The exact size and magnitude of the Morning Glory still remains a mystery // Mark Watson/Red Bull Content Pool //
Jonny Durand is a long-time Red Bull sponsored hang gliding pilot who’s been ranked #1 in the world multiple times. We’ve all seen the incredible footage of Jonny flying the “tsunami” morning glory phenomenon that sets up in Northern Australia, but Jonny has been chasing the sky crack in many different ways since his early days more than 20 years ago. He’s chased the world distance record in Texas and Brazil and came up just shy of the record from Zapata on that fateful day back in 2012 flying with his friend Dustin Martin, who still has the record at 761 km; he competes in race to goal comps regularly around the world, and has recently taken up paragliding. In this fun chat we dig into Jonny’s amazing run over the years; how to pick good lines and feel the air; comp tactics that matter; how to keep up on lower performing wings; how critical eyesight is for successfully flying comps and big distance; being a beginner again on a paraglider; what it’s like being a Red Bull athlete; and of course flying the morning glory. We had a blast with this one. Enjoy.
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Speaker 1 (0s): Hi there everybody. Welcome to the Cloudbase Mayhem and a great show fray today with someone you'll all recognize the great Johnny Duran red bull hang glider, pilot, many time world number one, and someone I've been trying to get on the show for an awfully long time. And the connection finally came through nicknames, my friend at the X Alps, and he put us together and Tony's been on pretty stiff, locked down, down in Australia for the last year and a half. Now I hadn't been able to travel. So he was psyched to get on the phone and have a conversation.
And we had a lot of fun with this. We talked about his many years of competing. There's recent foray into paragliding and the differences there and chasing the, the morning glory. I'm sure most, if not, all of you have seen that footage. It's absolutely incredible. If you haven't check it out in the show notes, a big film project with red bull two years back and just unbelievable. And his distance, Jason, trying to chase the world record in Texas and other places.
But he and Dustin of course, were together on the fateful day back in 2012. And Dustin just eaten out at the end to go 761 K and Liz Sebastian's recent records there, a Texas, certainly back on the map, people are interested. So we talked a lot about Texas and a lot about just flying glide, thermally techniques that you're going to enjoy it and real blast with this. So enjoy this talk with the great Johnny Duran, Johnny.
Good to see you in the, in my view finder here, man, this is, I've been reading about you the last couple of days and most of the stuff out there I already kinda knew I've been following your career for a long time. And you know, one of the things that did was suck me right back into that morning glory stuff you were doing a while back. That's just, we've got to hear about that, but first tell me where you are and, and what you've been up to lately. I, I, since your world record attempts, it's been a little quieter than usual. So I, I just want to kind of get caught up.
Speaker 2 (2m 20s): Yeah. Well, thanks for having me on, I'm currently stuck at home in Australia gold coast. So it's the first time I've been in Australia for more than 12 months at a time. I think so. It's, it's been a bit of a challenge or a bit of a change I should say, but now it's, it's going well. Yeah, it's not a lot of flying has been happening in the competition side. So it's given me time to, to do other things.
Speaker 1 (2m 51s): Yeah. I understand from Nick who was the one that connection here, nicknames my, my ex house buddy, that you're getting into paragliding. Can we about
Speaker 2 (2m 60s): That? Or is that all? Yeah. Yeah. You know, well, I thought since it wasn't much hang-gliding going on, I would try out the dark side. As I say, now we have, you know, we have a very strong club here in Canungra. We have 200 members, the biggest club in Australia. And when I started flying 20 years ago, it was a 99 yard percent hang-gliding and 10% paragliding.
And 20 years later, it's 97% paragliders and 10% hand gliders. So, you know, the times have, have changed a bit as far as what people are flying and yeah, it's just, I, I, you know, I've done so many flights and I know the, I guess the whole area as I call it my backyard here and for me to go out and go flying on the hand, guided by myself, just, you know, it doesn't really do it for me right now. So, you know, I've always enjoyed, you know, obviously traveling the world and competing with my friends and, and then coming home and, and flying with my other friends here and, you know, just having a nice fly with, with them.
And, but to, to go out there and be flying my hand a lot about myself and, you know, seeing the paragliders as you fly past them just doesn't really do it. So I thought, well, I guess I'll try to try the paragliding and see what happens, you know, and yeah, I kinda kind of met out with the Philippe that makes the flow paragliders and, you know, he's based here on the gold coast. And he, he told me he was a handle out of pilot back in the day in Brazil. And I was like, oh, I said, well, maybe I'll have to get you on the hand.
It, he goes, well, then you gotta fly a paraglider. So we kind of had this thing about a year or so ago. And I said, well, I'll try one. If you, you know, if you try the hand glider I've yet to get them in the hand glide and mind you, I had a few flights last year on the paraglider, just flying on the, the, a wing. And through the winter time, I thought, well, that'd be a good time. You know, I thought, well, I do it when, when this thermals on so strong and, you know, they gotta stays above my head most of the time, which it did.
So I was grateful for that. And then I was flying with fleet by one day and we had, we both landed together in a field, all my Semon timelessly and we were trying to sort of do a low save both of us and me sort of, I shouldn't say Atlanta, but we both arrived. And we were both laying on the ground complaining of knee injuries. And yeah, I, I had a fully blown torn ACL, so I had to get to surgery and sort of imply for six to nine months last year from a little
Speaker 1 (5m 58s): Hard landing.
Speaker 2 (5m 59s): It wasn't even that hard. I, I sh I can't really blame it on paragliding. I originally injured my knees motorcross many years ago. I had the right one fixed after multiple injuries or multiple hard landings, I should say. And then the left one's been the weak one ever since then. And yeah, it was just a field that had long grass and was my one. And I thought I was on the ground, but I just sunk an extra couple inches and just sort of hyperextended my leg.
I think it was, you know, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back really. And it was kinda kind of good timing when it happened, because it was sort of during COVID and there wasn't much else going on for me. So I was lucky that I was able to get straight in and get it fixed, but yeah, I spent a few months on crutches and yeah. Sort of been a long road to recovery, and I've only done two hang-gliding calm since my, since I did my knee and I was just flying intermediate glider and both those comps just cause I was afraid of the landings and things like that, whether it's still, so yeah, just sort of slowly getting back into it and now it's, it's getting better again.
I thought I'd start paragliding again, just to have a bit more fun. And yeah, so the stepping up in the book, some on the gliders that I'm flying, but I don't know, they still scare me.
Speaker 1 (7m 28s): I was going to say, can you break down for us kind of the main, you know, the sensations at what's different, what's, what's scarier, what's mellower, if anything, you know, we always talk, you know, there's always the two groups, you know, hang gliders. Oh yeah. Your thing collapses. They were always a, yeah. Your things go really fast. You know, it's, it's, it's trickier to land when you're going so fast. What were the, what are the kind of the main, what were the biggest maybe surprises and maybe some of the things that were just, oh yeah, that may kind of make sense for the big changes?
Speaker 2 (7m 60s): Well, I think for me, the, the biggest difference is how slow they are also just getting used to the glide on them. You hit that sink and it just feels like you're going straight down. You know, maybe when you put full speed bar on, it just feels like you're going down faster. So
Speaker 1 (8m 18s): It's not exactly like
Speaker 2 (8m 19s): Pulling a Bard and just getting through the same, getting to that next climb. So, you know, it's been a bit of a challenge just trying to understand the fact that the glide angle is so much worse and, you know, the, the thermals, I think that I going to get to, I'm not actually getting to it because I too far away. So
Speaker 1 (8m 43s): It's a real readjustment of,
Speaker 2 (8m 46s): Yeah, I think probably it's, it's really helped me in the patient side of things. Not all hanging a lot of pockets of that patient. So sort of flying a paraglider and flying for four or five hours and doing 50, 60 kilometers going, you know, that's, it's, I would've, I would have learned a long time ago and I had got her if that was the case, but just because it's something different, you know, it keeps me going and, you know, I've obviously been competing for a long time now on the hand guarding side.
And it's sorta what keeps me going when it comes to flying, having, having a goal and trying to achieve it. And every time I go flying, so for me to be flying these plotters that are in the, the lower class against a lot of the top guys here on their racing machines and trying to keep up with them. And it's just sets me a good challenge, I guess. And I've just kinda been enjoying that side of it lately.
And I've been doing quite well. Apparently they don't, they don't really want me to step up anymore on these quadrants because they're afraid of what's going to happen.
Speaker 1 (9m 58s): Yeah. You'd be kicking their ass soon. Is there, do you, are there any things that you've learned from hang-gliding that are not good, that, that you've brought into paragliding? Like if you talked about the Euro, you're the one leaning too far forward now, cause you want to be prone Prentice, but are there, are there things, you know, like for example, I have always found hang gliders to be really good at gliding, especially when they come over to paragliding, they've learned something there about the air that sensitivity to the air that I think, you know, the really, really good gliders paragliders have sense for, but seems more instinctual or I don't know, maybe it's something that's just the years, but I have noticed that, that it seems like hang gliders have this sense for the line that we often don't.
Is there anything in reverse of that? I mean,
Speaker 2 (10m 55s): That's a great point that you're touching on there. I think when you hang gliding, you're a little bit more connected to the wing being that you're holding onto the bar, it's kind of like a natural extension of your arms, whereas paragliding, you're kind of just this little pendulum flying below this thing and you don't get that instant. Well, I shouldn't say you don't get that instant feel of what's happening with the air because you're trying to do sometimes with that robot.
But I think you you're feeling the air a lot more, especially if you're a relaxed 10 got a pilot because you, you kind of feeling the feedback or the glider a lot, which might be the case of paragliding. Maybe I'm just not there yet holding on too tight. But Yeah, I think probably the first thing that hang on, I'd probably stay with that cutter. God has hold rises. I know I'm of that. I'm trying to, trying to be more relaxed and just hold the brakes and don't grab the rises when things get scary.
But that's kind of the first instinct is you want to just grab something and I know it's against all what you should do, but it's still something that happens even, even for me right now. So yeah, but
Speaker 1 (12m 19s): Point that you've got, you've got the, when I had Jeff Shapiro on, he always talks about, you know, wing suiting is, is truly the only form of aviation where you're flying. You're not flying something, you know, you are the bird. And I guess if we kind of stack things up, that is the progression, isn't it it's wingsuits. And then it would be hang gliders. Cause you're, you really are connected through that bar and you're almost flying. You're, you know, you're still flying something, but you're very close to a bird you're prone.
You're you've got this incredible command of the, of the wing. And then, then you go into paragliding, which is a big step away from that. So yeah, I can see that that connection must be what must be great to get a sense for.
Speaker 2 (13m 8s): Yeah. I mean, they, they say Superman doesn't fly sitting down, it's true. Lying down and, and, and flying that way is probably the next closest thing to, as Jeff says, you know, wing sauteing, obviously that's, you know, I've had chats with them about that. And, you know, he obviously loves, it says it's the closest thing that you get to flying. And I mean, I couldn't argue with that. I've never done it, but certainly, you know, it's just you with a little bit, a couple of little bits of material under your arms, so you definitely are flying or falling, whatever it is.
But yeah, I think, you know, obviously it's the hand gliding and paragliding is, is quite different and, and the fact of, you know, laying down and sitting down and I find it interesting that when I get low, I find I want to set forward in the harness a lot more probably because I'm so used to looking at the ground sources for, so I'm alls and trying to just figure out where I want to go for those last thousand feet of my glide. And when I'm in the paraglider, leaning back in the pod on kind of have troubles, you know, a lot of the times where you want to go is right where your feet are.
So I'll find that I'll actually sit forward a little bit and kinda see what's down in front of me to, you know, figure it out, which, which part of the ground, I want to cover the, to get my last climb or to stay up. Whereas hang-gliding, you're always kind of looking at the ground unless you're looking up. So it's a little bit different than that, but just going back on the, the glottic pot, one thing I have noticed, especially flying know, I've done a lot of my flying on the air and a wing on the flow of future.
And obviously, you know, when I first started flying it affiliate Philippe's like, those things aren't even made to go across country. They're just a training glider, you know, and I was doing 50 kilometer flights from, you know, from our local site when no one else was getting out, they're all just bombing out and he's was like, dude, that's just not made to happen. You know? So I was like, yeah, but it's still a glider. It flies. It's just really slow. You know, you just gotta take your time and you gotta stretch. And then now I've stepped up into the, the freedom to, so that's is high end V glider and I'm finding it, it's performing really well.
And I'm flying a lot with the, the C wings and the D wings. And even some of the guys on there to lining comp gliders and tailwind, or a little bit tailwind. I'm finding that if I pick the right line, I'm actually being able to stay with them all day long just by picking that slightly better line. Obviously, you know, the, the sink factors a lot more on the glide on a paraglider, just because you're in it so long.
So if you can pick that better line, you know, I'm finding that I'm able to keep up quite well on, on the lower performing wing, just, you know, just by not losing all that height on glide. So it's sort of frustrating, a lot of guys around here with that, but, you know, there is something in it, you know, like you said, a lot of hang glider pilots have good lines. And that may be just from the amount of ground that we covered, the amount of experience with God and picking lines, you know, knowing when, when it's time to rise.
So when it's time to slow down and, and things like that. And I find that if I'm leaving, you know, I might leave climbs early in the paraglider and cause I can see that there's better stuff in front of me or I'm going to go up to the next couple of kilometers under a cloud or things like that. That really seemed to really help and, and racing on the lower performing wings. So yeah, there's, there's definitely, you know, I think anyone with thousands of hours in the air is going to be pretty good at picking lines and, and knowing where the next to him is, regardless of what you w what you've done your hours on, really,
Speaker 1 (17m 18s): He's one of those things, Jonny that, you know, when you talk to really good pilots like yourself, it tends to be one of those questions that gets that it's just ours. It's just feel, you know, it's, it's kind of this Jedi thing, isn't it, you know, it's, you know, you're using the force a bit, but can you give any concrete things that our listeners can latch onto in terms of, you know, how to feel out a good line, how to, how to approach gliding.
You mentioned a couple of things there, you know, Hey, if I'm in a climate, I know it's better down the line, leave, go. But, and these are a lot of things you learn obviously in racing, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on gliding is one that you can talk about thermally and technique and fallen out and the Windward side and, and the, you know, there there's real concrete things we can talk about there, but gliding is one of these where it's tricky. That that was, that was a very hard chapter to write in the book.
Speaker 2 (18m 16s): I can't imagine. I mean, it's, you know, everyone else questions about, oh, what should I have done different today? And I was here and I did this, and I did that. And I'm like, well, in that, the beautiful thing about flying is, is every day is different and every situation is different. So to try and tell somebody what they did right. Or what they did wrong on any given day is extremely hard unless you're flying right next to them. So to, like you said, to try and explain to someone how the glide better, or how to pick the right lines is, you know, it's extremely difficult because you can never paint the same picture twice.
So it really does just come down to, to knowledge. And I think probably, you know, there's a few things that I, I like, like to think that I'm good at. And one of them is awareness. That's probably my biggest attribute to flying and my eyesight. So being able to see things and understand, or seeing the situations where, you know, you might be in assemble climbing with three people, and all of a sudden you see an Eagle or a Hawk or something, couple kilometers away, low that's climbing much better.
And you take off, you know, 30 degrees to call a sign and people go, where's Johnny going? I don't know what he's doing. And, you know, two minutes later, I've, I've hit the strong climb and they're like, oh, that's over there. And then you go on, you know, well, all the fact that you do, you do see the sky changing in front of you. And you can see that if you leave the thermal, now you're gonna, you're going to have a good line and you're going to get to a better climb. You might be low, but if you're confident that you're going to get that better climb, you know, you go, and that's sort of the way to get away from, from the gaggle.
Obviously with the paragliding is a little bit different too, because you don't really disappear that fast. And if you do leave and you pick, pick the wrong line, then you know, you can certainly be scratching at a tree tops while the others go over the top of you, which you know, can happen in hang-gliding too. But it's, it's certainly seems a little bit more likely to happen in the paragliding. For me being aware of your surroundings. It's not something that you just need to practice while you're flying.
It's, you know, it's good to practice when you're in a car driving to work all day long, you know, trying to just look around and just go, how many people are in my area? Is it five? Is it 10? Whatever it might be. It's great for when you're in big comps with lots of gliders and you just got, okay, there's 10 people in this gaggle. And if I can't see all 10 of them on every circle, I'm missing someone, you know? So just going well, did that someone go somewhere? If so, where did he go? What did he leave?
Did he see something better? You know, hang gliders kind of disappear a lot easier than paragliders too. There's a pair of glasses, very broad in California and made like the back in the seventies, you know, hang glasses, stealthy, and dark. And we'd like to disappear from our clients. So you kind of gotta to be a lot more onto it, especially in, in the competition side of hand, gliding with knowing where your competitors are and where they might've gone and thinks about that. So for me, I like to keep an eye on everybody and everything all the time, the other day I was at a, somebody are you, you did this and you did that.
And they're like, but I didn't see you anywhere. How did you know what I did? I'm like, well, cause I keep eyes on everybody. You know, like you were 5k is behind me, but I still saw where you were. And you know, what happened to you? How really, you know, that's probably just something that I've, you know, think is very important part of flying because there's too many people I see, especially the up and coming pilots, you know, they're just quite satisfied with staying in the air and they're in, they're in a one or two made climb and they don't want to leave it, or they don't, you know, that they're not worried about looking for someone else that might be in that slightly better climb that they can get to.
Speaker 1 (22m 32s): And when you're, when you're flying comps, are you mapping who is who, or just what everybody's doing, are you paying attention to which pilot is, are you paying attention to the names? You know, are you, in other words, you put more weight in a certain,
Speaker 2 (22m 47s): Oh, certainly. I mean, you got to know, I know absolutely everybody in the competition, what go out there, flying what they look like. And that's something I do on the ground. I just walk around. It's a little bit harder or paragliding because you, things are all bundled up on the ground and hang-gliding is a lot easier. You know, they're out there, they're on the hill advertisement. You can see what color people have. The harness is a hope that they go out and you can say that helmets, you can, but generally, you know, I mean, I can tell, even when I can't see someone's colors just by their flying style, how much they bank up in terminals and things like that, I can just go, oh, that's Dustin over there.
Or there's so-and-so. I like to keep a very close eye on my opponents and know exactly who everyone is. You know, obviously, you know, I can't give away too many secrets here, you know, but it's not every day is suited to, for your own personal flying skills or, you know, it might be a blue day and you might go, well, I'm not that great flying in the blue, but who here in the competition do you think is the person that's going to Excel today?
And I might go, okay, well, it's probably between these three people that have a good chance of winning the day-to-day. So I'm going to keep very good eyes on those few people and, you know, just go, well, I mightn't be my day, but I'm going to try and stick with the people that I think is going to do well today. And, you know, that might be my game plan for the day. And that is where I think, well, it's my day. I certainly know there's other people that are watching me and I'd try to do everything I can to get away from those people, because, you know, you're just going to drag them on the go all day and you don't really want to do that.
So if you're going to be the one, finding all the samples, you might as well try to disappear and find them for yourself and not for others. You know? So yeah. It's, you know, there's obviously a lot of tactics when you talk about competition flying, but
Speaker 1 (24m 51s): Well, let's come back to that potentially. Cause I'd love to talk more comps with you. And I know that's something you've been doing for a long time, but I'd love to get the kind of resume bullet point version of how you got into this and then bring us up to now, you should have been flying for 20 years, but how'd you start? What started all the craziness and then, you know, kind of, I'd love for you to just touch on some of the highlights or the, some of the springboards that, that bounced you to where you are now.
Speaker 2 (25m 21s): Well, I sorta got into the sport through my father. He actually is from the states. My parents are both from the, from the U S I grew up in California and he, so hang-gliding back over there in the seventies and, and I was really interested in it, but didn't really get into it. They decided to move to Australia. My dad was a very keen, very active surfer and heard the surface could hear.
So they, they basically moved to Australia. Then I was born here and about five years, five years later, a little while later, they, well, actually they moved to when they first got here, they moved to the mountains behind the gold coast, bought a property. And my mum went for a drive one day and came back and said to my dad, you'll never believe what they're doing just up the road. He said, what said the hang-gliding it's like, no way.
So it took him a while. But I think when I was about nine, he learned to fly. He got lessons and that's the first time he got lessons. You broke his arm. So you gave it away for a couple years. And then he went back and did it again. And yeah, so he started flying when I was quite young, I did a tandem clot and Connor got pretty hooked from my firsthand and flight. I guess I kind of grew up surfing and skateboarding and it got to the point where I was starting to cry, quite crowded, surfing and driving an hour down the beach to go surfing and get a few waves.
And I dunno, once I, once I started flying, I realized that once you jumped off that mountain, you were free. You know, you could do whatever you wanted. And it was just all down the skill. And the more skill you had there to build the flight you had, you know, so you weren't hassling for waves and things like that kind of just got me hooked. So I used to travel around with him. He actually went to six months after he went to hang. He took the whole family back over to the states and we traveled around the states for six months and he went straight to the Owens valley.
Cause he's like, well, I hear that's the best place to fly. He did a month in the Owens valley, fresh off the boat when he's yeah. He put himself in this very quick education on hypoxia and all that fun stuff. So, but yeah, I was, you know, obviously not flying then I was only nine or 10 years old. So yeah, you said just traveled around with him to the comps. And every year I'd try to pick up a hang glider and couldn't get the air frame off the ground.
So they'd be like, well, maybe next year. And eventually I got big enough to get the I-frame off the ground. He said, all right, you can start, start learning now. And you know, I'd obviously had runs down training Hills and things like that with people holding onto me and my parents went away for the weekend, dropped me off at a friend's house who was an instructor and said out, well, you're going to start doing your lessons this weekend. And they came home Sunday night and I'd already jumped off the mountain.
It was a pretty fast lesson. They couldn't believe that that I was only 14 instructor had already thrown me off the hill, but you know, the great thing was I got the next day off from school on Monday just to show my dad that I could actually fly. So yeah, I was pretty fortunate that we had a huge, you know, strong club of hangar pilots here in Canungra. And, you know, we had a lot of Australia's best at the time, lived here and flew our local sites.
So I had some great, you know, great pilots to learn from and watch and listen to. And I was like a sponge. I just sucked up all the information I could from everyone. And obviously being around the sport to five years or so before I learned to fly, I'd already soaked up a lot of information and had a pretty fast learning curve. And probably, I think I started competing a year after I started flying. So
Speaker 1 (29m 54s): It's late, late nineties, early
Speaker 2 (29m 56s): Two thousands, 95 alone, 95. Okay. So yeah, just went on 26 years. A couple of weeks ago. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (30m 7s): So I mean, paragliding was, was kind of a thing then, you know, mid nineties was getting to be bigger and bigger, you know, certainly then, you know, hang-gliding was still by far bigger, but it was kind of starting to do this, you know, the crossing. Was that ever of interest to you back then? Or was it just because this year was with COVID? Has it been of interest? It has just been hang-gliding that whole time
Speaker 2 (30m 31s): I have, I, I actually did learn to paraglide. I kind of taught myself to paraglide back in the early, early days, probably late nineties, I guess I used to have an off-road skateboard that I built at school and I bought an, a Dell space from the nineties, I think in 93, 94, something like that, pretty old glider, but I mostly used to use it just as a kite.
So it was kind of like kiteboarding, I guess, with my off-road skateboard. So I learnt the ground handling aspect of paragliding, and we had only one instructor in the paragliding back then, Phil high-stake here in Canungra and he was sort of the, and paraglider and was sort of teaching and getting people into it. So I used to kind of get out there and sort of ground hand a little bit with him and have a little bit of fun with my skateboard and things like that when he was teaching students. And then a few years later, I decided that I'd actually get my license and he kind of just threw me off the hill.
Cause he's seen that I've kind of done some ground handling and kinda knew what was going on. And I was seeing flying and gliders. He figured I had some idea and did a few early morning flights and yeah, kind of got my, got my writing, so to speak back then, but never really pursued it. And then after I won new south Wales state titles down at Manila, Godfrey convinced me to stay for the next week to fly the pre PWC or something pre pre PWC before the world's I think was 2004, 2005 comp.
I did down there in Manila and he said, I want to put you in as a wild card entry and I'll give you a glider and harness and everything. You need to fly the comp. And I was like, Hmm, okay. It's 130 pilots. I literally probably had five hours in a paraglider and I hadn't fly one for about a year. So I basically was an absolute beginner and he gave me a Sigma five to fly and I was like, sure, I'm going to survive.
He's like, yeah, you'll be fine. I was like, so yeah, I jumped off the hill the first day and there was literally a hundred pilots plus red soaring, the Western side of Mount Bora. And I flew straight out and landed the bomb out and just went, no, I don't know about this. That was my first flight, new glider. Everything was all new and there's people everywhere. I didn't even want to turn the thing. I went back up and I took off for a second time and it was about six or seven other pilots that had bombed out with me.
And they kind of knew who I was from the handwriting side of things. And they just said, we're just going to follow Jonny. I think five of them plus me, my goal. We were the last ones to get the goal that day, but we got there and yeah, I kind of had a bit of an entourage following me around the skies, but yeah, I, I, I mean, I did. All right. I think I placed in the top 40, wow, that's impressive while ago now, but it was, it was a big learning curve, just, you know, a lot of days I hit the deck just because I hadn't figured out the difference in the glide performance yet.
And I'd leave a SAML halfway to base because I saw a cloud form in front and thinking how that's better climb and find out that five minutes later I was on the ground, two Ks from where the sound was still going, huh. Well, that didn't work. And I was getting a lot of collapses and things like that. And it just, it seemed at that time, you know, the gliders at the top guys with flying were quite dangerous still. In fact that they were collapsing a law, then there was a lot of injuries and things like that.
And being, you know, I think I'd sort of just become well, number one at hang-gliding at that time. And, and seeing the fact that if I wanted to be good at paragliding, I needed to fly something pretty dangerous. Didn't really interest me that much. So I pretty much stopped paragliding. I did that one comp I actually did a little bit more when I got back home to Canungra just because I'd been so into breaking the distance record and the hang glider from outsides.
And I was up around a 300 kilometer mark back then I was saying, or a little more, and the paragliding record was about 110 or 120 kilometers. And I was like, it's not that hard to fly that far. I did a a hundred miles in the competition at Manila on, on that ladder. And I was like, it's easily doable for me to break a record here. So I had a few attempts at that, but we got this great dividing mountain range to get across. And it's, it's quite challenging. There's only a few places you can cross it. And there's a lot of trays and high mountains.
And I got there a couple of times on the paraglider and never, never managed to venture over it. So I kind of just put a yeah, there, maybe there's a reason why the records where it stands with the paragliders and sorted yet just gave it up basically. And literally I had had a couple of flights here and there, coastal floods over, you know, since 2005 up until recently. Yeah. But yeah, it was sorta just mainly just focused on hang-gliding and trying to be the best in the world at hang-gliding.
Speaker 1 (36m 11s): I took you way off route there. I'm sorry, what you were, you said you, you were only flying a year and then you got into cops. Let's, let's pick back up with your, your history. Cause I really want to get to the Dustin's chasing it with Dustin in Texas and talk about Texas because we've had some Texas news lately, so we'll get to that, but yeah. Take me up through the two thousands as you started, you started finding cops pretty quick and
Speaker 2 (36m 34s): Yeah, so I started in 96 was my first company Australia. So yeah, basically just started doing the comp St here in Australia. When I was young, I had a skateboarding accident just before one of the seasons, the day I finished high school, actually I broken, dislocated my shoulder. So that put me out of flying for the season. And that was when we had the, the world champs here at Forbes and I was sort of the goalkeeper back then. That was about all I could do. So I was there watching and checking, watching everyone come across the goal line and then yeah, kind of to start a competing, like I said, around Australia, mostly when I finished school, I did a little bit of traveling when my first international camp was over in Spain when I worked for the pre world champs down and now I've gone analogies in 2000, I flew the Spanish nationals, which was my first conscious, prior to the pre-World.
I think there was 125 pilots and I managed to get third place behind world number one and world number four or something. So it was one classified me as a real winner because everyone knew those two were gonna be first and second and some sort of order. So as you know, I think I was, I was 19 then, and that was sort of my first big international camp or first international comps. I was pretty stoked for that. And yeah, went on to fly in the pre-World and then think was 2001, 2002.
I was working in a film industry here on the gold coast and got a phone call one day from Vicki, at Moise gliders. And she said, we want to sponsor you to travel the world and hang glide. And I was like, right on. I'm like, Well, I'm currently working in the film industry and she goes, yeah, there's only one coach. You got to leave. I'm like, oh, that's a fast one.
So kinda, I went to my bosses directly off of the phone call, I guess, and had a little sit down, waiting with them. And I said, listen, you know, this is a situation and tell them, and they kind of looked at me and said, what are you still doing? Standing here? They said, you know, we can, we can replace you tomorrow, but you'll never replace this opportunity. So if it doesn't give us a ring, when you get back and we'll give you another job. So I had nothing to lose.
They said, just leave now, just go. So I just packed up, jumped in my car. I went home, packed my bags and yeah, I was off the next day. So that's kind of where my, my adventure started competing full time. And yeah, so I was pretty fortunate that, you know, they, they sent me around the world, flying the comps and giving me that experience that I needed to, to, to get better. And then I guess 2000, I'll tell you a funny story.
Actually, a lot of people asked me how I, how I started with red bull and my sponsorship with them. And when red bull first hit Australia in the, in the early two thousands, I was just like, oh wow, that would just be the perfect sponsor. You know? Cause my dream was just to be sponsored in fly, hang gliders for the rest of my life, you know, and I saw their ads and I was like, red bull gives you wings. And I'm just like, what more can I ask for?
And anyway, I got an email one day from a red bull and they, he, and I kinda start along the lines of what we've been watching you and seeing the great things you're doing. And we'd like to sponsor you, I'll talk about sponsoring you. And I was just like, oh my God, you know how I tell the whole family, you know? And that was just like, wow, really? That's amazing. You know, it took me, I think two days of sitting there on my computer, you know, and just going home, how do I type an email back to this?
You know, Hey, like this is a friend bully, eventually constructed an email. And then I got an email back and this went on maybe for a few days or a few email exchanges. And one out of dinner, my whole family was like, did you hear from red bull today? And I was like, huh, they seem very interested in this conversation. And turns out that my nine-year-old sister had set up a red bull red bull at Hotmail. And I was obviously not cleared on that.
Speaker 1 (41m 27s): Do you guys have like an April fools
Speaker 2 (41m 32s): Being a little nine-year-old sister and oh my God, that's one of the best pranks I've ever heard. So I wasn't, wasn't what I was hoping from the emails. But a couple of years later I was over in Brazil. I think I was in Brazil at the time and my mom sent me an email and she's like, oh, you'll never believe who called today.
I'm like, Hey, she's like red bull. I was like, yeah, we've been through this one before. She was like, no, I really, really, and she's laughing. She's like, I want you to do an event over in Brazil. I was like, oh, okay. I'm like, is this for real? She's like, yeah. And she's still laughing. She was like, yeah. But I think you better do like a, a two kilometer ocean swam. And then you got to do a 50 kilometer mountain bike ride and you got to fly down the beach and do a 24 kilometer run. And I'm like, yeah, I'm not sure that I'm that sort of athlete, but it seems like, well, he's got all of them.
And so it turns out that it was actually a real email and I got a hold of them and they said, no, no, no, no. We just want you to do the hang-gliding part where we're getting the best athlete and every sport from every country to compete. And it was called the giants of Rio back in 2004, I think it was. And yeah, so they had the best ocean swim or the best mountain bike ride or the best hangout or pilot and, and the best runner from every country or from 70 countries, all expenses paid to go to this event in Rio.
So course I took that opportunity and it was a funny in, there was obviously other hangout of politics from around the world that were going and Kay Warren was actually chosen from the U S I think they had, it was just Kurt. I'm not sure if Dustin was there. I don't remember. I think he might've been that. I think there might've been two teams from the U S but Kurt was on the, the, a team so to speak. And the two weeks before the event, we had our last competition in Australia and Kurt and I were duking it out for the first place.
And we ended up tied after five or six days of flying, you know, we tied in the competition and then we were like, all right, I guess we're going to sort it out in Brazil when we do this, this rice for, for red bull, you know, and we were, we were stage two stage three of the race. So it was the two K swim, 50 K mountain bike ride up to the mountains to, to the takeoff. And then we flew down, landed the spot.
And then they, then the runners had to do the beach run and, you know, 70 team started out and, you know, we're sitting on top of the mountain and they're trying to stay just cause they all had trackers and it's a pretty small takeoff there in Rio. So you got to only X amount. Gladys could set up at a time. So they're trying to figure out which countries are in the lead on who to set up and Australia and the U S where were the top two teams and then Australia disappeared for awhile as a track to stop working or something.
And it was like this and that, that turned out that Australia was winning when they got to the takeoff and us was second. So there we were at all these pilots and carat and I were first and second on the ramp. We were like and yeah, as it turned out, Australia ended up winning, winning the event. And yeah, I think the night before we actually had the rice, I was out drinking at four o'clock in the morning, still with the, with the red bull boss at the time.
And you know, he's like, yeah, we got time for another drink. I'm like, yeah. So anyway, all the, we actually had the spot land on the beach and if we didn't land on the target, we had to do a 400 meter patron. And only, I think only few of us managed to get the spot ahead of everyone. Yeah. So all my teammates, I nailed a spot and all my teammates basically said we won because of Jonny, you know, and they go, I should just go home. And if you can stay up drinking to that hour of the day and perform like he did the next day, We want to have you on the team for red bull.
You know, you're, you're the sort of person we like. So not that I could drink until the all hours of the morning, but just to, yeah. So anyway, that was the start of my red bull Creole was, was after that event, winning that event and yeah. Went on to, to find with them for the last 14 years. And yeah, they helped obviously support me traveling around the world as well, and allow me to do what I do.
Speaker 1 (46m 46s): I was going to say, what are the, you know, I got the hang out with will Gadd when we did the, the Rockies expedition few years back, which was a red bull funded film thing for their Explorer series. And, you know, he was kind of one of the OGs he's been with them forever. And I know it's more red bull Canada. I don't know if you're more red bull Australia or if it's Austria, but you know, as, as the years go by, do the obligations change. Are there obligations? I know a lot of people would be very curious cause it's, you know, it's kind of the pie in the sky dream for a lot of athletes in a lot of different sports to be involved with, with red bull.
I've never been involved with them as an athlete, always been involved with them through the rebel X officer, these films I've done, but what do you have to do to maintain that? Because I remember will almost said it was kind of a lifetime thing, you know, you're in, you're in.
Speaker 2 (47m 42s): Yes and no. Yeah. When I first started here in Australia, they had pretty strict rules of who they sponsored and why they sponsored them. Obviously they, as you can see, they sponsor a lot of the top pilots or a lot of the top athletes and lots of different sports rebels is extremely good at getting the athletes just before they hit their prime. The they're very good at scouting watching people and, and trying to get the contract with them before they hit the big time to try and get down to the right price, I guess.
But red bull is obviously it's a worldwide based out of Australia, but each country has its own budgets and its own obligations to the world, to the headquarters. And they basically all get budget from the headquarters, depending on I'll play of how many cans I sell, how important they are and the athletes really depend on their country. So, I mean, I think obviously, you know, a lot of people don't stay that long with red bull.
One of the longest lasting rebel athletes in Australia, there is, you know, people like Mick fanning and other people that are still with red bull that have been there since day one, you know, 17, 18 years now probably going on. But a lot of athletes, you know, they might only do a year, two years, three years of red bull. And then they move on either because they haven't given them the results they wanted or they've got other sponsors or things like that. But I guess the obligations they change, you know, every, every person's contract is different and every country's different with red bull.
So, you know, so what will guide my beyond, I have an idea, you know, every, every politic or wherever the athletes got a different contract, but basically you, you know, generally it was a, it was a salary or a year and centers along the way for me, they would give me three bonuses a year if I reached my target. So whatever it might be winning one of the major competitions or being world number one, or breaking a world record, or, you know, things that I would say, well, this is what's important for me this year.
And this is what I want to try and achieve. And if I'd reach those targets had given me a bonus incentive, things like that. So, but yeah, there's things that you also got to do for them. You got to do media stuff, you've got to be on social media, you got to post X amount of times per week or per month, as you know, it's not just your sponsored and as you'd have to do anything anymore, you're always going to get a return, some of the favors for people giving you money, you know? So
Speaker 1 (50m 37s): It seems like you're, I mean, just in this conversation, it seems like your, your focus has been mostly comps, but you've, you've dove off into some other interesting things. We got to talk about flying the tsunami wave the morning glory. I, you know, I'd seen that back when you did it. And I, you know, yesterday when I was preparing for this, I got sucked into that again, but don't
Speaker 2 (51m 0s): Get sucked into it. That's the worst thing that can happen. No, no, no.
Speaker 1 (51m 3s): Yeah. I saw the video of it, but man, it's just, okay. Two things. Could you do it on a really high end paraglider and then just take us through it? How how'd you, how'd you discover it? How did you, I mean, can articulate what that experience was about and are you still chasing it? Is it still, it's still something you're working on?
Speaker 2 (51m 26s): Yeah. So one, one of my things with red bull, the contract was I had to supply them with two ideas of projects that I wanted to do every year. So I had to come forward and I would have to say, these are two things that I want to try and do with red bull. And they would look at them if they liked them, they would submit them. And then if it went through the approvals in Australia and they gave it all the green light, then they'd submit it to the worldwide red bull to seek permission and funding and things like that to, to make it happen.
And morning glory was the number one thing on my list. Obviously there've been a handful of pilots. I think I was the 12th person to fly the morning glory, but I, I knew that the early guys, the guys that flew at first, a few pilots in between that, and just from the competitions, them telling me the story of them flying the morning glory and just looking into their eyes and just saying how mind-blowing they were when they were talking about it, I guess just gave me that, that real dream of passion of wanting to go up there and fly it.
Because I could tell that they were, you know, it was the flight of the life for them. It wasn't competition. It wasn't cross-country, it wasn't anything like that. But just as free flying goes, it's probably one of the most amazing things you'll ever see from a hangout or a paraglider and your lifetime. You know, I think when you're so used to looking at clouds and watching them form and dissipate and, and to see this thing, just rolling through the sky, like a tsunami and being right next to it, as it's doing it is, you know, something you never gonna forget.
So yeah, it was like I said, it was the first thing that I wanted to do when they said you've got to come up with projects. I'm like, oh, this is it.
Speaker 1 (53m 21s): And you said there were 11 or 12 pilots before you're talking, hang glider or are these all, were these all
Speaker 2 (53m 26s): Sailplane pilots and a lot of pilots. So they went up there and the first guys, they were just car towing on the salt flats. Probably. I don't know when the first one fluid I'm going to say early 2000, maybe late nineties, probably late nineties actually. But yeah, I mean they just, you know, every single one that fluid I would, they would just make it just say that they all had the same look on their face. Like they'd just seen a ghost and yeah, it was just like, okay, that's, that's what I want to do.
And convince red bull that, you know, that was a project that I wanted to do. And they gave her the green light. I said, listen, you know, I'm not the first one. They're always chasing something to be the first, the first person to do this first person to do that. Or I said, listen, I'm not going to be the first, but no one has actually documented the cloud. They've taken their 35 millimeter cameras up there and develop film. Some were in black and white, some are in color. And you know, they're just them flying with little cameras, taking photos of each other.
And no one's actually done a documentary on the cloud and the phenomenon that it is and had the amazing footage. I said, if we get a helicopter and we have, you know, a good camera and good crew, I said, this is going to be a mind blowing experience, not just for me, but for all the viewers that get to watch it. So they agreed on it. We went out there spent two weeks and 2008 saw a couple of morning glories out over the ocean, never got to fly one. Actually the first one first one came through the first morning we got there after driving two and a half thousand kilometers and we didn't have the dragon fly set up to tow me up.
And we saw it coming. And my friend Leroy, he was like, he was a tech pilot. He's done a lot of car towing. I hadn't done much. He's like, I've got all the gear here. Let's, let's go hook you up. And so it took a little while to get sorted and this thing watching it come and like, it's moving pretty fast. And by the time I got ready, the wind started to pick out from, from the gas front of it. And it was kind of crosswind and I wasn't too keen cause I hadn't really car towed in my life.
And I'm like, this could all go bad. And I'm like, well just maybe wait a second. See what happens. And then 20 seconds, my dad was all in front of my glider and I was holding in front of my gelada. It went from zero kilometers, an hour to 50 kilometers an hour. It's standing there and I'm looking at him going down like Alabama, I'm just going to get flipped upside down and dragged along the salt. That's on my Guata. And then, you know, he's holding the nose that low with a win that as soon as the front pastas to win went, the other way, I nearly got flipped upside down the other way.
So there is a lot of, a lot of wind associated with that cloud.
Speaker 1 (56m 30s): That was probably great that you got that lesson from the crown right off the bat to just give you some humility about what was going on there and just add some understanding I imagined, but got to kind of see what you're not using.
Speaker 2 (56m 41s): Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, just doing, you know, being set up in my harness, everything connected to the glider, but still being on the ground and having one go over me and saying what the weather does on the nights that it was my good little eye-opener that I don't want to be anywhere around it, on the ground as far as landing or taking off goes. So yeah, that was, that was a great lesson, but yeah, we spent two weeks off that, up there and what they call one of the most isolated towns in all of Australia and never got far more in glory and that's what they call.
It was a reconnaissance trip. You know, we blew probably $50,000 on that trip. And then the next year they're like, all right, what's project. I'm like, well, I still want to do this one. And they're like, are you sure this thing even exists? I'm like, look, there's videos. There's photos. That
Speaker 1 (57m 35s): Is it a really tiny window every year? Is it just a certain kind of what, what, what sets it up? What is the town
Speaker 2 (57m 42s): It's called Burke town. It's in far north Queensland at the bottom of the cable. It's a weather phenomenon that it does generally happens at a certain time of the year, which is September, October. It can happen throughout the year. Randomly, basically it's formed on the peninsula of, and the north part of Australia by the two sea breezes coming in from both sides of the coast. And you get this convergence basically that, that forms up. Most days, the hot air goes up.
Midnight starts to come back down. And the main, the main Seabreeze from the east coast pushes this phenomenon down, down the Cape and down towards this little town of Burke town. And sometimes it's when everything works out is, but it's got the cloud where the ancestors rolling CloudFront, basically convergence line, that's been pushed from stats about midnight at night. They call it the morning glory because it pretty much hits Beartown right on sunrise.
Sometimes it comes through in the dark, you know, there's some mornings there where we, we woke up to the sound of 30 knots of wind and we just knew that it was a morning glory going through. I'm like, shit, it missed it. It came too early this morning. Sometimes it's a little bit later. So, but yeah, I think that's where it got its name was, you know, this phenomena that just happens in the morning up there. And you know, it's just, it's just glorious to look at. You know, there's mostly the fishermen, it's a very, the biggest town in Australia for abundant.
There are fishing. So people kind of know Beartown from that. And then they, they see this cloud that just mysteriously goes over them and then it gets dark and gloomy and they think they're going to die and out in the fishing boat. And then all of a sudden it's a beautiful day, again, five minutes later,
Speaker 1 (59m 37s): But it's but unlike a car, it sounds like it's a rolling conversion. So it's, it's, it's moving down. The coast is kind of one. Beast is one animal. In other words, it's not, it's not a stationary. Convergence is typically pretty stationary, you know, on a mountain or something, but this one's actually moving.
Speaker 2 (59m 54s): It's like a tidal wave. So it's kind of like throwing a rock in a pond and then you get those ripples going through the pond, which is basically the effect that it has in the sky as the ground heats up, it slows the morning glory down just from the friction on the ground and then eventually dissipates just because it does, it's not sliding across the ground. Like, you know, like it's on ice. When, when it's cold, you know, it starts out pretty fast. The clouds actually rolling probably a lot quicker in the, in the nighttime than it is when you actually get to fly it.
The first cloud I flew was probably traveling in the 40 or 50 kilometer an hour range across the ground. And obviously you're flying sideways along the clouds. So, you know, I was doing speeds of 70 to 90 Ks an hour basically to keep up with the cloud as I was flying along it. Yeah. So I guess to answer your question about flying a paraglider on them, it's going to take
Speaker 1 (1h 1m 1s): At the outer limits here. Yeah. Cause you, if you, if you come down through it, you're toast, you've got to stay on the, is it like flying wave in a sense, are you, are you flying the louvered side and, or you've got to stay on the Windward side.
Speaker 2 (1h 1m 17s): It's kind of not really a Wynwood side because it's just going around in circles. So you're basically just staying on the leading edge side, which is all the lifts going up. And then it's going all down on the backside.
Speaker 1 (1h 1m 28s): I'll go down. So if you got flipped over or you go, you get flipped to the bat, you're at your toe
Speaker 2 (1h 1m 32s): Pretty much like surfing back to front wife. So you can just imagine if you're trying to surf the backside of the wave and you get into high on, and all of a sudden you get sucked back over the foals and you go on, you get the turbulence, the Rhoda, the sink, all that stuff. Yeah. So it's kind of a bit unique in that sense in the first cloud I flew was almost horizon horizon. You know, you just, you realize how small you are against this cloud.
That's just, you know, you can just see it just, just rolling. And it's, it's pretty incredible to, to say from the sky,
Speaker 1 (1h 2m 10s): We'll have all the links to that. Those of you listening in the, in the show notes, it's outright the footage isn't, I mean, most of you over, I'm sure I've already seen it, but it's just outrageous. The footage is
Speaker 2 (1h 2m 19s): Outrageous. It is. And I, I, and I, red bull went all out on that documentary. They, they got absolutely the best of the best for the production. They flew the director in from Canada. They flew the head camera man in from New York. They flew, you know, these, these guys have done all the big adventure films around the world, all the different sports and every single one of the crew agreed that it was in the top few best projects I've ever done in their life.
Just to, to see that phenomena. Most of them got to see it from the air, whether they're in the helicopter and the dragon fly filming, or in some other aircraft, a lot of them got to see it from the air if you only saw it from the ground, but even the ones that are on the ground, they just said, watching this thing calm, and then getting that, that strong gust of wind and the red bull market nearly blowing over sideways and the tripod falling over. And they said, it was just incredible to just say this thing.
So yeah, it was, you know, I wasn't the only one that was blown away at the end of the documentary, but obviously you get it the second year, how many times? So it was the second year we went up there with the full crew. There was a huge, you know, I said, there's a big budget. I think it was day six or day seven. So we'd been waiting and I didn't like to throw numbers out there, but I think we're in summer and a 30 to $40,000 a day. Standby.
So every day was calling to the, to the, the head office and trying to convince them that, yeah, this glory is going to come on after spending two weeks there the year before and not getting one, it was starting to be quite an expensive project. But once we got that first day, you know, everyone was just couldn't believe, you know, the photographers and the director and stuff that were just looking at the footage straight away, as you can imagine that night. And they were just like, oh my God, we have some of the most insane footage we've ever seen in our life and anything.
And then we got another one the next day, which was a lot different and a lot more scarier. It was, I say the best ones come when it's all foggy in the morning. So the ground, you just have this layer of fog on the ground. But the problem we have with that was the dragon fly. Couldn't take off and fly out to the location, but they just got this small window of opportunity. The folk just broke for a, for a little bit and they took off, landed where we were.
And I quickly hooked the tow rope up. We started tiling and we religiously, we towed into the bottom of the morning glory, legally speaking. I don't think it was that legal cause I actually lost sight of the dragon fly the Tyro tiny 70 meters long. And I mainly said, do a, I think we're at the bottom of the glory. And I kinda knew what was going to be associated. You know, so we spent a little bit of probably 20, 30 seconds where I was staring at just the tow rope going.
I hope the weak link doesn't break. Cause I can't say anything. We popped out to basically out running the glory. So we'd done a 180 degree turn from takeoff and I looked over my right shoulder and I looked up and it was, it was like a 2000 foot wave. We'd literally just popped out the bottom of this morning glory cloud. And it was focused where I was, I could say in front of me and just a 2000 foot wave right behind me.
And we just towed up alongside this cloud for 10 minutes, I guess. And I was hesitant to release from the plane because I still couldn't set the ground. And I had no idea where I was. There was a lot of forest and there's a lot of crocodiles up there. And I knew that I had to just follow one direction because of the forest down window. Me obviously there's an ocean there too. So there's a, there was a lot of things that were playing on my mind. And the moment I released from the plane, I realized that the cloud was moving that fast and there wasn't that much lift on it.
That the speed I was flying, I was literally just maintaining a, I wasn't going up. It wasn't going down, but I was just, just keeping up with the front edge of this cloud. And I kind of spent, I think, 30 to 40 minutes with no visual of the ground. Like, I mean I had visual, but it was just so I was just flying as this cloud. Like it was the biggest ski jump you're saying in your life I'm right on the front end of it.
And eventually the fog, you know, once it started to heat up the ground, the fog parent off and flew out from the cloud, I think I did 50, 50 something miles on the cloud that day and yeah. Landed. Yeah. Yeah. It is. It was, that was the day. My eyes really lit up, but yeah, that was, you know, to, to get two morning glories in a row and for them to be so different. I mean that day we had, I think 10 or 11 of them lined up back to back.
So they came as a big set. So behind the one I had, all I could see was clouds, as far as I could say, just lines, just like big waves coming through. Whereas the first one was just one cloud and it was blue skies and everything was just perfect. But day two was,
Speaker 1 (1h 8m 0s): We're the ones that were all lined up on day two. Was it really more like a wave phenomenon where they stacked up on top of one another where they
Speaker 2 (1h 8m 7s): No, like though behind each other, just like a set of lights coming in, like two, three kilometers behind the one I was on was another big one. And then another one, another one on the helicopter went to 10, 10 or 11,000 feet to, to capture all of them for the, for the doco because they couldn't believe what they were saying. They like the helicopter pilot said he was, he was that scared of flying because he'd never been that high in helicopter. They mostly, they mostly do mustering and stuff like that. You know, they fly low level and you guys, I'd never been to 10,000 feet in my life.
It was the first time I went that high on the helicopter. He didn't like being that high, you know? So there's a lot of firsts for everybody that day, the footage that they got from that day, it was just incredible. Cause I, I literally looked like a speck all along this cloud, you know, there's a shot where they designed right in, they had the center flex camera, so they had amazing camera and there's zoom right in on me. And then they just zoom out and they just keep zooming out so they can see the full cloud. And I literally disappear. Like that's how small I am against it. So yeah, some amazing footage on there.
And you know, it's been the most famous thing I've done for red bull and in my 14 years with them, I, I still do interviews for it. You know, people still call me to do
Speaker 1 (1h 9m 24s): The footage is just, the footage is outrageous. And I remember seeing it when it first came out and just having my mind blown and you know, looking at it again yesterday, it was kind of the same experience. It's just Jesus. I mean, I think it's, I'm sure it's a little different for people that fly to, to see you flying that, you know? Cause you can imagine it in some ways, you know, you're never going to get the experience like you did, but you know, I can imagine being in that cockpit, just going what this is fucking outrageous.
Speaker 2 (1h 9m 55s): Yeah, yeah, exactly. So somebody that was, yeah, that was a dream come true. And to do it twice was not to have to have your dreams come true. And two days is pretty amazing
Speaker 1 (1h 10m 9s): Something you would do to just go do now or, or was that second day enough of a man? Oh that's is it, is it really right on the edge of safety risk or is it that was just,
Speaker 2 (1h 10m 21s): Yeah. I mean, obviously for me, I had, I had helicopter support. I had medical, I had everything with all the projects I've done with red bull public sites factor that I have to have somewhere to do it. Whereas, you know, the guys that did it before me, or there's only been one guy that's done it after me and he cuts swallowed into it, but none of them had anything, you know, they just went out there and hold themselves to the back of the car and got towed up. And I said, Hey know, it, it is something I would do again. I actually was trying to get talked into doing it this year.
Friend of mine had a truck and he was going up there and he's like, I got to try, you could just come along. And it was very tempting and I didn't end up doing it, but it's, I kind of would like to do it on sale plane just because only one in four actually get to the, to the coast. A lot of the times, the best morning glories are out over the ocean. And I think just to experience it in a sale plan, having that extra spate and just raising it to 100 plus Ks an hour down, this, this cloud front and, and over the ocean and things like that would be just something a little different, not to say I wouldn't do it on the hand glider again.
I just, you know, I know what's involved, you know, I've spent a month up there and on it twice and it's, there's really nothing in a town there's not going to do without it. And as you know, so a lot of waking up at four o'clock in the morning, setting up in the dark and there's a lot of effort into flying it and I've been fortunate that I've done it twice. And you know, like I said, I'd love to do it again, but you know, it's an expensive thing. And you know, this year was probably a great opportunity to, because you were there.
Well, he was there, the main cost was there, which is to get someone, to tell you what, but yeah, you know, it didn't happen. And I won't say I won't do it again, but it just hasn't been that high on my list because I feel like I've already achieved it and you know, I've done it, but
Speaker 1 (1h 12m 26s): Yeah. Well that's a perfect segue, Johnny, you mentioned, you said a whole bunch of words there that reminded me a lot of Texas, you know, endurance, nothing to do bad weather, lots of patients. I don't know if it's hot up there in Cape York. I remember it being pretty hot up there when I did the Daintree and stuff, but Texas let's talk, Texas. I Cody and I, and, and Donna's that day went down to have a go at the world record two summers ago.
And that was right after Sebastian went something and, and broke the paragliding record. And then this year he went 6 0 8 or something. So Texas has been on everybody's map lately. You've put in a lot of time down there as your buddy Dustin has. And he was on the show. He talked about that day that when he got the record and you were, you were chasing them hard at the end and just missed out. And you put in quite a bit of time since then, but let's talk a little bit about Texas.
I'd love to just a get your, you know, cause you went back to make a film about chasing the record recently too, and watched that yesterday. That was good, but didn't have the weather as we didn't Sebastian seems to have nailed it. He's down in Dallas and he's kind of gotten it figured out and he just shows up on the day. But for those of us, like, I live a long way by car, away from there. And you know, this is a big country as yours as well, but you have to really invest coming across the pond. It's kind of brutal, man, but it's, it's fun. Isn't it?
It's, it's also, it's, it's kind of addictive in a weird way. I don't know why, but it is. I can't wait to go back, but I'd love to get your thoughts on Texas. And, and are you done with that Jace or is it still on your mind?
Speaker 2 (1h 14m 11s): I think owning the longest flight in the world and anything is, is pretty special owning the second longest flight in the world. Well, it's also pretty special. Yeah. It's, you know, it's always, it's always been a dream of mine to own that world record. And that's why I did, like, you have put in time and in Texas and, and trying to achieve that goal it's as you mentioned, it's all of the above, it's hot, it's desolate and it's not much to do.
And you're only there for one reason and that's to spend all day in the air flying, trying to fly out of Texas. But as we know that that panhandle is quite long and no one's done it yet. So yeah. You know, it's, it's hard work. It's obviously it's a lot of planning for us. We need to have top-line there, which requires a lot of money, a lot of time getting that there. And, and then, you know, I've always said the hardest thing about owning a world record is being there on the day.
So, you know, to, to, to get to the point of actually being there and able to fly on a potentially a world record day is half the work, the flight itself. Well, that's obviously better hard work. And then I want you to achieve that. The, the hardest part that is, is actually getting the claim in through and getting it actually ratify. And so you spend more time trying to do that, then you do everything else. I think so.
Yeah. But yeah, for me, I can't think of anything better than spending 11 hours in the air and covering a lot of grounds, something that I've always loved to do. And you know, something I'd chased here locally always had a battle with my father of owning site record here and hanging out. And I kind of just moved on once. I, and I've got handful of floods of the 500 kilometer mark from our, what we call coastal site here, which was an Australian record for, for, for a very long time.
And, you know, seeing these guys flying that long distance in Texas always had that draw card for me to want to go there and then give it a crack myself. So I thought, well, it's gotta be much better flying. And I have got here in my backyard, so I want to have a crack at go on the long distance, you know, and yeah, I guess I went there one year, 2006, maybe early days in command for it had the record of 700 kilometers and then Mikey Baba. So a little further, but not far enough to claim a world record, you know, he, he didn't beat it by 1%, I think was the record of the rules back then, Hey, did he did 705 kilometers and you needed to do 707 to actually, I didn't know that rule.
Yeah. So he, you know, Mikey unfortunately just passed away this year, but you know, for, for many years he had the longest flight in the world. Just wasn't, it wasn't a ratified one because he didn't go 1% further than, than the previous record. They eventually changed that over time, but they also changed a lot of other rules back then. They were tying to 10,000 feet and releasing from the plane and, and getting a three, a free 40, 50 Ks.
And the early hours of the day when it was the hardest to stay up, you know, you've flown into Pata or Texas. And you know, the hardest part of the flight is the first hour you're flying through blockades to landings. Cloudbase is sometimes 1500 feet off the ground. Sometimes if you're lucky, it's I think that they dust my data was about 2000 feet. So it's low and you got to go across mend a lot of time, cross tail win on every glide to get around the airspace it's downwind of view.
So it's a really challenging first hour or so. And for those guys that flew the 700 Ks, a we're tired of 10,000 feet and had a huge headstock, which was something that we weren't able to do, you know, to put the rules in flying to a thousand meters or tying to a thousand meters only. So yeah, that was a bit of a disadvantage, but you know, it wasn't obviously didn't mean that you couldn't break the world record. It was just, you just had to do it the harder way. And I guess on that particular day or that particular event that we were down there in support of Texas, Dustin, you know, I arrived in the country from, I can't remember where I was Brazil or somewhere.
And Dustin and I talked to him as soon as I got off the plane and I had to drive from San Antonio. I think I was down to support her. And he said, dude, you guys, you know, it's bad. Like a, whether you're not going to go anywhere and I'm like, come on down like this, you know, it's going to be good, we'll have fun. We'll try and go far. And it's like, it's going to suck the way that's not a good, it's not gonna happen. And I, prior to that, Texas, Texas encampment to Dustin, I'd broken the, the east coast record from in Florida.
And we flew the whole day together and we landed together. We did, I don't know, 480 kilometers or something, whatever it was. So I was like, come on, I need someone to fly with, you know, come on. Dan was like, nah, and then four or five, six days passed. And all of a sudden the weather started looking good and I get a phone call from Dustin. I'm coming down. Now the weather is looking good to come and down. Cause he was able to drive know he was in Phoenix. He was still a day's drive away. But you know, he was able to get down there and he's like, but I got an I retrieve and I got nothing, you know, I'm like, well, good luck.
And anyway, you know, we kind of had, it was, we only had one tow plane. So it was like, who goes first and all that sort of thing. And on that particular day, you know, I kind of had a priority and I kind of let Dustin go first. I said, oh, it was kind of a little bit blue. And I just, I didn't want to deck it early. And I said, oh, you go first Austin. And you know, just at the time after he took off too, while he was tiring and just went, oh shit, I should have been on the tow rope. Like the clouds just started forming.
He kinda got off right at the right time. I think possibly could've gone earlier in the blue, but it was a good time. And by the time I got back and tied me up, I was 15 minutes later, you know? So we had a little bit of a hop, skip and a jump on me. Yeah. You know, I was chasing them down the whole day. And I think after three or four hours, I eventually caught him 180 kilometer mark. And then yeah, we flew together for a long time. It was, it wasn't that great of a day.
We had wind, we had clouds climbs pretty average every now and again, we'd get a good climb. We went through the hill country side by side, he got kind of low and I kind of left them behind for, for a glide or two. And then I got low and he came over the top of me and then we're sort of leapfrogging each other for a while. And then I got low on one GLAAD and, and I just, from then on, I was just chasing me. It was just like a cloud in front of me the whole day.
And I just kept chasing, chasing, chasing and put myself into a situation probably around the 500 kilometer mark, I guess. Or I ended up quite low scratching for a while and then he was gone. I never saw him again. And I just said, I just gotta do my own thing. You know, just reset, get high, stop racing from download, trying to chase him and just, you know, reestablish yourself and do your own thing. And yeah. And so I just kind of flew by myself and I got really high on one glide and I was like, this is it.
I can, I can just about make the 700 kilometer mark from this glide, you know, or I've got it. Like I just, like, I just got to stay in the air. I had no idea what Dustin was, radio silence. And I was just on glide. It was silky smooth. I think the clouds, it was like maybe a couple wispies left at that point. I'm just gliding. And I think maybe three or four Ks before the, where the current world record stood, Dustin just popped up in front of me and the horizon.
He was like half a K in front of me and he'd been climbing from blow. And I came in and we were like wingtip to wingtip as we circled in about 50 up. And we basically recrossed the world record line together tip to tip, you know, we've kind of, I don't know. I think it's Friday, I had stopped working. We're kind of just yelling at each other, you know, with that close, we could talk, we we're pretty excited. Both of us had that moment and yeah, I was kind of, I had the GoPro on, I was trying to film the whole thing.
You know, we kind of topped out on that climb and, or the next climb and the sun started to go down and I wanted to capture the actually before that Dustin just kept stopping. He's just like kept circling in zeroes and twenties up. I'm just like been flying for 10 and a half hours. We've broken the world record. Like just let's go on my, you know, like I was done, we achieved what we came here to do, which was break the world record.
And we've done that now until we really need to sit in zeros, watching the sun go down, you know, apparently we did. I obviously didn't have the patience and you know, we were on glide and he stopped. I just kept gliding and I was trying to get the camera going, cause the sun, the sun was setting. And I wanted to capture that sunset moment of being up there all day and broken a world record.
And I mean, I probably went about three, 400 meters and I looked back and it looked like he was climbing. So I turned around, I flew back and the wind, which was obviously a mistake on my part came in below him a hundred meters below him. And there was nothing there. And then he turned around, went on glide and we basically both flawed to the ground, but he had that extra a hundred meters on Midland and flew that extra two kilometers and yeah, it still lines the world records.
Yeah. I should've just, I should've just kept guarding and not, not turned around, but you know, I, I achieved the world, you know, breaking the world distance rifle, which is what I wanted to do. And you know, in standing for 12 years, I think so, you know, I'd gone there. I achieved what I wanted to do. Dustin got the better of me on that last little moments of concentration while I was a little bit distracted, I think.
And yeah, I just, you know, a lot of, a lot of people say, well, he should have just landed with you and you know, share the record together. And that's what the paragliders do. And you know, you guys wouldn't have done that flight without each other and you know, there's not, there's not any part of me that thinks that either one of us couldn't have done that flight without the other person, you know, I don't think that obviously it probably helped us fly together, sped things up a little bit. I would like to think if he wasn't there, I was still would have had the same outcome and I'm sure he thinks the same way.
So, but yeah, it was funny because Dustin, you know, we had, well, Dustin, I go way back to early dicier when he first came to Australia on my show, if you touch on that subject. But there was a lot of robbery between dust and life for, for many years. And so he got one back on me, but so on that flight, which was a good one to get me back on, I'm not gonna lie, But yeah.
You know, like I said, a lot of people think that he should've, wasn't very sportsman, sportsman, like, and things like that. But at the end of the day, everybody would have done the same thing. So
Speaker 1 (1h 27m 7s): Yeah. And I mean, it was, it was, you know, I remember I remember him, he, we talked about this too. And I brought that, that very subject in and he said it was, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't really the plan. You know, you guys didn't have that gentleman's agreement to begin with. It was, you know, chasing the world record. And you know, it's so easy to look back on something with 2020 hindsight. And, and, but I, you know, in, in my, my own history, which isn't, as long as either of yours, it was really the Brazilians.
And not until after, you know, they were definitely chasing the world record back in the mid two thousands as well. But, you know, they started really doing this team thing in 2007, but really got going on it when they brought, when they broke the 500 in 2015, I believe it was. And then there's been a string of them since, but you know, they, they kind of taught the rest of the world, the sexiness of landing together, you know, working together all day and having this, you know, and really putting the machinery together for who does what in certain situations.
And if you're low, you do this and if you're high, you do this and, you know, really working together and then, then you land together. And I don't think that that was something that was on really anybody's radar until they started doing it. And now it's very much, you know, cause I got to fly with Donna as day who was part of that, you know, record chasing team in Brazil since the beginning. And he really taught us a lot about that. And so when we went to Texas, that was, it was very much a team thing, but anything else I've ever done with anybody you're on your own, that's what the, sport's all about.
You know, it's, it's flying solo and you know, we've all got egos, but yeah, that must have been then.
Speaker 2 (1h 29m 2s): But I think the difference with what the pedagogies are doing and our situation was that how record is measured from the time of release from the plane. So it's not from where we took off from it's from our release point and the odds of Dustin and I releasing in the same point after being towed for 10, 11 minutes up in the sky by the dragon fly is it was probably, you know, a very small chance that we released in the same, you know, same distance as it turned out.
We were probably almost in the same, same exact distance point, maybe not the same exact location, but the same distance. We probably would have found the same, the same distance. But at the end of the day, it was quiet. Even if we'd landed together, one of us was going to have a longer flight than the other. So, you know, like I said, everybody would have done the same thing. I, I would have fallen that extra two kilometers if I was above Dustin, don't worry about that.
But yeah, you know, I've done a lot of fun with Dustin over the years and you know, we're good friends and we, once we get to the sky, as we certainly liked to pedal it out. So yeah, it was one to him on that one. He, he was quite a few down before that. So it was a good win for him that one. But you know, like I said, at the end of the day to, to have both broken the world record and cheat, what we went there to do was main goal. And I felt like I trust the goal line, but I just didn't get the extra bonus points at the end, you know?
But yeah, I think, you know, for me to, to tell people, you know, oh, you handle on, yeah. So you just jumped on the cliff and you fly to the bottom. I'm like, well, not really. We actually can go quite a long way. It's like how far, like, you know, you probably saw in that and that Windrider documentary that I did, you know, people, you know, they try to guess on how far you're going to find some, say 10 miles, 20 miles, maybe 40 miles. And to think that you can fly that far. It just blows people's minds. They're like we have no engine. How do you do that?
And for me, it's I know that the old world record at 700 kilometers was, I used to do a lot of flying from Brisbane here down to Sydney, or when I would travel overseas, I'd always take a plane trip. And that was exactly 700 kilometers. So every time I took off on the plane, I'd get a window site and I'd stare out there and I'd watch all the territory. You've got to go over. And I was thinking, man, that's a long day and I hang out, you know, it's a lot of ground to cover. And you know, I did that every single flight.
So that's what I gotta do. I gotta fly that far to break a little record. And for me to be able to tell people around here that, you know, the longest flight I've done, the hanger is further than Brisbane to Sydney. They just got one and one day or do you get to stop and have dinner and stuff and go to the next day? I'm like, no, that's just 11 hours straight that, you know, they just look at you like, wow, that's, that's a big achievement.
Speaker 1 (1h 32m 21s): Yeah. Most of the time you don't even really understand it. I remember landing in Texas and a guy pulled up alongside, he is big, huge truck, you know, proper Texas truck. And, and where'd you come from? I came from Hebbronville, which is right down here as a Pata. And we were, you know, I don't remember where we were in north of the hill country. It wasn't a huge one, but it was over 300 K and he was, he just couldn't where'd you jump from, well, have him bill, how high was the plane?
Speaker 2 (1h 32m 50s): Yeah, exactly. Parish
Speaker 1 (1h 32m 53s): Off the ground. You got blown all the way. It was pretty funny.
Speaker 2 (1h 32m 58s): Yeah. So yeah, I mean, obviously, you know, that's the joys of Texas is breaking a world record, the non joys of Texas. You probably saw in that last documentary, I did two of thing escorted out by deputies in place and border patrol. And you know, I had a little interesting Manning when I tried for the records a few years ago with red bull and I landed on a big property right on the border of Mexico. And I mean, I didn't look like a Mexican, but they still treated me.
Like I just jumped over the border. So, you know, there was, it looked like a funeral possession when I got out of this, this property that was, I think, 10 or 12 cop cars and border patrols and all these flashing lights going on. And they were delivering the Sanger pilots to the retrieved car that had my passport and all the camera crew there waiting the film. The, it was pretty funny, but you know that they had to go through the protocols and do everything as I do down there.
And yeah, you know, you can, you can land out and in Texas and the walking for a long ways, I mean, they're going to different I've since found out, you just pick the thing up, stick it on your back and walk with the hand glider. It's not quite that easy. It's a, you land behind a locked gate. And you know, people have had helicopter retrievals because it's, you know, five, 10 miles off a road or behind locked gates. And they don't want to carry the glider that far other people walked all day, you know, done 10, 12 minutes of flying and spent six hours getting out of there, which they say you can fly 300 Ks there and get back sooner than somebody that flies 10 kilometers.
And that's a, that's a true story. Yeah. They land out there in the middle of nowhere with no roads or lock gates. And they're, they're walking, they're hiking all day long and that hot blistering 40 degree heat.
Speaker 1 (1h 35m 6s): Yeah. I, I, when I was down there, I was training for the X out. So, you know, I was pretty fit. And you know, like you said, that first hour is the section that's just nasty. It's just Mesquite and wind farms and no roads and the roads that are, they're all behind gates and they're not lined up with the wind and yeah, I land IO flute, 10 K or 30 K no, nothing and landed and walking out was like, man, this is actually life-threatening.
It was so hot. And I mean, a couple of times thought I'm just going to have to leave my gear. I don't think I can, you know, cause we're not flying Xcel's gear when we're doing that. We've got big, heavy kit, nothing like hang-gliding kit, but still heavy kit. And just man, this is, it was torture.
Speaker 2 (1h 35m 59s): No, I've been fortunate that I've only, only had to land at once. They're off the beaten track, so to speak. So I've yeah, I've been pretty fortunate with my Texas and camp men's, but yeah, I definitely tread carefully and I work very hard on every low safe because you know, you know, sometimes every five circles could save you an hour walking. So, you know, just getting you to that next road, potentially, as you said, the roads don't line up with the wind. You're always crossing roads. And if you can get to a main road, it might be another 10, 15 kilometers downwind of you.
If you can just stay on the air for five more minutes, you're going to get collide to that road. And you know, your life's just gotten so much better already. Even if you land, do you just feel like you've accomplished something, it's a hard place it's, you know, it's a great place to do records, but it's also can be very challenging if you're on the ground. So
Speaker 1 (1h 36m 59s): Yeah, it's not a gimme for sure. Jonny. I want to be mindful of your time and wrap things up here. This has been a super pleasure and I could do this for hours, but just before we do two, two quick questions, they're quite different. The first is if you could go back to your 50 ourself, which was somewhere in your early teens, sounds like, what would you do differently? And then I think everybody would love to know when we, when we could start traveling again. What's next for what's next for you?
What's what's on, what's a goal. What's on your horizon. Is it more Texas? Is it world breaking encampments or is it something else?
Speaker 2 (1h 37m 37s): Alright. Back to my 50 ourself. Well, I was still at high school flying on weekends. Still didn't have a license at that point. So I was relying on my father or friends to come pick me up and take me flying. You know, I guess for me, I was just, I was just so into flying and trying to fly far. At that point, it was all about going distance, staying in the air as long as I could. And yeah, I don't know what I would change from that, you know, probably taking more days off from school and flying more.
Speaker 1 (1h 38m 11s): So your advice would be to do more of,
Speaker 2 (1h 38m 15s): Yeah, I certainly don't look back and think that I wish I'd changed anything and I've had a great, great life and yeah, I, I would just probably fly more if I could have back then because yeah, I had full-time school and every now and again, I took sports days off when the weather was too good to go to school. There was definitely several occasions where I got to school and turned around and hitchhiked my way back home just in time to see my father driving out with his hand, go out around, I'd be like, I bet we'd go back and get my go attitude.
Cause so yeah, probably would've taken more days off from school to fly and what's next? Well, that's a great question. I've literally been traveling since I was 21. So nearly 20 years traveling the world and competing and sort of just not really having a plan, just doing all the comps. And now that I've been at home for two years stuck here, it's kind of, I dunno, it feels like that dream of flying all the time is sort of coming to an end.
I don't know why, but probably just cause I haven't been able to travel for so long, but it's been, you know, it's been kind of nice to just being in one place and not living out of a suitcase for, for more than a couple of weeks at a time. So yeah, I dunno. It's a, it's a funny world out there right now and I really have no idea when I'm going to be able to travel overseas next. I mean, I'd like to think it's next year, but we still got strict restrictions here in Australia and yeah, it's times are tough.
So right now I'm just sort of enjoying and living day by day, seeing what the future holds when they, they open the prison cells up. I guess if that's the case. Yeah. I'm obviously keen to go and do some more flying around the world and compete and probably not as much as I was, but yeah, there's been talks of me trying to do some paragliding comps. I dunno, quite happy with the glider and flying right now.
And I don't see me wanting to, to go to more collapsible wings, I mean right now. But I think if I did do one, it would certainly be on the glider on flying and it would, you know, just see how I go against the, the racing guys on, on my lower performing wing and something like that. But that would probably be more of a local thing in Australia. I think if that happens in the next six months or so, but yeah, fortunately a lot of times the hand gliding and paragliding coms clash, hang-gliding still got my priority even though people think I'm just a pair of a lot of quality these days.
Cause that's all I've been doing. I still, I still love hang-gliding and certainly wouldn't trade it in for paragliding, but you know, they're just a different GLAAD is in the air doing the same thing. And I think, you know, I don't personally, I don't know why paragliders don't fly, hang gliders, you know, there's, I believe you can learn. You can learn things from both sports for, for the sport that you really liked to do. And so just one thing, paragliding has taught me patience. I thought I had patience and gliding, but paragliding has taught me that you can actually have a lot more patients than I thought I could ever have.
So yeah, that's, that's been fun.
Speaker 1 (1h 41m 51s): 90 wicked, man. I really appreciate your time and nice to see your smile. And I hope when things free up, we get a chance to fly together somewhere. I've been looking forward to that for years. So maybe via or something, but good luck with everything and maybe we'll see each other in Texas when he says that'd be,
Speaker 2 (1h 42m 11s): It'd be cool in Texas.
Speaker 1 (1h 42m 15s): Yeah, there you go. I know Dustin's been I in it, you know, he's flying them out too. So he's, he's threatening to get down there as well, but good luck with everything. I hope you guys get to travel again soon and thanks man. I appreciate it.
Speaker 2 (1h 42m 28s): No worries. Thank you.
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