What is your greatest sporting success?
2nd into goal in the recent XRedRocks after the legendary Bill Belcourt.
When and why did you start paragliding?
I’m always been fascinated by flight. As a kid I built and flew model airplanes and I got my pilots license as soon as I was old enough. I didn’t discover paragliding until my late 20’s when I did an intro course in 2011 because I thought it might be interesting. However, the second my feet left the ground on my first solo flight, I knew I’d found my calling.
What is your mountaineering experience?
Most of our big cross-country flying in Canada is over very rugged, remote mountains, so I’m glad to be comfortable operating in this demanding environment. I’m not a climber, but I love the mountains and have a healthy respect for them, having always been active doing activities like skiing, hiking, trail running and camping, and I’ve spent weeks trekking through the Himalayas. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve done some related training in the Canadian Military including mountain operations, navigation, first-aid and survival courses in winter and summer seasons.
What does your typical training week consist of?
I’ve always maintained a high level of physical fitness in the gym and outdoors, but this last year I’ve been focusing on endurance training specifically for hike and fly competitions. My current program is 6 days a week which includes occasional active recovery days. Workouts are mostly running, intervals, and some circuit training, with some strength sessions. I don’t particularly enjoy the endurance stuff, but I love challenging myself and always down for a good ‘ol suffer-fest, so it’s a funny mix that keeps me motivated. My recovery days are light jogging, stretching, and cycling.
What are your best and worst sporting memories?
Best, recently was flying to goal for 2nd place on day 2 of the 2021 XRedRocks when most other competitors bombed out and had to hike forever. There’s that moment when you land and hardly anyone is around, so you’re either first or last. Thankfully it was close to the former for me, at least that time!
Why did you choose the X-Pyr?
I love tackling huge challenges, both mentally and physically, nature, and paragliding of course! I couldn’t imagine a better way to combine my passions than hike and fly racing and the X-Pyr is one of the most challenging races in the world. The terrain and course length necessitates a diverse skill set and effective team collaboration to perform well, which I also find attractive. Lastly, I consider it a privilege to compete alongside the calible of athletes selected for this race.
Have you participated in the X-Pyr before? How was it?
Have you flown in the Pyrenees before? What do you think about them?
What will your strategy be during the race?
There’s a military saying that ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’ I’ve applied this in many areas of my life and I think this best summarizes my race strategy. Basically, it means making taking action based on deliberate decisions. It also addresses my weakness of occasional impulsivity! I’ll be relying on checklists, discussing moves with my team, being patient in the air, getting to high ground and working it as much as possible. I also have to be careful to avoid injuring myself and maintain as much a safety margin as possible. Even though I want to perform well, it’s equally important for my team to enjoy the experience, even if it’s type two fun.
What excites you most about the X-Pyr?
Competing with some incredible pilots over challenging terrain for long distance, what’s not to be excited about?!
What scares you the most about the event?
Blisters! Hate them! I’ll be praying that we’re not walking for days due to howling wind or rain like I know is possible in the Pyrenees.
Why will he/she make a good assistant?
I have two awesome supporters. Jonathan Klimow and Dave Achtemichuk are both accomplished pilots with great personalities who have the rare combination of being easy going but also highly motivated. They’re used to big mountain environments, smart and tactful, so they’ll be able to call me out if I’m getting out of line. I have a lot of respect for these guys and I’m very fortunate to have them as friends and supporters.
Anything else you like to comment?
I hope to chronicle as much of the the race as possible via my instagram at https://www.instagram.com/flying.james/
Thank you Íñigo Redín and the X-Pyr team for putting on such an involved event!