The Nine Tactics to Becoming a Sponsored Paragliding Pilot

Sample Content for Thermal Crossings Indiegogo Backers 

Below is a teaser of things to come…

I’m excited to share with you the 9 tactics to becoming a sponsored paragliding pilot, as well as the first taste of the type of updates you’ll receive as a backer of the Thermal Crossings Indiegogo campaign.

In this slide share I share with you the following 9 tactics:

  1. Brands don’t know everyone; help them expand their reach
  2. Build relevant followings
  3. Start a phenomena
  4. Show brands what they want to see
  5. Create good art
  6. Get introduced
  7. Tell the story & explain how brands win
  8. Be patient & push when you have leverage
  9. Do one thing well; help them sell

How to Use Your VIP Access

SOCA VALLEY, SLOVENIA, 100 METRES ABOVE GROUND…AND TOTALLY BOMBING OUT!

An easterly wind had been predicted for the whole day and my paragliding buddies were climbing out on the East ridge of Kobala.

I, on the other hand, was stuck behind a row of “overly-cycle-picky” pilots, itching to get into a sky that was clearly booming. The East windsock eventually died and a gentle-westerly-wind had me skip over to the over side of the hill. A minute later I was in the sky, and what seemed like only another minute later I was already coming into land after having scratched every ridge on the way down–nada!

One hundred metres off the deck, I flew over some solar panels and into some “floaty” air, maintaining a 0m/s descent rate. With nothing to lose, I tried turning as flat as possible. What felt like a never-ending number of turns later, and without losing or gaining any height, suddenly I was climbing…

0.2m/s. 0.4m/s. 0.8m/s… beep, beep beep, beeeeeeeeeeeep.

Before long I was happily climbing out at a consistent 2m/s. I couldn’t believe it… I had literally been kicking tree tops but somehow found myself back at cloud base! AWESOME!

Fons, a dutch pilot and good friend of mine, radio’d in, “Rhys, where you at because I’m just passing the ridge behind Camp Gabrje.”

I replied, “I’m about a kilometer behind you at fourteen hundred–made it back up!”

In the next three and a half hours, I went on to fly into Italy and back to Tolmin, setting a new personal best in the process. Having flown against a headwind most of the way, fighting my way through an early low-save, and despite holding in a piss way longer than comfortable, I was buzzing!

The more interesting part of this story, however, happened after I left Slovenia, as I stood in the kitchen of a friend, telling him about the interesting people I had met over the summer and how I had helped pilots fly the local out and return, tackle mental blocks, and set new personal records.

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Somehow, despite having little air time since getting back into the sport, I was able to understand well the challenges pilots were having, and give them useful tips.

How? I guess it’s because I had been figuring it out all summer and the learnings were fresh.

At some point during this kitchen conversation, though, something very important happened. I had decided to commit to paragliding full time and wanted to take a stab at answering the question “How do we get better at paragliding without killing ourselves?”.

The challenge, I was totally broke, had over 90% of my belongings stolen from storage a few weeks earlier, and was not yet known in the industry.

Red Bull didn’t seem like a likely source of funding because they’re usually after records or established athletes. But my gut told me that putting my pilot progression under a microscope and sharing the journey of becoming a professional adventurer was unique, inspiring, and most importantly, offered the biggest learning opportunity for followers.

Fast forward 14 weeks and I’ve published the crowdfunding page that’s already 57% funded, assembled a team of some of the most respected pilots and coaches, been published about in the media, and can proudly show the support of Niviuk and Sup’Air.

It looks like I’m about to rewrite some rules… and you’re invited along for the ride.

That’s what Thermal Crossings is for.

Diary of an Adventurer – How I got Here…

2014–2015 were exciting, scary, yet rewarding years for me. Dropping out of a business degree to pursue a startup idea, only to decide against it a few months later, I found myself job hunting in Sweden of all places.

Sending CVs wasn’t working too well, so I “hit reset” by deleting LinkedIn, and instead focussed on meeting as many people as possible by attending local events, quickly finding work as a marketing assistant.

Within just a few months, my work had helped this startup become the leaders in their space, and I eventually went on to become a freelancer to have more freedom. That’s around the time when I decided that I’d get back into paragliding.

Just as some people are driven to maximise personal gain, I’m personally inspired to help others improve their wellbeing, and so I published exactly how I was tackling the challenge of taking a “mini-sabbatical” in a pursuit of getting back into the sky.

If you think all this is craziness, you’re right. But as wiser lifestyle experimentalist, Tim Ferriss, rightly said, “Fortunately, you don’t need to be a guinea pig to benefit from one.”

There have been many men and women who have achieved happiness and who live meaningful lives, despite approaching things a little unconventionally. And since a few years now, I’ve kind of become a living breathing example of one.

Why do many unconventional approaches work better than common ones?

Because they force people to test assumptions, which then leads to small and simple discoveries that often deliver big improvements. But as Mr Ferriss also said, “…there is zero room for misunderstanding”. That’s especially true for paragliding.

It’s very easy to give generic advice. Here watch…

  • Fly on a wing that you’re comfortable on
  • When high, fly the sky, when low, fly the ground
  • Hike more often to take off and eat healthier
  • Set yourself specific goals and hold yourself accountable

There’s no way I’ll be hammering you with any of this, though. Not because it isn’t good advice––it is…up to a point. But I’m looking to help you get results that will make other pilots ask “How the #$%& did you fly that line?!”, or “how did you climb out when everybody bombed out?”.

That requires rethinking things from the ground up.

A Common Misconception

I have to stress this next point. I’m not a world-class pilot, nor an insanely fit athlete (yet). I’m just an ordinary guy who is passionate about paragliding, personal development, sharing knowledge, and have luckily found myself with access to some of the best pilots and coaches in the world.

This puts me in an unusual position.

I’m able to pull from several lifetime’s worth of experience and testing, synthesizing ideas that would otherwise never meet. By looking at the pro-athlete career upside down, I believe it’s possible to discover new learnings and bring a jolt of innovation into the world of paragliding.

 –  Struggle to fly further than 50km? Try going on a XC-tandem along with a world class pilot, and ask for pre, in-flight, and post-flight briefings.

 –  Do you get cold sleeping in the mountains? Try taking a leak more frequently to avoid burning energy heating a litre of piss to body temperature.

 –  Don’t have enough room for a fishing rod? With a bit of creativity, you can modify your hiking pole

Throughout this project, backers will get exclusive access to findings from myself, professional athletes, world class adventurers, survival gurus, coaches, and fitness and nutritional experts.

You’ll have the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable people on the planet.

And through this journey, I will teach you how to hike and fly, better, further, and safer.

The Future is Already Here

Most paragliders these days fly with two, sometimes three GPS systems during flight. Weather related websites are getting so much more advanced. Flight visualization software now exists. We all have access to tools like Google Earth. And the quantified-self industry is exploding with new gadgets!

The future is here and there has never been a better time to analyze the world of paragliding, and survival trekking in such detail.

The only ingredient that has really been missing is the “guinea pig”. A human willing to live under the microscope to provide those coming up behind with a measuring stick of sorts. Something to base any future comparisons off. That’s where I come in.

-What fitness level do you need to hike up 1000m?
-How can you find water instead of carrying 10 liters uphill?
-What do you need to spend a night above 3000m?
-What to do on bad weather days?
-How to read weather conditions?
-Which line will likely work better?

These are the types of questions that can be answered in detail with this project, so long as I find a way to fund it. Recording data, writing about the findings, and building the platform to share it all with you takes up a considerable amount of time after all.

Imagine the learning opportunity if in every sport, someone like myself volunteered to do something similar to Thermal Crossings, sharing their progression as close to day one as possible–before being a pro! How much we could learn about the human body and skill acquisition–not to mention the entertaining stories that would come out of it all.

This is where you come in. But first…

The 80/20 Principle: From “Newbie” to Human Condor

This project is designed to give you the most important tools you need for pilot progression and increased athletic performance. What’s the 80/20? principle?

Vilfredo Pareto was an economist/sociologist whose work explored the “law” of income distribution that would later be named after him: “Pareto’s Law,” or “the Pareto Distribution.” It is more commonly referred to as “the 80/20 Principle.”

Pareto demonstrated an uneven but predictable distribution of wealth in society—80 percent of the wealth and income is produced and possessed by 20 percent of the population. He also showed that this 80/20 principle could be found almost everywhere, not just in economics. Eighty percent of Pareto’s garden peas were produced by 20% of the peapods he had planted, for example.

However, many scientists later found the 80/20 principle to be much more disproportionate. All this just means that a small percentage of tools provides the majority of the desired results.

With your help, as a community, we’re going to discover the Archimedes lever for those who want the best results in the least time. Finding those few paragliding hacks isn’t going to come without sacrifice, though–this needs to become a full-time job for somebody.

Like any type of proper scientific enquiry, it takes good questions, time, brain power, experiments, and budget.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this journey.

Five Rules to Making the Most of Your Exclusive Access

RULE #1. THINK OF THIS PROJECT AS A BUFFET

Not everything is going to be applicable or even interesting to you in the first sitting. Pace yourself, and as the body of knowledge grows pick focus areas depending on what you are looking to work on.

RULE #2. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SKIM

I’m not going to get upset if you don’t read every single word I write. If you happen to find an interesting title but haven’t got time to read 2,000 words. Skim until you find a subtitle that catches your eye, read a bit more, and then go back to the rest later if you see that it’s going to be useful.

RULE #3. SPEAK UP

The real learning only starts to happen when you can be critical of my work and voice your thoughts. Always be skeptical. And when you feel something is wrong, or perhaps you feel I should take something else into consideration, speak up.

RULE #4. EXPERIMENT AND SHARE YOUR FINDINGS

Hopefully, all this experimenting inspires you to run a few experiments of your own. If you learn something new, whether that be a new question, tactic, strategy, approach, idea, or just another way for people to have fun, share it back into the community.

RULE #5. HAVE FUN

This rule should be self-explanatory. Most paragliders that I know do this out of a passion for the sport after all. So above everything else, just remember to have a blast with it all.

Where to from here?

Throughout the next few years I want to document and share my pilot and athletic performance progression, entertain you with stories, as well as discover a wealth of training hacks with you all. As a community, we can learn what it takes to tackle unassisted vol-bivouac expeditions through remote and technical mountain ranges such as the Tian-shan, and how to become better paragliding pilots.

To make this all a reality, though, I’ve estimated that I’ll need close to £30,000. However, to get this show on the road, I’ve launched a crowdfunding to raise £3,600 before the 10th of January. If successful, the crowdfunding page will remain live and become a critical source of revenue for the project to be able to stay afloat, and therefore, allow me to continue working on sending you cool stuff.

This way of raising the funds gives you the chance to be involved from day one while I’m still figuring all of this out. You literally become the heartbeat of the team.

If you are inspired by this project and want to get exclusive access to the material I create over the next few years, all you have to do is head on over to the IndieGoGo page at igg.me/thermal-crossings and pledge at exclusive access level #1, #2, or #3. Full fan access starts from only £20. The 10th is almost here so if you’re in, don’t wait around.

See you on the other side.

-Rhys