Paul’s Crazy Day Four

Austria’s veteran athlete tells us about tagging five Turnpoints in a day, and why "2011 Paul" would have come last in 2023.

rbx23 news pauls crazy day 4 image 03

How did this year compare to previous editions? 
It was a totally special race for everybody. For me it was a very different race to all the six editions that I had done before. This was the first time it was more flying with a little bit of hiking. At the beginning of my career, in 2011, I was not a good pilot at all if I'm comparing it to now. I feel like I was a total beginner. I had no idea what I was actually doing, I just followed a couple of long cross-country tracks back then and put every thermal in my GPS and that's how I flew 220 kilometers 13 years ago but I wasn't a good pilot. I was lucky because in 2011 it was mostly a running race so I came in third and that started my career and then I improved and improved. Interestingly this year was the total opposite where it was mostly a flying event and I'm happy I could still keep up because with the skills I had in 2011 I would have been the last probably!

But you were happy with your performance? 
I think 14 or 15 positions were within six or seven hours coming into goal and I was in there so I'm happy. Of course you look on the ranking [and you may say] he was only 13th that's not good but personally for me I'm confident. It was a ‘flow’ result. 

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© zooom / Lukas Pilz

What about Day 4 when you tagged five Turnpoints in a day and ended up in 4th. That must have been memorable! 
That day was a crazy day – we hiked up to one pass, glided down, ran 20km on the flat and then launched and landed on the bottom of Niesen and then flew up  [Paul took off from just 1,000m and successfully flew to the Turnpoint]. I landed on top of Niesen and then still flew to Mont Blanc and around Mont Blanc – and I could never have imagined something like this was possible actually!

Was it good to be back with the front-runners?  
In hindsight I would say it was a little bit of a conflict there. I was suddenly in the front again but even after all these years I didn't want the pressure. Suddenly all these guys were with me, Pal, Damien, Chrigel was just one mountain ahead. We were together and three days before the end I started making mistakes, which wasn’t good. 

Isn’t there some crazy story about your supporter driving the VW up a ski slope? 
That was at the very beginning. I was running up very late to the mountain to get the last flight in and suddenly I see the Volkswagen van just racing up the ski slope, like what's going on? I mean yeah, he was all-in. [Christian Durrant is an Australian former fighter pilot turned hike & fly athlete].

Any other happy crazy moments? 
The whole experience for sure is a happy crazy moment. One specific moment? Flying in the end with 60 km/h over the valleys and not feeling in danger – flying with the wind in the right direction. You’re like okay, well I'm really flying like a bird right now after 11 hours in the air and it works out and you're not in trouble. 

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 © zooom / Sebastian Marko

What have you been up to since the race? 
With Aaron Durogati I’ve founded a series of hike & fly events called The idea is to give back to the community. These are really events for everybody. The whole concept is to create a funnel where you can learn and become better at hike and fly.  

2025, you think you’ll come back? 
Not sure. But I say this every time!

Top image © zooom / Lukas Pilz

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