Jan 05 2012
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Mathias is With You, Wherever You Fly

Remembering Mathias Roten

Thanks to Pál Takáts from JustAcro.com for this nice collage.

Mathias Roten, 1979 - 2008, Rest In Peace

At a loss for words, we report the tragic loss of our beloved friend and Speed Flying team leader, Mathias Roten.  Mathias passed away last Friday while test flying a new glider in the Lötschental, Switzerland.

Mathias, Living in the Moment

Mathias, one of my best friends since childhood, always lived in the moment.  In my view, he got more out of life in his 29 years than the average person does in a lifetime.  He lived every moment to the fullest, and died doing what he loves most.  In his film "Play Gravity," released last year, he mentions that while on the ground, he would question the meaning of life.  But in the air, amongst the elements of nature, he felt free and fulfilled.

Remembering Mathias

Mathias will always be remembered as a pioneer for Speed Flying.  He was a loving and beloved son, brother, friend, and competitor, and will be sorely missed and never forgotten... To read more comments left by his friends and fans, visit this article on JustAcro.com.

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This tragedy underscores the inherent dangers of speed-flying. While speed-flying is called an extreme sport and can be tons of fun, it's not something anyone can jump into. Even the best in the world can experience tragic accidents. So if you're thinking about attempting speed-flying, don't think you can just find the spot and use the right equipment and have everything work out for you. Speed flying takes a number of different skills all used at once. Experience skiing will only take you so far. Experience paragliding can only give you some of the necessary skills. Experience in both is a beginning, but only a beginning.

There is no middle ground with speed-flying, no true bunny slopes or small jumps like other extreme sports have, which makes it even more dangerous. Also, as the speed-flying website makes so very clear, the actual process of speed-flying feels safer than it really is, because of all the variable involved. The mix of paragliding and skiing typically means that you have to deal with the dangers of both the sports mixed together. When you take off from skiing to gliding, it must be done expertly, at the right time and place, in order to be done safely. When gliding, small changes in the air and variables such as wind can mean the difference between life and death, no matter how safe or exhilarating the feeling may be. When landing again, full control and a slow descent on proper terrain are crucial, and not always guaranteed. When skiing, the weight and pull of the gliding equipment often makes turning and speed more difficult to judge and control.

Even with all these conditions taken together, there are still additional dangers. Mountaineering skills are often needed to reach the chosen destinations or safely reach the roads again after speed-flying. Extreme endurance is necessary to both speed-fly and have the necessary focus and strength to keep all the details in mind. Launches and relaunches are controlled by random events, which may spring up without warning, especially on mountains that gliders are not familiar with. This adds up to a sport that is simply very dangerous. In 2009 along, nine people died while speed flying. All nine of these people were very experienced at the sport and knew exactly what they were doing.

So – and it pays to reiterate – you need to be absolutely sure that speed flying is what you want to do, and that you have the athletic experience and necessary skills to handle the danger. If you have not tried speed-flying before, then begin by looking for a local trainer or organization, and do not try to do any of the gliding by yourself. There is a frequent comparison given in speed flying: speed-flying is to paragliding as base jumping is to skydiving. You have to put a lot more into it, it takes a lot more out of you, and it is a far more threatening sport.

Great tribute

One of the things people who love speed flying can do to remember Mathias and honor his memory is to create better safety standards for the sport itself. Speed flying is incredibly dangerous and only the most skilled people in the world can manage to enjoy it. In order to prevent these deaths and ensure that families do not have to go through the pain Mathias' family experienced, a new perspective on speed flying is needed.

For now, most speed flying is done through independent organizations that tend to exist near the mountains where the sport can be most enjoyed. But training opportunities are scarce, and beginners can easily get lost in the many requirements or, even worse, teach themselves dangerous habits that will get them hurt or killed later on. Of course, a great resource is the Speed Flying Forum on speedflying.com, which allows people to discuss many aspects of the sport and explain key issues. Going out with an experienced flyer and learning basics such as speed riding is vital as well, but these steps should only be the beginning. What the sport really needs is an overarching, international standards organization.

Extreme sports have always struggled with such boards, because they tend to develop organically and those who usually attempt extreme sports already have a high degree of experience in related fields. But speed flying is becoming more and more popular, and as beginners start to tackle the slopes it is vital that more attention is paid to teaching people the skills they need and creating safety standards that will work to keep people alive.

Think of the classes alone that you need to safely speed-fly. Knowledge about wind speed, weather conditions, air laws, and slope degrees are all necessary, and not everyone who starts speed flying has such knowledge, even if they come in with years of paragliding. Standardized classes that teach this sort of stuff, along with basic safety practices, are absolutely key. Unfortunately, such classes and such organizations only tend to develop when specific governments require them to become a reality.

However, one way we can all encourage the growth of such safety measures is by supporting more speed flying exhibitions and greater participation in extreme sporting events. As interest grows, so will understanding and eventually thought on the safety issues that are still killing so many of the pilots that are attempting the sport today. Hopefully, increased awareness will yield far more than worldwide recognition of speed flying as one of the great extreme sports – hopefully it will also lead to greater focus on guidelines and support for all pilots. The more people that safely learn how to speed fly and build up experience, the larger the pool of people will be that can consult each other when it comes to forming some standardized rules for the sport. They are also the same people that will be creating and teaching necessary courses for the sport, too, so increased interest should benefit everyone in the end.

Champions Take Nothing

Documetary about Paragliding Acro...

This film is dedicated to the memory
Mathias Roten

“Champion Take Nothing” was filmed in 2007 by two Hungarian filmmakers András Kollmann and Sarolta Fodor. The 60-minute documentary, shows the big battle of the new generation with the founders of this sport, Raul and Felix Rodriguez. The film explores the paragliding subculture, shows the technology behind and introduces the most important pilots.

Remembering Mathias

We were very saddened to hear of the death of Mathias. Our daughter met him previously in Australia; we met this beautiful young man in April 2007 when he had come to the U.S. to do business and visit. He spent Easter Dinner with us and we were drawn to his happy temperament, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for life. We will miss the opportunity to see him again. We send our deepest sympathy to his family and close friends.
Gayle and Scott Forslund


Your drums continue sounding

The Lost of Mathias

Hello I am Mike The Dealer of Gingliders in Perú, First of all I feel very sad, Someone on the flying site game the news, I was sock How I Can forget him, we share the same room in Nazca Perú in nov. 2004 and hi is not the only friend I lost, Norman lausch, Jimmy Hall, Alan Chuculate and now Mathias, everyone will allways remenber you doing all those radical acro Maneuvers up in the cliffs of Miraflores Lima Perú, everyone stop flying to see the team of Gingliders.
I know you are flying so fast and hight!!!

God Bless you Mathias R.I.P with the rest of the people that >I knew!!! I wish the best for their souls.

Michael Fernandez


I never got to meet him

I never knew him or got to meet him personally, only through emails, one long phone call and the must see movie "Play Gravity". Being as enthusistic about Speed-Flying as he, but not actually flying at the time - posting about movies, information and questions on the website he asked me to keep it running by updating it with all the latest happenings in the sport when I could. Our goal was (and hopefully still is) to make the website the place for the worldwide speed-riding community. He had said if I was ever in Switzerland to let him know and maybe we could meet up and fly...

Mathias flying at the NOG in Chamonix 2008

now forever flying....

RIP Mathias - one of the worlds best.