Owen Morse breaks the out and back world record- 222 miles
On June 19th of this year Wills Wing pilot Owen Morse ticked off something he’d been chasing for six years- a new out and back world record. Owen flew an incredible boomer from Walt’s Point in the Owens out off the end of the White’s- AND BACK, flying 222 miles. A huge flight in some of the strongest air on Earth gave us plenty to talk about, but Owen also has maybe the most interesting job of anyone I’ve ever met. He’s a professional juggler (where he holds world records for things like juggling chainsaws) AND he hold several world records in the sport of “Joggling”. Sound hysterical? It is! Owen runs and juggles. And he’s damn good at it. He’s done the 100 meters in 11.6 seconds while juggling three balls! He’s run it in 13+ seconds while juggling 5! He and his buddy Jon Wee have been working together for 32 years as “The Passing Zone“, a comedy juggling duo who have played for the Queen; been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (twice); and Jay Leno (among MANY others); were in TheAddams Family movie; have twice been on America’s Got Talent, and regularly perform with Penn and Teller. They juggle a lot of things that are on fire, running chainsaws, rat traps, and throw knives at gorgeous women- and get paid for it! These guys are absolutely awesome and you must must must check them out. We had a really fun talk about flying, juggling, choosing cool life paths, making people laugh, and chasing your dreams. Owen was granted the USHPA Presidential Citation award in 2009 for his hang gliding display at the John Wayne Airport, as well as purchasing (along with Len Szafaryn) the property at Andy Jackson Airfield so free flight could continue there. Enjoy!
Dealing with the pressure of performing in front of huge crowds
Putting a hang glider in the John Wayne airport in 2008 and getting the USHPA presidential citation award
What focused practice and training can do
Being able to stay in the air for 10 hours
Racing the sun, not other pilots
How flying has affected Owen’s life
Flying and leading a charmed life
Mentioned in this show:
Cody Mittanck, Penn and Teller, Johnny Carson, XC Magazine, George Stebbins, Tom Weissenberger, Larry Tudor, The Passing Zone, Jonathan Dietch, Dave Turner, Chrigel Maurer, Will Gadd, Covid-19, USHPA, juggling, Zac Majors, Jonny Durand, Andy Beem, Joe Greblo, Rob McKenzie, Jon Wee
Speaker 1 (0s): Hi there everybody welcome to another episode of cloud based mayhem, recording this in Utah, doing some towing here with Cody MetaBank, who I was just down in Texas with, and a little bit of acro and SIV stuff. And two days after we got down to Texas, I believe that was June 20th or so. So we were just kind of getting into it. I got an email from Jonathan has sent me a bunch of great people to talk to on the mayhem over the years. And he had sent me the article about Owen Morse who had just broken that day on the 20th, the out and back record world record out in the Owens.
That record had been down in Chile for quite awhile. I don't remember who to, he says it in the show here, but the 222 miles on almost the longest day of the year in the Owens, when June 20th, it would have been pretty spicy. I'm sure super tall actually looked at the track log of that. He's got it up on Avery and stuff, but awesome flight from Walt's point. So up the Sierra's crossover, the whites out off the end of the whites and made it all the way home and so very, very cool flight. And this record was something Owen had been chasing for six years.
So we hear about his history and that chase and a bunch of cool stuff in regards to hang lighting, of course, but I also, when I was getting ready for the talk with on realized that he is one of the most, or maybe the most famous jugglers on earth, he and his partner been doing this stuff for 32 years. They've been working together. They have performed for the queen and Jay Leno and Johnny Carson.
They've been on this America's or who's got talent show in the States that think they've been on that twice. These guys throw knives and burning stuff and chainsaws, and they are a riot. It's a comedy show. It is awesome. Got to go to the show notes and check out all the links that we've put up there and all the videos they have, of course, right now with COVID they're not traveling around the world as they usually do performing. So they're doing it all from their studio in California. And so I guess that's probably where he spends most of his time, because to do what these guys are doing has just demanded takes Malcolm Gladwell's thing totally out of their way, over 10,000 hours.
It is remarkable what these guys do super fun. And it was a riot. My daughter was just cracking up at these guys. So we talk a lot about juggling and he not only has a couple world records now and hang gliding, but he's got at least four in joggling. I think that's what it's called. I didn't know that was a thing, but that's running while juggling. And he has, like I said, for world records, but just to put this in perspective, he was having a talk with you saying bolt and he's like, Hey man. So yeah, I've got, I've got a record kind of like yours and your sayings.
I got on, what are you talking about? And he said, well, yeah, I ran the a hundred meters in 11. I think he's 11.2 seconds while juggling three balls. And he's done the a hundred meters and just done like just over 13 seconds. This is all on a show, but I'm still just really excited about it while juggling five balls. So incredible, insane talent and a lot of fun, and really got to go to the show notes and watch some of these videos. This guy's just super fun. And his and his partner, they're obviously having a really good time met in college and they've been doing this their whole life.
So what a cool way to make a living and you get to go hang lighting all the time. So enjoy this doc had a blast with this and they go and did as well. And then you're going to enjoy it. Cheers. Oh, and great to have you on the show. I was down in Texas, we had just gotten there couple of days before you absolutely sent it.
I saw the news pop up in my, my Uber Bruin and cross country feed 222 miles out and back in the Owens, new out and back world record. Congratulations. That just looked fat. I mean, I'm a huge fan of Sierra as anything that happens in the Sierras is always just like, Oh yes.
Speaker 2 (4m 45s): Oh man. Well, you are so kind, let me just start by saying thank you for having me on your show. So I am a huge fan and I love, I love what you're doing with cloud based mayhem and yeah. You know, I'm still pinching myself about that flight and it was a dream come true. And to date my, my best flight for sure.
Speaker 1 (5m 8s): Yeah. And it, I mean, I read the article there's there were several about it. It sounds like this is something that you've been chasing for a while.
Speaker 2 (5m 15s): Yeah. For six years, you know, I saw, I dunno it would have been close to 15 years ago. I think George Stebbins set the out and back world record in the Owens a hundred miles out in the back and that sort of captured my imagination and just went my goodness. That is so, so cool. And then after that, Tom Weisenberger beat that record down in Chile and you know, I just, I always thought it should be done in a thermal flying site and, and California and, and well in a Valley called the Owens Valley seemed appropriate to, so yeah, I I've been working on it for six years and, and finally have just learned the place enough, studied the weather enough, had the right equipment, the right mindset and the right support team behind me.
And boy, it, it happened
Speaker 3 (6m 16s): For those people who are listening, who aren't familiar with the Owens. I mean, it's got that reputation, like some places do, but describe flying there to folks who haven't flown in the Island.
Speaker 2 (6m 29s): Well, it's, it's just, you know, the lore of the Owens Valley has been around since the early seventies. It's, it's a magical place. I think of it sort of being as like the Mavericks of, of hang gliding locations, just big air and you just need to respect it. It's, it's, it's beautiful. And it's, it can be, it can be challenging and a little terrifying and the conditions can be so strong, but my goodness, there's so much untapped potential there.
And it's a place that, you know, and butter pilots don't seem to visit much anymore. It's it's, it seems to sort of dropped off the map for whatever reason, but goodness, it's, it's a fabulous place to fly.
Speaker 3 (7m 23s): Well, it's great that pilots like yourselves and maybe some others are, are maybe getting back into it there, you know, I was down in Texas with Larry tutor, which was incredibly special for me to hang out with him and hear all of his stories and that it used to be, like he said, if you pull up the waltz on a given day and it was packed,
Speaker 2 (7m 43s): Right? Yeah. There used to be, I mean, you watch the old footage of the place, you know, hundreds of pilots going up on a weekend, not even for comps, just, Hey, we're flying, flying the Owens and that was it. And yeah, certainly Larry tutor, you know, put the players on the maps, especially using waltz on the Sierra side. And, you know, it's, it's, I'm thinking it's going to have a resurgence. I certainly, I start seeing paraglider flights happen from there and other launches nine mile road.
And, and you think, okay, this, this could be a Renaissance of, of the place. And I would love to see that happen.
Speaker 3 (8m 24s): Yeah. I mean, for, for us on our side of things, we went out and did that. Bivy across the Sears up to the Oregon border and in 2012. And just before that believe it was right around in that zone. And 2011, 2012, Dave Turner started flying in the Sierras and we were hearing all these stories about him flying there in the summer. And that just hadn't been done in like a decade. It had been a long time since that was going down. And so it's, it's great to see that Owens is back on the map and we used to have world championships there and big comps.
Speaker 2 (8m 59s): Exactly. Yeah. And I think that can happen again. I, I, you know, when you talk about comps, I I'm a mountain pilot. I, I gravitate towards, you know, my home site is Crestline, California, and you know, I'm just flying up and down the mountain ranges all all the time. And that sort of blind makes sense to me. I've done a couple of comps, you know, a big spring and Florida and the flat, honestly, the flat lands confuse me. I, you know, I fly the ground and the wind and I, you know, people don't know, you gotta fly the clouds.
I go, what? Alright, I guess, so I've got a lot to learn, but man, I think there's some interest in doing foot launch mountain flying comps. Again in recent years, they've done some in dinosaur and they just had the Canadian nationals. I did that last year and Kim loops and, you know, that's, that's my type of fly. I, I just really love that.
Speaker 3 (10m 2s): How did you get into all this absurdity and give us a timeframe?
Speaker 2 (10m 7s): Yeah. I had my first tandem flight in 1990 and it wasn't until 93 until I got my first hand glider and yeah, it actually started off relatively slowly and played, had different interests. And in 98 I tore my ACL playing basketball. And so that kind of sideline, and it's like, you know what? This basketball stuff is. It's just too dangerous contact sport.
And I, I played pretty hard. And so I just ended up focusing my attention more on hand gliding and that's, I, I got my hang four in 98 and just start doing cross country flying in 2000. And just, it just really captured me. I just really loved it. And you know, just mostly spent my time flying between Elsinore, a little bit of Torrey Pines and Crestline and, and Sylmar up in LA.
So local Southern California flying, but yeah, then turned my attention to more exi related tasks. So every time I would fly cross Crestline, I'd try to go, just go somewhere and mostly out in bath X. And I just, I find those so civilized to be able to take off fly for four or five hours go as far as you can away. And the chess game of how far out can I go and still make it back, just really appealed to me.
So every time I fly, that's my goal. And there's some good, big air to the East of Crestline that nobody really taps into. So, you know, when, when people are getting 6,007,000 feet of Crestline, well, you're getting 11, 12, 14,000 over Sandra gonio or send you a Sento. And so that, that's kind of been my training ground and I think that's prepared me a bit for the Owens Valley too.
Cause summer, summer days can be pretty strong cross line.
Speaker 3 (12m 23s): Well, yeah. I mean, when you say that Marshall Elsinore is kind of rowdy, is, is that more in the kind of spring? Cause in the summer it gets quite stable. Is that when you move to the other side and start flying out in the Mojave and stuff and finding the desert
Speaker 2 (12m 37s): Yeah. Spring and fall are days where you can get up high enough to make the jump over the back summer gets, yeah, you get high pressure and you get an inversion layer, but you can bust through that if you head East. And that's sort of something that I've learned over the years, that, that the more you head East, the higher the mountains are, and, and you can, you can crack through the inversion layer and, and bust out some good miles.
Speaker 3 (13m 2s): Hmm. You said I'm jumping around here a little bit, but you said on the day that you had the record from waltz needed the out and back, you kind of had the re everything aligned, but you also said you had the right mindset. Tell me about that.
Speaker 2 (13m 17s): Well, yeah, so I, I've been looking for the right day and you're looking for a day, it's like variable at all, elevations or as many as you can. And I was fortunate. I look at the solstice as being my marker, the summer solstice, you know, obviously you're looking for the longest day. And so 20 days before and after the solstice is where I'm really focusing on on the right day on what's, what's going to be likely to give me the opportunity to set the out and back. And I I'm friends with Rob McKinsey and he and I have talked about this extensively.
And we, we figured there's six days a year where, where it actually is possible to do it. You know, I'm not, I'm not a very aggressive pilot. I'm actually relatively conservative. I think my strength is in endurance. I don't really have a problem flying for 10 hours, but it's also, I try to be as aggressive as I have to be to, to race cause you're racing the sun, but I also try to make the smart, smart MOOCs be patient when I have to be patient and, and, and, you know, push when I have to push or am able to push.
So, you know, I fly with oxygen even though I, you know, well, the highest I got was over 17,000 feet, but for the most part, I try to stay low and push above 12,000 feet. You know, I noticed that day was pretty turbulent and you know, the Ohlins can, can eat your lunch, man. So why spend time climbing up through that mess when you can just, just drive and just make short climbs, then drive short climbs.
And so then in climb to the top, when you have to make the crossing. And so just try to be smart about it, you know, and I actually changed my tactic of this year. And I think that was the reason for my success too, is I, in the previous years I had been told that you don't want to go off the ends of the whites and the North past a boundary peak, just cause there's no, no good can come from that. And so I would launch waltz and had 15 minutes 0.2 miles South to Atlanta.
And that's where I would start my get my first turn point. So then with that amount of distance, I could go North and just go to boundary peak as my turn point, just dab into Nevada for just cause I thought it was amusing to, so I put my turn point in Nevada and turned around, but then coming back, you run into the Southern at least at the end of the day. And yeah, last year I was seven miles short after 10 and a half hours in the air. And that was just a brutal decision to look at the numbers and see that I needed like 18 to one to make goal and into a headwind.
And then the watch those numbers just go South and go, Oh no. And to make the decision, you know, I sat in the cross, the Owens Valley, do I like, and you know, the sunset behind the Sierras and you know, I've got 20 minutes to go and yeah, just to pull the, pull it, you know, at the end, just going now, it's it's, I don't want to sit here all night for a long retrieve and, and just make that decision was, was pretty tough, but the numbers weren't looking right.
And I thought, well, I'll try again next year. And that's kind of, kind of it. So this year I just looked into the idea of starting at waltz, tagging a 0.3 95 and then turning back around, go back to waltz and climb up and go North and go off the, get, go off the end of boundary peak and across to the other side and see what was there. And I had never flown that area before, but I studied it for hours on Google earth and just watch XC skies and see where the triggers likely were going to be.
And, Oh goodness, it, it couldn't have gone better. You know, I, I got drilled going off to the end and I thought, this is why people don't do this sustain 2000 feet per minute down and going shoo, I'm an idiot. And, and yet, you know, you're doing that at the middle of the day. And so you're going, okay, well there's gotta be something and sure enough reward where the 700 up on the other side and just wrote it and then got my turn point.
And you know, people were curious that, you know, you see my track log and you can find it online. You know, I didn't turn right around and head back to a boundary because the winds through there, Tim does blow your straight into Nevada and your, and Japan it's
Speaker 3 (18m 3s): Yeah. It's a real, real, real prominent venture.
Speaker 2 (18m 6s): Absolutely. And it reminds me a lot of the Cahone pass and you know, that Chris line, so you go, okay, well, so I played, I played at West a bit and flew over Benton. And so I, you know, and I only lost a thousand feet coming back across to, to the whites, which, you know, I, I, I told Mike Meyer and Steve Pearson, you know, I, I made about three good decisions and three poor decisions. I got lucky three times and unlucky three times. And none of the things I, none of the bad things or poor choices I made, you know, cost me.
Yeah. It really penalize me and, and the good choices made up for those enough that, that, yeah, I, I will say it. Yes, I did get lucky, but I also made some good choices too. And that was one of them to, to head back, to play the wins and get back established pretty quickly on the whites and keep going. So
Speaker 3 (19m 4s): I often think, you know, lucky, you know, we could say the same thing for Kriegel, you know, but pilots, they create their own, they create their, I mean, how can he get lucky that much? Right. So, so he's created, I mean, it seems like with you six years in a sense of trying this and planning it and then identity it to me, it's all identifying the day. And you, how far out did you, were you looking at this day?
Speaker 2 (19m 32s): That's the cool thing is I, you know, obviously I've been studying, like I said, I studied the weather 20 days before, but I saw Friday the 19th on Tuesday and I went, wow, that's the day I saw it, that, that, you know, three or four days out. And I called my buddy George Devins and said, Hey, are you seeing what I'm seeing on Friday? And, and he came back the next day and said, Oh yeah, I think, you know, and none of the days are ever perfect. You don't get a 10 out of a 10, but it was certainly an eight out of 10.
And I thought, that's all I need. And then the next day on Wednesday, when, you know, often you see the date deteriorate or, you know, it's not what it used to be, but it held and it looked like it still could be good. And then on Thursday I said, it's a go. And so yeah. Drove up Thursday night and was bare brighten early Friday morning and any, yeah, yeah. Actually George Stebbins joined me that day. He was just going to do a free flights. So, but yeah, he and I were the only pilots flying that day and yeah.
But you know, I expected to see something now I did launch early at nine 41 in the morning. And, but sure. I, I, it was certainly launchable for paraglider pilots. I thought somebody is gonna bust something good today.
Speaker 3 (20m 58s): Yeah. Well, let me ask you that. So earlier this year, I think it was kind of early June. There was a couple really good days, but downwinders, they wouldn't have been out in backs. And I agree with you 100%, there's nothing sexier than the landing where he took off. That's just, just fantastic. But our guys like you and your crew and this kind of, you know, let's call it a little mini Renaissance or maybe, hopefully I hope that's what's happening. You know, the, those, they had to be Revis. And those guys had two back to back days where they were launching nine mile.
And those of you listening, I realized were thrown on the terms that if you don't know the Owens, that doesn't mean much to you, but the main launch is waltz it's on the Sierra side. You typically fly from there up to kind of near Bishop. And then you cross over to the whites, which is the next range to the East, but nine miles down, further down South. So it's a, it can be a better start if you're just going one way, cause you can get a whole bunch of ground covered on the Sierra side. Then you cross get a bit more ground covered on the whites and then you keep going. And so these guys are, you know, I think ravish did.
It had a couple of days we're kind of in the low 300 K your flight 368 K enlightened variable in a, in and out and back, which is much harder work than just winging it off downwind. Are you, are you flying those, are you thinking about big days where you can connect with like the toy B's and just keep going?
Speaker 2 (22m 24s): Absolutely. Yeah. So I've got my sights on that now. I mean, honestly the out and back just has captured my imagination for years and I it's just, I think it's the second coolest hang gliding record. You can get, obviously behind me, the open distance, in my opinion, I just think there's something just really cool about saying no, I started it and that's specifically actually to be clear, I did get two world records that day. It was the declared out and back, and then they gave me the open cause it happened to be a longer, my declared happened to be longer than the previous open.
So that's pretty cool. Yeah. So, but yeah, just to be able to say, yeah, I'm going to go to this, I'm going to take off here. I'm going to go to this specific spot, this 400 meter radius circle. I'm going to tag it and then come back to where I started. So, but you know yeah. To your, to your point. Yeah. I mean, there's, there's still big miles to be had out there and on a day where you can get off waltz or even nine mile for that matter, I spent some time at night, nine mile in the morning and go, yeah, this is launchable with a hang glider.
I mean, it's a hike in obviously, but if you started there, then you to run all those miles North and then get to waltz pretty early too, and just keep going. And so, yeah, there's some 300 plus miles out there to be had easy, well, not easy, but it's possible.
Speaker 3 (24m 0s): Right? It's it's, it's there. I like how will GAD talks about this? Year's it is just, it's one of the most complex environments you could possibly fly in. And I think there are others, but that there are not many places that are more complex when you, in terms of just the micro stuff you're dealing with. So it's a very rowdy blades.
Speaker 2 (24m 26s): How do you place? And it changes. There's some, there's some patterns that show up that you can kind of anticipate, but you can kind of go, okay, what, what elevation am I going to reply in? What time of day? So you just XC skives is a tool that you, I mean, we just didn't have that back back in the day. And so to be able to just see these trends, these, these patterns emerge, you know, I think again, the Owens Valley is untapped.
We're, we're missing out on some big flights happen in there and I, I can't wait to see other people try it. And I think my plan is to just try to beat the record every year. And I, I, I'm not done. I want to, it's just pure joy for me out there. I, I just love it. You know, I'm not too old. I'm 53 right now and I've got some adventures left in me.
Speaker 3 (25m 23s): Yeah, you do. Let's let's transition temporarily here too. I think you have maybe the most interesting job I've ever heard of. Tell, tell us how you make a living.
Speaker 2 (25m 34s): This is goofy. I, as I mentioned, I, I, honestly, I lead a charmed life. My, my, my day job, I work as a, as a comedy juggler. So I worked with another guy. We have a two man comedy juggling team. We tour the world, primarily the States and doing, doing our show and my buddy, John and I met in 86 at a juggling convention. And at the time, just in college and going, Hey, what are you doing after college?
I dunno, what are you doing? Hey, let's throw a show together and see if we can do that for a couple of years. And then we'll go get our real jobs. Well, that was 32 years ago. And within the first two years we got on the tonight show with Johnny Carson twice. We were in the Adams family movie. If you saw that there's a scene where going that's an uncle fester, pull out these daggers and start throwing them back and forth. That was us. We stunt doubled for Raul Julia. I was Gomez and John was Christopher Lloyd Sparta, uncle fester.
Shortly after that, we did a Royal command performance Prince Charles. We performed at the white house. Recently. We did a couple of runs on the America's got talent. A lot of people might've seen us on that. Yeah, we just, yeah, just last week we were on Penn and teller's pool us. So it's this crazy, crazy gig. And we juggled chainsaws and stun guns and rat traps and you know, ridiculous stuff. The name of our show, we're called the passing zone.
If you have a moment and a lot of BM news go to passing zone.com and see, see all the ridiculous crap that we throw around, but it's a joy. I get to make people laugh for a living. And I just feel as silly as juggling is to throw things up in the air and try to catch them. I'm bringing a small amount of joy into the world. And that just feels great.
Speaker 3 (27m 39s): And have you guys been together 32 years? That's it? Yeah. It's an incredible partnership
Speaker 2 (27m 46s): Is I'm so proud of our partnership, you know, 32 years together and, and still, and still enjoying it and, and appreciating every day,
Speaker 3 (27m 57s): How much training goes into this job,
Speaker 2 (27m 59s): You know, a surprising amount. If you knew how many thousands of hours are behind every routine that you see us, do you just go, you guys are insane. So just we practice every day of the week, usually three to four hours a day. And a lot of that is, you know, honing our skills, but it's also developing new skills and new routines. We have this warehouse space between our homes. John is up in Hermosa beach and I'm down in Tustin and orange County.
And yeah, we have this spot of warehouse space. So we get together, it's our, we call it our clubhouse. And as you might imagine with the current pandemic, there's not a lot of call for live entertainment. So our lives have in a way been put on hold our next gig. Let's see, it's July now, 2020, our next gig isn't until February of 2021. So
Speaker 3 (28m 58s): Which is also, probably still a maybe considering how things are going, right.
Speaker 2 (29m 1s): No, for sure. I think that one's done a definite maybe so we've had to pivot a bit. And so we've turned our warehouse space into a television studio effectively. We're doing live stream shows, virtual shows from there, and our primary market is the corporate events market. So yeah, we restream out our show and we try to, you know, think of creative ways to get people involved. You know, our, our show definitely is heavily audience interactive.
So we figure out a way to, to, to get a mannequin and get a, a, an iPad that we on the mannequin space. And then we face time somebody's on the zoom call and get them to hold their phones right up to their face. And so all of a sudden, now they're in our warehouse space and, you know, we can talk to them and interact with them and just tell them to hold really still. And, and they're really good at that. Anyway, it's a way to, to connect with people and try to break up their day.
I mean, we're all just struggling with this and trying to figure out ways to continue doing what we do best. And, and, and like I said, bring, bring a little joy.
Speaker 3 (30m 19s): Sure, sure. Yeah. So you mentioned, you know, Johnny Carson and Penn and teller and playing for the queen. What, tell me about that. Is it, is it more stressful? How have you guys learned how to deal with that in terms of the pressure?
Speaker 2 (30m 35s): Well, sure. You know, people ask me, you know, okay, do you get nervous before the show? And I just say, well, yeah, every show I, you know, and there's nothing worse than being nervous and juggling. I mean, your skill level, especially doing live TV, goodness, doing, America's got talent with, you know, 14 million people watching you. If you drop a chainsaw, you know, there's no recovery from that. I mean, there's so that's when you have to be really good at comedy. Exactly. Well, that's the thing, you know, you, you, after years of working together with John, we've just figured out ways to, to joke about it and make light of it.
And, but yeah, nervousness to me just means I care. I want every show to be as good as it can possibly be. And, and so, but once you get going and the audience starts reacting and appreciating what you do and laughing, those go away and we feed off of that energy and we give it right back. And it's just, it's just awesome. And it's, it's interesting because there's this interesting parallel, I think, between hang gliding, paragliding as well and, and, and juggling.
And that is, I think they're both really misunderstood. You know, if your listeners are going to go, okay, he's a professional juggler. They imagined me in big floppy shoes and a red nose and a circus, you know, that sort of thing. But it's not at all that. I mean, we, we kind of model ourselves a little bit off of like a Penn and teller, you know, magicians who wear suits on stage and, and are, you know, very comedic based and stuff. But, you know, and the hand gliding world, you know, you tell people you're a hang glider, pilot or Cardon pilot, and they just go, Oh, you're, you've got a death.
Wish, you know, you jump off a cliff and you fly down and they don't understand the beauty and the intricacies of the sport. And I just feel this need this, like all of a sudden PSA to say, no, no, here's what it is. You need to understand that we're finding thermals were staying in there. Her we're launching and landing often when and where we want to. And it's, it's a much different sport than it was in the seventies.
And it was for that reason that I really wanted to do something to reach out to the public. And my airport is, that's why out of all the time as John Wayne airport in orange County here. And so in 2000 and geez, I think it was 2008. I created a hang gliding exhibit there, and it actually is still there today. So if you go to the airport and look up, there are forehand, gliders hanging from the ceiling above the baggage claims there. And it's a way of showing people, cause the preconception of what a hang glider looks like, it's the seventies, you know, bamboo.
Yeah, exactly. And this, you know, things strung together with duct tape, you know, whatever. So to see these carbon fiber sexy wings that just look astonishing and just the new fabrics that you know, manufacturers are using now, I think it's just a way to show that, Hey, this is a sport that's matured and it is a real thing now. And so I, I'm proud that that's still out there as a way to share the sport, even subconsciously with the public in general, as a way of telling them, Hey, we're not what we used to be.
This is something that you should look into. If it interests you,
Speaker 3 (34m 16s): Do you think that your juggling career and all the training you've done, has that impacted how you fly, how you approach flying, how, how you train.
Speaker 2 (34m 29s): Yeah. You know, most definitely. I, I am a huge believer. I mean, I just see it every day, what practice can do and prepared practice can do, you know, I spend hours working on juggling tricks that some of them just for me, you know, things that will never be then show, cause they're just too damn hard, but just focus, practice and you get better and you try different things and you, you experiment and you, so I, I definitely think there's a, a nice crossover of skillsets between hang gliding and juggling them.
And the, the way I look at it,
Speaker 3 (35m 6s): You also look like a really fit person. Is that, is that, do you, do you feel like that plays a part in your ability to fly 10 hours and be cool?
Speaker 2 (35m 18s): Yeah. Well, there's, there's one. I tell people all the time, you don't often see an overweight juggler, and that's primarily because they can't afford to eat, but I bet you, my favorite one is what's the difference between a large pizza and a at an, a juggler that's just a large pizza can feed a family of four, but yo there's obviously a physical aspect to juggling.
And I think, yeah, I mean, it's, it's a very active thing. And I think that has helped my ability to stay fit. And, and certainly the endurance of that as transitioned nicely over to being able to stay in the air for 10 hours. I, I, I, you know, at the end I was fresh. I was, you know, and had I been short again on the 19th, the 20th looked like it was flyable and I was just going, okay, if I'm short, I'm going again tomorrow, I'll be back at it.
And so, yeah, I, yeah, that's, if I have a skillset, you know, I am, I hang out with Zippy, I hang out with, you know, some, you know, Johnny Duran, some of the best pilots in the world and, you know, they are, they're amazing at what they do. So if I have a skillset, I mean, I think it's staying in the air for a long time and, and being all right with it. So being patient being patient and just, yeah, I'm not flying super fast.
I'm just out there to beat the sun, not being another pilot. And yeah. And, and just try to be smart, you know what, I may be lacking skills. I try to make up blind with oxygen. So I'm thinking clearly the whole time and you know, there's a lot of pilots saying, Oh, you don't need oxygen. You're not going to be that high for that long, but just that little edge to go. Okay. I'm thinking clearly that's super important.
Speaker 3 (37m 18s): Yeah. I mean, that's the cowboy side of no oxygen, I think has been long left behind, which is a good thing. We just, we know now that our brains don't function all that well when we're tall. So any little advantage we can get.
Speaker 2 (37m 34s): Yeah. I support that theory for sure.
Speaker 3 (37m 36s): Yeah. What, how has flying changed your life?
Speaker 2 (37m 42s): You know, it it's, I have been at this awhile. Right. And it just, I think the community is, is just fabulous. I really seem to connect with pilots. You know, I, it may surprise many people, you know, you'll see me on stage and you go, Oh my gosh, look how funny he is or look how relaxed I am an introvert. I'm honestly just a, a person who recharges when I'm by myself and, and hang gliding has, has allowed me to do it now.
I, I really enjoy being social. I love the community, the juggling community and the hand gliding community. I, I thrive on, on that, but then I find I can only do that for awhile, but it's just a beautiful gathering of people and, and personalities. And I just, I consider my hand gliding, you know, group to B, to B my, the people I choose to be with. And, and I enjoy it very much.
So, yeah, it's just, it's shaped so many of my, my desires, my passions, my dreams, things I want to achieve. And it just provides me an outlet that, that brings me peace. And yeah, it's in the skies where I want to be.
Speaker 3 (39m 8s): Hmm. Has that, is that, is it Ben like that from the beginning, if you had any kind of ups and downs, or if you sound like you're Uber passionate about it now, has it been like that kind of through your flying career?
Speaker 2 (39m 25s): You know, I think it really has been, you know, in the beginning, I didn't have the ability financially to, to pursue it as much as I wanted to John and I were just getting started and our careers together, you know, we were on the road quite a bit in those beginning years, so I didn't have that opportunity, but then fact that performing sort of transitioned to more out and backs where I'd go to Vegas and then come back for three days and then head to Orlando and then back for two days. So I've had more, the long outs, you know, doing two weeks on the road or three weeks on a cruise ship or something.
And tours that had me away from home seemed to sort of transition into one nighters. And that, that changed things for me too. And that, and then it became a little bit more lucrative when we were getting into the corporate market. So that allowed me to have the financial freedom to go explore and gliding some more. And, you know, I think I just love everything about, I hear people just talk about, Oh, you know, it takes me so long to set up my wing and so long to pack it up and head up the Hill and do this and that. And I think I love putting my wing up on my car.
I love flipping that back every time and creating this magical thing that comes out of this tube that I just I'm creating. It's this, this little, my personal rocket ship, that's carbon fiber and sexy. And, and then flying it around for three, four or five hours and landing. And then I just, I love taking it apart and putting it back in its bag. And I just, it just, I don't know. It's just, it's just seems, you know, not to get too existential, it's all ridiculous, magical.
It really is like, you know, we've been looking for 200,000 years, man has been looking up in the air and wishing they could be a bird wishing we could fly and soar. And it hasn't been until the last 50 years, if that wasn't even an option. So it's just, we are living in the future and it is a magical time to be alive. And I feel like I owe it to all of those humans, 200,000 years of humans to do this because they didn't get a chance to, and I do.
And I just, I want to celebrate that and do that for them. And, and, you know, I know that sounds cheesy, but I do. I honestly feel that way. It's we are lucky. We are leading charmed lives to be able to do this. And I feel an obligation to educate people, to allow them to know that this is a possibility simply because I don't believe they understand it. So if they don't know what a thermal is, and then a thermal everyday, the sun's out is out there to carry us up.
And that's hard to wrap your mind around it when you don't see it. So these track logs that we post these, you know, your social media, the things you're doing, Gavin, I mean, you are, you are changing the world one PI cast at a time. And honestly, I, I, I truly believe this, just share this joy with as many people as possible. Now it's not for everyone now don't get, I don't say everyone should do this, but those who do should at least know about it, right?
Speaker 3 (42m 45s): Yeah. We were having this discussion on the very long drive to Texas we're coming back. I can't remember which one, but it's interesting. You know, I live in a place. I live in sun Valley in Idaho, which is just filled with a Valley of go getters. I like outdoor enthusiasts, you know, back country, skiers and kayakers and, you know, hiking and fly fishing. And, you know, these are people that really get after it and they live there because they want to be outside. And they all know, I mean, lots of these people are very, my very good friends and they know what I do, and they don't want to do it.
It's really interesting. How can you not want to do this?
Speaker 2 (43m 24s): Right? And again, I, that, that baffles me because it is so glorious. I have become friends with Penn Jillette of Penn and teller. And, and he has been, he had been talking for years about wanting to fly with me and I said, dude, you, you need to do it. And he weighed 332 pounds, a few years back, he lost a hundred pounds. So he got down to two 32, and he's still around there today. So a couple years ago I took him with me and we did a tandem flight together and he just dug it.
He's done a whole podcast on it. And it was, I had him do a little magic trick up there, pull out a car. We had a drone following us. So there's some great footage of that. And, you know, it's, it's just one of those things for people who want to do it, I love that we can make it accessible to them, but you're right. For some people it's just not their thing. And I, I get it, you know, it's not, not for everyone. And I don't, you know, they don't need to do it because I think, you know, it's awesome.
Speaker 3 (44m 35s): Yeah. Well, you, you, so you have the declared record and the out and back record. And then right before we started recording, you've got like six other world records got more world riders than anybody. And he had these all in, in jog joggling yeah.
Speaker 2 (44m 53s): Yeah. So, okay. This is about as ridiculous as it can get. There's something there isn't a sport out there called joggling and it's spelled J O G G L I N G. So do amuse yourself and type in joggling into a Google search. And you're going to see a picture of me joggling with five balls. That was actually a in the front page of the Guinness book of world records. It's it's as, as it might, it's juggling and running or jogging at the same time.
So I have the world record for a hundred meters, five ball juggling, and three, three ball juggling for a hundred meters. Now this is, this is a fun story. I was lucky enough to do a show with Usain bolt last year. Wow. Yeah. So it was cool. We were doing a gig in Mexico city and he was on the same bill and I approached him afterwards and I said, Hey man, good to meet you. We have something in common. And he's like, yeah, man, what's that?
And I said, well, we both hold the world record for a hundred meters. What's you're talking about mine. And I, so I go,
Speaker 3 (46m 5s): Come on, let's go, man.
Speaker 2 (46m 7s): I said, you know, I, I, I hold the world record for running a hundred meters and juggling at the same time. And he goes, no, how fast you do it? I go, how fast do you think I did? He goes, ah, I don't know, 15 seconds ago, 11, six. He goes, no,
Speaker 3 (46m 24s): You, you did an 11.6.
Speaker 2 (46m 26s): Yeah. 11, six. So I used to be on Duke. I know it doesn't slow you down too much. So a decathlete in college. And so I was a runner before a juggler or a pilot, so,
Speaker 3 (46m 40s): Oh, Holy cow. Video. This, I got to see the video then.
Speaker 2 (46m 44s): Yeah. It's, it's a, you know, do a search New York, do a YouTube search and you'll find some crazy TV shows.
Speaker 3 (46m 50s): I'd say like 25 or so. That is re you're fast.
Speaker 2 (46m 54s): I think with five balls, it's like 13, eight, something like that. So that's crazy. That's crazy. So that's, those are, I mean, that's another example of like the most ridiculous world record one can have is in a sport called joggling. Now there was another, I also happen to hold the world record for a chainsaw, juggling most classes with another person. And the record I'm most proud of that we no longer have, but we, John and I set the world record for club passing back in 93.
We were the first humans to pass 11 clubs back and forth. So those are the bowling pin shaped things. So we there's some Russians that had the record for many years and at 10, and we were the first to achieve 11 club passing between two people. And that, that held for about a decade, maybe a little longer. And then some more Russians came and took that from us.
Speaker 3 (47m 50s): Well, what kind of training would you have to do to get it back? How many hours went into that night?
Speaker 2 (47m 57s): Oh, again, thousands of hours. Yeah. When you just think of all the prep and all the training and stuff. Yeah. So there are not enough hours left in my life to allow me to beat, to get it back, to get it back. Yeah. We're noticing that our age that are reflected as aren't what they used to be. And for technical reasons, I won't go into the details of it, but there's a new method for passing clubs that, that will bore your listeners.
But just say it's a little bit like if John and I are playing tennis with wood rackets and everybody else's plan. So,
Speaker 3 (48m 36s): And, and I know this is a flying show, but this is just so fascinating. So I used to run ho or used to run chainsaw on a hotshot crew. Are you, are you throwing real chainsaws?
Speaker 2 (48m 46s): So that's the deal full disclosure. Yes. We are throwing real chain sauce. Now I have ground down the teeth on the chains. Yeah. That's the other thing I run them idle, idled up. So those chains are spinning as we're juggling them. So there's fuel in them. Oh yeah. Awful. And they're loud and they're yeah, they're the worst, but it's what people want to see. And so we're there to give it to them.
Speaker 3 (49m 17s): We love our carnage. That must have been after a particularly bad night at drinking and you guys came up with it.
Speaker 2 (49m 23s): Well, the funny thing is, it's the audience, you know, you can't help you get hecklers. Oh, juggle. Jane says, and you're like, Oh, good grief. Yeah. Yeah. But you know, it's one of those things where after a while you just go, that's what they want best. And so you go, okay, well, how do we do this in a way that's actually worthwhile? So John and I try to find the funny in everything we do on stage. And one of the things we thought was, what about the juxtaposition between the idea of these manly mean awful chainsaws and ballet?
So we got ourselves some purple tights and our nose, and we started working on a piece called the chain, saw ballet. So juggle chainsaws and dance around the stage and throw these roaring things back and forth as we're dancing around and prancing and being goofy. So it's hilarious and dangerous and ridiculous. And it's my job.
Speaker 3 (50m 32s): What an awesome job do you come up with? So, you know, especially during the, this whole, you know, coronavirus situation, it was, I don't come up with very good ideas unless I'm out doing stuff. So I do a lot of writing and, you know, if I get what a, you know, my version of a writer's block or something, you know, usually a bike ride or a walk or something that will help that, where do your ideas come from? Are they, do you get them from when you're flying? Do you get them? When, how do you guys keep creative after 32 years?
Speaker 2 (51m 3s): You know, that's a, that's a very good question. And that ends up being sort of the most important part of our job is coming up with new things. And we're inspired by so many different areas. One of the nice things about blind is I don't think about juggling while I'm flying. I don't anything but flying so that it becomes a nice escape for me, but, you know, John and I sit, that's perhaps the most important part of us getting together every day is that part of our practice where we're not throwing things back and forth, but we're just talking.
We have a second. And in our warehouse space where we sit and we talk about what we saw on YouTube that day, or what we saw, you know, what's in the news, how to be topical. How do we change that? Because juggling honestly, by itself, I mean, like I said, we have world records in juggling because we're, you know, we spent so much time trying to be the best in the world at it, but nobody cares. Nobody cares whether we're juggling seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 clubs back and forth. It just doesn't matter. What they want is a connection with us and our show and our senses of humor.
And they want to insight into who we are as people and what we are as a team and how that works. And so, you know, recently we, we sometimes just try to combine goofy skills. Like I've learned how to throw knives and John's learned how to juggle upside down. And so we created this piece recently where he's alright, this guy sounded, just follow me here. Take, take a moment. So John juggles upside down on a swinging pendulum back and forth.
So he's hanging by his ankles with gravity boots, showing it back and forth. I stand one side of him as he's swinging back and forth in front of me with the target on the other side of him. So as you have to knives across this plane exactly right. And I'm blindfolded. So he's got to tell me to throw. Yeah. And so we thought, well, this is cool, but it's not audience participation. So we thought, Hey, let's get somebody from the audience and join him on the pendulum.
So now we get a female volunteer that stands next to him swinging back and forth. So she's going through the path of the knives we thought, okay, he'll tell me. And I've got a target with a balloon on it, on the other side of, of them. And so he'll tell me when to throw in order to save his own life. And we tell her, you tell me where to throw in order to pop that balloon. And then that balloon happens to be attached to a trigger mechanism that launches a PI into another volunteers space.
So this is this really ridiculous. So clearly we have a lot of free time on our hands. I think that's what we're discovering here. So, you know, if I could pop it with an HRO, so I, you know, he gets swinging, he's going now and I throw a knife and she's like, hi, here now. So back and forth and finally pop the balloon and the pie gets launched in the face and you're all happy. It all ends. Well.
Speaker 3 (54m 14s): What an awesome job. You guys just get to sit her out and fart around all day.
Speaker 2 (54m 20s): I get to go.
Speaker 3 (54m 21s): I realize it's not part of your round. You're obviously training, but it's just, it would a great and creative.
Speaker 2 (54m 27s): It is an amazing thing and a beautiful country where one can make a living as a professional juggler and get away with it.
Speaker 3 (54m 35s): Yeah. You guys are winning for sure. You're winning. Okay. I just w because it is a flying show, I'll bring it back with just one, one question. And then I just, I really appreciate your time. This has been a blast. If you could, you've heard the show. You've heard me ask this many times. If you could rewind the clock. Sounds like maybe 90, maybe 93 is that you learn in 90, did a tandem, but you know, kind of think back to your 50 hours self, what would you change? What advice would you wish you had gotten or anything, anything you would've done differently?
Speaker 2 (55m 7s): You know, I, I just have to thank those who, who brought the sport into my life. Joe Graebel Andy beam, Rob McKinsey, Bo's instructors. They, they have changed my life, honestly. And I, I have appreciated hang gliding from every step of the way from those very first flights where you're just getting a foot off the ground for 10 feet. How magical is that? I mean, honestly, I have, it was, it's been a slow progression.
Maybe I would have chosen to try to figure out a way to do it faster, but you know what? I I've appreciated the journey the whole way. And, and honestly, like I said, I'm leading a charmed life and I just want to share that with give, hopefully give that to people who haven't discovered it yet. So, so they can do the same at that, that appeals to them.
Speaker 3 (56m 6s): Well, it sounds like you got a lot of gratitude and that's about the most important thing. There is. So keep, keep entertaining. This is just what a, what a fun talk and congratulations on this amazing flight and achievement. And like, hopefully that's just the first of many,
Speaker 1 (56m 24s): And can't wait to share some, some sky with you soon. So that would be, that would be great. I'm sure our paths will cross if they haven't already. We were thinking that they maybe had out in Marshall Sunday, but another ex Alps is coming up next year. So I'll be out in your neck of the woods, training this, this winter, and, but all the best deal. And thank you so much for, for sharing. This is crazy. It's crazy years.
Speaker 2 (56m 50s): Gavin. Thank you so much, brother. I, I, again, I'm honored to be with you today and keep doing what you're doing. It's really needed and appreciated. Cheers. Cheers.
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Speaker 4 (59m 22s): And we'll see you on the next show. Thank you. .