On my travels last year, I had the pleasure of meeting and flying with most of the HapiAcro team - a group of four pilots who have come together to spread their love of flying to the masses in the US. As they reached the end of their first year as a team - the first acro team in America - I was able to catch up with them to find out how it had all gone and what was next for the guys.
Tell me about Hapi Acro - what's it all about?
HapiAcro started as four friends who were really into learning and performing acro for each other and local pilots. We loved the sport of acro so much and knew the US scene was small so we decided to give it a go and work toward performing professionally for the public. We all met through Torrey Pines Gliderport where we fly often. We also spend lots of time together outside of flying, just hanging out, sharing stories and having fun. We got the name HapiAcro while we were sitting at one of our favorite restaurants in Encinitas, HapiFish. We were discussing sponsorship with the owner when we decided that HapiAcro would be a cool twist on the restaurant’s name and a great way to show thanks to HapiFish for being our first sponsor. For the team, HapiAcro is about being Hapi, doing what you love and sharing this with everyone you know.
Who is involved and how did you come together?
Max Marien, Adam Fischbach, Mateo Manzari and Bryan Rice all met at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Max was into acro first, but was the most humble. Mateo was the newest pilot and learning fast from Max and Bryan. Adam was at Torrey practicing all the time and we all just sort of gravitated to each other. There isn’t really anyone else in the area that’s into acro so this lack helped keep our bond strong.
Max started flying when he was very young, 11 years old. His father, Robin is the owner of the Torrey Pines Gliderport so Max was exposed very early on. Adam began flying hang gliders a long while ago and then switched his focus to paragliding a few years back. Bryan has been a paragliding pilot and instructor for many years and began his flying career up in Santa Barbara. Mateo is a new pilot and signed up under a GroupOn that Bryan created less than 3 years ago. Bryan and Max were Mateo’s first two instructors.
What does it mean to be an "acro team"?
We use our team to help each other. We share information between ourselves; we fly together, travel together and perform together. We thrive off each other and off the sport and with the four of us keenly focused on acro and paragliding in general it helps everyone on the team by keeping our interests high. Basically we push each other, help each other learn, grow and excel and when we’re at the top of our game all this energy gets transferred to our fans and other local pilots – it’s like one giant Yin-Yang of awesome paragliding energy that we tap into, add to and then redistribute.
Where do you do most of your flying?
We practice often at Torrey Pines, but most of the team is now towing just north of the border with Mexico. All on the team have used hot air balloons for lift and Max has jumped out of both a helicopter and a trike for some nice acro runs. Mateo just returned from a round-the-world tour where he practiced acro at the famous Organya site.
How would you describe yourselves as pilots?
Wow, I think we’re all very different which is why we gel together so well. Max is super humble, quiet and never has a bad word to say about anyone. Max’s piloting style is similar to Adam’s in that they both have an articulate, calculated style. Max will tend to think out his tricks and perform them flawlessly, while Adam merges this method with more of a free-flowing approach. You’ll often find Adam ground-swooping the North ridge at Torrey.
Bryan is the Fireman on the team so he’s a big guy and his style mirrors his size; Bryan flies very dynamically, heavy on his brakes and strong in his maneuvers.
Mateo tends to try tricks ahead of his skill set, but this is what keeps his interest – being on the edge.
What are your greatest paragliding achievements?
For a period in 2012, Max held the World Record for Infinite Tumbles at 374. He smashed Horacio Llorens original record of 286. Shortly thereafter Horacio reclaimed his title with an impressive 568 tumbles.
Adam, Mateo and Bryan are all accomplished pilots flying not only acro, but also tandem to show others this amazing sport and XC in hopes of setting some new records in this arena as well. We all love tandem and XC, but our true passion is acro.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into acro?
Practice over water. Seriously, safety is paramount, because if you get injured you can’t fly… or worse. Most of our team excelled during SIV training. After mastering the typical wing control we used each successive tow to learn acro moves and perfect our timing and technique. With this approach and both ground and water support teams standing by we’re able to stay safe while learning.
SIVs are held in many places around the world, throughout the year, so we recommend these as a good starting place for budding acro pilots. Also, finding a mentor, someone you trust and who will look out for you is key.
You've made some pretty cool videos - what do you think is the trick to a great paragliding video?
Passion. If you as the producer don’t feel passion in creating the video than the viewer isn’t going to feel it either. Also, carefully choosing the music is just as important as choosing the clips. We like to keep the energy very high in our videos and keep the viewer interested by changing the camera angles and interspersing clips within each segment. But it all comes down to passion ;)
Of the videos HapiAcro has produced, what is your favourite?
Balloon Drop was one of our firsts so it’s my (Mateo's) favorite, but Adam’s 2013 Recap brings a huge smile to all our faces – it does a great job of summarizing our first, and wonderful year together.
We do believe each video gets better than the last as we improve our editing skills and add new filming equipment to our repertoire.
What's next for HapiAcro?
First and foremost, we’re going to continue to grow awareness of our sport.
We’ve found a secret training ground not far from our hometown and we plan on spending much of 2014 training and perfecting our tricks.
In addition, Mateo spent a good chunk of the past year perfecting his XC skills and has created a new blog to help share this adventure and help budding new pilots. He’s calling it HapiXC
What are your goals for 2014?
Max is going to attempt another Infinite Loop World Record.
The team hopes to perform in September at this year’s annual Beer Fest (http://sdbeerfest.org/) at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier.
We’re also putting together a 40 minute video that we hope to distribute to the local sports bars to replace their aging surf videos they have playing in loop on their big screens. We’ll also post this video for all to see on our home page www.hapiacro.com
In addition, we’re teaming up with Angel Wings Foundation (www.angelwingscharity.org/) and plan to perform for that charity this year.
You can find out more about the HapiAcro team on their website: www.hapiacro.com
And view all their videos on their Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/hapiacro
You can also see more about Mateo's XC flying adventures on his blog: http://hapixc.com