In 2008 Judith Mole recorded her first paragliding podcast and since then they have developed a cult following within the paragliding community. We caught up with her via email and she was kind enough to share something about her flying, podcasts and a recent accident.
I started paragliding in 2003. I had been flying hang gliders since 1996 and there were these fully collapsible things around even then, although in those days I swore to myself that I would never try anything as dangerous as paragliding. By the early 2000s they seemed to have got a bit safer and I was getting less motivated to lug nearly 30kgs up the hill…
You seem to have quite a methodical approach to the sport, is that something you’d say was true in the rest of your life or just flying?
Do I? Ooops… I’d like to think I had a methodical approach, but I am not sure I’m not kidding myself.
In my work life I have to be reasonably methodical and I have done a lot of project management, so I suppose I am. Sort of.
How does flying XC in the UK compare to the flying in your winter home in Spain?
I haven’t done nearly as much XC flying in Spain as I have done in the UK. That’s a feature of the time I used to spend here in Spain (i.e. winter) and the terrain/tricky retrieve options. I absolutely adore XC flying in the UK. Nice easy terrain, loads of big fields, easy to know which way to approach a landing and easy to hitch back. Now that I live in Spain full-time, I was hoping to get more into XC flying here and was set to compete in the Catalan XC and comp league. Until… more news on that below.
Where do you do most of your flying?
North-east Catalunya, in north-east Spain. I fly relatively little known sites, but I also venture out to Ager and Berga, which people may have heard of.
What is it you most like about paragliding?
Having the privilege to see the world from a birds-eye perspective.
What would be your dream destination for a flying holiday?
When did you record your first podcast and what prompted you to start?
2008. Geoff Minshull originally had the idea because we needed to investigate podcasting for our online conferencing work and we had to look into the feasibility of recording these remotely. This gave us the idea to try it out with paragliding first…
Did you do any non-paragliding related podcasts before you started?
Which is the podcast you’re most proud of and why?
Hard to say… I love the X-Alps ones for the quality of the recordings. Others I am particularly proud of the editing and some I am very proud of having got the right person to do the right topic and for having got the topic recorded in the first place. So I don’t have a single favourite.
What motivates you to keep recording them?
At first there were some key topics I wanted to record, where I thought there were real knowledge gaps in the general paragliding community, like for example flying in wave. A lot of the early podcasts were an excuse for me to learn stuff from really good pilots and I still see it that way. Most recordings are a few hours. I condense that into the best bits, but normally some stuff has to be edited out so that it’s manageable listening/download time. So I get all this fantastic info… how lucky am I? The other motivator is the feedback I get for them. People are very positive about them. I think that the more knowledge pilots have the more safe they are. I have had feedback that people feel better equipped to fly/come back from accidents/know how to progress with their flying after listening to the podcasts and for me that’s a huge incentive to record and publish them.
What do you do for a living and if it’s not radio broadcasting is that something you’ve ever considered?!
Presently I am a German-English technical translator. The radio voice comes with the Highlands accent and a drama degree.
I know you recently had an accident, could you tell us what happened?
I broke my back in a paragliding accident on Easter Sunday. It was the usual, the most poxy flights end in the worst accidents. It was a top-to-bottom. It was a local site and thermic conditions and I sunk out immediately. It’s a place with up and down terracing and an uninviting official landing field, never mind the bail-out options. The sink was so bad I didn’t make the official or unofficial bail-out and my chosen option was a terrace that went up, not down. I missed it by 1.5meters and crashed into the bank below it.
How are you now? Any prospect of getting into the air again soon?
Unfortunately the accident resulted in a crushed L4 vertebra with a chip of bone embedded in my nerve canal. The operation to remove it and fix the membrane around the spinal cord took five hours, but has left me with nerve damage in both legs. I have made huge progress in getting better. I am now walking without crutches and can now walk up and down stairs. I am currently doing intensive rehabilitation therapy in Barcelona. It’s a gruelling schedule – five and a half hours of cycling, aerobics, hydrotherapy, walking, strength exercises and team sports everyday. After one week it is already paying off and I love it. It’s like being in school with all your favourite lessons everyday! As to flying… that will be some months off. The bones will take six months to really heal and I can’t run yet or lift a paraglider. But looking at the XC league and seeing all the amazing photos on Facebook I am getting hungry to get back in the air.
Did having an accident make you reconsider the flying you do?
Sure. It’s only natural to think ‘is it worth it?’, especially after a spinal injury. But I have overcome other accidents and I know what went wrong and what I’d do differently next time. I have also been flying so long now it’s a way of life. I can’t really imagine life without it…
Everyone at The Paraglider, along with the entire paragliding community, wishes Judith a quick return to flying and podcasting!