Thoughts on the eve of the X-Alps race

In my experience, what these type of challenges like X-Alps race are really about, is simply that we learn more about ourselves and we are better people for it. Yes some of it it will be fun, but not all it will be fun and experiencing the lows makes the highs feel so much better. Nick hints at coping with the disappointments that the fly hiking style can sometimes elicit in abundance. One minute you are a rooster in the air the next minute a feather duster on the ground, walking in marginal conditions. 

I’m sure this race will push us both into uncomfortable places and outside the mental comfort zone, but it won’t strictly be the walking and flying that will elicit this.

Similar but different

Nick and I have very different mindsets but similar in some respects. We are both living a life outside the societal path of getting educated, developing a career, find a partner, get married, settle with a mortgage and house with a white picket fence. We have both to varying degrees been down that path and both are choosing differently with our passion for paragliding. Places where we can live cheaper and fly more make sense, for Nick it means more exploration, for myself it means more challenge, problem solving and mastery of the paragliding game.

In the corporate world the connotations of a “Nomad” is often used as a dirty word, in ours it’s the badge of acceptance that life can be lived differently. It’s what this blog is all about and we hope to share our passion for paragliding, travel and gear research. We hope others will want join the journey and share their nomad experiences and outlook.

Where we differ is Nick is a laissez faire character by nature with a “put your boots on and go approach”. By contrast I have a more focused, and systematic “boots and all approach”.

The tension is there, but my hope is that the combined approach is better than the sum of the individuals and we still get on and talk to each other at the end. Keeping talking and not allowing the frustrations to build unchecked I think will be key. Luckily for Nick I think I am patient, diplomatic and empathising with his point of view, which translated means I do mostly what he wants.

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What makes Nick unique?

He is down to earth, humble, resilient and understated, the signs of a good Kiwi or so we are lead to believe. Although born in NZ he has spent much of his life in Australia, we joke that he will have to get some Kiwi language training to be truly accepted as Kiwi. Staunchly individual and sometimes consciously stubborn, Nick will often make decisions based on trying to be different. It’s a trait I have noticed amongst other Fly/Hike types and goes with the territory.

Being individual and stubborn is one of his good assets when the idea works, but also one of his weakness when the safety of the gaggle does actually know best or when there is clear evidence doing the same as everyone else is actually more beneficial. My hope is the X-Alps will draw out the balance of allowing Nick to be individual but also knowing when to be conservative and following the crowd.

So why support in the X-Alps?

Long before I started paragliding I had come across the X-Alps in a magazine and DVD that happened to by lying around my cousins place. The race was something that immediately compelling. I also had a taste of it in 2013 providing the weather forecasts for Tom Dorlodot.

When Nick approached me to support I talked through with a few people and almost said no because he couldn’t be clear about why he wanted to do it beyond “I am doing this for fun”. What is fun for you I probed? I also said I wouldn’t support until I had interviewed close friends, family and his girlfriend. As described above there were no surprises from the interview process.

What is your background and experience?

I come from a competitive background of swimming, running and surf lifesaving. For many years recently I haven’t wanted to do things for competitive reasons. Kayaking, a sport I have done seriously for over 10 years, was all about the challenge of being better and doing challenging things, but never competition against others. I saw it was too risky when the ego is involved.

My entry into paragliding started with the same non-competitive mindset. I didn’t want to even post flights online and even when I did it was under the account “yakernz” so as to avoid attention and avoid the competitive aspects that could become dangerous. At some point I was convinced by others that posting flights was a community minded thing to do as everyone could learn from the flight.

I’m no stranger to organising something big and challenging. I kitesurfed solo 2000km up the coast of Brazil to change the sport and emulate what was going on in paragliding and adventure kayaking circles. Setting a world record was front of mind but half way though the attempt I thought I had been beaten to it by someone else. In the end I was forced to reframe the trip in my head and made it about the challenge of doing the next 1000 km as fast as I could by focusing on the process of doing each day “in the moment” and the best I could. It worked, 1000km in 10 days and ended with the longest kite journey anyone has done in the world.

I’m enjoying being back doing the planning and problem solving that was part of my Brazil experience. Getting to the start line with everything sorted is a major part of journey. So far we are on track to start tomorrow with everything in order.

Louis Tapper


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