it to a gym and instructor.
That was way above my, like my skill level. And I was weighted. He hated it. So I used to spin that thing regularly in Jacksonville. Like, who'll be the spin doctor
Speaker 4 (13m 32s): Without reserves.
Speaker 2 (13m 33s): Well, at that point we had a, we'd moved up to the Von blondes that I think would have broken all the bones in my dog's body. Cause they were tiny, these little things that we thought, all that great. Cause we had a resume. I'm really glad I never threw my
Speaker 4 (13m 52s): 12 meters or something.
Speaker 2 (13m 53s): I mean, I don't know. I have big, tiny in the bag, so I kind of done much good, but it was a step forward.
Speaker 4 (14m 3s): So you were doing it at this point, you were going back and forth every year. So you're spending,
Speaker 2 (14m 7s): I went up back and forth a couple times. I was all over the place. I was still doing a bunch of climbing in 93. You know, I was still very interested in this idea of what was becoming extreme sports at this point. And I was trying to organize different athletes and do some management staff. And they had all these grand ideas that were probably 10 years ahead of the time. But I, I was, I had some contact with MTV sports, which was, you know, the, the very hip extreme channel at the time.
And I was pitching in this like multi sport Jackson hole thing that we just ended agreed on. And then at the very last and I was going to bungee jump out of the train that was going to be part of it. And then the very last minute, the mountain soul soul changed hands and then United is didn't want to do with it, but I'd gone out to New York and I'd seen in talking to MTV and one of the producers asked me, you know, are there any other sort of things you'd like to do? I said, there's lots of things I'd like to do. And I'd been reading all of that.
And I was like, Oh, I'd love to go. And paraglide with Coda pinks, any group I just very randomly. So then six months later, I'm in Jakes and skiing for the winter, completely forgotten about it. And I get a phone call from him to the sports and they're like, Oh, we've got a thing on Ecuador next week. Do you think you'd like to be part of it, next thing on you. I couldn't find anyone else to go with them. And so 93, I went with MTV sports to Ecuador and I flew with almost the summit of coach pixie with a helmet on my head.
That's about the size of your coffee machine. I mean, with a camera, it was just gigantic. And yeah, we got lucky. We got up through the cloud early in the morning and flew pretty close to COVID 93 and a Andre Agassi. And Dan Cotez introduced me in the stat of the MTV school Heinz, right? Who was the great mountain bike trip downhiller and trials rider.
And he did this really cool Sigmund and equal bouncing around on the stairs and the cows and the things and street kids were chasing them around. We almost caused a riot. It was awesome. So that was a lot of fun. Did that on an Adele spice. Okay. Adele gave me, and then I had this mega too, that I was telling about, tried to, tried to kill me panted and pretty hot in Jackson hole and managed to walk away from it.
And it was getting really rigged at this point, all the boys, you got to get a new glider or any money I'm doing for work. At this point, you know, I had a, I had a bungee jump, sort of an underground bungee jump company going in Jackson hole and it was preteen them's. So what were they doing? Tandems and Jackson yet getting close, but I went to New York and some other thing. And when I arrived in the city, they smashed in the windows of my car almost immediately and stole my two.
It's probably saved my life. I mean, it was just rammed up. And then, you know what, skied just good luck in lots of weird delusions and paragliding is I had a good friend in San Francisco area who was a silo, Micah, big boat. So I'll make it yacht racing like North or something, but he had his own loft. It's now part of one of those, I forget what it is, but there are sales rule being made in Hong Kong and some factory.
And he was like, Oh, they make paragliders in the same factory that was making him sales. Like you already see if I can hook you up. And that ended up getting me connected was pro design, John Yates back in the States. So he started sponsoring me and I was on the team with a 17 year old Josh Hmm. 15 year olds at Huntington who know who almost as good as Josh in those days, he's gone on to be like a NASA engineer.
And I mean, yeah, Josh was pretty exceptional quality, even that same team. And I've known a lot of really good pilots all over the world. And Josh has, is really one of the world's top pilots. My opinion certainly is incredible consistency. And how long he's been flying at such a high level? Yeah, I think that that nickname came about a decade later, but John Yates, who was, who, who was importing pro design into the States? I think he hired me because I was the only one old enough to drink with them and drive the vein.
So he figured he'd sponsor me these two kids. And I spent a lot of time driving the Blake Yates van, Jason, Josh, but that got me into competition. Pro design gave me a contest and it was the wing of the time. And I went off to my first competition, which was the Mitch match, which much maker Leah, the acrobatic angle or the pilot put on in Elsinore.
And it was 16, 16 pilots in it, which looking back was a pretty funny group and included all the top U S pilots and this young English kid that was struggling around with a bunch of tattoos and just seemed like he was totally trying to run the show. And I was like, Oh, there's this guy. And they're like, Oh, that's Robbie Robbie. It was like 45 years old flies, hand gliders and his socks up to his knees, you know, and I had no idea that Rob was actually younger than me and, and, and now flying exclusively Perry loader.
So that was Robbie little first tuned up in the States. And then Rob and I would end up spending a lot of time together over the next few years. So at that point he had already won. He was still hang gliding was the first one he won when he was 19. And then he came back and he won the paragliding. He was like 23. And he went to Korea to work with Adele, for Scott. And then he ended up and ending, got in sun Valley with, which is how he came into our orbit.
So Valley had a really interesting, an exceptional group of pilots that Greg Smith assemble that included Dave bridges two times national champion and later died with Alex Lowe and to be climbing and Chris Santa Croce and Robbie and night scales and all were both teenagers as well. That's one of the really things I love about paragliding is in my twenties, it was the absolute perfect sports. We are lunatic 20 year old. And now in my fifties, it's the perfect sport it's been progressing with.
Lean IC, Robbie, you guys roommates together. You guys have had a lot of history together. I wouldn't know about that. Yeah. I mean, Rob's been a big influence on me just as a friend for sure. And yeah, I mean, Rob keeps reappearing in the story for sure. So yeah, we had the Shalane nationals and then there's a couple of great Venezuelan pilots.
The brothers who were importing into Miami and I've been spending some time with them. Like, man, you got to get to meet his wife live in as well. It was so cool. You know, so I went down, I took off to being this wide and it turned out they were having this new competition there that was going to go a paragliding world cup and MIT really recently realized, I think it was actually the very first paragliding world cup or I look on the PWC history.
It's the first one that they have results 96. Yeah. And Marilla would put the whole thing together. And it was just a legendary, they 257 pilots and they didn't tell anybody. No. So almost everybody came right. Robbie whittle actually was one of the few that they said no to because Robbie had waited so long to put his entry in that they're like, no, you just can't come. We've got to 250 to two to knock.
Right. So we had this first, a PWC and Venus Weiler and the first two or three tasks, they actually 250 of us flew jeez. And broke it down. And we had a Lamond start one day. Really? Yeah. We laid all the gliders out and everybody went up the Hill and we ran down to cool.
It was super cool, but I'd gone there about a month or two, six weeks earlier. And I'd ended up in this great flying house that was close to Loma. Lisa we're having the call run by a Lando. Maria is still there. So hi Alando hi, Marie. I'm still want to come back long releaser and Venus wider. If you asked me to be a splice, I've even floated in the world. I would personally say it was lonely Lisa in Venezuela. And I know a lot of pilots who flew there in 96 still think that I'm in this house in the jungle and it's me.
And there's two young guys, 19 year old Rashad DeLong. I think I'd already made, I think Rashad had already come over for the Kings mountain nationals mixed up RO Rodriguez. It was like 17. Right? And so I'm like, we got out the little Hill behind the jungle house and the role's doing his thing every day was like, I mean, Billy look at him, Rochelle was like, Oh, this guy's going to change the sport man.
Very accurate, you know, Rashad passed this week and his 47th birthday and he was a good frame, analytical Rashad. So we've got some good G stories tucked away in here. And he was amazing. And he got a little language and like five days. Wow. And Venezuela is, here's a good Rashad story. We had this incredible task. You know, we're flying these like a hundred K tasks. And in the early nineties, the conditions were just fantastic.
And this day I didn't make it to go. He went down the last 10 point, which was a bit bummed out about this big, quite nice looking ranch, you know, in typical sort of U S mentality. I'm trying to sneak out of here without being seen. And there's this big, beautiful house up on the sort of mound and I'm coming around the corner and this guy comes out, he looks down, he says, Van's coming by, we're having a barbecue.
Why don't you come up? So I go up there and this guy is having an accountable party and he's got all these models from Caracas and have, and Rashad had already landed. So he was already out there. And as a counselor, I mean, it was a German girl that crashed ad on the app skit to the farm. And then she was fine, was doing a rescue. And it was obviously like a few hours. So now Rashad and I passed on at least two veins and stayed at this carnival potty to the lawyers.
So it's really super fun afternoon evening. And then I ended up just being an incredible diet flyer and they threw me in the back of this pickup truck. I remember driving back to, and I'm in a hole, it's tingling sensations up and down my whole body like that. And I'm looking, it was first time I've been flying in because we always find in feet per minute.
So I converted all my instruments over, but I still didn't really know what it mean. And then I was like, we didn't like sevens and eights and things like it was a really booming day and I was kind of doing these calculations and just realizing how strong lifted had been and what a great day it had been. And we got back to the hotel and I had a girlfriend and she was all worried. Cause it's like midnight, you know, we haven't got in reaches or cell phones or anything like this. And I, and jockey saying this and a bunch of kids were there and I came in and I was like, Oh man.
I said, let's say the best day of my life, you know? And they'll start laughing. And then people don't usually that happy when they died. My goal From start to finish. So making go pro design then. Yeah. And that's when I really started to get into it.
Speaker 5 (27m 50s): Yeah.
Speaker 2 (27m 51s): Yeah. 95, 96, 97, 98. Probably like my prime years in the States. And also when I started to go to South American ball, I remember I was thinking to go to Europe to fly PWC the following season in the spring, Dave bridges guys to be guys Kiwi is, you know what? It's like flying BWC in Europe. You should stand in a shower and rip up a hundred dollar bills.
He says, the place you Veda Bravo in Mexico, this was 96. And so I hate, and I'd actually met Miguel Gutierrez at that point. We've been working together in Aspen, Ben Bailey, Chris, Chris and Santa Croce, and Dave and Robbie had gone down there because of the gal Miguel get Tyrus was, you know, at that time, one of the world's top hanging out of pilots, I think third or fourth, and the Owens had been leading the call to the last day, but then he had back issues.
So they couldn't really fly, hangs very more, much more. So he took up paragliding pretty seriously and mixed in the mid nineties. And there's a lot of hand GLAAD paragliders. So I was down there for the winter of 96. Well, basically what happened was I tried to drive to Ecuador. If I did move to Ecuador, I decided I was leaving the States and I was gonna sit up and I had a bit of a disastrous trip. My traveling partner crashed and broke his back in a Weiler.
It was parallel, ended up being paralyzed for life. And then he died and I'd been as instructor. Mmm Mmm. To this day, obviously many, many times. And I think he passed out in a spiral cause he was a very good athlete and a top extreme skier it beginning to do in his Spyros. And I was like, well it might, if you need a spiral, hi, I'd fly across country. And then gone back up to yeah. The truck, thousands of feet to play with any of goals.
Well, exactly. And that, I definitely think there's a lot of it goes on more than people realize. And so that was really pretty tough having a good frame that you're taught how to fly this himself up. And then those years just got really kind of crazy. 96, 97, 98. It was like crazy. Yeah, it was definitely, we were right. We were right on the edge. We were sort of, I think there was something strange going on with the design and really figured out or pushing it too hard or whatever.
I flew my, I threw my reserve twice one year PWC and bean is wider. And the practice day chasing Andy here to get through some saddle and that went fine. And then I think the next year I threw it and Shalane above the Butte state, he didn't even throw his reserve. He threw his like twice in six months. Like everybody I knew was checking resumes. Bill Belcourt broke his neck at Kings. It was just a lot of carnage. And my love for the sport was kind of what had Wayne pretty hard at it.
You tell me a story about Robbie thrown at Cheyenne. That was, was actually one of these deals where he kept trying to press for a crash. Was that Robbie broke through in Australia. I don't know. You'd have to ask him, but no, the first time it went up, ever, we drive up and Montse bell through right above us and came down on top of the Butte under reserve and picked out relaunched.
Well, we're getting our stuff really. And meanwhile, you know, the funny thing about plot in America in those days was everywhere. We went, we were being told we were going to die. You know, the idea of having a paragliding competition in Chilean view, the nineties was highly controversial share. And apparently the handout of pilots would not be happy about it. And, and that was it. That's a good role. Robbie little story is him kind of railing out the Buick and they have this big pickup truck and he at night with him and, and I rarely used to have stop.
They got the doors open and music's on it, blaring Jane Stratton around. And you can see this little group and a lot of pilots pistol. So finally the one of these guys comes over and he goes up to Robbie and he goes, Oh, you know, some of us have come up here for some peace and quiet and Ravi looks in and goes, really I've come up here to rock. And the guy just tins around and goes back to his buddies confused. And someone's like, ah, that scrubbing, it was actually one of the funniest, but yeah, it was very controversially roulette.
And you know, I mean, looking back, we were talking to him with Larry tutor, you know, when they had the first idea that we're going to write pilots and be safer, you know, we had a P three structure and to get a P three in the early nineties for your first couple of years, you had to do a full stall and a negative spin on your glider above the ground. That was the requirement. Yeah. So like was the new one now be like an advanced intermediate, which was just crazy looking back.
And it was kind of the same with the competitions. We really went the strongest places and some places that we had two cops in Kings mountain. They're incredible. Really considering the equipment when you fly in on, in the nineties, pretty wild. That was, I think the first time I met Rashad, cause he turned up for that summer and he was so hilarious. Like he was just caning everybody, but he kit landing like 50 feet. Shorter goal was something like he would, he would be like 30 Ks ahead of us and he'd be full book barring and not like they keep coming short of the goal line and all this crazy stuff 19.
He was so well. And then one days after he leaves, it was so good. He was up at like 17, 18,000 feet or something. And I saw this cloud and I see this what's happening was this cloud. So I go to the cloud, it's small Kiwi, 18 and a half thousand feet all by himself. And then he does his bombs.
50 shorter goal again. I mean, that's amazing that you guys were, they were throwing comps. It came back. No, I don't think one person flew there last year. No. After bill broke his knee and fortunately he was recovered with no you'd never know. And that was like, I mean, it was such a little brotherhood in those days that was a pro design and Adele thing was going on.
You were on one team or the other, that was a bit of that going on. But in reality, when, when you know, I mean Bill's accidents, a example, bill, it was the last task and we also build crash and then Josh cone and Robbie landed beside them and very strong conditions like that. And that alone was amazing dive bridges and we'll get slew to the bottom. We self organize the rescue even without the organization where the ambulance there will.
And Dave led these two overweight EMT guys up to bill and like pull out the oxygen and they're like, Oh, you know, you want some oxygen in it Belcourt goes, I think you guys need some first
Speaker 4 (36m 26s): Take care of yourselves.
Speaker 2 (36m 31s): Yeah. This said, I'll call, you know, the nationals. And he was out in front. So he didn't know, but everybody behind it just stop and self organize this rescue, you know? Cause that's how it was in those days. It was little brotherhood. It's quite an amazing group. The original pilots that got to going in these different places.
Speaker 4 (36m 54s): Robbie was living in sun Valley then. Or was that when you guys were living here?
Speaker 2 (36m 58s): Oh, Robbie was in sun Valley drinks by any, once he lifted Dell, he started working fire Firebird and then they moved to then ozone started. Yeah, it was when he needs to stay there, which is fortunate for me is ozone have definitely done a lot to keep me in Paragon. And then I went, I was, went with some, saw those guys in the early years when I started the early two thousands. It was most of the, my few seasons in Europe.
Speaker 4 (37m 30s): But after that candidate, that stretch, that was, there was a lot of Karnes and stuff. Did you?
Speaker 2 (37m 36s): I took it back from racing and then that sort of coincided with the hos own adventure was, was only really took a step away from racing when it started, you know, where they tried to start a serial class with the PWC and that I think lasted one or two seasons. And then when that sort of failed as a manufacturer in the early days, we'll kind of like, well, we're not really that interested in racing, which is ironic now.
And Robbie and Bob jury regarding India starting the whole thing. Well, some of the early pioneers and acro came along, which the octane was a, was a good, you know, early wing for, so ozone sort of capitalized in the early days on their intermediate back at a lot, I think. And that's what I was flying. I flew for 15 years, I flew DHT two guiders.
Speaker 7 (38m 36s): Yeah. So by like 97, 98, I ended up as my trip to Ecuador had not happened or fallen to pieces. And I ended up back in the States and, and Robbie was getting ready to move to Europe. And I was flying the pro design max at this point. And I don't know what was going on with gliders and 97 or 98, but that's an eight any quarter. Then it was something that, but they were very prone to spend in and collapsed quite radically, certainly.
And none of it, not much of the internal structure like the gliders do now. So my Mac said this habit, that every time I would give it a decent amount of bar, it would never really have asked metrics. It would just do this sort of like more like today's guide as these monster full frontals. There were this come down and almost slap you in the face, leading edge that against the rises and then reopened violently and you'd end up, I would end up spinning the thing, right. There was one task at King's mountain when I spun it three times on the way to go and it's online and then I'm seeing pilots much more talented than me like Robbie and these guys, they're all saying go their hands full, you know, and I'm starting to think maybe this is not such a good idea for me and Dave ridges.
And I was working tandems for Dave and Aspen and 98. I remember the, one of the last conversations I had with him. He was telling me that he thought racing was getting too dangerous and he was going to go back to mountaineering to give them someone else to do. And then he ended up getting killed climbing like a year later. And it was about that point that I decided I was going to flip the coin and move to new Orleans Louisiana, which is about as far away from Paragon as you can get in the United States.
And you know, I have this kind of split personality where there's the outdoor paragliding, climber skier personality, and there's also the writer photographer underground personality. So these two personalities tend to flip backwards and forwards a lot. And so 98 or 99, I, I made the move to new Orleans was definitely seeing my paragliding career in a completely different direction for the, like the next 15 years or more.
I became heavily involved in the burning man community from 99 on. And that was always the same weekend for years as the U S nationals. The U S nationals were always on Memorial day weekend. I think Josh Cohen got that changed because he wasn't going to burning man, but I just forgot, completely forgot about racing. And then, like I said, I ended up going to Europe and I think 2000 and 2001 and was around sort of Stata ozone and your ozone ozones become this big behemoth of a company, but there wasn't very many people involved for staff.
They all work really hard. Those first few years were a lot of fun. And 2001, I drove to the world championships and Sierra Nevada in Grenada with Russell Ogden and met Tega I'd already rusted. Rusted just started working for ozone. I think I'd actually met him before. He started working for ozone at a British team training thing in Costa hall. So we drive down to these 2001 Sierra Sierra Nevada worlds, which personally, I think must go down as the scariest world championships of all time.
The carnage 2001 in Spain and Granada was crazy. I watched Andy here to get break his foot, top landing. And one of the practice days, I think the entire Australian team went to the hospital before the event even started. Hopefully I won't get in trouble for that statement, but it was crazy. I mean, what happened was they kept setting tasks in front Granada, Sierra Nevada is this giant volcano in Southern Spain.
We were in this, it was like 40 Ks up the road to the village. It was just a winter village. So we're up there and some are the only ones up there. It was really crazy. And they kept doing these tasks sort of in front and the lower with these canyons and things. And it was just carnage. It was the first year the pods came out. I watched Jen spin down through the gaggle. I think Josh took a big spin on a part. The pots were quite not quite worked out. There was a lot of candidate. Jane was also some pretty crazy good flying.
One day they did a hundred kilometer triangle out in France, and then we did 40 Ks off the bag or 50 Ks to the beach. So we launched in the snow and we got super high that day for a lot of people was the highest they'd ever gotten in Europe. We've got spot over 16,000 feet, but you know, they did this hundred Katy triangle out front that had a little bit of an into this big, super long glide to the beach and the bag. It was really cool. Wow. To launch. And I think it's the only time we ever launched in the snow and landed in the scene.
And what was that? Was the carnage mostly due to these canyons and stuff? Or was it like rotor and Linde and all of the above and just wear the gear with the equipment was it was starting to get better. I mean, this is where Robbie and ozone were advocating for a cereal class, which, you know, ironically got canned because they said it was too dangerous, too dangerous because pilots would try too hard on serial class gliders, which I never really understood that, especially now.
I think it's really a shame that we don't have a PWC competitions for Sierra class D class gliders, because there's so good these days. Like,
Speaker 8 (44m 42s): And then between like the little shop open or one of the ozones and a PWC,
Speaker 7 (44m 48s): It would be great if we could just have a Cyril class PWC, they had two classes, which was good, but the PWC is, it is it's full. So it's not, you know, you'd almost need another whole class, but they're so inspirational. The serial class, the class gliders of this era, like I think that early dream of a serial class would have been perfect for the Xenos or the ice peak sixes or now the leopards, you know, and you're seeing these guys do, I mean guys, fly Leibowitz and PWCs and do quite well on them.
So, yeah, so that was actually my first article for cross country magazine dotted my long relationship with Miller and cross country. And I remember I'd been driving down there and I was telling Matt Tega that I thought I'd try and write an article for CrossCountry about he's got a huge Prentice. I was like, Oh, was good to have it go anyway.
So it was kind of taking notes and I'd already like written half of it when I first met you. And I said, I'm a writer, you know? And I said, I've actually been working. I thought I really can have a look. So he sat down and he started reading, he read like three pages and he's like, eh, we'll print this. Cool. And that was the start of, what's been a long relationship with those guys, which has been great. Yeah. That's 20 years. Yeah. Getting hired and fired and hired and fired.
And I also kite wheel magazine sort of their spinoff. I was the feature editor for that for a couple of years. Just fun as well. But yeah, I think that 2000 worlds also, I was just like, man, these guys are crazy. I can have this racing stuff. And so my, my, my own flying career sort of mimicked where ozone was going at that point. Cause they put a lot of emphasis into their intermediate gliders.
So I was perfectly happy to fly those for years. And then the kite civic thing kind of took over my life a little bit. There was a few years there where I just didn't really fly. When you went down to Canberra, I, the static tight world and Hughes like right, you're going to come right to kite wheel. Cause it's going to be a much bigger magazine cross country. And I was like, well, I don't like kite surfing. And, and you know, I just, I don't really want to do it.
So they're all right. We got you, we got your lessons. And to refer, you're going to go to Teresa Spain. Oh, that's the thing. I didn't know how to cut. So my way I'm going to write for the magazine. I don't know how to cut. And at that point, no one really knew how to cut it. So it wasn't that big of a deal. So they sent me off to, to refer to learn and it rains for like two weeks. And then I'm just getting sick of this. And then I get a call from Robbie and they're going to teens to a glacier to do what for the very first snow kites that they'd just been developing.
So I end up, I fly to Spain to go to the beach. I ended up on teen glacier and teens of Pascal's your beer and some of these early, early smoke height guys. And then I think I wrote the first article about snow kiting ever. And that issue, which was kind of a weird. And then, so then I come back to the States and I live in new Orleans and then the closest spot they're like, Oh, there's a guy in Canberra. And I will give you some lessons in Dominican Republic.
And I'm a pretty well traveled person. But I had to actually look up where the Dominican Republic was on a map. I had no clue. And then I went there and ended up buying a house. And then that was kind of base camp for a few years. And the flying just kind of fell off. I really wasn't flying. I went to India for the first time in 2000 or 2001 and beer, the handful of guys that was really, really fun.
Jim and Eddie, John Jim, Jim Malison, Eddie and John were there. Jim was Jim Malison and I had meet in Spain if you had your heater seasoned before, and he is a Sanskrit scholar, he knows a PhD in sanscript from Oxford. And I'd always been interested, these combo mailers, these giant gatherings that they have. And, and I thought it had been that year that I missed it.
And, and Jim was like, no, no, it's next year. This is all gonna be there. I'll be there with my girl. You know, we'd go there. And he would actually camp with the side who's right in the middle of the craziness, you know, there's 20 million people in these games. And, and I was like, Oh, I want to go get a mailer and say, screw me down a few instructions on a piece of paper. And then six months later, I went to India for the first time and managed to find them, which 20 million people.
And that's another story, which I probably can't tell him. You can tell anything here, but that was how I ended up in India the first time with it, with those guys. And then I met and when I first went to beer, I got super sick. Like we got some guys in the airports or me my bag, and there are a couple of French guys who were going to be here. Who'd been there before and we all traveled up together on the bus and we go, and then we ate something at one restaurant, again, super sick, like India, sick.
Yeah. And I thought I was going to die. And the hemo and Bruce Mills, who was the New Zealand pilot, who sort of helped develop the area, he was coming around and checking on me. And when I met him, we sort of put it together that he had been the mentor of the guys that had been my mentor back in New Zealand in the mid eighties, this kind of strange connection all the way back to the start. Once again, I mean, I love B is a really cool place. It's been interesting to watch it keep developing over the years and the way the flying developed in the way towns developed and everything else.
Speaker 3 (51m 19s): So you go through this period of kind of early two thousands, not flying a ton. And when I met you in 2014, you were really kind of coming back to it. That's kind of when you came back to comps, right?
Speaker 7 (51m 32s): Yeah. I mean, I did a bit of, you know, a little bit of traveling and adventure flying. I still always had it always had a glider in the, in the closet. And my, I got married. I was living in new Orleans and my ex wife's family have a condo in Telluride, which was fantastic. So I got to a bunch of flying and Telluride with Jeff crystal. Here's the local legend. And then in 2011, part of this was to do with my immigration status when I got married and I got pretty much stuck in the States.
There's a number of years there. I couldn't travel outside of the United States getting my green cat sorted out. So that definitely slowed me down for the flying and I must've gotten my green card back in 2011. I got my green card in 2011. And the first trip I did was to Peru with Jeff crystal. And there's this, you know, paragliding opens some crazy doors for you sometimes.
Like it's amazing the opportunities you can get from this very strange skewer sport. We turn up in Lima, Peru, and we're flying at the coast and we're hanging out the local pilots and Jeff's kind of well known down there. He's got a Peruvian wife and this guy's like, Oh, do you want to come to this place called Saundra Rami with us next week and fly in this reenactment of an inking battle.
So basically what happened is we there's, we go down to this place down towards Costco and they have a reenactment of a battle between an inking drive in the local drive that got wiped out and they get 5,000 university students and they dress them up in full regalia and they do a reenactment of this battle, but it's also tied into a very old tradition where the local boys for a man who tests, they would dig a pit and they would cover it with bamboo and awful.
And when a condo landed on top of the pit, the boy had to reach up through the sticks and grab the condor by the legs and capture it. So they had captured three condos for this event, which they release from this pyramid. And they wanted us to fly up. Paragliders off the pyramid at the same time.
Speaker 3 (54m 7s): Oh, awesome.
Speaker 7 (54m 9s): So only me and Jeff and one Peruvian guy, I actually managed to get off this little postage stamp of a pyramid. And I just recently found these photos again. I just posted them recently. I must do an article about it. Cause it was such a crazy rant. And then we're like third wheeling up with the condos and there's this giant battle going on below and this
Speaker 3 (54m 33s): And skins and Whoa.
Speaker 7 (54m 35s): It was wild. Yeah. It just like, I mean, because we had paragliders, they're like, Oh, we want you guys to, you know, be in the middle of this ancient reenactment rituals
Speaker 3 (54m 47s): In Cusco. Isn't that where the 10 pilots put like these kind of skis underneath their harnesses. Cause the air is so thin. So when they come in, rather than trying to run it out, you know, if there's not some wind or something, they just gland on their butts and skin it out. It's quite possible. We're a ways away from, Oh, that is okay. Okay. Yeah, because cuscos like 11,000 or something.
Speaker 7 (55m 9s): So I'm around me. So then from there, Jeff and I went to harass, which is the center of the climbing and Peru, alpha Mayo, Oscar around all the biggest peaks. And we went out there to do some adventure flying and cross country get in touch with me and they go, Oh, there's this guy down there. He's trying to organize this thing, being a journey ASCII. And he wants to organize that X Andes.
And, and we want you meet up with them and maybe do an article on this thing. And I was like, Oh, that sounds interesting. He was in the area. And it turned out that Zevia Marillo was with them and you know, no exams. It's the first, the first BWC and in his Whaler, I remember going up to pretty nervous. This is huge, calm, you know, these legions, what's it going to be like first task briefing Xavia comes out is wearing an Eddy hat, Eddie hash D shit, big marijuana leaf on it just gave me a ride.
It's wild fridge guy. And you know, these days we took, we took photos, whichever, I don't know how much people remember about the old days of racing that we took, the standpoint photos, free GPS, and the ways you can this, they would process the photos that night and would give us these box cameras. They're in one hand their box camera. And let's take a pin in the map where we thought we landed. Right. Which is immediate source of argument. Right. And then we would have to hand in the camera, prove that that show we're in these different sectors.
Right? So they would then process all these films at night. And the task, the rescue would like Zev would look at all the photos to see that you're in the zones. And so he's dealing with all these different nationalities and his way of dealing with like other pilots explaining why they were in the zone and what it was just so classic looking day, he was so good at so good with people. He was really a heart and soul.
The BWC was his baby. You know, guy said, tell me a funny story that there was a year and, and the Brits British nationals where the guy lost the British championship. Cause he didn't take the helmet photo of his number. You had to take a photo of your helmet with your number and at the task force. And all these things let's go would have won the whole British gyms. He got DQ because he can take his helmet photo.
That would be a rough one. So anyway, we're in Porras, which is beautiful place, but rarely like, I mean, I floated him layers of fun all over the place bruise full on and it's windy. And as these, we were probably a little late and there's these deep, deep valleys that you dropped down into, like it was getting blown back out or stuff. I sat at this landing on top of things and walking down, it was crazy full on place to fly even on an immediate lighter.
And yeah, so Zevia, and I ended up teaming up for most of that week. And when we were in the whole, the whole X Andy's thing was a bit of a shit show, but Zevia was there. Cause he basically was another country that he floated and he told me it was his forties country floated and he was just there on a holiday. And then unfortunately he disappeared on us. We're all in the sternal together.
And I pulled out to go and take a couple of photos of male and some stuff was right by and he made another jump back to this next Ridge. And Jeff loves not quite high enough. He was on a higher performing glider and then he disappeared. And then I just remember waking up, hello. He works down at the same hotel at night and just remember waking up like five 30 in the morning with a really bad feeling about the whole thing. Cause we were just hoping that he'd flown far and was coming back. And so I got up and I went round to his hotel to see if he'd come back in a bubble of diff crystal on the way Jeff was same thing and Zev wasn't there.
And then we had like a seven day search and rescue for him. And I ended up writing sort of daily briefs for cross country that we managed to raise a lot of money for zags rescue or failed rescue as it turned out, you would find them. And I was really pleased at it. I actually went to the PWC meeting and Brazil this last year and they still have that fund that we started that came out of for, for, for, you know, you realize you were fine with him.
I was the last one that saw me. Yeah. And it was, I mean, he'd been, he'd been a little ill, the inflow in the day before. And, but there was nothing. I mean, there was nothing particularly different about that day or anything else. He just got really into the big mountains and he actually crashed into Husker around and he was just loving it and you never did find him. We found him after seven days. Yeah. We ended up getting this like slow moving plane, you know that the use for aerial photography and then they fell, they went through the same zone like twice, but this was kind of a crazy story.
So we're wearing her eyes trying to organize this rescue and the PWC scene up a Canadian pilot who lived in Chile, who was good for him, his aims. And they sort of sent him up to help coordinate with the rescue. And there was a report there. A kid had seen a glider and we had a, it was kind of a reward being offered at this point. So we got down to the police station and we're talking to this kid trying to figure out if there's any truth to the story.
And this Canadian guy was PWC. He's got his tablet with him and he's watching the world's and Pedro heater live time. And he's like, Oh, one of my buddies has just crashed. And then like a few minutes later, he's like, Oh no, none of my buddies has just crashed. He said like the two guys that crashed the first one was agitating and I was chilling with them. And so here we are trying to deal with every year and all the carnage is going on Apidra heater of the hour.
Eleven's and what have you at exactly the same time? And I remember that was just such a surreal experience. I told them just to go back to the hotel and do what he had to do, you know, it was just so weird. These two events were going on, on opposite sides of the planet at the same time. Wow. And I mean, racing really changed that they all over the world. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Xavia was a, was a great influence and a great guy.
Speaker 1 (1h 2m 34s): Yeah. I was always had it described to me as kind of the heart and soul.
Speaker 7 (1h 2m 39s): Well, it was his concept and the real tragedy of that day and that whole event as he had a drawer full of spots back in France and he went through without a, without a beacon, you know, which when they just come out, so there were still kind of new technology to do as all Jeff and I had them now. They like the most essential piece of equipment. They can't go fly without those. Yeah. And that's one of the things like, it's just amazing how the technology, like I always say of all the sports I've been involved in paragliding is the one where, where my imaginations never keep that with reality.
Right. Because it's as good as my imagination as paragliding just keeps going beyond it. And we're so far beyond what I would have ever imagined in the nineties. Like if you had told me that one day you fly almost 250 miles, I mean like yeah, right. The plane and the way the Paraguard is have continuously improved and our equipment and enriches all these things, you know, it's really open to up.
Speaker 1 (1h 3m 48s): Hmm. What has been the, kind of the biggest driver of your kind of re collision? I guess I'd call it with, with paragliding. Cause you're, you know, now how many costs did you do in the last couple of years?
Speaker 7 (1h 4m 3s): I did, I did 14 and 13 months last year with a broken wrist in the middle of it. And I'm glad I did. I mean, I did requalify for the PWC after like an 18 year gap or something. My Rica legend came. I was in Jackson hole. And just once again, because I'm very grateful for ozone, cause I was only kicked me in flying all these years and it wasn't just Rob little.
It was also Russell Ogden and Mike, Kevin I'm, I've known Mike for a long time and they've always been very helpful at keeping me flying. I'm very grateful for that. And the intermediate God is getting really good. Like the Delta two was, was, was the fit. The Delta two was the first glider that I got on that. I was like, Oh, this is a real exceed wing. You know, I really felt like suddenly you pay on God as if you do things with those kinds of excitable. The shock knows, you know, it was really like you realize things were happening.
And then I was in Jackson hole and with Nick Greece and John Hunter, John was one of the original Jackson pilots and was my lane flying partner for like a decade, you know? So we've always been good buddies. And so I rock back into Jackson and that was actually pretty funny. I, we got back the first day and it looked like a good day flying, but all the tandems were not going flying. So I would assume it was all blown out and the boys would go and do it biking.
So I'm like, Oh, let's go do biking in Idaho. And we go over to Idaho, we're dirt biking. And we're up on top of this Ridge and I'm with Tom Bartlett and a couple of 10 and guys, you know, and I'm looking at the clouds and what, man, that's really not moving that fast. And they're like, Oh no, we just didn't want to fly today. We used to all right. So they just said it was blown out. Oh no Valley believed them. Right. So now it's like five in the afternoon. We finished out there biking and I'm like, Oh, anybody want to go to Targhee?
And they're like, wait a minute. Gliders with us. And I got my class, I'm going to go to Taghi. So in 97, I was the first person that flew across the Tetons from Targhee back to Jackson. I was the first one that made the crossing. After coming back from my, from being his Whaler, I was all fired up. All right. So now this is like, you know, many years later I'm on the Delta too. And I go up there like late afternoon and I launched immediately go like 15 or 16,000 feet, fly back over the grand flower around the place and go and land.
And I don't make it quite big to Jackson. I land out on the road to the park somewhere, super close over it's job Patterson. Hasn't seen me like a decade, right? Like, Oh, I just flew here from, McGee's like no way. So yeah, I think the next day we're going up with Nick, you know, I just meet and we're going up to Phillips Canyon. Cause I think the village was blown out and, and you know, Nate, you had just done this big flight and somebody else had just done was like
Speaker 4 (1h 7m 31s): Farmer farmer had broken the record and 193 miles earlier that summer. And then Nate, a couple weeks later went 199 miles a week before.
Speaker 7 (1h 7m 43s): Yeah, there was this, there was this feeling that 200 miles was going to drop in the Rockies at any moment. And it could be Utah. It could be some value. And Jackson, I was probably the least likely place for it to happen. Cause it's really not that super well set up the last few years they've been here.
Speaker 4 (1h 7m 59s): Yeah. A lot of wins
Speaker 7 (1h 8m 3s): And Phillips Ghanians is one of these funny little places where you're kind of under the wind and you're in the Lee side, you're under the wind and it releases like once a day, when the convergence, when it switches, there'll be this really great, or that will take you out of here. And if you just happened to be in the right spot and you catch the stable, that's the write out the same thing with that. John hadn't caught on the challenge to see like 20 years earlier. Right. And so we're going up to launch and there was a guy that it was a mountain bike accident in those days.
One guy was hurt and which, and you could tell it, Nick and John just wanted to get to the Lord so bad, but we start, we help these guys out. We gave him a ride or we did something funny. I ran into one of the guys recently and he remembered, he remembered that he used the value helped us. And then we get up to launch and John and Nick just launch straight into that convenience. And they flew 200 miles from there. You know?
And John was in a nice big six and Nick was on the first end zone. And that was the nicest like, Oh two liners. Huh? These things look, you know, that was a big jump. Suddenly it went from flying a hundred miles was manly to, you know, 200, 200 miles was now the Mark. And that was pretty big jump. And so when the two, like the two letters, it's like, okay, I want to start finding out more about what are get back into this inspiration. It was definitely that flow is a huge inspiration.
Speaker 1 (1h 9m 36s): That's interesting. Cause that series was the, the reason I moved to sun Valley that I was in Europe that summer, when that happened and when those flights went down, it just, I think it blew a lot of people's minds. It wasn't just me. It was just everybody in the world and went, are you kidding me? What the hell is going down over there?
Speaker 7 (1h 9m 54s): And that was that article. I wrote the Rocky mountain 200, which is kind of where I started.
Speaker 1 (1h 9m 59s): And that was kind of Belcourt concept. Right? What did he call it? Two to 200 on a two liners or two for two liner or something. And it was his whole thing that they would like to push, you know, those guys were all chasing it and like you'd get 200 miles.
Speaker 7 (1h 10m 13s): Yeah. That was a fun, fun sequence for sure. And even at that point, if you'd told me that there would be 200 ball flights in my future, I don't necessarily believe that. But so then I was like, all right. So that was sort of got me back into the racing, back to Shalane. And when I went, I was like, alright, I'm going to start racing in, you know, all my buddies from the old days like, Oh, get yourself an Enzo too. You know, like, ah, you know, this is to take it a little bit easier and I flown him sex and then alien was six and then I want skin right place.
Right time. I found out that Nick and grace and Josh Cohn and John Hahn were all going to Brazil to Canada and I'd want him to go. I've been hearing about geisha for forever. I was good friends with the Mexican pilot for Lee Baker. And Philippe was I think the first one that told me about Kesha back in the day and Oh, I'm sorry. Sound like good boys trip.
Can I come along? You know, so I kind of just jumped on the trip, but like I jumped on you guys this week and I get down there and I realized that, you know, Nick and Josh had got their race faces on and there's this serious. I would have breaks and records and stuff. And I think we're on like a boys trip and there are like 400 K 400 K 400 K you know, and I'm like, that's way out of my league. But there was a town called Perry Curry, which sounded Mari like from New Zealand through very good, easy to be married.
And that was right at 200 miles right in it. I was like, all right, that's my goal. I'm going to fly 200 miles. And on the second flight, I flew 198 and a half. I flew, I got super Perry. And I mean, meanwhile, if I had just float away from Korea when I would have easily broken it, but I was determined and I got to periphery and I realized to get 200, I was going to have to go over the town and there was no air disease and I was trying to get around it.
And I went down at 198, 318 K's or whatever, which I, to my astonishment was the New Zealand open distance record. I don't actually flown further than any New Zealand. And the only reason I knew that was because Matt sr held the record and he informed me that I had beaten his record from Shalane. Mmm. Big part of the story, because, you know, when I started getting back into racing, we were down in a Valley to Bravo and it was the, it was the Monarch here before the pretax pre PWC.
And that first task I did actually quite well. I made him a goal and like, like Lou, come on people then it's kind of funny. And, and Maddy was in there and he was like, Oh, you know, kind of, cause I met him and pretty much tapes. And then, and we would drink and be, we got a ride back in an ambulance and we're drinking beers in the back of the ambulance and he's like, Oh, you should try and fly for the New Zealand team. You know, I need a team mate, cause he had represented New Zealand and like the last three.
And I admit in all my years, I'd never thought about trying to represent for New Zealand and everyone occurred to me. And then when Maddie put the idea in me was like, Oh, that sounds interesting. And so that kind of set me on the path to be a bit more serious about my race and give me a goal and contact with musician flying for better or for worse. And then culminated in the series that I did for, for cross country, with Steve Hamden, the illustrations, which is really one of my most favorite things that I've ever done.
Speaker 3 (1h 14m 14s): Yeah. That was a great series. That was he listening. Kiwi did a four part series. Right.
Speaker 7 (1h 14m 22s): I mean it was supposed to be, I broke my wrist before the series came to its end, fortunately, but I think there's like five of them. Yeah.
Speaker 3 (1h 14m 30s): Yeah. And it was, they're all long form stories about you making the work,
Speaker 7 (1h 14m 36s): Drive the roads. I mean, I have more mishaps than, than anything else, but you know, I've known Steve ham since, since the late nineties and Pedro hate it too. So it was really thrilled to work with him after all these years. And it was a really fun, fun thing. I mean, it's a good, it's good to give yourself goals and flying. I think it's good. Not taking necessarily too seriously, but it's nice to have goals.
Just keep it bouncing you along. And I think I'm 200, 203 in the world and my WPR is rankings at the moment. I really think I'm five better at 53 than I ever have. So it's kinda cool to feel like you can just keep progressing and getting better.
Speaker 3 (1h 15m 24s): You've heard this question over and over again, but I still love it when I ask it. When you look back, you started in the mid eighties, you've had decades now at this game, what would you change?
Speaker 7 (1h 15m 37s): Cool. What would I change? I wish I'd been a better learner early on. I think I have a bit of a learning disability. You know, I was just, I'm still flying more good luck than good management. And I've watched a lot of great pilots not be as lucky. So I feel really fortunate about that. I don't think there's anything I would really change.
It's been, it's been, it's been a great adventure and it keeps getting better. I mean, I didn't expect to be sitting here and Hebrew Tona with you guys and here we are. So who knows where the adventure will go this week?
Speaker 3 (1h 16m 21s): Right. So can we use the word you used when we started this thing all off the collision you've had with flying kind of your whole life? How would you describe the collision between, you know, the psychedelic memoir, the, the, the life that you've lived in that realm and also with flying, how do those two, how do you see those two lining up
Speaker 7 (1h 16m 46s): My two, my two worlds. And I would hope it's more of a dance than a collision these days. I think there's lots of lots of crossover, but essentially the way the similar or the same as is really that like tribes, they're wandering tribes and the psychedelic conferences and festivals that I get to go and speak at always have a really concentration of
Speaker 9 (1h 17m 10s): Interesting people. You know, I think some of the burning man has the reputation of having the highest concentration of the most interesting people you'll ever meet in your life. And that's generally pretty, pretty right from my experience and same with conferences. And I'm finding, you know, I have the same experience in paragliding. It's just a different tribe. It's different family. And I mean last year, you know, I flew in 13 or 14 comps and 10 countries and I made so many new friends.
I met a ton of friends in the English pilots, you know, flying the last couple of years and it's, you're moving around seeing your friends and both of these kinds of things. And they're both really interesting groups of people. It was funny at the PWC and then dropped us in Brazil. I keep asking people about what they had done or what they did outside of flying, you know, keep getting the same kind of answer, which is that generally all had really interesting careers and often been very good at what they'd done and something else.
And then that always meant a lot along the lines of, and then I discovered paragliding and their whole lives kind of dropped off. So I think I've maybe done a better job of merging the two. And I might have had moments like, for example, at burning man, I ran this giant riverboat art car for years. The lady says phrase, and there'd be times I'd look down and there'll be a bunch of top American pilots that I know in a very different seating. You know, now enjoying that at burning man.
So that was always fun and a thrill, but yeah, I think it's really the, the, the high quality of the people I meet in both endeavors that gives me the, it gives it an extra element, you know, what's my next part of my life. Why, why keep it, I keep it apart in my life. And then they're both, you know, examinations of differentiated States of consciousness when, when we're flying, I think you're touched this. Isn't a debt. Isn't a total different mode.
That's not an evolutionary adaption because we've just forced it upon it. I mean, going into clubs totally as, as unnatural as eating a magic mushroom. And so there are these different whether it's meditation or yoga or different things, you know, experiencing differentiated States of consciousness older than mentally makes you a more whole and complete person. I think
Speaker 1 (1h 19m 37s): What kind of people do you think are attracted to this sport and, and draw the line that comparison with what kind of people are attracted to the festivals, the psychedelics, the, that world?
Speaker 9 (1h 19m 53s): Well, the festival world, you know, festivals are very much a 21st century phenomenon. 20 years ago, there was a, like a dozen major festivals in the United States. Now there's 900 or something. And a similar thing has gone on and in Europe where festivals have become a major way, a major social platform and a sort of major cultural event, really. So not particularly well understood.
And I think once again, I think most people are being drawn towards it, this idea of connection and some kind of a tribe. And the more festivals you go to, the more you keeps running into the same people. So you build up this kind of like traveling family, you know, and, you know, I think, I think the, the community aspect of paragliding is very high. Like even at the most top level competitions, people are still friendly and, and enjoy each other's company and there's another pilot might happen to crash, get hurt, and we're all involved in it in some way or another.
So it's a very communal sport, I think, in both the community and that ASP.
Speaker 3 (1h 21m 9s): Do you think there's like a, I've often, you know, we often compare life to the ups and downs of flying, you know, you're, you're on the moon when you're on the moon, it's just, couldn't be better when you're scrapping low, which couldn't be worse. And do you think there's a compare? You know, I've heard stories of, you know, the, the emotional high that is sustained through say a burning man for a week. The coming down off of that can, can really be hard for people in a way that I think flying can for people.
Certainly it has been for me with like something like the X helps, but do you think there's a manic newness to the people that are attracted to this sport? Do you think there's that many of us are on a spectrum or a deal with,
Speaker 9 (1h 22m 1s): Well, it's actually because you live in sun Valley and, you know, I spend a lot of time in Jackson hole, Wyoming, which two of the more extreme kind of places in America where people are attracted to all these various sports. And we're both been a standard of how paragliding has never really caught on even amongst a population that you would think would be more inclined towards trying it. So it make you one, you think, I mean, you were saying the other day you got friends, you ski and bike was like, Oh yeah, that's great, but have zero interest.
Right? I do think that there's a certain mentality that's drawn towards paragliding, especially like CrossCountry flying and competition flying. You never stop learning. And there are very few things in life that you can continue to learn and learn and learn and be really jazzed to continue to learn and learn and learn, you know what I mean, musics and other ones, the playing even instrument where you never get tired of that process of getting better and discovering new things.
And there's no ceiling you. So I think maybe there's people like that are really attracted to it. You see a lot of engineers, you see a lot of software people, especially in the traveling circus that we're a paddle, you know, so there's, as soon the engineering, the engineering mentality towards paragliding noise and music, we like the guys who are like, no paragliding is an extreme sport. And can you say that it's not dangerous to, you know, it's a controlled risk danger to them compare compared to control, you know, controlled risk.
And that obviously those are the kinds of people that are attracted to it.
Speaker 3 (1h 23m 44s): When you look back at your 35, some years of flying, would you change anything? Would you do anything differently?
Speaker 9 (1h 23m 53s): I mean, I think the thing looking back that, you know, we would all love to change. It'd be the accidents and the friends we've lost, you know, of us, really good friends, Chris Mueller and different people that really wish was still around my own personal journey has been blessed. You know, rather fortunate. I wish I'd been a bit of a better learner in the early days. And, you know, I took a pretty substantial break for coming back to competition.
There are some days that I'm like, wow, if I just get edited, I could be half as good as Josh cone or, or Rast by near or a quarter as good. But at the same time, I don't regret the decisions I made to go out and do the other things. I did that. And come back to paragliding, that's been a special journey as well. So the only near grades I have is a high level of incidents that we still continue to have. And I've given that a lot of thought the last few months, since the three PWC in July, unfortunately we had a fatality and, you know, the equipment gets better.
So we just fly it in more and more extreme conditions. We just fly more wind now and everything else. And so you have that fact that the equipment is still a bit of it. The one thing you really can just can't take it out of the equation is the human element and the human beings decision making process. So I don't, and it's funny. I don't think that's something we'll ever get rid of in paragliding. It's just, it's part of the matrix of what we do for me. The ideal is differently. Fly a long time.
You know, I've seen a lot of really good young pilots come and go really quick to come in and burn out soup, coming and get hurt for me. You know, some are like pay, pay and dress Maliki or, or these guys are kind of my ideal of, of just flying at a really high level for as many years as you can, because there are very few sports. This may be the only sport, maybe sailing that guys in their fifties and even into the sixties can be world-class at what they do.
So it makes it very special as well.
Speaker 1 (1h 26m 9s): Your latest book is under the influence 20 tales of psychedelic memoir, which I'm really enjoying and encourage all of you to go out and get it. It's a blast. Where can people find out more value?
Speaker 9 (1h 26m 21s): Yeah. If people are interested in checking out my books, they should look at my website, which is James. Oh, rock Oh Oh c.com, which is my writer's name. And they'll see links to my books and tography and what have you on there,
Speaker 1 (1h 26m 36s): Kiwi? Thanks, man. I hope we get some good flying while we're down here. And, but it's been good. Spend some time with you and thanks for your insights.
Speaker 9 (1h 26m 43s): Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you.
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