126 episodes

The Cloudbase Mayhem podcast is where you will find fascinating and educational interviews with the best free-flight pilots in the world. If you fly a hanglider or paraglider, if you fly acro or cross country, the Cloudbase Mayhem podcast is where we glean how the great pilots of the world get there. Hosted by Red Bull X-Alps pilot, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and current holder of the North American foot launch record, Gavin McClurg. Follow me on Instagram @gavinmcclurg or on Facebook @ facebook.com/gavinnmcclurg or Twitter on @cloudbasemayhem.

Cloudbase Mayhem Podcast Gavin McClurg

    • Aviation
    • 4.8 • 154 Ratings

The Cloudbase Mayhem podcast is where you will find fascinating and educational interviews with the best free-flight pilots in the world. If you fly a hanglider or paraglider, if you fly acro or cross country, the Cloudbase Mayhem podcast is where we glean how the great pilots of the world get there. Hosted by Red Bull X-Alps pilot, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and current holder of the North American foot launch record, Gavin McClurg. Follow me on Instagram @gavinmcclurg or on Facebook @ facebook.com/gavinnmcclurg or Twitter on @cloudbasemayhem.

    Episode 127- Hypoxia, Cold, Accident and Reserve Studies and more with Dr. Matt Wilkes

    Episode 127- Hypoxia, Cold, Accident and Reserve Studies and more with Dr. Matt Wilkes

    ER and Critical Care physician and paragliding hound Matt Wilkes returns to the Mayhem to share the many takeaways from several large studies he’s been involved with since his last talk three years ago on hypoxia and cold; the largest and most comprehensive study done to date on throwing a reserve; and an accident analysis study done with the BHPA and Cross Country Magazine. How dangerous is free flight really? What leads to most accidents and what does the data support? What do we find from the “Exposure Model”- ie what is more dangerous- flying more and having more currency, or flying less and having less exposure to risk? What are the most common pilot errors that lead to accidents? We know reserves work really well but many people either freeze up or lose track of their height and don’t throw- why? We discuss how should we throw them, what can go wrong if you do, creating the right mindset for throwing, the importance of standardizing the gear and a lot more on tossing the laundry. How much does cold, altitude, dehydration and other environmental factors cripple our cognition? How vulnerable are pilots who are just out of their initial training? We discuss the debacle on Mont Blanc last summer and how we can make bad judgements with the best of intentions, we revisit intermediate syndrome and a ton more. Listen, learn, and share with your friends; this one has a ton of valuable information we all need to digest.

    Important links from the show:

    Free Flight Physiology Project: https://www.freeflightphysiology.org/

    Extreme Environments Laboratory: https://www.port.ac.uk/research/research-centres-and-groups/extreme-environments-research-group

    Link to reserve throw video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HS1ppN6vw4&feature=youtu.be

    Link to current first aid kit and advice: https://www.freeflightphysiology.org/first-aid-key-skills/

    The Killing zone: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Zone-Second-How-Pilots/dp/0071798404

    Critique of book: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24013111

    Brilliant avalanche article, massively applicable to paragliding


    Show Notes:


    * The scene and team

    * The airway

    * External bleeding

    * Bind the pelvis

    * Environmental protection

    * Tourniquets, spines and helmets etc.


    * Instrumented pilots in live flight, including XC and acro, heart G

    * Simulation

    * Reserve throw – zipline, G force sim

    * Lots of other work, BHPA analysis, XC survey


    * Guiding / tandem

    * Bandwidth, theirs and my own

    * Lots of SIV courses – talking to experts/andres and paw

    * Understanding the challenges facing beginners (so easy to overestimate)

    * LLSC


    * Exposure model (‘the more flying, the greater the exposure to risk’) vs. ‘currency’ model (‘the more flying, the safer the pilot’).

    * Member numbers – hugely variable

    * Babadag (7 per 100,000 flights) Tandems? Acro?

    * 1.5 deaths and 20 serious injuries per 100,000 flights (BHPA pilots)

    * Pilot error

    * Decisions and glider control

    * Misjudgement of distance

    * Passive safety is not the most important factor

    • 2 hr 12 min
    Episode 126- An oldie but goodie with the legend Pal Takats

    Episode 126- An oldie but goodie with the legend Pal Takats

    This week we’re doing our first “rerun” as Gavin is in the field deep in remote Nevada on a major SAR effort to find our good friend James “Kiwi” Johnson, who was recently on the show. We will get caught up with new shows on schedule soon. This is our most popular show to date and we’ve cleaned it up for your listening pleasure. Listen and learn!

    Pal Takats began flying 16 years ago in the flatlands of Budapest, Hungary and has since created a career any pilot would envy. One of the first Red Bull acro pilots and the man responsible for many of the current and modern acro combinations (the Joker, Cowboy, Esfera, etc.) Pal does paramotor demos for Red Bull at air races around the world, base jumps in his free time, founded JustAcro.com, flies speed wings, has twice competed in the Red Bull X-Alps (he was 8th in 2009 and 7th in 2017), is an exceptional cross country and World Cup competition pilot but it hasn’t all been a walk in the park to get there. In 2012 Pal had an accident flying a 6M speed wing that put him in a coma and nearly ended his life. Later the same year he demolished his knee cap making a poor decision on landing after a base jump. What can the rest of us learn from his mistakes and how can we eliminate a huge, huge percentage of accidents in our sport? How paragliding schools are missing out on the foundational stuff, the importance of ground handling and how this is leading to way too many accidents. This talk covers a lot of ground. A fascinating discussion with a fascinating, passionate individual.

    Show Notes:

    * Brief history of Pal’s many, many accomplishments

    * Pal breaks the Tandem Infinity Record

    * Moving from caving to flying- the inception

    * Becoming a professional pilot and making a living from flying

    * How not getting into University became a blessing

    * Transition from Acro to Cross Country and getting disillusioned with Acro and judging

    * Pal’s accidents in 2012, coming back from a coma and the takeaways

    * Becoming a Red Bull athlete

    * How does media, sponsors and making films affect decision making? What are the bad and good sides?

    * How to avoid bad situations and the IMPORTANCE of training

    * The IMPORTANCE of groundhandling and where the schools fall short and why the basics are being skipped and how this is failing new pilots

    * Where to learn acro, and what wing to start on

    * When to move up to a higher aspect wing? Beware!

    * How paragliding doesn’t have structured rules across the board and why that’s bad for our safety and our sport

    * Highs and lows of the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps


    Mentioned in this episode: Nik Hawks, Red Bull Media House, Reelwater Productions, JustAcro.com, Sidetracked Magazine, Squash Falconer, Will Gadd, paragliding schools, Theo Le Blic, Cody Mittanck

    • 1 hr 31 min
    Episode 125- Breaking the Asian Record with Soheil Barikani

    Episode 125- Breaking the Asian Record with Soheil Barikani

    On the 2nd of August the summer of records continued when Iranian world cup pilot and instructor Soheil Barikani flew his Gin Boom 11 nearly across the width of Iran 430km, a new Asian free distance record. Imagine getting on a plane to fly to the launch and flying home! This talk covers quite a bit of ground, but mostly it’s going to make you want to fly Iran! Big strong air, tall cloudbase, big mountain ranges, spinning turns across one of the most fascinating cultures and landscapes in the world…I had a blast talking to Soheil and learning about their 6,000+ strong flying community. The lines in Iran are just starting to get tapped, keep an eye on these pilots who are pushing the possibilities.

    Here is Soheil’s track log (note there were several other big flights from the same launch that day).


    Show Notes:

    * CUASA and the Red Rocks Fly In

    * The big air and big possibilities of Iran

    * X-Contest

    * Teamflying

    * Risks and dangers

    * Weather changes/ climate change

    * Visas, be careful where you fly, the seasons of Iran


    Mentioned in this show:

    Nick Greece, Gin, Cross Country Magazine, USHPA, PWC, Stacy Whitmore, CUASA, Rafael Saladini, Donizete Lemos, Matty Senior

    • 56 min
    Episode 124- Owen Morse, professional juggling (and joggling!), and a new HG World Record

    Episode 124- Owen Morse, professional juggling (and joggling!), and a new HG World Record

    On June 19th of this year Wills Wing pilot Owen Morse ticked off something he’d been chasing for six years- a new out and back world record. Owen flew an incredible boomer from Walt’s Point in the Owens out off the end of the White’s- AND BACK, flying 222 miles. A huge flight in some of the strongest air on Earth gave us plenty to talk about, but Owen also has maybe the most interesting job of anyone I’ve ever met. He’s a professional juggler (where he holds world records for things like juggling chainsaws) AND he hold several world records in the sport of “Joggling”. Sound hysterical? It is! Owen runs and juggles. And he’s damn good at it. He’s done the 100 meters in 11.6 seconds while juggling three balls! He’s run it in 13+ seconds while juggling 5! He and his buddy Jon Wee have been working together for 32 years as “The Passing Zone“, a comedy juggling duo who have played for the Queen; been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (twice); and Jay Leno (among MANY others); were in The Addams Family movie; have twice been on America’s Got Talent, and regularly perform with Penn and Teller. They juggle a lot of things that are on fire, running chainsaws, rat traps, and throw knives at gorgeous women- and get paid for it! These guys are absolutely awesome and you must must must check them out. We had a really fun talk about flying, juggling, choosing cool life paths, making people laugh, and chasing your dreams. Owen was granted the USHPA Presidential Citation award in 2009 for his hang gliding display at the John Wayne Airport, as well as purchasing (along with Len Szafaryn) the property at Andy Jackson Airfield so free flight could continue there. Enjoy!

    Watch Owen’s incredible Ayvri tracklog here: https://ayvri.com/scene/6vk1zgy9jx/ckbnvb0w300013e5rhjv415x9

    Watch his launch and landing on the big day: https://vimeo.com/434377178

    His recent Penn and Teller appearance: https://youtu.be/uPjhb1e-qJ8

    Joggling ridiculousness:  https://youtu.be/H_f27jQ5n1o

    Chainsaw juggling world record:  https://youtu.be/drlZBOQJ4os


    Show Notes:

    * The record goes down after 6 years of chasing it

    * Mindset and training

    * Flying the mountains

    * Dealing with the pressure of performing in front of huge crowds

    * Putting a hang glider in the John Wayne airport in 2008 and getting the USHPA presidential citation award

    * What focused practice and training can do

    * Being able to stay in the air for 10 hours

    * Racing the sun, not other pilots

    * How flying has affected Owen’s life

    * Flying and leading a charmed life


    Mentioned in this show:

    Cody Mittanck, Penn and Teller, Johnny Carson, XC Magazine, George Stebbins, Tom Weissenberger, Larry Tudor, The Passing Zone, Jonathan Dietch, Dave Turner, Chrigel Maurer, Will Gadd, Covid-19, USHPA, juggling, Zac Majors, Jonny Durand, Andy Beem, Joe Greblo, Rob McKenzie, Jon Wee

    • 59 min
    Episode 123- Best Towing Practices and Safety

    Episode 123- Best Towing Practices and Safety

    I just spent three+ weeks down in southern Texas chasing a world record with team members Cody Mittanck and Donizete Lemos, and our tow techs/ retrieve drivers Greg Bryl, Greg Cusick and Ricardo Costa. We had marginal weather at best, which leaves the world record hunting for another year, but we did a ton of tows in very strong conditions and we all learned a ton (and thankfully we did get a few pretty awesome flights). This podcast is dedicated to towing and towing safety in an interview I did with the “eWinch” inventor, Greg Bryl with Miami Paragliding. Greg is an expert tow-tech and his knowledge of tow systems is vast. We used his all-electric winch in really rocking conditions and were all blown away with it’s lightness, ease-of-use, and redundant fail-safes for safety.

    I am convinced after this trip that with a good winch and good tow-technician, launching via tow is much safer than foot launching and gives the free flight world access to incredible flying in conditions when terrain flying would be too risky. If you are currently doing any tow launching, or plan to in the future give this podcast a listen.

    Interested in purchasing an eWinch? Get 10% off using this exclusive discount code during checkout (valid for 2 months after publication of this podcast, July 17, 2020): cloudbasemayhem

    Show Notes:


    4 main areas: rig safety, pilot knowledge/skill, attachment, and conditions


    * rig: almost any rig can seize/bind or otherwise put too much tension on the pilot.

    * With payout you add the power of the car – pay-in may be safer in this regard

    * so care should be taken to eliminate that as much as possible

    * use a weaklink: it’s a double-edged sword b/c you remove some risk factors while introducing others; if recommend no WL, probably hasn’t towed enough

    * use lower pressure in initial phase of tow; watch the pilot closely, etc.

    * have hook knife at rig

    * if rig binds and brakes WL close to ground, better to overbrake and stall the wing and fall down than pendulum into ground


    * even if it’s weak, it will not break in time if rig seizes and goes from paying out to static line with the car moving and full car power applied to pilot. So don’t fall in trap of thinking a weak WL can’t get you in trouble; use a strong enough WL and change it OFTEN, especially in high winds


    * must hold wing overhead enough for tow to start safely; strong wind –kiting skills, weak wind — must run backwards or forwards to create airspeed and keep overhead;  must fly wing at all times and stay on course, including running out launch; must have hook knife

    * must manage cross-wing (see Conditions below)

    * also here: weak winds, driver rolls to take up slack as pilot walks back towards car; strong wind — leave slack or keep tension down so that pilot can run towards wing to pull it up (or better yet- use cobra launch).


    * no tow bridle on market that’s satisfactory in all respects. some let you put the pin ring through the loop so can’t release – bad; some don’t allow you to release easily at full tension and/or at no tension; some have metal – not ideal, some don’t attach to glider/beaners the right way, etc.; gotta make sure you use your model correctly

    * speed assist: like WL, good and bad. good: it auto-corrects heading of wing so that new pilots don’t’ ...

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Episode 122- Storytime with James “Kiwi” Oroc

    Episode 122- Storytime with James “Kiwi” Oroc

    James “Kiwi” Oroc is a journalist, photographer, artist and pilot born in the small South Pacific nation of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Since 1998 he has been pursuing and reporting on the cutting edge of extreme sports in more than 40 countries around the globe and has written three books- the non-fiction cult classic Tryptamine Palace, The New Psychedelic Revolution and the just-published fictional Under the Influence, 20 Tales of Psychedelic Noir and has been flying paragliders since the mid 80’s, when gliders had 7 cells! Kiwi and I sat down together in Texas (we’re here mostly unsuccessfully chasing big distance!) to do what I’ve wanted to do for years- have him recount some of the insane stories he’s been witness to in his last 35+ years of flying. In this episode we hear about the early years in Jackson Hole, time spent doing the absurd (not just flying) with Robbie Whittall; learning how to “thermal” (tongue in cheek); flying off Cotapaxi in Ecuador; Many, MANY close calls; bringing flying to MTV sports; theft of a glider leading to saving a life; the history of Edel and Pro Design and all many legends back in the day; competing in the first-ever PWC (with more than 250 pilots!) in Venezuela in the 90’s; the early crazy days with Richard Gallon, Othar Lawrence, Chris Santacroce, Will Gadd, Dave Bridges, Josh Cohn, Miguel Gutierrez, Bill Belcourt, Bob Drury, Raul Rodriguez, and many others all over the world. Light a fire, pour yourself a glass of wine and soak in the stories!

    To find out more about Kiwi or his incredible books, visit here.

    Show Notes:

    * Starting to fly in Queenstown on 7 cell gliders in in the 1980’s

    * Learning how to “thermal” in Jackson Hole, Wyoming:)

    * Becoming the Spin Doctor

    * The early craziness

    * The first PWC in the world

    * The Valle discovery

    * A whole bunch of carnage and leaving the sport

    * The early wings certifications

    * The Legends

    * The early days of Ozone

    * The carnage in Spain in the 2001 Worlds

    * The dream of the Serial class

    * The early days in Bir

    * Flying in a reenactment of an ancient battle near Cuzco, Peru

    * Xavier disappears

    * The carnage in Piedrahita

    * “My imagination has never kept up with the reality of paragliding”

    * The 2 Liner revolution and chasing big distance

    * Breaking the New Zealand distance record in Brazil

    * The flying tribe


    Mentioned in this show:

    Queenstown, Robbie Whittall, Nate Scales, John Patterson, Kurt Kleiner, Jon Hunt, Nick Greece, Andre Agassis, Hans Rey, John Yates, Josh Cohn, ProDesign, Mitch MacAleer, Greg Smith, Dave Bridges, Alex Lowe, Chris Santacroce, Othar Lawrence, Xavier Murillo, PWCA, Richard Gallon, Raul Rodgriguez, Miguel Gutierrez, Bill Belcourt, Monte Bell, Larry Tudor, Will Gadd, Bob Drury, Russ Ogden, Matt Taggart, Andy Hediger, Cross Country Magazine, Hugh Miller, Jim Mallinson, Eddie Colfax, John Sylvester, Jeff Crystal, Peter Chernowski, Guy Anderson, Garmin InReach, Matt Beechinor, Matty Senior, Steve Ham, Chris Mueller

    • 1 hr 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
154 Ratings

154 Ratings

Individualized Realized ,

New / Stoked Pilot Says Thanks!

I just finished my P2 in Santa Barbara after soaking up the podcast for the last few months. First mountain flight from Skyport to Parma was mind-blowing! Lucked out on the conditions and bumbled into plenty of lift on the way down. Joined a few hawks thermalling up from the Monastery ridge and had a spiritual moment when I started smelling the cloud vapor up at base with the birds calling back and forth on either side of me. Was totally overwhelmed at the improbability and awesomeness of it all and broke down sobbing for a few minutes up there in the wispies.

Cannot overestimate the value of the show in helping me through the learning process safely- several times I chose not to fly in marginal (for me) conditions and felt great about the decision, learning a ton just standing on the ground watching.

It’s hard to estimate risk without much experience, so for now I’m trying to harness the positive power of negative thinking, and brainstorm all the ways a potential flight could go badly, and then honestly ask myself if I have the skills to handle it. If the answer is only 99% yes, then that’s not nearly good enough and I’ll stay on the ground.

Thanks Mayhem!

Patrick Switzer, Oahu

Tetzen ,

Great info and interviews with superb pilots

Gavin has put together an extensive compendium of interviews from free flight pilots across the world. Many informative interviews with much to learn from a wide array of expertise for all levels of pilots.

Stonkk ,

There’s Still Hope

Awesome guests and great to hear some exciting stories. Was hoping the quality would be better considering the age of this podcast. Still a worth a listen.

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