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- Nationality: New Zealand
- Date of birth: 09. Nov. 1982
- Profession: Meteorologist
- Supporter: Ben Neynens
- Glider: Ozone Z-Alps
- Website: www.sharemyjoys.com
- Sponsors: Aim Lab Automation Technologies, Ozone Paragliders, NZHGPA, Indulgence Tours, Fly2Base, Skybean, Nelson Travel Broker, Skybean, Icaro, onesmallplanet, paratothepeople, Flyskin, One Square Meal
- Nick Neynens, infamous for always wearing flip-flops, even in the worst of weather up the steepest climbs, is back for Red Bull X-Alps 2017. During the previous editions, he battled his way from the back and into the Top 10, reaching Monaco in 10 days and 18 hours. His key to the race? "Always have fun."
- When and why did you begin paragliding?
In 2007, after I found out how paragliders are so light and how ideal they were for exploring my favourite mountains in New Zealand.
- Do you paraglide competitively? List rankings and events.
I was the fastest paraglider in X-Berg (South Africa) and 7th in X-Pyr in 2014, which led to me applying for Red Bull X-Alps in 2015 (placed 10th) - I completed all events.
- What is your mountaineering experience?
Numerous alpine scrambles, mostly solo, particularly in New Zealand. Mt Tasman, Lendenfeld route (NZ classic ice climb, 2006 - summitted). Mont Blanc Gouter route (2008 solo, 2009 flew from summit). Last August after Red Bull X-Alps I was still in good enough shape to solo Mt Dolent as part of a Mont Blanc massif trip with my girlfriend. I’ve travelled through dozens of countries navigating my own way through the backcountry.
- What is your paragliding experience?
Approximately 100 hours a year since 2007, mostly thermic and visiting New Zealand backcountry every summer. Two intensive years of vol bivouac during a trip around the world in 2014-15. Returning to New Zealand and setting new distance records. Read about my adventures on www.sharemyjoys.com
- What is your adventure racing / endurance sport experience?
Dad introduced me to the mountains in New Zealand and we even spent some weeks hiking the Alps back in September 1996. My backcountry tramping experience has set me up for vol bivouac. I believe that this is the best way to understand how to manage yourself in the mountains. I’m more a seasoned tramper than a highly tuned athlete. From Tom Payne’s article after the 2015 edition: “Some athletes have arrived exhausted in Monaco, but Nick, having sprinted the last hour, bounded across the finish line - it looked like he could keep going for weeks.”
- What does your typical training week consist of?
I’m an opportunist and prefer an unstructured approach. At the moment I ride my bike to work because it’s quicker than taking the tram. I occasionally climb the odd mountain, but I wouldn’t be seen dead in a gym. I think a lot of folks were worried about my physical training regime last edition, but I like doing things my way and it works for me.
- What are your best and worst adventure/flying moments?
I had a pretty wild South American Andes adventure in late 2015 but I always see summer in New Zealand as the main event. I love exploring the world but still dream of returning to the rugged and pristine Southern Alps. I think of some experiences as “character building”. Vol bivouac is quite useful for learning how to deal with disappointment, but that’s what makes a good story.
- What are the sporting moments you are most proud of?
In 2015 reaching Monaco and making the top ten was terrific but the highest honour was being named the Best Sportsman – the most important thing for me was the style in which I completed the race.
- When and how did you first hear about the Red Bull X-Alps?
I heard about the Red Bull X-Alps after I started flying and the event to me captures the essence of paragliding, unlike traditional competitions. I became good friends with Lloyd Pennicuik (2007 and 2009 editions) from our local flying club. I'm a keen follower and we trailed the 2011 event as a group of six flying mates. I closely watched the 2013 live tracking while wintering in Antarctica. Unfortunately in 2015 I was too busy to watch the live tracking.
- Have you competed in the Red Bull X-Alps before and if so, when?
- What appeals to you about the Red Bull X-Alps?
The race explores the limits of flying in all kinds of conditions and gives full creative license to the pilot. Everyone seems to think you’re going through hell but in reality you’re being treated like royalty with nothing to worry about but hiking and flying. I like that and what’s more I love to entertain.
- What will be your strategy during the race?
Like last time the most important thing is to have fun. Themes include having a balanced perspective, simplicity, safety, efficiency, and style. Planning, analysing, and optimising is a fun part of preparation.
- 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 think my vol biv experience is invaluable for understanding the true nature of these events. The decisions you face, the setbacks you encounter, the techniques required, and overall managing and taking care of yourself in a mountain environment. I take a holistic approach with body and mind - we are on the same team. My supporter Kamila was blindingly optimistic last edition and with her to show off to I will have no problems maintaining motivation.
- What scares you the most about the event?
I’m still scared of cables, but I think the most dangerous part of this event is the driving, with distractions and fatigue. I’ll do my best to be a good athlete for my supporters.
- Have you ever done anything of this magnitude before?
I hope we get a really tough race next edition, that way I might have a chance to catch up.