Episode 3 – Jeff Shapiro and the Dark Arts


Jeff Shapiro is a world class sponsored athlete and a world class human being. He’s flown and competed on hangliders since he was 17 all over the world, he sends 5.14 big wall routes in climbing, he flies wingsuits, rides sport bikes, is a gifted Falconer, and is also a Dad and family man.  But don’t call him extreme and don’t call him an adrenaline junky. Jeff is grounded, thoughtful, eternally grateful to be able to pursue his passions and his approach to risk and danger is something we all need to ponder. In this amazing episode we discuss the incredible numbers of losses in the wingsuiting community the last three years, including his close friends Sean Leary, Dean Potter, and Graham Hunt; an amazing close call flying at King Mountain Idaho a few years back on his Hanglider; how he has flown for more than twenty years without an accident; his own brush with death this year; and if it’s possible to justify participating in a sport with such terrible odds, among many other things. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and prepare to be whisked away into a realm that very, very few people inhabit.  It’s a special place.


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Show Notes:

  • Jeff discusses growing up in the Pacific Northwest and watching birds soar the ferries, and becoming fascinated with flight
  • Jeff talks about his history of hang gliding and learning the hard way
  • How important gratitude and passion are in life, and how adventure sport and risk tie into every aspect of life.
  • Jeff recounts a really scary flight at King Mountain, Idaho and the lessons that came out it.
  • We talk about progression, the numbers game, and if it’s possible to pursue very dangerous activities and be safe.  Is it possible to get the same reward from less dangerous activities?
  • We talk about losing his close friends Dean Potter, Graham Hunt and Sean Leary and others in wingsuit basejumping accident, and his own close call with death. Where to go from here? Where to draw the line? How is possible to justify something with such horrible odds?



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Speaker 1: 00:00:01 Well. Good morning. Good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are in the world. Welcome to the cloud based mayhem podcast. I am really excited to bring you this show. Firstly, I have to apologize for the long delay between this one in the last I've just returned from Europe. I was over there for three months, uh, and at the end competed in the red bull x outs. So that was pretty exciting. We'll talk about that in a future show. Uh, but I've brought on my audio gear and I was planning on, uh, talking to some of the pilots over there, but there was just never any time. So anyway, I'm back now and uh, just wrapped up, uh, an amazing talk last night with Jeff Shapiro. Uh, Jeff is, uh, world-class hang glider wing Souter uh, climber Falconer. He is a man of many talents. Um, but mostly I think what you're going to get from this show is just the incredible way.
Speaker 1: 00:00:52 Like it's, he's kind of like Alan Watts, just the incredible way that he talks about risk and danger and how the sports and these activities tie into life and relationships and love. And Passion. Um, he, I think what describes Jeff most is his just gratitude for life. Um, sitting with him and being with him, he just brings light and love to everyone. He's around. Um, he's a really impressive person. Uh, I am honored to call him my friend. Um, I'm honored to have had this time with him. I think you're really going to enjoy this show. Um, the heat, there's so many things here that are incredibly valuable, uh, not only to piloting and cross country and flying, but just to life. Uh, Jeff has lost in the last three years. Uh, I think 43 friends in wing suiting, including kind of his core group, uh, Dean Potter and Graham Hunt and, uh, Sean Leery, uh, hits, put him in an extremely reflective mode.
Speaker 1: 00:01:57 Uh, and, and this was also really interesting for both of us, I think right now because we're both going through kind of this a very reflective time. You know, when I got to Monaco that the night, uh, I got into the May goal and Monaco after the XL ups, you know, of course you're elated. And then I sat and we were, we'd been talking about the next campaign all the way through the race. You know, we just laughed our way across the Alps, my, my team and I, and that night sat down and had a couple of beers with Aaron, Derek Gadi and Paul Gousha bower and, um, the gas bar pets, Yo. And, and, you know, just hearing all of our stories, sharing all of our stories about really close calls, um, made me reflect on kind of the unacceptable risk, I guess, uh, that we're putting ourselves in for really nothing more than adventure, maybe some glory, but then that doesn't really matter.
Speaker 1: 00:02:52 It's really the adventure. And, um, it was humbling and it was scary, uh, terrifying even. And, uh, so I've, anyway, Jeff has a really contemplated nature and he's a real thinker and he's very grounded and I think the outside world tends to look at and wing suiting in this kind of in base jumping and stuff is just ya, hose, just adrenaline seekers. And, uh, that's really, uh, not the label for Jeff whatsoever. And I think you'll get this out of this talk. But anyway, um, stick with it. It's a long talk. It's like listening to poetry. Um, there is a lot to be gleaned here and a lot to learn from. And uh, without further ado, Jeff Bureau
Speaker 2: 00:03:44 [inaudible]
Speaker 3: 00:03:58 [inaudible]
Speaker 4: 00:04:00 Hey Jeff. How's it going? It's going great. Kevin, how are you doing man?
Speaker 5: 00:04:03 I'm doing really well. It's really cool to have you on the podcast. I really appreciate your time and I'm just excited to have this conversation. You've been a, you know, somebody I've been paying attention to for years and you know, our friendships just developed in the last few of those years and uh, yeah, just, just stoked to be talking to you.
Speaker 4: 00:04:21 Yeah, likewise man. Thanks for having me on. I always appreciate the opportunity to, to have a good conversation with you, man.
Speaker 5: 00:04:28 Cool. Cool. Let me to let, let's dig right into it. What I would love to know, and I know a lot of the listeners would love to know, is just your history. You know, I know you're, you're getting into paragliding now, but your real flying history is more a with hang gliders as a pilot and a comp pilot and an inventor and working with Willis and, uh, but you know, I don't actually know that history very well and I, I just love to hear it from you. You know, what's, what started it all, what was the impetus and, and, and where is it going?
Speaker 4: 00:04:57 Sure, sure. Yeah. I mean, I think, um, the general theme that sort of drives us all towards, you know, the search for, for free flight, uh, or you know, finding free flight is, is the search for exploration and adventure really, uh, you know, how rare is it in these days to have adventure of true uncertainty where, you know, you don't really know what, what's going to happen. And, um, I think flying was always one of these magic terms. You know, it's one of these, these things that you sort of are raised to believe that humans can't do or aren't supposed to do, at least in the way that I dreamed about flying, flying like a bird, not in something, but actually flying. And, um, you know, some of my, my, um, my early memories, uh, you know, spending time with my family, trying to cross the, um, the parts of the Puget sound to get to some of the San Juan Islands.
Speaker 4: 00:05:53 Um, you know, I have these vivid memories of watching seagulls, sir, uh, soaring the ridge, left on the ferries. And I think, um, you know, an interest in raptors and interest in birds. Uh, just this sort of search for a freedom that I wasn't sure existed, drove me that way. And, um, you know, when I was a teenager I was drawn to the sport of climbing or the art of climbing. And I think it was always, um, just about finding the highest places and new perspectives. And so, um, essentially the way it went was, uh, a friend of mine was making, he was designing, um, rock climbing equipment. And I was, um, you know, trying some of that stuff out and trying to give him some feedback, some constructive feedback as a guy who was pretty passionate about climbing. And I went over to his house to pick up, uh, a portaledge, which is, um, you know, the [inaudible] that you sleep on when you're, when you're wall climbing.
Speaker 4: 00:06:49 And, um, you know, when I got to his shop, uh, I was on my way down to Yosemite. I, I s I saw all these photos of him flying a hang glider, um, and it was kind of like, it was like, you know, the answer to this question that I had and didn't really know how to ask. Um, it, it was, uh, it was just this, this light went on and it was like, oh, okay. I get it. That's what I have to do. Uh, and, you know, so as a stupid 17 year old kid, of course, I, I said that to him. Hey, I gotta do that. And he said, yeah, you know, whatever kid. Um, I'll tell you what, if you read these books and you call this number and you buy this hang glider and you buy this harness, um, you know, maybe we can talk about it.
Speaker 4: 00:07:32 And of course, I assume that he probably thought that I was, you know, I'm just gonna go cross-eyed at the prospect of having to do all those things. But, um, I picked up one of those books on the way down to Yosemite and I read it cover to cover while climbing El cap and I got back and did just that. And, um, I think that to this day, uh, I can still agree that it was the best decision I've ever made. Um, you know, walking that path has led to so many, uh, beautiful memories and, and, um, incredible experiences in my life that I, you know, I certainly wouldn't do a thing different. I, uh, I basically sold my car and bought a glider and a harness and, and a parachute. Um, actually I should give my mom credit, my mom, um, as scared as she was, you know, bought me my first reserve cause I, yeah, because, you know, it's funny, I was, um, the glider that I bought, you know, my first glider was this, this big Delta Plan beach trainer that was built in 1978.
Speaker 4: 00:08:31 It was a flight design Saber two oh five with fiberglass battens and I mean the thing had duct tape all over it and the original side wires, it was horrifying, you know, but I didn't know any better. And I was, um, you know, on the training hill a day and a half, which consisted of stalling the glider and landing in the middle of a blackberry thicket among other things. And, and you know, the second, second day, it was, uh, you know, my friend decided that it was appropriate to kick out of the nest. So he took me up to the top of a mountain on that sort of overlooks chucking that drive, which is up by Bellingham in Washington state. And, um, you know, off I went in a knee hanger harness with no parachute and a bike helmet and, uh, you know, I just thought that that's how you did it.
Speaker 4: 00:09:09 You know, I mean, I was just a dumb kid, but, um, but you know, I think that, uh, most would agree that have experienced the life of free flight, that, you know, when you decide that you're going to do it, it's, it's a passion. Uh, it's, it's something that just, it's just in you. It's either in you or it's not in you. And when it is, it's not, it's not something that that goes away or, or, um, that you have to work for. It's just there. And, uh, so, you know, it's pretty much driven my life ever since, you know, I got to, um, I got to develop in a, what I considered to be dreams and magic, you know? And, um, and so yeah, in the completely absurd, I mean, how like, you know, I, I find myself at 19 or 18 years old, flying a glider two and a half miles out over the ocean on a jetty in soaring like those seagulls on those ferries.
Speaker 4: 00:10:04 And you know, I'm flying over bears and a be 52 rack at the end of the jetty. This is on the Oregon coast. And I, you know, I mean, who gets to do that? You know, it was, um, it was really a sort of an eyeopener towards the rest of life, right? Like if you can do that, then we'll, I guess you can probably do anything. And um, you know, the dynamics and the, I like feeling vulnerable. I like feeling small. I like seeing the world, um, you know, as being part of it and not controlling it. And, uh, I think flying, it's, you know, you're such a small boat and a little ocean, especially in a hang glider repair glider that you can't, you can't help to, to, you know, to be humbled by it. And I think that that's a special experience. It, it creates gratitude.
Speaker 4: 00:10:47 And, um, for me, that's Kinda the key to happiness. And so, uh, it's really changed my life, but, but really, you know, I, um, I started flying, uh, in a way that was, um, solely, uh, as the, the sole goal was to, was to learn and continue to progress and continue to experience and of course, um, like yourself that led me towards cross-country flying and, um, you know, among like aerobatics and some other things, but, but really it was the, what I spoke of before, the adventure of true uncertainty that I was after you launch from point a and you landed an undetermined point B. And, um, you know, sometimes that's hundreds of miles away in somebody's backyard and they walk out and scratch their head and say, where did you come from? The experience is far from over. When you lay it, it's fine. It's all love, you know?
Speaker 4: 00:11:38 Yeah, right. It's like being on top of a mountain. You're only halfway there, you know, and, um, sometimes the best stories are from trying to get back home. Um, but, you know, I, uh, through the, the s the adventure of cross country flying and I'm trying to, to learn, I decided that I would start, um, competing. I actually blew a tendon and one of my fingers at the time, I was, um, I was climbing a lot. Uh, I mean, I still do, but, but it was kind of the most important, um, thing to me was, was getting stronger at this, that this, this one particular time in life in climbing. And I, and I blew a tendon. And, um, when I couldn't climb hard for the next six months, I thought, well, maybe I should try competing in my hang glider. I mean, I was always passionate about it and still flying, but it was this, this is kind of a new prospect.
Speaker 4: 00:12:27 And, um, you know, low and behold, when you go and you fly across country tasks, which, which isn't just about, you know, blowing down winder or trying to go as big as you can, but actually trying to complete a course, uh, with, you know, pilots that are a lot better than you. Um, you, you know, low and behold you learn a ton. And so it was, um, once again, like a light went on and, uh, getting to travel the world competing in a hang glider, um, has been one of the most beautiful vehicles to discover new people, new culture, new places, and just completely opened my mind, not to mention, you know, the flying is amazing. I mean ha, how cool is it to, to discover a country for the first time by flying a hundred miles, you know, basket weaves through the, through the Alps or wherever you may be. It's, it's really a special way to, um, to discover, you know, new terrain and, and um, yeah, it's, it's really special.
Speaker 5: 00:13:22 Nate. Nate scales. When we were, we were filming 500 miles to nowhere. He said, I love repaired letters. Take you. And I love where paragliders take you. And at first I thought, I don't, I don't get it. What's, what's, I don't understand the redundancy. And he was talking about, you know, that, that we, we've, we go all over the world chasing this absurd dream that we love. And then every time we launched, we have no idea where we're going to go. And that is really cool. And in comps you do and, and that and that's it. I'm glad you brought up comps cause I'd love to talk about your, your progression. Uh, I got into the comps for the same reason, not to, it just, it sounds like maybe the same reason but not to win them. Uh, but to become a better pilot. And I just, I didn't, I didn't have the, I didn't understand how important they are in terms of making you a better cross country pilot.
Speaker 5: 00:14:11 Can you talk about that? Like I know you, you floated cops all over the world and I'm, we're going to talk about king here at some point. Yeah. And that very special comp. But um, you know, talk about your progression because I know that you're, one of the things that impresses me so much about your career and your stamina as an athlete is your well-roundedness. You know, that we'll get in a wingsuit suiting later on. But you know that climbing is still a very integral part of your life as, as hang gliding is. And, um, whereas I tend to just go batshit crazy over one thing and you know what, I don't stay very well rounded. I become very, you know, very focused on a singular goal, whereas you've, you've kept things wide open. So I anyway, I don't want to do, you know, go off to engineer too much, but I'd love to talk about your progression, you know, how did you go from that, you know, crazy days when you were 17, you had no idea what was going on to being a really competitive world-class hang letter?
Speaker 4: 00:15:07 Well, you know, it's funny. Um, climbing had always been something that I had to work through. It was always something that included fear and doubt and, um, you know, uh, for, for me, flying always felt naturally. Uh, certainly I felt fear in doubt a lot in my flying related life. Um, but, but the act of doing it, um, always felt like something I was supposed to be doing. So, um, as I have progressed, um, I think that, uh, it's good, you know, you mentioned king, it's good that things like that happen and comms have been that way for me. Um, it's not only an opportunity to learn, but it's an opportunity to be humbled and to understand, uh, your weaknesses and what you, what you really should be working on. And, um, you know, for me it's about that, right? You, you, you achieve a particular level and you think that you're, you know, you're, you're here but then you, you know, you go race against these amazing pilots from all over the world and you've recognized that some days you're there, but some days you're not there, you know, there's still some big holes in your day.
Speaker 4: 00:16:09 Yeah. And you know, I always, I, I'm like, I can't tell you, I'm sure you've experienced the same thing. I how often I've, you know, vis sat in a field after landing just a bit short by myself scratching my head thinking, how many times do I have to learn this lesson? But, but you know, that's the beauty of flying is, is that no thermal is the same. No course is the same. Even if you fly the same course, it's going to be different the next day. And, uh, you know, the magic is, is that the sky is so dynamic that, um, you know, we make decisions now that affect us three hours from now. And the cool thing about that is, is that you get to use your friends to benchmark your decisions and now all of a sudden, you know, yes, we do fly a course and yes, we do have a determined goal that we're trying to achieve or get too.
Speaker 4: 00:16:56 But the reality is, is that, um, as you know, when you pick a line, uh, you know, d one line down a series of a street of clouds or, or across the hole might be completely different than someone else's line. And they could be in a position that you can't even see them and they can't see you. And, um, and yet, you know, you still end up in the same place. I'm able to determine which decision was the better decision. And, um, you know, I think that that's pretty cool. Uh, I also think that, um, you know, for me, the humility from all of that ended up helping me in, in life in general and helping me in, in all the other aspects of flying because, um, you know, you have to accept, uh, what happens. They're there, you know, you can stand in a field and kick your helmet, but you're still there, you know?
Speaker 4: 00:17:45 And so, so for me, the, um, the exercise of constantly my ego and, um, and then getting to look back and in hindsight discover which decisions worked and which ones didn't. Um, and then to go through the process of getting through that disappointment or that, that elation of making goal or making it there fast or winning the day or whatever. And, and, um, you know, really analyze logically without emotion what, what you did right and what you did wrong and learn from it and then apply that to the next day. I always tell people that are kind of intimidated about learning. Um, the process of comp line, you know, learning the instruments are traveling with a hang glider or whatever. It might be sort of intimidating them. Um, you know, you can learn more, uh, in a, in a single comp, then you can in an entire season of cross country flying at home.
Speaker 4: 00:18:34 And, um, I think that the reason for that is, is that, you know, you do have to fly crosswind tasks and upwind tasks and these decisions, uh, force you to fly the sky or the terrain in a way that you wouldn't if you were just trying to sort of get out there, you know, reach out as far as you can. And, um, and then, you know, you also have, like I said before, all of these ground bound and sky bound clues being, you know, your friends in gliders, uh, along with birds and dust devils and clouds and all the things that we pay attention to, to, um, you know, to say, yeah, he's going that way. I think that's a bad call. I'm going this way. Or yeah, he's, that's, that's what I would do. I'm going that way too. And then you get that immediate feedback loop that's so valuable.
Speaker 4: 00:19:16 You get to you, you're either on the ground or you're out in the front. That's right. That's right. That's right. And, and I truly believe, um, you know, after flying now for almost, you know, 20, 24 years, I guess 25 years is that, that, um, you know, everything we do perfectly prepares us for what's next. So, um, you know, whether you remember the lesson or make the mistake again doesn't really matter. It's still has made an impression on you and you still just like building a repertoire of, of um, experience climbing, uh, in a, in a thermal, you still have this subconscious little voice that's now going to tell you, um, you know, as a reference that the decision you're making is good or bad based on your previous experience. You might not consciously sort of tap into something. Um, but, but it's there, you know, and, um, and I think it applies to everything in a reply or it applies to relationships. It applies to, um, to, you know, whatever you might be into. Um, you know, learning a second language or, or, uh, ultra running in the mountains, whatever, all of those lessons that I've gleamed from flying and, um, and from the, the humility gained from racing with my friends around the world seems to be applicable to the rest of my life. And I'm, and I'm quite thankful for it.
Speaker 5: 00:20:34 Yeah. I think the A, I'm glad you brought that up. And I mean, I think that there's, there's a lot of things there that are really important that I think back to when I first learned we were rich soaring and Pacifica, you know, in Francisco and you know, it's, it's a really easy thing to do to launch a rich soaring site and just bought around or right. You know, and you can top land every 60 seconds or you can, you know, you can learn to throw really monstery wing overs with no break input whatsoever, you know, just weight shift or you can, you can play tag, you know, with your buddy, you can, um, you know, try to follow them around and wingtip to wingtip and make it a challenge. And that's to me what complying is all about. Cause you get that, you know, you get to see what other people do who are better than you, and you get to make, you know, you can either gaggle fly, you can make independent decisions, they pay off, they put you on the ground, there's just, there's, it's, you know, paragliders go up and they go down and that's what life is.
Speaker 4: 00:21:33 Right, right. And, and that, this is the essence of it is, is that each one of us that enjoys flying, you can probably, uh, put into a single category of, of people. And that's curious. You know, we're all curious. We all want to know what's possible. Um, you know, what, what, uh, we're sort of made of and, and, and what we're capable of, what's, what's possible, what isn't. Uh, those are, those are terms that, that change constantly. It's, uh, you know, fear and limitations we just make up and, um, and they change along the way. And that's cool, you know? Yeah. Um, and you know, if it's such a surreal environment, right? Like our perspective as human beings is generally, you know, real, like reasonably two dimensional. I mean, it's, it, we're sort of stuck because of gravity, but when you're flying, um, you know, you make these decisions and you're operating in this environment where you're spending hours at cloud base and you're outside of this aircraft.
Speaker 4: 00:22:29 And, you know, occasionally I'll find myself looking up at the glider, um, and, you know, realizing that we're actually, you know, we're up there surfing the sky. It's like, um, you know, it's a really special, a special way to fly. And, and it's fascinating and, and I've, I've never lost that curiosity or fascination. Um, and you know, you use, you mentioned before about being, you know, um, interested in multiple things and, um, you know, I'm, I'm just like, you too. I, I don't, I'm not, uh, I'm not necessarily attracted to being good at something. I'm attracted to getting good at something. I'm attracted to the progression. So, you know, people ask, you know, uh, w like, how can you be so psyched on flying hang gliders and climbing and winky base jumping and, um, you know, falconry and whatever, what blah, blah, blah. And the, I think that the key to that is always the same as if you were into just one thing and that's just focused on what you're doing.
Speaker 4: 00:23:23 Live in the present, enjoy the moments that are now because really that's all you have. And I'm trying, you know, try and learn from before and certainly make goals and try and achieve them, have those, those goals drive direction. But, but, you know, I, I find that flying for me, um, it, it's, um, the essence of it is, is really living in the present. And, uh, you know, we were just sort of forced into this, in this environment, during that activity where we don't really have the mental capacity to think of anything other than what it is we're doing. Um, and in complying flying even more so, um, because you're, you're on top of flying and making good decisions and trying to be safe. You're also, you know, racing hard and trying to go as fast as you can and beat all your friends, you know, so, um, you know, I think, uh, I think all of those things have, have always attracted people like you and I, and yet, um, you know, the other special part about flying is, is that a multitude of people and personalities can achieve it. And, um, it doesn't take this drive to race or to, to excel or it just, it just takes someone's curiosity about, um, you know, the magic of human flight to, uh, to take the steps necessary to, to learn how to do it. And, um, that's the other thing I like about it.
Speaker 5: 00:24:40 Speaking of that. Yeah, I do too. I love that about it. Speaking of that one, one of the, one of my favorite podcasts is the Tim Ferriss podcast. And one of the questions he always asked his guests is, what would you say to your 20 year old self? And I'm right now, I'm imagining, you know, back when you were a 50 hour pilot, you know, when you were 17 or 18, and you're starting to figure it out, um, you know, what would, what would you have liked to have heard then that, you know now what would, what would you tell your 20 year old self as a pilot and in terms of, you know, something not to do or to do or, you know, what would have changed the trajectory in a PR in a positive way?
Speaker 4: 00:25:20 Well, you know, it's hard because, um, when you're 20, you're stubborn, you know? Yeah. And, um, and I think that when stubborn, uh, becomes open-minded, that turns into drive. And, and I think that, um, for me, I wouldn't necessarily change that about my 20 year old self. Uh, I think being stubborn is, is, is an important tool, um, to drive you towards, uh, the, you know, towards the unknown or to, or towards what you, what you believe to be true and generally find out is not that true. Yeah. Right. So, so I don't know, you know, we were just, I was just talking about this, um, with a photographer friend of mine and I, you know, what I would want to say to my 20 year old self and what I would want to hear as my 20 year old self are very different things.
Speaker 4: 00:26:12 Um, and you know, it's a converse question would be, what would you like to hear at this age yet? You know, now I'm just, I just turned 40, um, w from my 80 year old self and I, I can tell you this for certain at 40, I would listen very carefully to my faith, to my 80 year old self, didn't we? Wouldn't we? Right, right. At 20. You know, I think that, um, I think what I would want to tell my 20 year old self is to, um, to, to let it to be patient. Um, you know, you can only be you. So the things that you're going to do are the things that you're going to do. It's like this, this, um, I had a conversation with a guy, a real kind of a famous Yosemite character by the name of Chango Chuck. I had just climbed El cap and was wandering the valley by myself.
Speaker 4: 00:27:04 And One night I ended up, um, at the base of El cap having a conversation with Chongo and, um, you know, he's a theoretical physics, um, Aficionado, you know, is really intelligent dude. And, um, a lot of people have learned a lot of things from him. And I, we got into this discussion of like basic philosophy one oh one, you know, and I said, well, what do you think John? Go like, do we have freewill? And he was like, no, but we think we do and that's good enough, you know? Yeah, yeah, I did too. And I've always sort of lived by that. You know, like if you, if you have a path in front of you, um, you know, I've always believed that, uh, you know, you choose the more difficult one. And, um, it's funny, I was just talking to another friend about that who, um, you know, you know, our Jody, I was talking to Jody about this and her brother Kenny was saying that Kenny, someone that we all have lots of respect for.
Speaker 4: 00:27:54 And, um, and I think that, you know, taking the difficult path is always the good one because that's the one you're going to learn the most from. But, but the, to go back to what Chongo was saying, you know, if you have path a and path B and you pick path B, did you really choose it or who is that the one you were supposed to be on all the time? You know, and I don't think it really matters. I think that, um, in the end you're going to be, you, you're going to make those decisions and you're going to pay the consequences for those decisions, good or bad. So I guess that's what I would say. It's just, you know, let it happen. Um, follow your path, uh, do what calls to you and, uh, and everything's gonna work out, you know, and, um, and I guess, um, you know, that that's probably been the most important lesson.
Speaker 4: 00:28:42 I feel like, uh, that I've learned recently through this wing suit base jump experience is, um, to do things for reasons of identity or achievement or, uh, ambition, especially when there's risk or consequence involved. I think that, uh, for me it's very important to listen to what calls to me in a way that speaks to my heart, fulfills my life as a human being and allows me to find the joy of being alive, you know, not, not like, like the joy of being good or, or anything like that, but the joy of the, that you, you know, that you remember from play, like unhindered play, you know, play like I'm like a kid plays, you know. And, and I think, uh, if you can find that in the things that, that you love to do, then, then all of a sudden those things that you love to do are, are, um, it's the right kind of love, you know?
Speaker 4: 00:29:42 And, uh, and then, you know, and then it's not so important if you, if, if you don't feel like doing something, you don't do it. And, um, you know, I dunno about you man, but whenever I've had something kind of go wrong or learned a pretty hard lesson, it's generally because I've sort of forced it, you know? Yeah. Um, when I let things happen, the way that it feels right, uh, then it goes good. And, um, you know, when you, when you really just let things happen, the way that they're going to happen, then the magic happens. You know, sometimes you get those moments where you're like, ah, did that just happen? But, um, you know, I think, I think, uh, those moments where I try and force it because I wanted be it or I w I really feel like I should do it. Um, those are the times where, where, you know, life can teach you some pretty hard lessons and, and, um, you know, maybe, I don't know, maybe that would apply to something I would say to my, my 20 year old self
Speaker 5: 00:30:38 you talked about too. Yeah, I agree. You talked about, um, I've just been reflecting on this when, when you said it, that, you know, the, one of the things or maybe the thing that really attracts us to doing these sports, these activities that really do have a pretty major element of risk, um, is that being in the moment. You know, I also spend a lot of time climbing when I was young. I not nearly at the level you do, but you know, climbers talk about, you know, when you're a thousand feet up and, and you're, you know, you're in the 10th pitch and you completely lose the, the concept of the ground. You're so into where you are. You almost forget you've got a bilayer. Um, a tiny flower, we'll be in a little crack and it's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Um, it might be the equivalent of like a runners high.
Speaker 5: 00:31:31 Uh, you know, I, I, for me you mentioned, you know, a small boat in, in a big sea. Um, and the humility that the only thing I've ever been able to really compare flying to ascetically is running rivers. To me it was the same thing with kayaking because there's, there's, you know, you're, there's a lack of control there. That's really, that's really attractive to me, that you're, you're seeing the world in a way that's really unique. Um, and that Mo, those moments are precious and special. But can we, um, is that why we do it?
Speaker 4: 00:32:03 Well, you know, I mean that, you know, you mentioned it, it's, it's funny. Um, the sky, the ocean, rivers, these are things that, that, um, make us feel pretty small. And yet, you know, we're trying to pilot our way through them, uh, in a way that maximizes, um, our growth as people. And I, and I, uh, whether that's like the, the intention or not, that's what happens. And I think that, um, I think that the reason why we do it probably differs, uh, for each of us. But I think that that's kind of a universal result. Um, you know, I, when I land a, I might've said this before, but when I, when I land from a, um, especially a wingsuit base jump, um, you know, I see the world for, for a few fleeting moments and, and it does, it does go away pretty quick.
Speaker 4: 00:32:57 Um, you know, I always find myself sort of like getting back to the thoughts of normal life, um, just, you know, fairly shortly, but for a few fleeting moments. I'm, I'm in a place where I, I recognize that, that, um, life is going to be the same and would have completely, um, remained unchanged regardless of, of whether I was in it or not. And I think that that, that feeling is, is probably fairly pronounced in a wingsuit base jump because, um, you know, you, you go through this experience where, you know, I, I guess maybe subconsciously you have to pull the parachute to save your own life. So, um, every jump essentially is kind of a near death experience. I mean, it's really not, I don't really think of it that way. I mean, we don't think of paragliding flights or hand gliding flights that way.
Speaker 4: 00:33:47 It's, it's about, um, the joy of flight and, and, um, you know, you're, you've earned the right to be there by doing the work and being physically and mentally prepared. So it's not like I'm, I, I dwell on it or even think about, you know, like, you know, the cheating death or it's not, it's not about that at all. But I think that this intense experience happens where you're living in the present, um, in a way that's so, uh, s it's so profound that when you, when I land, when I land, I look around and I'm aware of that. I'm aware of the fact that, um, you know, whether I was, whether, whether I was standing right where I am or, um, or you know, whatever dead at the bottom of the cliff, the, the world would still be the same. And that is, um, that's a really, really, really cool thing to feel because what you recognize is, is w what I feel like I'm recognizing is, is my own mortality and my place in the world.
Speaker 4: 00:34:47 And, um, that, that these moments are special and they require, uh, being paid attention to, to really fulfill, um, this, this obligatory, uh, sort of gift, um, of, of being aware that we're lucky, we're lucky to do the things that we do. And, um, and, you know, I think some of it's that too. Um, what draws me to doing things that are consequential. It's not to cheat death or to get like rush or anything like that. I think it, it essentially allows me to experience, um, being alive, you know, the joy of being alive, not, not, you know, living, but being alive and, um, and experiencing the adventure that is my life, my story, um, to the full, you know, to the fullest value. Uh, I, I don't want to do a one thing and look back on it and, and, um, reminisce. I want to continue growing, continue learning, continue seeing new things and, um, talking to new people and, and I'm gaining new perspectives.
Speaker 4: 00:35:55 Um, so that when I am an old guy and, um, uh, you know, knock on wood, hopefully I'll get there. Uh, look back on my life. I, um, I feel like I did a lot of exploring and, um, you know, I, I, I wanna I'd like to try and I'd like to think that I, I can continue to do that to some, to some extent until the day I die. You know, I think, I think these states of consciousness that we get in after a big paraglider flight or a big hanging on her flight or a wingsuit base jump or climb or whatever, um, these states of consciousness can be achieved with a quiet mind. It's just much more difficult to do, you know? So I think that's just something that hopefully we'll all learn how to do as we continue on our, on our way, you know, on our path.
Speaker 5: 00:36:37 I see. I said in that, you know, that sear, uh, um, thing that Jodie and I did the surf in the Sierra as it was, you know, a photo, kind of a journalistic piece we did about that Vivi expedition, you know, that, you know, some people have to meditate for hours. All we have to do is launch. And it's, you're right. You know, I, I, you know, it's, it's really raw. I mean, it's, that's how I feel about it. These, this concept of, um, you, I, I want to get into wink suiting later. I want to get too much into it now, but, um, you mentioned something that I want to explore a little bit and that's that, you know, when you, when you jump and you, you capture those fleeting moments of, uh, awareness, consciousness, you know, the thrill, the adrenaline. Um, is that in drug terms, um, is that, does that diminish with each jump?
Speaker 5: 00:37:30 And is that, is that where we pushed too far is because in that quest for progression and learning, because I know for me, um, you know, if I reached the, uh, their nirvana, paragliding, whatever that may be, like if I, if I got to some point where I felt like, okay, I'm not learning anymore, it would completely lose its luster immediately. I, I wouldn't want to continue doing it. It's about, it is about getting better. It is about improving. It is about, you know, uh, you know, finding mentors and learning and just being a sponge. And, you know, but, um, that puts us in a compromising position because that means, you know, I'm not a wing sooner, but, uh, you know, I understand that what that does is makes you, you to get better. You have to fly closer, you have to fly. [inaudible]
Speaker 4: 00:38:17 well, yeah, I mean, I don't, I don't necessarily think you, you know, to get better, you have to fly closer. But I do think that what you're saying is essentially true and it, and it's, you know, to varying degrees, it doesn't have to be wingsuit base jumping. It can be hang gliding or paragliding or anything. Um, you know, that people are into kayaking. I that, um, wingsuit base jumping is unique in, in, and it's unfortunately being proven just statistically in this, um, this idea that, that it's, it's just very, very, very unforgiving. I mean, I think, uh, aviation in general, right, that like to go the, the, the saying goes, aviation in general isn't inherently dangerous. It's just absolutely unforgiving of human error. And I think that, um, the problem with, um, any of the arts that, that we do, uh, that demand, the contemplation of consequence is that if you are attracted to getting better at something, um, then you're going to have to accept that eventually you're going to step over a and, uh, you know, an invisible line.
Speaker 4: 00:39:27 And in every sport or activity that I've ever done, um, you know, there's a particular level of forgiveness of that. You know, if you're skiing, you push hard and you push hard and you push hard and then you step over the line and you have this massive crash or you know, whatever. And um, you know, you might get jacked up, but you're, you're probably gonna live through it. And then the same goes for a number of other things. As long as you're making decisions that are based on your skill set and your level of experience, you know, you're probably gonna live. Um, in fact, in most activities it's very likely that you're going to live. And in wingsuit base jumping, it's exactly the opposite. It's likely that you're not going to live. And, um, you know, the way I view it, or the way I imagine it is, um, you know, life requires balance, right?
Speaker 4: 00:40:19 Balance is everything. It's everything. Um, and say, let's say let's take something that's, that's fairly benign in terms of safety. Um, like a relationship in a relationship you have, um, you know, this balance beam and the fulcrum is, is wide and it's rounded and the weight on either side isn't that heavy. So although, um, it's still consequential and there's still risk involved with love when you walk to one side or the other. Um, you know, the relationship can get out of balance, but you recognize it and you, you know, do whatever it takes, communicate and you work your way back to a balanced situation in a wingsuit base jump, especially in, at least in my experience, the fulcrum is a pinpoint. The balance beam is, is as long and the weights are exceptionally heavy. And if you step a toenail over that, uh, that fulcrum one way or the other, the weights on the ground immediately.
Speaker 4: 00:41:14 And, um, and I think that the reason why, um, a lot of my friends who are exceptionally skilled, exceptionally experienced, very smart, uh, very, very, very um, risk savvy mountain people have lost their lives doing that is because I'm, like I said earlier, we're not attracted to being good at something. We're all attracted to getting good at something or to the exploration involved with the progress or the process. And, um, you know, when you've achieved a particular level in that sport, um, if you do continue to progress, you're progressing towards a line that you can't see and in, in, in that sport, if you step, um, the smallest amount over that line, it can generally mean the loss of life. So, you know, this is a struggle for a lot of us right now because of all the loss in that particular art form is, um, you know, if, if the answer then is to jump below your limits and to fly below your limits to create a sustainability, then are you learning?
Speaker 4: 00:42:21 And, you know, especially if you've done a ton of it or you know, a, uh, quite a bit of it, at least if you've, let's just, let's just throw out an arbitrary number. Say you've jumped a wingsuit, 500 plus times all around the world, um, and then you decide that because of the, the loss of a lot of your friends, you're going to jump below your limits. Are, is it worth it now? Are you learning enough to justify, um, you know, the risks, the level of risk that's involved because it's still, it's still very, very, very present. In fact, um, you know, I've been analyzing it a lot of lately. A lot of, a lot of my friends that are exceptionally good, um, have actually been killed, uh, making mechanical errors, you know, just blowing exits or, or doing something that you wouldn't think, um, you know, could happen.
Speaker 4: 00:43:05 But the problem is, is, you know, you can have a, he, it's, it's 99.9%. Uh, safe is not acceptable because one accident and a thousand means losing your life. And, um, you know, you can have perfect exits every time, but it only, it only takes one time. So essentially every jump is the most important jump of your life and every jump has to be perfect. And when I say that, I don't mean that the act of flying has to be perfect. That also includes the decision making process before and after all of that has to be perfect and applied to the next jump in a way that is both, um, you know, something that you can learn from but also completely kept separate so that you can again view this jump as it's jumped. It's not next jump, it's not last jump, it's not his jumper, her jump, it's my jump and it's this jump and, um, and if you don't talk about it in the present, yeah, yeah, exactly.
Speaker 4: 00:44:00 And you know, once again, this is, this is where the magic is, you know, so, um, that question as to whether or not it's worth it, that's a, that's an individual thing that each of us have to ask ourselves every single time we do it. And, um, you have to be honest with yourself that in a way that that does not include ego or ambition or self expectation. And, um, you know, I think that, um, that, that it's just one of those things that's, uh, um, you know, it, yeah. It's a process that I'm, I'm going through at myself at the moment. Um, you know, as, as I've been dealing with them with losing a, a quite a few of, of some of my very best friends actually.
Speaker 5: 00:44:44 Mm. And, and Jeff, I, that's a great, and I want to, I want to come back to that, but let's switch gears for a second because I think that's, that's where we want to end things is that cause it's just, there's so many lessons in your experience in the last three years with the loss of all those friends. Um, but you wrote well,
Speaker 4: 00:45:03 well, and I, I'm sorry to interrupt you. I do want this. I do want to say that I don't want to dwell on just that because of course, because the, the ex I wouldn't try. I mean, it's like the experiences that I've had doing, doing this thing, you know, when see, base jumping have been the most, um, amazing and influential and special experiences of my life. And all of those people that have, that have passed on were people that I celebrate because my perspective and, and the time that I was able to share with them has changed me as a person in a way that probably isn't as, um, as possible in, in, uh, in, in other parts of life. So anyways, I didn't, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I just wanted to say that. Yeah.
Speaker 5: 00:45:41 Yeah. Just, I, I wanna I want to be thinking about that while I'm talking about these other things because there's just, there's a lot there. And then I think, sure. There's some really valuable stuff there. Um, you wrote an article recently, and you've told me this personally, I think last year's Oh, our show, but, uh, about your experience at king king has kicked everybody's ass. You know, that's my backyard. I flew over there a couple times this last week and we all got pounded at king. We always do. Um, but you, you wrote a great article, uh, but it's different hearing it from you. And I would love for you to share that story cause I think it's really instructive to, uh, other pilots, whether they're or hang gliders or paragliders, whatever, uh, sailplane piles. There's actually a lot of sail planes out there this week, which was really cool. But Oh nice. Yeah, they were, they were having a big event and it was pretty neat watching what those guys were doing. Um, but tell me about king, cause that is a terrifying story, but it's awesome. Really, really cool. How you handled it and, and what came out of it.
Speaker 4: 00:46:40 Well, yeah. Um, yeah, it's, it's funny. Uh, [inaudible] that's so funny. Yeah. I, I've had the most amazing flights in my life there and, and also a few pretty terrifying ones. Hey you guys, we're crushing it this week. It was really cool to hear about all these huge flights you guys were making. Um, and it said all week or whether I have like five days in a row, it's just, yeah, super special. I know. Why can't they have the meet during, you know, the loss during such lucky times, but they, yeah, no, I, I, um, I really kind of cut my teeth as a mountain pilot, uh, at King from years maybe, let's see, must have been around 97 or 98 to about 2005. Um, I flew there every year and I still go back, but, um, but, but I haven't really been as interested in, in the meat, uh, lately.
Speaker 4: 00:47:29 Um, just for unrelated reasons, but I, but I, um, I had some, some amazing experiences there, both in the meet and a free flying king is a boy king is, it's a special place. I mean, you know, having flown all over the world right now and you know, these, these days, I sort of consider there to be a handful of big air sights, right? Like fish and St Andre and, uh, the Owens certainly, um, you know, there, there are places in the world that just have a little extra to them, you know, a little extra fury or fierceness and, uh, and king is savage man, that place is, um, it can be, uh, it can, it can really, um, grab a whole DNA in a lot of ways. And, um, yet it's perfectly suited for, for the kind of flying that we do. The mountains are not that broad, so although they're tall, you know, you generally have a glide out and you generally have a glide to an LZ.
Speaker 4: 00:48:25 And, um, the thing about that place though is that, uh, it's high and dry and the lift is strong, you know, and, um, I had, uh, I've competed there the year before my incident and a friend of mine, um, a guy named Chris Jordania, he was a really, tragically, he was killed there, uh, trying to fly around to sell. And I remember this day a friend of mine and I were dodging Haino hanging curtains of virga and getting snowed on from underneath. And, um, you know, landed in a Gus. I mean, I landed, I remember landing, I saw, I saw this thing coming. I landed in about a 30 and stood there flying the glider on the ground, kind of, you know, wondering what to do. And then it got calm and I managed to turn the glider around thinking I was making the right choice. And, you know, it was blowing 30 the other way instantly.
Speaker 4: 00:49:18 And that's still stuck in the same position, but, um, you know, facing 180 degrees the other way. It was incredible a day. And, uh, unfortunately he tried to get around, uh, a series of storm clouds and was caught by a microburst. So, you know, we were all fairly aware that, that, that place, um, had some teeth. And so the next year, uh, I was there and, um, you know, had some comfortable distance from that memory and, um, was ready to fly. You know, it was one of those things that was kind of kind of feeling my oats, you know, and uh, yeah, I, you know, I don't know, sometimes you're inspired to, to go hard and, uh, this was the second day of the comp and, um, it was a big day, but you know, king is one of these places where I can overdevelop in, in a very short amount of time.
Speaker 4: 00:50:08 So you see the, the day progressing. And I usually ask myself, you know, as a changing and if it is, is it getting better or worse? And you know, to me it seemed like I'm an average strong king day, but boy, once we were in the air, that changed. And, um, I remember a friend of mine, Paris Williams and I were kind of out, um, in down the range heading north. And, uh, this, this group of dark queues, uh, grew together into this big spinning mass over Bora. And, um, you know, bore is the biggest, the biggest mountain in Idaho. And I figure if it's going to get mean, it's probably going to be there. And, um, you know, I remember being over the Leatherman, which is that, you know, it's a peak just before you get to Bora. And I checked my parachute handle. I had about, um, probably between two and 3000 feet before I would have reached cloud base.
Speaker 4: 00:51:01 So I figured, um, because the clouds were moving from west to east fairly quickly, uh, that I was gonna probably be able to get out from under this thing before getting there, um, to, you know, to base and, uh, this thing, this thing wasn't moving at all. In fact, it just kept growing. And, um, I checked my parachute handle, pulled about three quarter VG and, and started to crab across. And I remember looking at my gps and it was reading three miles an hour, uh, ground speed. And I don't know if it was forward or backwards, you know, and this is in a topless glider in three-quarter VG. So, uh, you know, it was blowing probably 50 up there. And, um, I was, you know, concerned. Yeah, I was concerned, but, but you know, felt like I had the room to get there. And it was fairly close to the leading edge of it.
Speaker 4: 00:51:51 So, you know, I felt like my decision was, I mean, you know how it is, you're there, you're just, you know, I didn't tell him to deal. So yeah, it's his time to go. And so I saw Paris way out in front of me and, uh, his glider looked really strange at one point and, um, you know, I just sort of chose to forget about it and I come to find out later that it was about as close to tumbling as he's ever come, I think without actually doing it. And, uh, you know, I, I about halfway across it, it was like, um, it was like getting landed on, uh, by a Mack truck. You know, the glider came down. I, I must've gotten, uh, taken a microburst to the top surface of the glider because the glider came down on me so violently that the bar ripped out of my hands and that was pinned to the sale.
Speaker 4: 00:52:37 Uh, the back plate in my arm is actually, um, took my left down to pass 90 degrees, about six inches from the apex. So, um, I didn't realize that at the time. I just got, I was stuck to the sail and I remember thinking, uh, you know, first of all, wow, it's really quiet then. And then secondly, the, the, wow, the bass tube is really far away. I don't think I can grab it. And, um, and as I'm sort of falling with the, my stomach and my throat, the glider just did a full forward tuck rotation all the way around. And I think that the reason, um, the glider didn't just blow up was that I was actually stuck to the sail so that the center of rotation was our, I was already pretty tight, you know, and, um, and next thing you know, I come out of the tumble and, um, gravity finds again and I slammed down on the hang straps and grabbed the bass tube and I'm flying.
Speaker 4: 00:53:29 And I remember just the whole thing happens so fast and it was so violent. It was, it felt like rolling a truck at highway speed. I, um, I was like, oh, Holy Shit, I, I, you know, like what just happened, I can't believe in applying. And a radio to those guys. Hey, I just tumbled, um, keep an eye out for me. And, uh, it was then that I noticed that my side wire and my Keel wire were slack. And, uh, and I was like, Huh, what's that all about? And the glider wasn't handling properly. And I looked up and saw the down tube. So essentially the triangle that I fly in the control frame, it was about eight inches to 10 inches shorter on one side. And, um, now the glider was basically flying on the crossbar. And if that thing broke, I was done, you know.
Speaker 4: 00:54:12 So, uh, I recognized my first thought was up, man, that sucks. I gotta I guess I have to land now. I'm not, you know, I can't win the day. And then I, when that happened, I was like, oh, you know, like, uh, this is actually fairly serious. You know, this, this might, this might be serious. And, um, and it was right about then that I noticed my Verio was actually still screaming. Up until then, I hadn't noticed it, but I'm still going up, you know, 800 to a thousand a minute and, uh, and you know, uncomfortably close to cloud base and, um, you know, ended up glider that didn't handle well. Like I realized that if I stayed pulled in, I equalize the nose wires and the glider would fly as long as I was to the unaffected, like, you know, all my way to the unaffected side, it would fly straight and level.
Speaker 4: 00:55:01 Um, but, you know, it's a tenuous feeling knowing that you have to do this thing that's very odd to keep the glider just stable. And, um, and I, I, uh, I, you know, I knew I was in trouble. Um, so, you know, I was trying to think the problem and talking to the guys on my team, hey, I might be coming down under canopy. I thought, well, if I, you know, should I throw my parachute? And, um, you know, looking down at, I was at, I was at like, you know, yeah, somewhere between 15 and I was at 15, five when I tumbled. So somewhere right, 16 and 17. I knew it was blowing 50 miles an hour. Um, three things were gonna happen. Either the parachute was going to open and I'd get blown into the massive road or behind the range, which we both know would have been a bad choice.
Speaker 4: 00:55:49 The parachute would open and I'd get blown into the Talis high on the mountain at 50 miles an hour, which also didn't seem super appealing. And, um, the third would be the parachute wouldn't open. And that didn't work for me either. So I figured, you know, if I was flying, I might as well, you know, don't, don't fix it if it ain't broke, you know. And, um, so, uh, I, you know, now I'm getting snowed on and, uh, wondering what I was going to do, a little bit of panic started to creep in, some getting kind of closer to the cloud and, um, you know, I, you're going up ballistic speed. You're still, yeah, yeah. I'm going, I'm going up. Yeah. Between 800 and a thousand feet per minute. And, um, and, you know, approaching, approaching 17 five or something, I think I went into the cloud and, and just as I'm getting close to the cloud and bolts of lightning comes out of the cloud and it was, it was, um, it was an amazing experience.
Speaker 4: 00:56:41 I mean, this thing came out of the cloud, uh, about a hundred yards away and I can't even describe the sound. It was so loud. It like an entire soul, you know, and, yeah. Yeah. I had a green line burned in my eyes for, um, probably a week after that. It was real. It was right next to you. Yeah, yeah. And then, um, and then I started getting closer to cloud base and, um, and knew I was going in and then the, the whole world flashed and I didn't hear anything, no sound at all. It just that it was like seeing stars and white and I'm, I'm not quite sure what happened. I didn't feel anything. Um, except it was, it's a very strange sensation. I can't really describe it. Um, but it was like, um, yeah, I can't, I can't describe it. It was like, um, it was like, uh, it's just seen a, a bright flashlight, uh, in a room that you're in or something.
Speaker 4: 00:57:35 I, I, it's hard to describe and uh, but no sound at all. And then I, then I went into the cloud and, um, the, uh, the bass tube was getting IC and I had ice on my face and on my gloves. And, um, you know, I radio to those guys, uh, you know, hey, I'm, you know, I just kept kind of sort of saying I might be coming down under canopy, keep an eye out for me. And, um, you know, it was flying about as fast as I could, trying to maintain a heading. And, um, luckily for me, uh, maybe three minutes, which felt like an eternity, I popped out the side of it pops out the long time to be in a white room. Yeah, yeah. Especially in that state of mind. You know, at the time I felt like I'd remained pretty calm and sort of trying to work the problem and, and um, and when I was there, I was like, okay, this now, now this is serious, you know, and, uh, I, when I popped out and started seeing, um, remnants of the ground again, it was this massive relief, but it was far from over.
Speaker 4: 00:58:35 Uh, from that point it took me about an hour and 45 minutes to get down. And, um, you know, the, during that, that time, I, uh, you know, tried to figure out how to lose altitude. Luckily I was able to find some sync and, um, unfortunately I played around with trying to slow down and when I slowed the glider down, the wires would equalize on that side. And the control frame got real spongy and the glider went into a spiral dive on that side. And it was exceptionally difficult to get out of it. And I, I mean, you know, um, these, these moments you don't want to admit, but you know, I was like yelling out loud and, and literally trying to mantle outside of the control frame on the high side to get it back to flying level and, uh, thought about pulling my parachute then again and was actually f I mean, frankly it's really surprised that the glider didn't break then.
Speaker 4: 00:59:22 Um, but, uh, yeah, after a while I, my driver was parked in a field. I reasoned that I'm dead. If I landed in front of Mackey reservoir, it would be the place with the least amount of mechanical turbulence, uh, cause of the wind coming across the water. I didn't quite make it there. I ended up landing in about a 35 in some sage. Um, and uh, it was the high wind speed that that helped me because I was able to approach, um, with with, with higher speed and low ground speed. Um, and you know, the, the scariest part at that point was like at 400, 500 feet AGL. I thought, well, maybe I should throw my parachute now because if this thing breaks below this, I'm not going to have that option. And, um, you know, I, I just didn't feel like I'd gone through so much already flying this glider and it held together.
Speaker 4: 01:00:08 I F you know, the, the aluminum on the down tube was cracked, um, completely severed on the inside wall. Uh, but the outside wall was holding, even though it was bend past 90, um, if I threw my parachute, I was going to get, if it opened, um, I was going to get drug across the desert. So I just figured I'd land or try to do my best to land the glider. And um, you know, because of the high wind, uh, speed, I was able to pretty much hover in and as soon as my feet touched the ground, the control frame equalize, the glider, dropped a wing and ground looped me and I ended up laying on my back on the sail. Um, looking at, you know, the clouds looking at this, this massive black cloud and just laughing out loud, you know, and uh, rolled over and unhooked and ran around like a maniac for, did the whole slap your knee, slap your head slumped shoulders.
Speaker 4: 01:00:58 Oh my God, I'm okay. Yeah. Yeah. But you know, the most interesting part of that experience for me was on the drive to go pick up another friend. It was like, okay, you know, maybe I should quit hang gliding and um, cause you know, it was a pretty, it was a pretty impact impacting event. And um, and it was then that I think it was probably the first time in my flying related life that I asked myself, why am I doing this? Like, what do I need this like w you know, what is flying to me? And, um, you know, I, I realized then and there with, with as much honesty as it required that I wasn't flying to be a hang glider pilot. I was flying because I loved hang gliding and, um, and you know, the other part of it was as if I chose to stop because of fear and doubt, then I might as well stop everything.
Speaker 4: 01:01:47 I might as well, you know, basically resigned to not doing anything, um, that had consequence because, uh, you know, um, that, that would be the reason. And, and that was unacceptable to me. So yes, I wanted to fly for what I felt was pure motivations and, um, and you know, uh, if I'm gonna fly, if I'm going to continue flying, I might as well fly tomorrow. So I, I ended up, you know, borrowing a glider and flying the next day. And yeah, it was horrifying, but I, I certainly gained, got something back that I had and, um, and then I fixed my glider that night and fluid the rest of the comp and, and um, you know, it was a, it was a kind of a turning event for me. Um, I've only had one other thing happened to me in my life that was probably as influential. Uh, but, you know, it was a, it was a special experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Speaker 5: 01:02:40 Is that one thing that happens at the last year, your wingsuit that went bad?
Speaker 4: 01:02:44 Yeah. Yeah. I had a, I had an exceptionally close, I feel like I came about as close to going in that a human being can come without actually doing it. And that one, that one definitely changed me as a person I think. Yeah.
Speaker 5: 01:02:57 Well that, let's, let's transition to that in a sec cause that's a good segue into the wingsuit thing. But, um, I, I watched a guy, I'll forgive my lack of knowledge with hang gliding, but I, I want to talk about this because one of the most instructive things that I've had in my career was very early on, I did a guided, uh, like a van cozy version of the x apps with a guy named Toby Coloma that he runs a, he's a British, uh, instructor and he runs these, uh, trips across the Alps and starting to Annecy in the end in Nice. And, um, you, you know, you get, you get a lot of instruction on the way there. Great. And it was, this was very early on in my flying career. I did one of these trips with him. And the very first day he was talking about that he'd never had an injury in any, any of his with any of his clients.
Speaker 5: 01:03:43 And that safety was very, very important. And the very next day, um, the winds were really high aloft in the Annecy. And so he took us down to a site that was kinda down in the lowlands and it was basically a cliff, a cliff site that you could rich soar. And, and there were these monster cells coming through, um, that day. And Jody was the only reasonable one of all of the pilots there. Uh, who just said, this is not a flying day. I'm not going flying. And, and Toby asked all of us, we don't, we're standing on launch. She said, well, you know, what do you think about flying today? And we were all kind of like, Ooh, I don't know. And, and, and he said, you know, well, I think you can fly it. I think it's a good day. You know, you just have to be, you know, aggressive about getting on the ground, but you can fly between these cells and he's the instructor.
Speaker 5: 01:04:27 So we all kind of went, okay. And we all launched and [inaudible] and luckily for me, I bombed out. And, uh, and, and he and my buddy Bruce and another guy who was, was like a 50 hour pilot. So the rest, you know, my Bruce and Toby and myself, we had, you know, we'd done a lot of Siv by then and we had a lot more hours, but this one guy was a super low hour pilot and, um, the cell started approaching and I could see it, I think in a different way than they could in the air. And I radioed up immediately and I said, Bruce, get on the ground. This is going to be nasty. And, uh, and, you know, we were already getting the gust front on the ground and the trees were getting bent over and Toby and Bruce ended up getting blown over the back and they were fine.
Speaker 5: 01:05:13 They were able to kind of run from this thing, but still a really stupid decision to be in the air. But unfortunately, this guy that had lower hours, um, his basically the only kit and the only move he had in his kit was big ears and he was quite a bit lower than these guys. So when this thing hit, um, you know, the option of getting blown over the back wasn't really available to him. He got on big ears and speed bar and it was just like watching a horror movie. You know, this guy was just getting tossed around, you know, like a bag of chips and a snowstorm and, and uh, and he was getting close to these power lines at one point and nightmare. And then when he was about 30 feet off the deck, um, it was a beautiful grassy field, farmer's field, very spongy, any totally lost his glider and pounded hard and broke everything he eventually was okay.
Speaker 5: 01:06:05 But you know, it was LifeFlight and it was the whole thing. And there were a couple things in watching the incident that, you know, that I reflected on afterwards that have made a huge impact in my decision making. One was the importance of a PLF. If he'd just gone in soft, he probably would've been, you know, sprained an ankle versus broken hip, broken back, broken ankles, you know, so he basically tried to stick as landing the other, the other thing was this ridge that we were on was beautifully treed, you know, so it had this amazing canopy. It was almost like a jungle, like not like the kind of trees we have out here, but just solid trees. So when he was low, if he'd turned downwind and then right before the trees turned back up land and just stuffed it in, he would have totaled his glider, but he probably would have been completely fine. There's always a chance that a branch, you know, breaking an arm or maybe a back or something. But, you know, it just made me think like how important it is to be thinking fast. And you know, you, it king, you had the experience, you were, you were processing like, what do I do? What do I do, what do I do and how can I, um, was one of your options landing in Mackey? Is that an option available to a hang glider?
Speaker 4: 01:07:16 I mean it is, but I'm at that point, you know, like I said, it took me an hour and 45 minutes just to lose the altitude to get out there and to get to a place that I thought was reasonable, reasonably safe. And, and I'm certainly, I was trying to, um, pick and always try and pick, um, plan a out of, you know, four or five options. Um, and at that point plan a was a few [inaudible] you were okay. That's right. That's right. And, and you know, the, I think in that, in that story that you just told is the same. It's the same. Um, most important lesson that I learned from my story, um, is that, you know, if you're, if you're having to switch from flying the glider to surviving the crash, then, you know, really the mistake was made the mistake, the mistake, the mistake was in, in that case that in the story that you just told was to listen to a pilot, um, that had more experience and believe that it was OK because he thought that it was okay.
Speaker 4: 01:08:20 As opposed to saying, if I don't know, then it's not okay because I'm the pilot in command. I'm gonna make the decisions and I'm the only one that's going to suffer the consequences of those decisions. And I, and I try and tell my students that. And certainly for me, uh, that particular comp, um, you know, I launched on a day that I knew was huge, uh, because, and I had ambition to fly fast and to fly far because I was, you know, trying to do something and, um, and not listening to the voice of reason in myself. Um, you know, that that always relates to that cliche that we tell everybody, right? It's always better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air, wishing you were on the ground. And, um, only when you, when you experienced that, uh, do you, do you recognize the importance of that saying and, um, the, how it applies to, uh, you know, the consequences you may or may not, um, you know, have to have to deal with, um, you know, luckily for me, I walked away from that, uh, it was an innocent and you know, it's, it's funny that you say that about, you know, like not getting hurt.
Speaker 4: 01:09:25 You know, I, um, I, in 40 years I've, you know, knock on wood, I've only, I've only broken one bone. It was in my ankle and it was from a base gem. Um, and it was very recently, so up until very recently, I'd never really been heard either. You know, it's funny, I'm telling these stories, telling us the king and this story that we're going to talk about in a wingsuit, but you know, most of the things that I, um, do, I would say the large majority, not even most, but like, you know, almost all I feel like are reasonably calculated and, um, and thought through, uh, I always try and utilize logic instead of emotion when it comes to decision making, uh, involving risk management and, um, and you know, sometimes you, you get put into a situation where you have to, you have to deal with, with what what's happened.
Speaker 4: 01:10:16 And, um, and that's also the attractor or the beauty of the things that we do is once again, stepping back to the previous question in the conversation, it's, it's adventure, it's uncertainty. It's, um, feeling small and vulnerable and, um, and you know, recognizing that during this adventure, you know, you may not know what's around the next corner. Generally you're ready for it. But you know, uh, we want to try and make good decisions so that, um, the chance of, of being injured or killed is, is, um, is it low? It, you know, at least if not, if not completely removed, uh, if pos, if at all possible, you know, so two things and then, and then, then we'll, we'll wrap it up. I could talk to you forever, man, but I would, I'd love to hear about the incident, uh, that happened a year ago cause I know that was pretty transformative. And then I'm going to ask a hard question and just answer
Speaker 5: 01:11:14 these and whatever, where you you like, but, um, I, you know, I know a little bit about your, your, your home life. You've got an amazing family, amazing daughter. Um, I did my first base jump, which was really more of a stunt, um, this, this winter. And, you know, it was really, really, really fun. It was, it was really fun. And I, you know, but I, when I landed, you know, and the, you know, the, the rush and the adrenaline and it was, you know, it was, it was, it was a blast, but it was also what I knew it would be. And it was, you know, I, I have avoided wing suiting in base jumping totally because I knew it would be for me. I knew I would love it. And to me it's always just had these enormously bad numbers that I feel, let me rephrase that.
Speaker 5: 01:12:07 One of the things that I've been so impressed with, with guys like you is I, I think the outside world views base jumpers and wing suiters is just reckless nuts. Um, and I know that, you know, there is that element to base jumping in the Perin bridge crowd. And you know, there, there are, there are people who are not very thoughtful about it, but that does not, uh, that is not a good description of guys like Dean Potter and yourself and a lot of the friends that you've lost. Um, you guys are contemplated conservative, very, you know, you understand the risks fully and completely. You're not cavalier about the dangers of it. Um, in other words, you're, I, I believe, I think you're very mature about the dangers, but I still don't understand. So, so in that I don't understand. I understand why, but I don't understand why. And I guess, yeah, I guess the statistics are so horribly bad and you can talk about these more than I can if you wish. Um, but I, I want to hear, I want to hear why.
Speaker 4: 01:13:14 Well, uh, okay. So
Speaker 5: 01:13:17 however you want. Yeah. I mean, sure, maybe the incident is the best way to start, but,
Speaker 4: 01:13:21 well, um, okay, well, I mean, it's all intertwined, right? Um, so, you know, when I, uh, I got involved in wingsuit base jumping solely because of this fascination with human flight, and my sole intention, um, to learn was to fly in the mountains. And, um, you know, flying a wingsuit is, it's, it's unbelievable. I mean, it's like flying a hang glider at 160 miles an hour, except the gliders, your arms, you know, um, you're not flying something. You're flying. It's, it's really an epic thing to do. Um, but it's not what people think. People think that, um, people who jump off cliffs and wing suits are these adrenaline junkies that are, um, you know, hawkers and like you said, reckless. There is a difference between risky and reckless and, uh, what, what I think, um, people find out hopefully, or, or at least, uh, when you know, some of us, uh, have interactions with people who don't know and are curious and do ask.
Speaker 4: 01:14:27 What they recognize, I hope is that we are, um, we are taking a consideration to, you know, basically what we're doing is exceptionally serious and we know it. Um, I feel like nobody who, uh, base jumps a wingsuit, uh, really at any level, but, uh, certainly at a high level, um, has, has not experienced some, some, you know, getting their ass kicked. And, and I, and I don't mean that physically necessarily. Um, it's certainly some people have gotten hurt and that that affects their decisions, but it also, um, you know, it also refers to losing a friend or watching a fatality happen and when you have witnessed carnage or been part of carnage, it changes you and, um, creates a realism to the, the consequence. And so, you know, when I first started, and that is to varying degrees, right? Like I had seen a lot, I feel like I have seen a lot in the sports of hang gliding and paragliding and climbing, uh, over, you know, um, the span of, of, to over 20 years, uh, to have prepared myself for this, this path, this journey to wingsuit base jump.
Speaker 4: 01:15:47 Um, you know, I, I had, I was not attracted to skydiving ever. I was not attracted necessarily to base jumping, although the utilitarian, um, aspects of it seem to make sense in terms that, you know, if I climbed up something, it's so much easier and in some ways you could be viewed as safer to jump off and it is to repel off or whatever. Um, but I, I wasn't, I, I've always been attracted to flying. So to me, falling didn't attract me. It didn't grab me the same way when I first saw, um, somebody fly a modern wing suit. Um, it was actually, I saw a nat Geo special, uh, of Dean, my friend Dean flying a big suit off of mount bute in Canada after climbing. And he had previously we had had conversations where at the time I was designing hang gliding harnesses for wills wing and I'm building these, these competition class harnesses for pilots all over the world.
Speaker 4: 01:16:42 And so he was interested in maybe, you know, collaborating a little bit on, on, I'm trying to make some contributions to wingsuit design. And I always laughed at him. I was just like, come on man. Like how arrogant is it to think that I could contribute to a sport I know nothing about? And he was like, you know, his, his answer was a universal, it was always a little dude, you need to learn, you know, and, um, and, you know, he knew that it would, you know, that it would, it would speak to me if I, if I knew what he knew and he'd been involved long enough and had been practicing this art long enough that, um, that I think that he had a sort of innate sense that, um, that what I was looking for could be found there. And so when I saw this, this footage of him flying, I called him, I was just like, okay, I get it, you know.
Speaker 4: 01:17:26 And he gave me a very stern talking to, um, as a good friend. He was like, you know, hey man, like, here's the deal. Call these people and um, and, and learn this way. You know, in other words, um, it doesn't have to take a long time, but you cannot skip any steps if you're going to cut corners. I don't want anything to do with it. I don't want anything to do with you doing it because I don't wanna have to call Kara. I don't want to have to come and visit your grave. And I don't, you know, I, I don't want to be a part of it. And, and you know, if you do do it right and you do accept a slow apprenticeship and you do accept that you need to, you know, respect the progression, um, then I'll help you in every way I can.
Speaker 4: 01:18:10 And we're gonna laugh and fly together for a lot of years. And, um, and I, I've always been thankful to him for that. It was a very, very special thing to, to say to me. Um, you know, we were kind of beginning our friendship at that point. Uh, and he, um, I think that he put all of what he knew aside to tell me how it is, how it was, and, um, and I, I respected him so much that, that, uh, listening to those words made an impression. So I did, uh, you know, it wasn't because of that I had already decided that it was really important for me to do things the right way and to prepare, um, completely, uh, and more and more than I need it to, to, to do this thing. Um, luckily there's, you know, healthy fear involved with jumping off a cliff.
Speaker 4: 01:18:59 So it's not that hard to feel like you need to prepare, but, but I, I, um, I wanted to be smart about it. So I went through this process and, um, you know, the, the, the hard part is, is that, uh, what I said before is, is true and in this particular art form, there's no, um, there's no mistakes allowed. And, uh, W I had achieved a, um, uh, a a particular level of competency to where I was now jumping around the world and I'm jumping maybe shorter objects and opening some new objects, which means being the first person to jump off particular cliffs and, um, you know, feeling, feeling like I had a reasonable and solid skillset and was jumping with a very close friend of Dean's and mine, uh, that I have just an unfair, you know, unbelievable amounts of respect for. So a guy named Sean leary, um, you know, Shawn was one of the most incredible athletes to ever live, in my opinion.
Speaker 4: 01:20:02 The Guy, you know, he free climbed El cap and half dome and jumped in both in a day for God's sakes, you know, new routes in, in South America and Antarctica and Baffin island and you know, you name it, he's the Patagonia. If the guy was just incredible. Um, so smart, so motivated, so psyched all the time, but, but incredibly thoughtful, um, very, very introspective, um, very comfortable with his ability to say no and to walk down. Um, and yet the also very motivated to do things that other people didn't think were possible. So, you know, as a, um, a really powerful combination for this, this one guy to sort of, um, you know, to, to have all the tools that you need in terms of, of, um, talent, skill, experience and smarts to do all the, all of these crazy things and, and um, or I should say what other people think were, you know, thought, think of as crazy.
Speaker 4: 01:21:04 Um, and he just knew to be possible and he would do, he would do them. And, um, we were jumping together a lot and, uh, on a jump that we did previously, um, on a sort of a fateful evening, he lost his life doing it. And, um, and it was a huge blow. It, it, I had friends that had died doing this thing, but when he, when Sean died, it rocked my belief system, you know, because he was always the guy that I jumped with. And when I jumped with, I felt safe with, because, um, you know, like he's, he's the guy who was going to prove that this is sustainable and he just had such a strong skill set and, and, um, and was so safe and so solid in the mountains and everything he did, you know, and so, so when he died, um, it really did rock my belief system, um, and made me realize that will, if Shawn leary can die, anybody can die doing this, you know, but at that time I had certainly lost some friends, but it wasn't as prolific, you know, in my life.
Speaker 4: 01:22:04 It hadn't reached so tight, uh, that, you know, it made me contemplate, um, as, as strongly as it does now. And, uh, you know, Dean and Graham and I, um, I mean this is a whole nother story, but dean and Graham and I, uh, met in Zion with a number of other, um, good friends of Sean's, uh, James Lucas and Mike pennings and Jimmy Hayden and Charlie Curl Linkous and, uh, Jonathan Sangha. There was a, um, you know, a group of us that were there to try and recover Sean's body. Um, Dean and Sean had this deal and they were, you know, if one of them went in, the other would try and get their body out before the, you know, not, not leave it up to the rangers to do. So I went through this experience with those guys and, um, and you know, I picked Graham up the airport.
Speaker 4: 01:22:50 There was a lot of deep conversations with Dean, uh, you know, so we, we experienced this thing together and then, um, you know, we continued to jump and uh, about a month later I was, um, I was jumping with a close friend of mine, uh, Ramon Ray Hos, uh, Chilean Adidas sponsored wingsuit base jumper, doing an Adidas project in the mountains here in Montana. Um, unfortunately Ramon is no longer with us either. He, he passed away in a wingsuit base jump, uh, not that long ago. And, um, we, uh, we were, we were, um, waiting for maybe an hour and 45 minutes, uh, for the wind to calm down. And I'm just listening to the mountains, listening to the cycles and um, you know, we were suited up, but we were completely comfortable with the idea of taking our wingsuits off and walking down. I'm never attached to a jump, always just going for a hike and if it happens, it happens, you know?
Speaker 4: 01:23:45 And, um, it felt OK and the lols got longer and the locals were calmer and everything felt like it was going to be okay. This is a jump that I'd done a hundred times probably. And um, you know, it was, uh, it was thermally, um, very convective, uh, blowing right to left 90 degrees and the cycles were peak pretty high. Um, you know, if you're not willing to jump in a little bit of wind in the mountains, you're not going to jump much, but, uh, you know, you have to accept only acceptable conditions and that that particular night, the conditions were unacceptable when the cycles were rolling through the lols were long enough and calm enough that in those lols the conditions were very acceptable. Here's the problem is that I had jumped in those conditions 20 or 30 times previously in Europe and all over the place.
Speaker 4: 01:24:34 And what I was essentially doing was, was being positively reinforced for a horrendously bad decision by getting away with it every time. Because now they're right. It's the deviance of normalcy, right? It's like this thing has become so normal because I've gotten away with it so many times that every time I pushed just a little bit more until you find that line and when you step over it, that's how you get killed. And, um, you know, this particular night, uh, I decided that, uh, you know, uh, it was okay if the conditions were acceptable for me and, um, I stood at the edge of the cliff and I spit off the edge and the low was good and I waited and I thought, okay, it's still good. I think it's, I think it's good. I think I'm going to go guys. And they're like, okay man, have a good jump.
Speaker 4: 01:25:21 Look back to Ramon or I love you brother. Have a safe one. I'll see you down there. Okay. Yeah, I love you too, man. Uh, step on the edge. Everything's still good. I spit again. Everything's still good. Take a deep breath. It's still good. Three, two, one. See Ya. And as I'm pushing off, I hear it coming and, uh, you know, unfortunately my timing couldn't have been worse. And, um, yeah, you know, it's one of those, one of those things I, um, I don't, I can't overstate enough, um, you know, that thing that happened at king that was just some like intense experience. This was, I truly know what it's like to experience your last moments on the earth and an accident from this experience. And, um, and it's heavy, man. It's really heavy. You know, like I, um, the guys on the exit said that the trees whistled right after I jumped at the, the cycle that came through probably peaked at 20, you know, and when you watch the video, cause I was wearing a camera, not very many, you know, two or three people have seen it, but, um, the, the right wing, um, and my leg wing filled up, uh, and rolled me over.
Speaker 4: 01:26:31 And, um, I ended up, uh, you know, the problem with it is as gravity feeds the flight. So, uh, I'm exposing a bunch of surface area to, um, to the conditions with no air speed for control. And by the time I was building airspeed through the descent, you know, through gravity, basically three or four seconds into the flight, now I'm in an attitude. My body is being pushed into an attitude from the wingsuit being exposed to this, this hard 90 degree cross that, um, that the turn accentuated. And now I'm on my head flying back at the wall and, uh, and you know, looking at the wall, looking at the wall, and I, um, I, I remember distinctly, I watched the video now and I, I think, God, how, how could I have thought that many things and that's happened so quick, but I remembered, I remember certain thoughts like it happened a minute ago and they were, okay, I guess I'm going to die right now.
Speaker 4: 01:27:27 That was the first one. It was like, I can't believe it. I'm going in. It's, hey, this is happening. And then the next thought was about Sean and you know, uh, excuse the language, but I remember thinking, I can't believe I'm going to be a fucking Facebook post tonight. Like I remember thinking that and then, and then I thought of my daughter. Yeah, yeah. Then I, then I thought of my daughter and, and I didn't have much time to think about anything else because by that time, um, you know, I went into survival mode and I'm realized that if I had tried to stop the turn I would have impacted. So I instead, uh, dropped a shoulder and just did a two 70 cork on my head against the wall and ended up, um, you know, flying away from the wall again in a straight down dive.
Speaker 4: 01:28:11 And I thought right after thinking of Naya, I thought, oh, well, I guess I'm not going to die. Maybe I'm not going to die. And I looked down and see this ledge coming. And um, you know, and I know because I'm super intimate with this particular exit, that the ledge is about 700 feet below the, the exit. Normally I'm flying, you know, I'm at least driving forward and about 130 feet. So, you know, this is like, this is serious air. And, um, and I thought, okay, I'm going to clear the ledge, not by much, but I'm going to clear it so don't do anything stupid. And, uh, you know, I, I flew past the ledge at about 200 miles an hour and I, I, I missed it by about three feet and yeah, yeah, Yup. And then, um, and then this is, you know, the beginning of, of back to survive the crash mode.
Speaker 4: 01:28:56 Right now I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm really far away from the place that I to land. And in this particular Montana Canyon, there's one place to land and it's the size of a two car garage. And you have to land there everywhere else is trees, rocks, and river. And, um, you know, it's, you're gonna get hurt if you land somewhere else. I've had a friend break a leg there. It's, you know, it's the real deal. And, um, you know, so now I'm playing the game. Um, cause I'm real low of utilizing and managing all of that energy that I've built in this, this unbelievable dive to create performance, to get myself as close to the landing zone as possible before I have to deploy because I'm too low. And, um, so I just put my head down and got his in in the most efficient position I could possibly fly and um, and, and really flattened out and flew a long ways.
Speaker 4: 01:29:50 And um, and when I got too low, I pitched, I was in the saddle at 150 feet over the, uh, boulders thought, um, I had a 90 left and off heading and, um, thought I was going to land in the Dallas and uh, managed to pop the toggles quick and get the canopy turned the right direction and uh, then realized I was going to out fly the Talus and magically right in front of me, there was a space in the trees that was just barely wide enough to goalpost my canopy through. I piloted the canopy through the trees and pulled on a left toggle, made one 90 degree turn, uh, you know, let the canopy fly flared and landed on my feet right in the middle of the landing zone. And I, and it was the first thought that entered my mind was, wow, I'm really glad I had practiced cork to seventies and skydiving, you know, so, you know, like that was the first thing I thought because I'm, you know, when somebody sinks out in a skydive, sometimes you have to, you know, do that to kind of get down to him.
Speaker 4: 01:30:46 And, um, I remember thinking that like, wow, it's a good thing I practiced that. And then it all kind of rushed in. And, um, you know, I didn't, it's funny the guys that were, there was this big crew from Adidas and I'm the guy in the LZ that was filming, he was the only one down there with me. He was like, wow. Uh, did that didn't look normal or you know, was that, was that normal? And the guys up on the exit, they didn't see anything because I disappeared as soon as I, soon as I jumped. So really I was kind of the only one aware of what had just happened, which was, you know, the pretty much the wildest thing that that has ever happened to me times a hundred. And you know, I got to, I want to, I want to reiterate this is this is like 400 almost like, I think I had jumped maybe three, 890 times in a wingsuit in a big suit by then and not a single bad exit, like perfect.
Speaker 4: 01:31:37 What I would consider to be, um, very, very, uh, stable exits every single time. This is the first. And, and to this day, the only exit that was, um, was even close to bad. And yet that's all it takes is one exit like that. And I came home and gave Kara Naya a big hug and didn't tell him, uh, that anything happened, although Karen knew right away that something serious has happened. And, um, yeah, it was a very, very, very few things in, in someone's life has had the, has the ability to change them as a person, not to change how they think or, or, but to change that. It changed me as a person. And, um, from that day I've been, I've been different. And, um, you know, and just as a side note, about six months later, I was standing on an exit with a friend and, uh, watching two other friends jump. We were in wingsuits and he did the exact same thing and impacted, allege and was killed right in front of us. And, um, you know, since then all of these things have built towards, um, bringing me back to that moment over and over and over again. And, uh, you know, it's, um, it's a weird feeling to feel like you're living on bonus time, you know, and, uh, it, it really does make you, um, make you pay attention in a way that, that I never had the capacity to pay attention to before. Is Your [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 01:33:04 with the recent accidents and I, you know, I know Sean's was probably the most impactful, maybe nine and there's been a lot of them that have been impactful, but, um, I've been saying something is a non wing center is non base jump for the last few years, which is it's inevitable if you do that, you're gonna die if I know that obviously you wouldn't be doing this if, if you agreed with that, but have these accidents, are they making you ponder that a little more seriously? Well, yes, as a good friend of mine. I mean, is it, yeah. Yeah. I guess I still, I guess I still, I feel like I get it because we participate in the same kind of stuff. I mean, I, I'm not asking you this question because I don't understand, but I still want to ask the question of why. Like, yeah, I can.
Speaker 4: 01:33:52 Yeah, I understand. I understand where you're coming from in a lot of people have asked me that. Uh, especially lately. Yeah, no, I, I was, um, I jumped Taft with Dean and Graham several times and I jumped that thing with them, um, a month before they died. And, uh, and you know, grew Graham and I did three, two A's and like five days before he died. Um, I'm super thankful for that. Uh, but you know, um, it's hard to like there's, there's this, you know, each one of us has kind of a crew of people that we operate with and we do that because we trust them and, um, we like the way that we interact as people and, um, you know, the decisions that we make as a group tend to be, um, cohesive and, um, and sort of along the lines of, of, um, our a general philosophy that, that or ethos that we all agree with the, those guys for me, um, where that, you know, I, I, there are other friends that I really love jumping with, but the group that I felt most at home with, and maybe it was just a tie with climbing, um, maybe it's the tie with Yosemite.
Speaker 4: 01:34:57 Um, the guys that I learned from the guys that I learned with, the guys that I appreciated jumping with the most were, you know, gram or included at least Graham Dean and Sean. And, um, when Graham and I, and dean and I went through Shawn's death together, um, you know, I used to spend all this time in El Porto with, with, um, with Sean, all these amazing memories. And then when he died, I spent time at his place on his property reminiscing about him and trying to live in his honor and with, uh, you know, his energy present with Graham and with Dean and, um, you know, going back there this weekend for their, for their memorials. Um, you know, being in that place without any of them, it's, um, it's a strange thing to feel and it does make me contemplate. Um, the reality is, especially with a lot of the recent accidents being a, from a wide variety of, of, of causes, you know, not just terrain flying, but mechanical errors and aerials and, you know, diff, just all kinds of different reasons.
Speaker 4: 01:36:00 Very experienced people. Um, you know, I've always known that there is a possibility, otherwise I'd be an idiot for partaking in that particular art. You know, if I didn't contemplate that, um, you know, it'd be really inappropriate for me to be doing it. But, you know, recently it's this feeling of, um, you know, if I continue to search, if I continue to try and progress where I'm at now, which is, you know, enjoying flying lines and, and occasionally shooting tree gaps, you know, um, I, I don't fly like, um, some of the heart really hard train flyers, but I do like flying big lines in the mountains. If I continue to progress from that point, the likelihood of me losing my life, I'm doing it in the next several years. If I do it prolifically is reasonably high. And, um, so if what I get out of it, uh, it better be worth it, you know, and, and worth it for the right reasons.
Speaker 4: 01:37:01 And so, you know, right now, um, I think several of us are all contemplating this thing. You know, it's like, um, it's, you know, there's similarities to, uh, to gambling, you know, or whatever. If you were sitting in a, I'm just, it's funny, I'm just writing, I'm actually writing this, this particular similarity in an article. If you were sitting at a table playing roulette with a bunch of your friends and you were up 10 grand and you watched one after another, all of your friends lose their entire life savings, which you continue playing. Would you, would you, would you continue playing knowing that you could win more? You could keep winning, you could win a lot more, or you could, uh, you know, um, be thankful for what you've gained and get up from the table and walk away. And that's a, that's a personal thing.
Speaker 4: 01:37:55 It's a very, very personal choice and it's, it's gotta be made by each of us for the right reasons. Um, and you know, uh, every fatality or every loss affects each of us differently. I, I would be lying to you if I said that So-and-so's death affected me the same way that that Dean Graham, Sean, um, Nanako, Ramon, Bo, uh, Alex, you know, all these, these friends of mine, um, the list is long if, you know, not all of them affect me the same. And, um, and yet the ones that do have a very profound effect, especially, um, you know, here's another, here's another thing. If you were to ask me 15 years ago what I would be doing, uh, 15 years from now, wingsuit base jumping would not be it. I would not say that I was going to be doing that because it was a, it was something that I didn't, I had no perspective as to the, the idea that this was possible for me.
Speaker 4: 01:38:48 And yet it is, and it, and it has been, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's the most amazing thing a human being can do, in my opinion. And I feel so grateful for having this opportunity to, to fly wingsuit in the mountains, um, to experience this type of life. But I wouldn't have known it. So, so this is an interesting point because what am I going to be doing 15 years from now? I have no idea what I'm going to be doing 15 years from now. There's all kinds of amazing life adventure ahead of me that I have no clue about yet. So am I willing to give up not only what I know that I had, but what I don't know. All of the future adventures that is my life and all of the diverse experiences that build, um, you know, my ability to be a happy person and to give the best of myself, uh, to the people that I care about and to hopefully, uh, be a positive influence on some folks along the way.
Speaker 4: 01:39:42 And, um, you know, if, if, if that's the case, then then what I'm doing, if there's that much consequence involved, better be worth it, you know? And, uh, you know that, that's the simple question. And, and, um, the lessons that you learn doing these things, if you've learned them, do you need to continue learning them, you know, or, or are they really good point or all the yeah. Or all the lessons. Are the lessons different every time or are they not different every time? You know, and uh, you know, like I said, they, there's just very, very personal things that, um, that I think a lot of us and certainly I am, I'm going through at the moment. And it's, um, you know, it's an interesting time in life. Um, I, I believe that nothing that happens to us as bad. Um, things happen. There's no good life or bad life, hard life or easy life.
Speaker 4: 01:40:32 It's just life. And you just have to learn their earned lessons. You have to learn these things to gain perspective and to find gratitude and humility. So, you know, all of this is, is just pointing to, um, the best result possible. If you listen and make good decisions, you know? And so, uh, people ask, are you going to quit? I don't know. Honestly, I'm not comfortable saying one way or another because, um, because it is that amazing, you know? Yeah. And I wouldn't, and I don't believe that I'm gonna die doing it. I honestly have to believe that, um, that I can fly a hang glider, a paraglider, a wingsuit. I can climb in the mountains. I can, um, do the things that I love doing, that I'm passionate about, and then I'm inspired to do. Um, as long as I make good decisions, I can do those things, uh, and not, um, and not lose my life doing them. Um, but, but the, the question as to whether, um, a particular thing is worth it or not as something that I have to answer eventually. And, and, uh, and the, the idea that wingsuit base jumping is the same as those other things is not accurate. It is different. And it's different because, um, you know, it's proving, uh, to be more consequential, uh, based on the fact that, you know, we're losing one to four, uh, jumpers in a month. And that's staggering. You know,
Speaker 5: 01:41:57 the staggering pennys journey. Jeff, that was awesome. And that's where we're going to end it. Cause that was beautiful. That was poetry and I'm God buddy. I, I
Speaker 4: 01:42:07 [inaudible]
Speaker 5: 01:42:08 we were marginalized if we don't do what we do. So I don't, I don't, I don't want to tell you that anyway, one way or the other what to do, but I sure hope we have you with us for a long time. You're very special person and uh, that was phenomenal. It was a great talk and I almost feel like we should do a part two of this whole thing that at some point maybe. But, um, we'll see at the o r show here in a few days. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your time. Uh, that was just extraordinary. Before we sign off, Eh, do you want to add anything or, or maybe tell people where they can learn more about you or, um, maybe, uh, if you'd like to for sure. Give a sponsor shout out.
Speaker 4: 01:42:45 Um, you know, I mean, I guess, uh, I'd be, um, it would be really inappropriate for me not to think, um, the folks at Cav who, uh, the folks at keen, you know, [inaudible] those guys, they're my family. I love those guys. They have given me the, the highlights of my life and, um, and they're just such special people. Uh, they're, they're their family that the [inaudible] family in particular. Um, every one of them is there. There's some of the most amazing people and I'm so grateful to know him. So I guess I'd, I'd say thanks to them and certainly to Dave monkey keen and, and, um, you know, the folks at will's wing and, and, um, the guys at Squirrel mackers and Mike Steen, those guys have helped me out a lot. Marty at asylum. Um, there's too many people to thank for me to even, you know, remember everybody.
Speaker 4: 01:43:38 But, but what I would say is that, um, all of the risk and all of the things, uh, that are sort of consequences of our decisions, put aside, do what you know, do what calls to you. I know you do, Gav. And, um, and I have an n limited amount of respect for you for doing that. And it's really inspiring to watch you, um, follow, you know, follow your feet. And, um, and I think that, you know, that speaks volumes in, in terms that if you, if you, if you follow your path and the path is not, um, to, to achieve a particular level or to be something, um, but to utilize the time that we have on the planet to experience life in a way that allows you to be fulfilled as a human being, um, then then the, then it's a good path to choose and, and, um, you know, don't think of it as a, as a, as a greater goal.
Speaker 4: 01:44:40 Just put one foot in front of the other and, and, uh, enjoy, enjoy the, the process. Um, because along the way you're gonna find that opportunities to experience are gonna come from out of nowhere and, um, be made available in ways that you never even could imagine, you know. Um, and, and I think that that's really special. So, uh, I guess I'll just end it at that and say, hey, thanks. Thanks for having me, man. It's always great to talk to you and I'm looking forward to seeing you in a few days. Thank you Jeff. Appreciate it. Yeah, man. Cheers.
Speaker 1: 01:45:10 Well, I hope you enjoyed that. A really, uh, an amazing talk. Uh, I know I did and uh, can't wait for the next show as we've got some great shows coming up with will Gadd uh, nick grease with Nate scales. So I'm going to try to be quite a bit more consistent in my delivery of the podcasts. I hope you'll stick with us, uh, in the spirit of another podcast that I love so much hardcore history. Uh, we don't have any sponsors and, uh, I do this because I love it and I'll continue doing it because I love it. We're regardless of the money. But, uh, all we asked for is a buck a show. If you found this a valuable, there's a link on the website where you can donate a dollar to the show via paypal. I'd be super appreciative if you would. I can buy these guys beer spears for their time. And, uh, it goes a long way. So if you, if you'd like to show, give us a buck, that's all we asked for and, uh, see you next time. Thanks a lot. Thanks for listening to the man. Cheers.


17 thoughts on “Episode 3 – Jeff Shapiro and the Dark Arts

  1. Appreciate your time and effort put in to these podcasts. This knowledge is invaluable to our small community and although the effects are immeasurable, this is the kind of info that saves lives and increases our chances of sustaining in this flying lifestyle that we choose.

  2. Thanks Gavin; really enjoying these and learning a lot as well! I suppose we should be getting you a few bucks for these, well worth it!

  3. Hey Gavin,

    Thanks for this awesome chat. I found it incredibly interesting and learned a ton from both you and Jeff. You both have a way with words… I look forward to your next one…

    PS: I took my first Paragliding flight in March this year here in Durban. It was a tandem flight, but I got to take over the controls for about half of the hour+ long flight (ridge souring), so I got a really good feel for this incredible sport in perfect conditions.



  4. Pingback: Episode 38- Jeff Shapiro and cracking the code | CLOUDBASE MAYHEM

  5. I love the show and I would like to support it. But for some years now I do donations exclusively through Bitcoin. Would be great if you post a BTC donation address.

  6. Hey Gavin, do you have the contact/website details for Toby in France? Sounds like a fun trip if he’s still running them…?

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