Friday, September 2, 2005

Valley man blows away paragliding record

Express Staff Writer

Idaho's new paragliding record holder, Honza Rejmanek, poses with his hitchhiking sign, which he takes on every flight.

When Nate Scales broke the distance record for paragliding flights off the top of Bald Mountain last month, he stirred up a hornet's nest.

Less than a month after Scales flew 92 miles from Baldy to a point 18 miles south of Salmon, Honza Rejmanek broke his record three times and set a new state distance record in the process.

Rejmanek, 30, a paragliding pilot for Fly Sun Valley, based in Ketchum, had set the previous Baldy distance record of 88 miles in 2004. When Scales broke that record in August, "it got me motivated," Rejmanek said.

Rejmanek and Jamie Messenger, also a Fly Sun Valley guide, both broke Scales' record on Aug. 27 with 99-mile flights—two miles shy of the 101-mile state record, which Rejmanek set in 2000 with a flight off the summit of King Mountain, north of Arco.

"If another good day comes up here soon, you could see that state record fall," Messenger prophetically stated after the flight.

A week later, Rejmanek, Scales and three other pilots set out to tackle that record. Rejmanek flew the farthest, breaking his own state record with a 107-mile flight.

"It's cool that the state record is off of Baldy," he said.

But Rejmanek wasn't satisfied—less than 24 hours later he was back atop Baldy.

"I got a nice ribeye steak and threw it on the grill up there, had some corn on the cob, filled my belly, and launched at 12:50 (p.m.)," Rejmanek said. This time, he was flying alone.

Over six and a half hours later, the Czech native landed in a field eight miles north of Salmon for a total distance of 115 miles.

"Oh yeah, I was pretty excited," he said. "It was a long glide, but it was beautiful over Salmon—it was a nice reward for a hard days work."

With darkness falling and the hitchhiking slow, a couple of farmers took pity on Rejmanek and told him he could sleep on their land. Armed with a bivouac sack and using his glider as a sleeping bag, Rejmanek spent the night in an orchard.

"They told me I could pick their apples for breakfast," he said.

By mid-day Monday, he was back in Sun Valley—he lives with his wife in a campground up Trail Creek—sharing his adventure with infectious excitement.

Born in the Czech Republic, Rejmanek moved to the United States when he was 8 years old. He started flying when he was 17, developing a passion that has since molded his life. He follows summer around the world—Sun Valley and South America—so he can fly. This fall, after his sixth season in Sun Valley, he'll begin a journey towards a doctorate degree in—what else?—atmospheric sciences.

"Paragliding has been a big motivation for studying atmospheric sciences," he said, shortly before launching into a one-sided discussion about thermals. Rejmanek has yet to take an atmospheric class, but he might as well be an expert on the subject.

"That's what keeps you safe," he said. "A lot of it becomes intuitive ... you have to have a good imagination of how the wind behaves."

Rejmanek may be putting his bohemian lifestyle on hold, but he's by no means hanging up his glider. He'll be back in Sun Valley for a month next summer, when he intends to shatter his own record.

"One hundred and fifty miles," he said. "It can be done, easily."

He plans to start a 150-mile challenge open to any aspiring record breaker.

"Everybody puts $150 into the pool, and whoever flies 150 miles first gets the money," he said. "It will be a little financial motivation."

It sounds like a sure way for Rejmanek to land some extra school money.

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