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- Nationality: United States
- Date of birth: 11. Feb. 1980
- Profession: Registered Nurse
- Supporter: Pavel Cibulka
- Glider: Skywalk X-Alps
- Website: www.byfootandbysky.com
- Sponsors: Torrey Pines Glider Port, Hydroflask, Adventure Menu
- Jesse Williams might be a Red Bull X-Alps rookie, but he's got an ace up his sleeve, as he was Honza Rejmanek's supporter during Red Bull X-Alps 2013 and 2015 and with a 5th place finish at the 2016 X-pyr, this American will be looking to finish in a strong position.
- When and why did you begin paragliding?
My first time paragliding was in New Zealand in 2001. I thought it would be great to fly around, to simply hang out in the sky. I was amazed to hear how our instructor would fly home to land at his house a few km away. I loved my first taste of free flight but I didn’t start flying regularly until 2008 in Seattle where I hiked up for every flight. Since the beginning, hiking to fly has defined my paragliding experience.
- Do you paraglide competitively? List rankings and events.
2016 X-Pyr: 5th ; 2015 US Nationals, Bishop CA: 55th ; 2012 Canadian Nationals, Pemberton BC: 22nd ; 2011 Rat Race Sprint, Ruch OR USA: 19th.
- What is your mountaineering experience?
My first technical climbing was when I summited Mt. Baker (3286 meters) in the US in 2007, climbing 1000 meters over glaciers with mountaineer friends. I have since summited Mt. Baker twice in 2016, flying my paraglider down from the glaciers both times. In 2012 I attempted to summit Volcán Catopaxi (5897 meters) in Ecuador carrying heavy paragliding equipment with Franklin Salcedo. We turned back around 5500 meters when we could see that weather conditions wouldn’t permit flying and we needed to get down before the snow got too soft. Finishing the adventure safely is always my priority in the mountains. In 2012, I climbed Mt. Shasta (4322 meter) in US with Honza Rejmánek and we flew paragliders down from the summit.
- What is your paragliding experience?
I have been flying regularly since 2008. Since 2012 I have been focused on vol biv and mountain XC flying. I fly frequently in the Cascade Mountains around Seattle where I live. I don't focus on classic paragliding competitions but I have participated Owens Valley XC Classic, Rat Race Sprint, and Canadian Nationals in Pemberton. I have done vol biv trips the last 4 summers in the Alps the Pyrenees, as well as western US and Canada. In 2016 the X-Pyr was my first hike-and-fly race. I enjoy the challenge of launching and landing in rugged remote mountain areas.
- What is your adventure racing / endurance sport experience?
Doing support in the 2013 and 2015 Red Bull X-Alps was where I got my first taste for adventure racing. I learned a tremendous amount racing through the Alps and going on my own vol biv trips after the race. In 2016 I raced in the X-Pyr and got to see what it was like to be the pilot. There were a lot of new challenges but I loved racing and the non-stop puzzle solving that comes with it.
- What does your typical training week consist of?
I trail run the most, usually 3-5 days per week. I often carry a heavy pack for conditioning. When I’m going paragliding I hike whenever I have the opportunity usually 2-4 days a week. If I’m hiking with other paraglider pilots who have heavy gear I’ll trade them packs so I get a better workout and help them get to launch quicker. I try to do at least one long run over 30 km every week.
- What are your best and worst adventure/flying moments?
Worst was taking a collapse 6 meters above a field while landing in Spain and spraining my ankle a week before the 2016 X-Pyr. Fortunately it recovered quickly. I had a couple of other very scary moments with Foehn-like north wind in Spain, the second of which put me in trees under reserve parachute on the last day of the 2016 X-Pyr. That was the first time I've tossed my reserve. Best moment was making a first ever flight around Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan near my home in Bellingham WA spring of 2016. My first vol biv trip with Honza Rejmánek in Pemberton BC, Canada in 2012 is still an amazing memory. From our deepest camp we could just see the Lillooet glacier and we wondered if we could fly there some day. In 2015 I came back and managed to be the first person to fly over the Lillooet glacier in a solo vol biv trip. In 2014 I was traveling vol biv through the Alps. I hiked from Val d’Aosta over Theodulpass and flew down into Zermatt. My feet were wet from snow all day but the amazing views of the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains were more than worth it.
- What are the sporting moments you are most proud of?
Fifth place in the 2016 X-Pyr. This was my first hike-and-fly race. I made some mistakes but I felt like I did well overall flying, hiking, and decision making. It left me wanting a bigger challenge which is what I hope to find in the Red Bull X-Alps. Making Monaco with Honza Rejmánek in the Red Bull X-Alps 2015 and flying down to the raft. We fought hard all race and it was great to see Honza cap his Red Bull X-Alps career reaching the Mediterranean. First Place in the 2012 Sun Mountain 50k. I was in the best condition of my life and I ran a perfect race in 4:28. I had been getting my tandem license and hiking heavy tandem gear up the mountain. I’ll have to find something very heavy to train with again because modern paragliding gear is getting too light! Completing the 2016 Mount Baker Ultra Run. This was not a race but it’s definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. In this expedition we ran from the shore of the ocean, 108 miles to the 3286 m glaciated summit of Mt. Baker and back in 40 hours. I carried my paraglider up to the summit and flew from the Glaciers down to the valley below.
- When and how did you first hear about the Red Bull X-Alps?
I heard about the Red Bull X-Alps in 2009 when Honza Rejmanek came to Seattle to do a presentation on the race. I had only been flying a year at that time but it seemed fascinating to hike and fly so far. I worked night shift that summer and I could watch the action online. It seemed impossible to comprehend crossing all those mountains on the map. Now it is still hard to comprehend but I know it’s possible.
- Have you competed in the Red Bull X-Alps before and if so, when?
I have been a supporter for Honza Rejmanek in 2013 and 2015. I learned immensely from Honza and this race.
- What appeals to you about the Red Bull X-Alps?
The Red Bull X-Alps is the most amazing challenge I can imagine. To travel so far so fast through a massive mountain range with nothing but my feet and a glider is to me the ultimate definition of freedom and adventure. I truly think that modern lightweight paragliding gear is one for most amazing miracles of modern technology and this race is what has inspired people to take this game to new levels many times over. I want to be part of this cutting edge event and show the world how far I can go with just a little backpack full of wings.
- What will be your strategy during the race?
Flying will always be the priority but if weather is questionable I hope to stay in position to run large distances on the long valleys in the Alps. I’ll fly prepared to land high in the mountains and take care of myself if I have to be away from the van for long hikes or overnight. I’m going to study the weather very carefully and choose the routes that put me in best position for long flights. Of course when I’m in the air I’ll try to fly fast but I’ll remember all I’ve learned from Honza Rejmánek about top landing to get past shady spots or mountain passes.
- On average, over a third of the Red Bull X-Alps participants fail to finish the event. Why do you think you will make it?
I have the strength move fast on the ground day after day and still charge to get in positions for long flights when the weather is good. I’ll always be ready to use my night pass if it will help me avoid getting stuck in bad weather. Flying deep straight lines over remote terrain is something I love to do and I think that’s the best way to move fast and finish this race.
- What scares you the most about the event?
I think the most scary thing is speeding traffic on narrow mountain roads. Windy conditions in southern France also scare me but now that I’ve dealt with the windy Pyrenees Mountains for a summer I am ready for the challenge.
- Have you ever done anything of this magnitude before?
No I have not. I've done shorter challenges of similar intensity but nothing this big.