Flowers in his hair

Champion hang-glider Jonny Durand dominates the skies of San Francisco
Jonny Durand Chasing Thermals © Via @jonnydurand Instagram
By Josh Rakic

Just weeks after dropping his Chasing Thermals hang gliding project that won world acclaim, champion pilot Jonny Durand is back in competition mode and crushing it.

Ahead of the coveted Pre World Championships in Brazil this month, the multiple Australian champ headed to San Francisco on the weekend to contest the Fort Funston Air Races as part of his preparation. And he took a clean victory in the four mile sprint, making it his fourth win from five contests this year.

“It was a one-day sprint race and nice little comp before heading to Brazil,” Jonny says.

“It was good fun. Something different. It was only a four mile sprint along the coast - two miles down the ridge and back. I did it in five and a half minutes.”

The flight was in stark contrast to his attempt at the 761km distance record in Texas last month, which was documented on both The Weather Channel and here.

Jonny Durand at The Weather Channel © Via @jonnydurand Instagram

“No thermals here, we just rely on the winds hitting the cliffs,” Jonny says.

“It’s a little bit like my Boomerang project in South Australia. We fly right on the coast over the sand and ocean. The west wind comes in and hits the sand dunes or cliffs and all the air has to go up - it can’t go through the ground.

“It’s a whole different ball game. You fly the same glider but it’s more technical in the sense that certain parts of the ridge produce more lift than others. So it’s trying to understand when to fly fast or when to fly slow. Conditions weren’t easy and you have to change gears a few times, like slowing up in certain places. Otherwise you’d end up on the beach through lack of skill or going too hard.

“It was a little technical because it’s not like a constant cliff. It drops down pretty lows in places and we’d get down to maybe 20-30 feet off the beach and as high as 500 feet.”

Jonny Durand taking off on a winning run © Diev Hart via @jonnydurand Instagram


Meanwhile, Jonny will head to Brazil this week in an effort to reclaim the world No.1 ranking he lost after his Chasing Thermals commitments ruled him out of contesting the European Championships, one of the biggest comps of the year.

He'll contest the Brazilian National Championships over the very same air space that the Pre World Championships will be contested over a week later.

“It’s an ideal warm-up - I’ve never won the Pre Worlds but finished second a few years back,” Jonny says.

“Apart from the locals, I’m probably more experienced at that place than anyone. This will be 22 times I’ve flown there. I’ve had 20 odd weeks of flying in that spot which is probably more than anywhere else I’ve ever flow in the world.

“It’s basically my own backyard.”


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