At speeds in excess of 100kph Jonny Durand has survived great white sharks, a massive ocean swell, powerful winds and the unforgiving cliffs of the Great Australian Bight to set two new world hang gliding records. Check out the best of the action in the video above.
We had reports of great whites in the area.
A multiple national champion, international event-winner and world record holder for having soared higher and farther than almost all hang gliders before him, Jonny can now add ‘fastest’ to his list of world-beating achievements after having covered 300km in just four hours and 16 minutes.
Renowned for his unique feats and world firsts, such as having performed aerobatics in the Morning Glory rolling cloud formation in central Australia in 2009, Jonny had long dreamed of adding another deadly aspect to his sport by flying over the open waters of South and Western Australia.
My arms and my triceps got busted from moving around my body so much.
And after a year of planning and his two-week project window quickly closing in on him, the 33 year old finally achieved his goal this week and set two new world records – quickest 300km out-and-return distance and quickest 100km out-and-return.
“I flew along the cliffs, at the mercy of the winds, waves and great whites below,” an elated Jonny says with a laugh.
“It was amazing, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. And in terms of personal achievements, it’s way up there. There were just so many elements.”
Most being the conditions and the treacherous terrain he hand-picked. “We decided to do it at the Great Australian Bight, where the winds pushing from the ocean and up the cliff allowed me to stay in the air the entire time without stopping – even once,” Jonny says.
“There’s a constant flow of air and you can glide along at high speeds without having to circle for the right air and altitude. Normally, we spend a lot of our time circling and that’s not only tiring but really affects your speed. In the end, I only did two turns all day – one in each attempt just so I could turn the thing around to come home.”
The previous average speed record for the 300km journey was 56kph, with a total time of just under 5.5 hours. Jonny smashed that record by recording an average speed of 72kph. The previous 100km average speed record was 76kph, Jonny also easily accounting for that measure by covering the distance at an average speed of more than 90kph. At times, he reached terrifying speeds of close to 110kph.
I actually resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to make a water landing and unstrapped myself.
“The camera crews had real difficulty keeping up,” he says with a laugh. Pulling off both records the same day took its toll.
“My arms and particularly my triceps got busted from moving around my body so much with the turbulence that can get pretty gnarly,” he adds. “And the last thing you want to do is end up in the water.” Which he almost did…
“We had reports of great whites in the area but luckily all I saw were seals,” Jonny says. “Because I came pretty close to sinking it at one stage. I actually resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to make a water landing and unstrapped myself and everything. It’s something we try to avoid at all costs and luckily I didn’t have to. But I’ve never been closer to one.”
The Big Bight is one of the most remote and terrifying flying locations in the world. Add to that two of hang gliding’s most coveted world records, broken at death-defying speeds, and Jonny Durand has cemented himself not only as a world-quality daredevil but a modern hang gliding great.
“And to have my parents there, who started it all for me, watching on – I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Jonny adds.
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