2013: Looking back at the best freeflights

Event Participant flying above Chamonix in the Mont Blanc area during the Red Bull X-Alps 2011 on July 29, 2011.
© Olivier Laugero/Red Bull Content Pool

2013 produced some awe-inspiring flights; here, we select five of the year's highlights.

Maurer wins longest Red Bull X-Alps in record time

When it was first announced that the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps would be almost 200km longer than the previous edition, no one imagined that a record time would be possible. But they didn't reckon on the genius flying ability of a certain competitor, Christian Maurer.  

With two wins to defend he faced a formidable line of competitors, including Clement Latour, Toma Coconea and Martin Muller. But from the first day, he pulled away and continued to astound spectators with the speed and efficiency of his flying.

"It was possible to do some 'magic moves' in the air," he says, referring to the good weather, "like crossing from Interlaken to Mont Blanc." His ballsy slope landings minimised the hiking distances and he flew 90 per cent of the route.

“It was really impressive,” fellow Red Bull X-Alps athlete Paul Guschlbauer acknowledged.

Christian Maurer (SUI1) celebrates on the float during the Red Bull X-Alps 2013, Monaco on July 14th, 2013
Christian Maurer (SUI1) on the finishing float. © Olivier Laugero/Red Bull Content Pool

Gavin McClurg breaks US record

Flying his Niviuk Peak3, Gavin McClurg battled his way across Idaho from Mt Baldy, 387km into Montana, committing to some of the deepest, remote solo flying and turbulent lee-side conditions, to comprehensively break the US foot launch distance record.

McClurg had landed just short of the Idaho state record the day before, and had only had a few hours' sleep that night. It came in a week where the cross-country ace clocked up almost 1,000km in the air.

"It was a seven-and-a-half-hour flight. Not particularly long, I would have loved to keep going, but I’m deeply satisfied," McClurg says modestly.

Gavin McClurg posing for a portrait
McClurg breaks US record© Jody MacDonald

De Dorlodot and Van Schelven cross New Zealand

Armed with nothing more than 22kg packs and a fishing rod, Tom de Dorlodot and Ferdinand Van Schelven pioneered a remote hike-and-fly route across South Island, New Zealand, crossing the NZ Alps and completing the unsupported 800km journey in just 27 days.

"We learned to read the weather and worked a lot on our instinct," says de Dorlodot. "We met very few people on the way and only walked 80km on roads – the rest was all in the wild. We caught some trout for dinner, slept in huts or wrapped in our gliders."

Keep the glider dry! © SEARCH Productions

Weissenberger flies 353km out and return

Using the combination of sea breeze and the 500km ridge that runs down the Chilean coast, Austrian Thomas Weissenberger flew his hang glider 176.7km from Iquique and back, breaking his own world record for the out-and-return distance.

As well as efficient flying, Weissenberger demonstrated a prowess in planning and meteorology to execute the perfect flight on the perfect day after years of preparation.

"It’s a hugely rewarding experience for me and everybody else on the team," he said after the flight.

world-record-hang-glider
Cruising over the cliffs.© Thomas Weissenberger

Turner crosses the Sierras

 

Climber-turned-pilot Dave Turner broke the California distance record, paragliding west from the big air of the Owens Valley in California, reaching 17,000ft (5,200m) and crossing the High Sierra Mountains, a feat which has only been completed once before, by Red Bull X-Alps pilot Stephan Haase in 2011.

 

Landing prematurely would have meant a three-to-four day walk out. Park Rangers detained him when he did land, assuming he'd launched from Sequoia National Park, until he was able to show them his record-breaking track log.

It's only four years since Turner learnt to fly, and the flight vindicated those tipping him as a name to watch for the future. "Dave's killing it right now, he's flying lines that no one else has ever conceived of," says Brad Wilson, a flying partner.

 

© Dave Turner