Red Bull X-Alps 2017

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Nick Neynens: It doesn’t matter what I do or where I go, there is one thing that people always ask about – the Red Bull X-Alps. 

The most famous spectacle in hike and fly, when once every two years paragliding suddenly becomes something your aunt, cousins, and distant friends in the wider community are all excited about late into the night for two weeks solid. Not so much a competition as a high impact media sensation, with the Live Tracking broadcasting the race worldwide, and the Red Bull media teams struggling to catch us (by road and by helicopter) as we race through the European Alps. I’ve always enjoyed sharing the unique experience of flying with a broader audience, and this race between 32 selected athletes gives us a pedestal to showcase this poorly understood yet spectacular sport.

Athletes and supporters pay their own way to the race, with the Red Bull organisation responsible for event organisation and bringing it to the masses. In contrast to traditional paragliding competitions, this event is by invitation and there is a focus on character development as the drama unfolds on this adventure.

Team NZL

Nick represented New Zealand in the 2015 edition, with a dramatic come back story heavily featured by the event media that also earned him the Best Sportsman Award.

In 2017 he will try to avoid giving the Europeans a head start.

Team NZL approaching the Matterhorn, Red Bull X-Alps 2015

Coming from the other side of the world as an amateur, we have a chance to take the kiwi approach and do things a little different. The beauty of paragliding is that we can be completely independent. Nick’s minimalist style is nurtured by solo vol bivouac trips into the mountains with little more than his wing and imagination.

His supporters understand the spirit of back of the envelope adventure:

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His brother Ben, who organises tours for a living and can make a meal for two for under five bucks, can figure out anything on the internet in under thirty seconds with a sixth sense for free wifi, and is at the forefront of the Neynens clan as far as lifestyle design goes. Speaking Mandarin, he has lived abroad and traveled extensively, and isn’t a stranger to missions on a push bike or a pack raft.

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His mother Karen Pronk, an all rounder and the epitome of resilience, protector of sacred rechargeable batteries, repairer of equipment that lives a hard life, and as team doctor she is well overqualified to fix the odd pair of jandals. Like most of us, she lives halfway between Australia and New Zealand and taught us all the meaning of being productively unemployed, with all kinds of projects being testament to her resourcefulness and kiwi ingenuity.

Getting to the race

Nick will be studying the route before the race while working full time as a meteorologist. Ben and Karen will meanwhile assist with logistics and meeting the various event requirements.

Given we are all busy people, we don’t have a lot of spare time to invest into finding sponsorship and we also value the freedom of being independent from commercial obligations.

If you wish you can donate to help cover costs such as airfares, car hire, road costs such as tolls and fuel, insurance and miscellaneous costs, equipment, communication costs, and food and accommodation during the race.

We stress however that this is an amateur effort and our primary objective is to treat this as a holiday, not a job. The best support you can give is to get involved, get your friends involved, and share the adventure with us.

Thank you!

More information

Nick’s official athlete page at

Nick’s about paragliding in the mountains.

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We thank our major sponsors: 

The New Zealand Hang gliding and Paragliding Association (NZHGPA) has pledged to match public donations at givealittle up to $2000! Please remember to register if you are a visiting pilot – they’re a friendly bunch of people doing great work for us so we can have fun.

Thanks also to Indulgence, Icaro, OneSmallPlanet, Fly2Base, paratothepeople


Donations (now closed) at