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Nick
PWC Columbia: America's top pilots 2011, Nick Greece 1st, Josh Cohn (USA) 2nd and Micky Von Wachter (VEN) 3rd.
*Top-page photo by Nick Greece: Brad Jezek over Gooseberry Mesa in Southern Utah, USA. A mountain biking, flying, and canyoneering mecca.

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Photo by Nick: Jamie Messenger wing over around the Tegelberg, Germany area

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Photo by Nick: A start gaggle at the 2010 Greece PWC. It was very embarrassing, and very kind of the organizers at the same time, to win an award at the final ceremony for my last name.

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Photo by Nick: Mads Syndergaard on his way to trouncing the US pilots at the 2009 US Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah. There will be an open distance contest at this amazing site this year that should be amazing. More information: opendistancenationals.com

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Photo by Nick: Jamie Messenger above Piedrahita, Spain.


Photo by Nick: Brad Gunnuscio on the UP and Eric Reed on the Ozone on the last day of the Roldanillo, Open. Reed took first and Gunnuscio took second!


Photo by Nick: Brad Gunnuscio and Mark Watts heading back to the soccer landing field in Roldanillo, Colombia.

Tell us about the Colombian PWC: the level seemed very high and so did the conditions.
Colombia was one of the most incredible places I have ever raced a paraglider. Because of continually changing conditions, each day was different in terms of how I had to fly. The diversity of tasks and conditions for this one site were awesome, and I learned a lot. The area where I fly, the Western Rockies, is quite strong, so if a flying contest’s arena is strong, I feel as if I can do well. When I was flying in Colombia, the day would often start strong, slow down midway, and possibly come back on as the day progressed. Challenging, but great learning!
The first four days of the first competition, the Roldanillo Open, I pushed too hard and landed in the swamps. I learned, after four long days, to shift gears more smoothly. On the first day of the Colombian Open, in which Eric Reed won first place and Brad Gunnuscio placed second (yeah, Team USA), I landed in a wet field. After packing up, with the lead gaggle climbing out over my head, I started to walk. The water went from ankle deep, to knee deep, to chest deep. Now this is an amazing adventure, I kept telling myself over the three hours it took me to walk out.
Many pilots fly the same model of glider as I do, so perhaps winning came down more to each pilot’s skills than to a combination of pilot-paraglider.


Photo by Nick: A gaggle heads back for a turnpoint passed Roldanillo during the Paragliding World Cup in Colombia.

Tell us about your glider; is it the best choice at the moment?

I fly the Ozone Mantra R10.2, and it is by far the best paraglider I have ever owned. Ozone has produced a factory team level glider that is accessible to the public. It talks constantly but it never lies. It is a magnificent paraglider. While there might be a few gliders that are a little hotter than the 10.2, it is not clearly evident that the others are leaps and bounds better. Pretty impressive for a wing that is over a year old, huh? There may be a few wings that are a bit faster, but I wouldn’t trade the flyability of the Ozone. Especially where I live. I think the playing field has been leveled. I started doing World Cups last year for the first time and it couldn’t have been a better time to start. My glider is as good as the test pilots!


Photo by Nick: Mark Watts in the mountains of Colombia.

After only one year competing in the top-level circuit, the US pilot took the continental title of the Paragliding World Cup following a display of skills and regularity in a hard fought competition in Colombia, in January.
Nick is a modest guy who swears that he still has a lot to learn in the sport he loves, and that he feels just “fine” about being the best pilot in America. Asked about the secret of success in Paragliding comps he reveals: “Discipline. (Said with a British accent)”...
But this best result ever for him comes after changing his life as a New York city boy to one in the mountains of Jackson Hole where he can fly as much as he wants and make a living as editor of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association’s magazine -association for which he works as a public relations consultant as well. He is also a talented aerial photographer (as you'll see in this article).
Does he stop there? No! Nick is also involved in a couple of interesting projects related to paragliding, and says that he still has time for enjoying a long list of hobbies: “Skiing, mountain biking, photography, basketball, cooking, Scrabble, growing orchids, playing the lute, and sword fighting”. We too would have loved to see pictures of Nick on the last three activities…!

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Young Nick, already enjoying speed and the wind on his face...

Nick, can you please tell us the short story of how you started paragliding and got hooked to it?
I started paragliding after visiting my girlfriend from college—an instructor’s daughter whom I dated for three years before I ever saw anyone paraglide. When she talked about her family’s business, I couldn’t comprehend what they actually did. Coming from a suburb of New York, I didn’t think her Dad’s work sounded like a real job.
After I graduated from college, I went to visit her in San Diego, California, and her father took me on a tandem. It turns out her parents, Maya and David Jebb, ran the famous Torrey Pines Gliderport, situated on the Pacific Coast in La Jolla, California.  My first tandem ride was a bit strenuous. I was taking my first flight without an engine and getting the “what are your intentions with my daughter?” talk at the same time. A lot to process. I wasn’t hooked at first flight.
Consequently, I ended up working at the Gliderport’s  restaurant and didn’t go up in the air again for a month.
But after watching the beauty of flight every day, I was obsessed with the flow of it. When I closed my eyes at night, I visualized flying through various landscapes. The idea of flight grabbed me.
I learned to fly at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, thus sealing my ridge-soaring roots; folks in the hardcore mountain community call me names to this day. I quit my restaurant job and flew for the next thirty days in a row. I loved every moment of learning— from the near–miss landings, to great soaring, to kiting practice, to reading and being inspired by any magazines and books I could get my hands on.
At the same time, I was interviewing at public relations firms in New York and eventually landed an entry level position at a PR firm on Madison Avenue. I packed up my newly acquired gear, which I purchased in part with college graduation money (much to the chagrin of my parents), and headed to New York.
My second day of work was September 11 [2001]. As I was walking to work, looking up an avenue for oncoming traffic, I saw the first plane fly into the World Trade Center. It was an historic time in New York. I worked a year in the city and pulled the plug.  During that year, I was only able to fly once and often had to drive long distances on weekends to go kite for a few hours in a rotor-filled field. I have tremendous respect for folks who work at the New York pace day in and day out. It crushed me in a year.
But I had my USHPA and Cross Country magazines to keep me going. I think this is where my desire to inspire others through photography and writing originated.  I headed back to Torrey Pines, where the Jebb family hired me to do communications work for the Gliderport and assist in the shop. My life with fulltime flight began.
After two years of working at the Gliderport and over one thousand flights, I saw two items in Cross Country Magazine that made me charge. One was a photo of Felix Wolk jumping from a dam in his hang glider. It aroused several emotions in me. I couldn’t believe how cool this shot was. This guy was getting some. I wasn’t getting any compared to this amazing pilot. I needed to get after it more. I was inspired.
Either in that same magazine or the next, there was a story by Bob Drury on Zagora in Morocco that revealed the most incredible ridge I have ever seen. Being the ridge monkey that I am, I had to go there. Those two stories helped propel me into an amazing adventure. I sold everything I had, shipped my car to New York, and traveled from Morocco to Slovenia, flying and competing along the way for almost a year.


Nick Greece gets a shave from the best barber in all of Nepal—Norris.

What was your first glider?
My first glider was a Paratech P25. I loved the Paratech gliders I owned and always thought Uwe Bernholz did a terrific job of making a glider that provided security.  Later, I had a P80, DHV 2, that I raced in a Monarca Open in 2005 and got a top 10 finish— my best at that point. I was thrilled to beat a lot of comp wings with a DHV 2. There is something thrilling about flying with comfort and safety and doing well. It’s similar to getting an amazingly good deal on something you buy. You feel smug and completely satisfied.


A self portrait taken at a Jackson Hole glass off site, Beaver Mtn. This shot was a refection off of the face shield of my friend’s, Dave Riss, helmet

Tell us about your work as editor, what you do and why do you like it?
It is a dream job. I work for an amazing group of interesting people who support my flying with as much passion and understanding as anyone could hope for! I love working on the magazine and searching for stories and images that will inspire and tell tales of what we do. Working for a national association is also satisfying because I am tasked to create a communal firepit of our shared experiences—from a first flight to the most incredible hang aerobatic pilots’ loops. It is great to be able to help different types of pilots share their vision and experiences of what flight is to them. I also really enjoy taking photos and contributing content to the free flight media world. And I recently started working on a project based in Jackson Hole called Outerlocal.com, an amazing site with reader-generated content. Kind of seeing where non-print media may go.
There are two other projects I am working on for which I really want to spread the word. The first is the Cloudbase Foundation, a non-profit created by pilots in order to give back to communities in need where we fly. Please check it out at thecloudbasefoundation.org
The second  is Able Pilot, which helps people with disabilities (spinal cord injuries, amputations, and neuromuscular disease)  safely experience the freedom, joys and sense of accomplishment of free flight that paragliding offers. Go to ablepilot.com to check that out.
It is incredible to have the opportunity to be a part of this lifestyle and sport on so many levels. I’m very lucky.

What is your local flying site?
I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Located in the Western US Rockies, Jackson is surrounded by 4000 meter mountains and is world-renowned for plentiful snowfall, huge climb rates, and high cloudbase, as well as brown bears that live freely (but sometimes with hunger) in our cross-country corridors. Most importantly, Jackson has an incredible flying community of gifted pilots who get after it constantly. Guys like Jon Hunt, Jon Patterson, Chip Hildebrand, Josh Riggs, and Matt Combs to name a few. And there are many other newer pilots who are coming on strong.

And your favorite site or the most amazing place where you’ve flown?
This year it has been Colombia. I loved it there. High Alps, Owens Valley, California; Jackson Hole; Sun Valley, Idaho; Chelan, Washington; Piedrahita. The list can go on and on.

Let's talk competition: when was your first one and how did it go?
The first competition I entered was the Rat Race in 2003 in Oregon.  It was not sanctioned and only required short tasks for pilots new to competition. Dixon White and Gail Haley put it on, and I made it around the courses they set up. The first sanctioned meet I flew was in San Bernadino, California, in 2003, at Marshall. I remember having food poisoning while flying in a very hot place for most of the meet and being absolutely thrilled when I got to the first turnpoint on the third day. I was also thrilled not to come in last.

Your first podium?
My first podium was a second place finish at the Rat Race in 2005 on an UP Trango 2. By then, The Rat Race had become a large, sanctioned meet where all the top US pilots competed every June. I got very lucky at this one event to come in so well—a flash in the pan at the time.  I wouldn’t return to a podium for years. Some say this was because Cross Country magazine cursed me with a 'Future Hero' section. The joke became that I actually was a Future Zero.

And what was your best comp before the PWC of Colombia?
I placed second in the PWC in Chelan (2010), second in the America’s Cup last year, and second in the American Championships. (First loser is usually a comfortable place for me.)
But one of my best, most memorable comps in recent memory was in the Owens Valley in California in 2008.  I don’t remember how I did—decent I think—but I flew 117 miles the day before the comp started with a bunch of friends and 87 miles the day before that, including a 1400 foot-per-minute climb to 17,999 feet with Nate Scales, as we watched the sun set and glided into the Nevada desert.  When the meet was blown-out for a few days, we got to speed fly in Death Valley, hike up Mt Whitney, and “hot spring” every evening. It is truly a special place, the Owens Valley.

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Greece and Savov getting ready for a day of flying. That Mr. Yassen is really fast!

How did you get so good?
I don’t feel like I’m so good. I still have so much to learn. There are many pilots who crush it constantly. Pilots like Russ Ogden, Josh Cohn, and Mr. Caron. The list goes on and on. It is truly awesome to be able to race with the best in the world at these meets. I learn so much every time.

Do you have as your goal to win the next PWC super final?
Sure. Who doesn’t? But I’ll need to fly a lot better than I am now to pull that off. ;-)

Other goals?
Fly the Karakoram, ski deep dry powder, be happy all the time, create a book, take awesome photographs, report on amazing adventures all over the world, have a wraparound porch and porch swing.

What’s the best of top-level competition?
I love the pace and speed of it and the strength in the gaggles. In national meets, 50 km into the course, you find yourself with maybe ten people. In Turkey, 50km into the course you are still with 70! It is incredible to fly huge XC flights with 70 people. Also, if you lose the leaders, you have to decide if you can out-think the course line they are on or just take your medicine and come back tomorrow. It is the best game in the world. Aerial chess for 3-6 hours with kooks who love it just as much as you, even if they aren’t similar to you in any other way.;-)

What are your plans for the future, do you want to continue competing and flying places?
Yes, I will continue to keep flying places and competing. I love it, and it continues to give back to me. I have started teaching one person to fly every couple of years to give this gift to someone who deserves it but wouldn't invest in lessons otherwise.

Finally, and getting more personal, do you have a girlfriend?
I do not currently. In the past, it has been problematic [coping with paragliding adventures or trips]. I guess I need to find someone who can come with. 


 

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