Nik Hawks returns to the Mayhem to share two pretty scary close calls that ended well, but came with a LOT of lessons that every pilot can learn from including: coming back from “fear injuries” by using the big 4, time, building exposure, and pattern recognition; how to get better at self-assessment (wingovers, exit from 360, exiting and entering spirals cleanly, avoiding and handling collapses, etc.); how to ask older/better pilots for help and the best way to approach mentors; when a pilot is really ready to go XC and what risks that involves; what groundhandling can…and maybe can’t help with; the safest ways to fly and practice and approach progression; training vs. equipment; eating for mental performance; the lunacy of spending money on gear before training and a lot more. This is a critical episode for pilots who are just beginning their journey to the most experienced pilots in the world. This one will save lives, make you think, and make you a better pilot. Spread the word.
A buck an episode, that’s all we ask.
- Fear injuries- what are they, and how do you recover?
- Intermediate syndrome- how to walk the line
- Avoiding dangerous positions- what is safe for one pilot scratching is different for every pilot
- Self assessment- how to do it better and why it’s so important
- Being a student of the sport
- Foundational skills that nearly all pilots don’t have well
- Stalls and SIV- what’s important and what isn’t?
- Where are you comfortable flying? Understand the jump it takes between flying different places and different situations. How to keep fun as the priority
- How to approach mentors and learn from the more experienced pilots
- The questions to ask- 1) What do you see? 2) What do you think about the conditions? 3) Have you seen these conditions before? 4) What happened?
- It’s a lot cooler to be a better pilot on lower performance gear than a lesser pilot on a wing beyond your ability
- Developing a routine and a mental framework for “bringing it” and being confidence
- Be a professional pilot
- Saving it for a better day and listening to your gut- think in decades, not in days
- Thoughts on Groundhandling- where it can, and possibly can’t help
- How to train to stay calm and mentally train yourself to manage fear
- Visualization- what you can do to imagine your flight going well
- Optimism vs reality and positive self-talk (the positive power of negative thinking)
- How to develop a progression plan- write it down, journal, make a plan
- Eating for performance
Mentioned in this episode:
Ben Abruzzo, Bill Belcourt, Adél Honti, Matt Beechinor, Marko Hrgetic Hrga, Brad Barlage, Trey Hackney, Fabien Blanco, Jocky Sanderson, Nate Scales, Russ Ogden, Josh Cohn, Theo De Blic, Will Gadd, Jon Sylvester, Bruce Marks
Nik and I spoke about his friends input in the show. Excerpts from those emails are here (these are REALLY worth reading):
From Brad Barlage (listen to more in a recent podcast he did with Nik on the Paleo Treats podcast)
- Ground handling is meaningless while in the air flying. (my opinion) Two different things. In my mind, it would be similar to sitting in a car explaining how to handle snowy spins and loss of traction vs. going out in the parking lot and spinning out in a controlled environment. My advice is more SIV time – those are the lessons that stuck for me and how I learn. Everyone learns differently though. For me, it was a ton of time in glider and when I had thousands of feet of elevation I’d do collapses over dirt to practice. Granted this is not likely the smartest or safest thing but my thought was that is how I’d learn with a margin of safety. Everyone’s margin of safety is different.
- Ground flying is by far the riskiest part of flying. Most top pilots I know don’t spend much time near the ground – this is the danger zone where one has little time to react. Launch, do what you have to but the goal is to get high enough so you have options to sort things out – when the unexpected happens. I know it sounds simple.
- Fear -Spent a lot of my life figuring out how to manage the fear. In climbing, I am afraid of falling, but have learned to either take daily controlled falls to help instill that things will be OK or care so much about doing the route that falling is far from the first thing on my mind and as long as set safety requirements (gear) are met – GO FOR IT and sort the details later. Never once been hurt. Everyone has different ways but for me, it was rationally building up to it with many small micro goals to give confidence. SIV clinics are sort of like renting skills, it is a great way to learn but how to OWN those skills is the question. Think of how you OWN skills in other parts of life. For me,it involves a lot of muscle memory practice, ability to have the skills to remain calm to make good decisions (but those don’t happen without push boundaries at some point). Some people just have cool heads, most of my partners have better heads than I do, so I have to build up skills and practice a lot more than they do.
- Visualization – totally key. I’d suggest taking a moment to do a walkthrough of the flight and potential issues before each flight. It might only get you through the first few minutes but the reality is that is when most issues happen. Stack the odds in your favor. I’d pick a well sorted mentally prepared man to a physically honed but not mentally SOLID man every day of the week. Paragliding attacks all types and I found some got pretty far in flying but when it came down to it they didn’t have the skills to really sort out when the shit really hits the fan.
- Surround yourself with OG and professionals. I find this key. Find the dudes that have a system dialed and watch them. Belcourt has a system and ritual before each flight, sure it gets glossed over but I know it is going on, constantly evaluating conditions, options and flight plan. I’m really into this with climbing. It is a rare day you don’t find me prepared, with all the gear, with a plan, focusing on sending good energy to those I tie in with and also straight up asking for what is needed. I also realize climbing is many things to many people and what it is in my life also likely really turns people off being way too serious about a sport/hobby. For me, it is deeper and a reflection of how I live my life and to what standard. I see this in you also. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Often times the point of failure happened a while back in the process (not mentally prepared, didn’t read conditions right, not fed enough to have the energy it takes to concentrate fully…) There is the moment of failure that we all focus on but I like to take a step back and look at the entire episode not the few second scene. Find an OG pilot and ask him to mentor you for the day, launch or whatever. Offer to help him with food, beer or some kind of kindness. I try to climb with many different people for this aspect. We all learn little bits and can pick and choose what we bring to our own game.
- Sometimes everything can go right (or close enough to right) and things just happen- unfortunately close to the ground. That is the nature of the sport. No amount of Monday morning coaching will change that. Learn what you can and move forward with a lesson under your belt. Perhaps maybe used a bit of luck and gained some experience. Think what you could do better next time and move forward, knowing you have used a limited amount of luck. Hence the reason I have not backcountry skied much in the last winters – my luck is all used up and I’m not sure my experience is enough to keep me safe. A real tough decision and one I think you’ll have to be real with regarding your paragliding.
And another from Chris (more info on him in this interview on the PT podcast here, episode 10):