December 1, 2015
It's rare to find competitors from the US in Paragliding Aerobatics competitions. The sport of paragliding has a relatively small following there, and there are few pilots who embark on the niche daredevil discipline of performing aerobatic manoeuvres in the sky.
One American who does compete is relative newcomer Max Marien, 27. He has come all the way from San Diego in California to Dubai to compete with what he says is a trio of new stunts he's developed. "They've never been seen in a competition before," he said ahead of the contest in the United Arab Emirates.
One of the hardest moves to perform in paragliding aerobatics is the so-called "Infinite Tumble" or "Infinity", a loop-the-loop that puts the pilot through forces eight times that of gravity. Marien's new tricks - one of which he's christened "The Devil's Tumble" - involve him flipping forward, backwards and from left to right while his wing loops overhead.
"It takes some physical strength," he explained. "It's especially tough on the shoulders, and I'm carrying an injury from training now."
The Californian has only competed once before, in 2014, mainly because there aren't any competitions in the US. The summer, when most competitions are held in Europe, corresponds with the peak season for his job as a commercial paraglider pilot, taking passengers soaring along the Pacific coast cliffs of San Diego.
Marien trains for competitions in the US by getting towed up into the sky on a winch strapped to a speed boat. He practices his new tricks over a lake, which acts as his safety net if anything goes wrong. He estimates he's one of less than 10 pilots in the US who can perform the Infinite Tumble.
"You have to innovate," he said. "The judges mark you down if you perform the same tricks more than once, so you have to have a good range."
You can see Marien competing at the Palm Dropzone between 7am and 9am on December 3. Keep an eye out for his new tricks, or watch him in action now:
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