Gavin in Micronesia

Gavin in Micronesia


The Highlight Reel:

  • Full, unsupported traverse by foot and paraglider of the Alaska Range (2016), which is documented in the Red Bull film “North of Known”, which premiered at the Banff Mountain Film Festival November, 2016. Read about it on National Geographic here.
  • 8th Place, Red Bull X-Alps 2015 (first American to reach goal in the race’s history)
  • Completed 700+ km flying traverse of the Canadian Rockies with Will Gadd (Sept 14′), which was documented by Red Bull for their “Explorers” Series.
  • 2015 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year
  • Former US Ski Team Member (Alpine)
  • Several First Descents (Class VI whitewater Kayaking), Central America
  • Founder and Owner, Offshore Odysseys
  • 2 X Circumnavigations by sail, over 160,000 offshore miles.  Rounded both Capes (Horn and Good Hope)
  • Currently hold the North American Foot Launch Paragliding Record (240 miles, 387 km)
  • Sponsors:  Patagonia, Patagonia Provisions, Niviuk, Dynafit, Garmin, Beyond Coastal, Flytec, Klymit, Salewa, Smith Optics, Sup’Air, Play Hard Give Back, HooRag

Never very comfortable writing about yourself, but for those that might like to know who the hell is posting all this stuff on the Mayhem, here’s a little background on who I am, and a bit of the why.

Back in what feels like another life I was a pretty keen alpine ski racer.  I grew up in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and got pretty good at going fast.  I wasn’t the best, but I worked hard and I didn’t seem to be hampered with fear so for awhile there things were going pretty well.  Wasn’t so hot at the tech stuff- slalom and GS didn’t seem to fit my ability or style so I gravitated towards the speed events of Super G and Downhill.  My dreams of competing in the Olympics were cut short just after I made the US Team in 1991 when I destroyed my left knee at a downhill in Aspen. I tried to come back the next year, but I made the fatal mistake of skiing in a slalom- (never my best) and blew the same knee again.

Which delighted my mom.  I hadn’t gone to school much over the years (I’d gotten an “F” in Physical Education in my high school as I wasn’t in class for more than a few days that winter) and suddenly a world outside of ski racing came crashing in.  University in Boulder, Colorado, where I took up rock climbing (friendly on the knees) and did well enough in school to keep mom happy.  Near the end of school I learned to kayak and the climbing stopped and I found myself running harder and harder rivers all over the world.  At one point I went on an extended kayaking expedition (6 months) to Central America with a now-famous Red Bull paddler, Tao Berman (at the time I was the only one who would paddle with him, as he was, and I’m sure remains pretty insane).  We ran some pretty wild first descents, stuff that was considered class VI (un-runable) and in time my thirst for adrenaline caught up to me on a river in Mexico where my buddy Tao and another friend Brett stood on the side of the river near a waterfall waiting for my body.  We all thought I was dead.

Kayaking was never the same after that auspicious day.  I couldn’t seem to find the joy in running rivers that weren’t extreme, and I couldn’t find the head space to run the hard stuff.  Time for something new.

Over the next few years I worked at nearly 50 different jobs.  I didn’t care much what the job was- just that it paid enough that I could save some cash, quit, and go exploring.  Ran chain saw for a Hot Shot crew in Oregon.  Commercial fished in the Bering Sea.  Instructed mountain and river courses for Outward Bound.  Bussed tables, worked at a high tech firm, built stages for dancers in Vail.  Whatever seemed to come up.

In 1999 my Dad and I sailed from Vancouver to Santa Barbara on a monohull he planned to sail to the South Pacific.  But neither of us knew much about sailing.  We got caught in hurricane force winds off the coast of Mendocino and had a pretty wild couple of days.  Got knocked down (ie mast in the water), Dad went overboard, I nearly blew off the boat while hanging onto a sail that was rapidly coming separated from the mast when I was 20 feet off the deck.  We limped into port and Dad decided he’d had enough, and I decided I wanted more.  Turns out it would be a LOT more.


5 Years. 54,000 miles. 50 Countries. Right the whole way around the world.

5 Years. 54,000 miles. 50 Countries. Right the whole way around the world.


I started a company called Offshore Odysseys that year while bar tending in Santa Barbara saving money to head offshore.  For the next 13 years I lived nearly year-round at sea taking people to remote places.  On the first boat we spent 8 years and made it as far as Thailand. On the second boat we spent 5 years and went all the way around.  Rounded both notorious Capes (Horn and Good Hope) shorthanded (ie me and one other person).  Even sailed solo from Brazil to the Caribbean 4600 miles, a trip that took 32 days where I learned that my own company wasn’t all that spectacular.  In 2006 my partner, and very talented photographer Jody MacDonald and I dreamed up what became “The Best Odyssey”, a  world kiteboarding expedition in partnership with Best Kiteboarding.  In that same year I learned to paraglide. The Best Odyssey was a five year circumnavigation which was financed through a kind of time-share for adventurous souls from around the world who joined us for legs of the journey on the 60 foot catamaran “Discovery”.  We successfully completed the expedition in October of 2011: 50 countries, 54,000 miles, and radness that can never be articulated.  More than 70 magazine features were produced, nearly 20 short films, and a long list of sponsors supported us along the way.


In 2012 we re-launched Discovery after a year refit to make our baby more sustainable and green to operate.  It’s another 5 year expedition, this time called “The Cabrinha Quest“, in partnership with Cabrinha Kites.  She’s out there right now, wandering the Earth in search of wind and waves.  But I’m no longer at the helm (well once or twice a year just to keep the skills honed) and am now pursuing my addiction of flying.  It began in 2006, when I first learned, but I’ve only been able to really pursue it since we stuck our feet on solid ground.  I flew in my first comps in the summer of 2012, getting a Wild Card to fly in my first world cup in Sun Valley in August of 2012 and doing well enough there to qualify for the Superfinal in Colombia in January 2013.


The Adventure Begins...Gavin and Jody take possession of Discovery

The Adventure Begins…Gavin and Jody take possession of Discovery

I’m a total XC hound and have worked pretty hard at flying far.  On July 15th, 2013 I flew farther than anyone in North America ever has off a mountain, 387 km (240 miles) from launch off Bald Mountain, Idaho to the edge of Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena Montana.  That story is here.

I do a lot of writing about our wanderings and pursuits by ocean and air.  The piece that I’m probably most proud of is a piece Jody and I put together last year about a vol bivouac expedition across the Sierra Mountains of California.  We called it “Surfing the Sierras”.


In August of 2014 I teamed up with ice climbing and flying legend Will Gadd to fly from McBride, BC to the US border, the longest pure paragliding expedition that has ever been completed.  We were awarded with the National Geographic Adventurers of the year for the feat.  Red Bull funded a high-end film of the journey, all shot and edited by Reel Water Productions.  Here is a trailer (you can see the full film here):

In July of 2015 I competed in what is billed as the “Toughest Adventure Race on Earth”, the Red Bull X-Alps. It is a paragliding/foot race across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco and is quite possibly the most dangerous sufferfest in the world. I finished in 8th place and was the first American to reach goal in the race’s history after 10 days. 498 kilometers on the ground (12+ marathons), 52,000 meters of vertical ascent (Everest 5 times) and 1560 kilometers in the air (glorious!).


  1. Hi Gavin,
    I’m a Canadian PG pilot living in Northern Sweden and I am super stoked for more Mayhem on Stitcher! Where can I donate to the cause? Wishing you amazing, aesthetic lines in the New Year!

  2. Hi Gavin,

    I am a newcomer to the show and love the variety of people and topics and how you present it. If I could request one person, it would be actually you. I would love to hear you just telling us about some of the events mentioned above and your journey in general. Can you find a friend who is as good in conducting interviews as you are and do a Gavin episode?

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