My name is Léo Ray, I am 37 years old. I was born and raised in Lyon, which is a city in the centre of France. I now live in the South of France for half of the year and I am traveling the other half.
When did you first decide that you wanted to one day fly?
When I came back home after a Windsurfing World Cup Event, I realised that I was more or less reaching the end of my career as a Pro Athlete. I knew I needed a new challenge, something new to learn, something that would take me to new locations, something hard to reach but with a great reward, something amazing…
How did you get into the sport?
A friend of mine gave me the contact of a skydiving instructor and that was it; 4 days later I was stepping onto an airplane with parachute on my back. I did the classic AFF (American name) or PAC (French name) formation to become an autonomous Skydiver in a week.
What was it like the first time you flew using a wing suit? What thoughts went through your head?
The first time felt like, Finally!!! because it took me over 150 jumps to be allowed to do my first Wingsuit Skydive. I was incredibly excited and scared at the same time. Once in the air It felt a lot more natural and intuitive than I thought it would be, possibly because I was using a small Wingsuit at first and also because I had been practicing a lot of training jumps wearing large clothes and taking the same body position in order to get as close as possible to a Wingsuit flight.
Who would you recommend flying to (what sort of person)?
Today, anyone can find their way to flight; there are so many different possibilities. From wind tunnels, tandem skydives, paragliding, flying ULM (ultralight) planes, solo skydives, event tandem base jumps… It basically depends on your mentality, physical capacity and your body awareness. If you dream about it there will be a way to do it! It will depend on the time, energy and effort you are willing to put into it.
What is the easiest thing about flying?
The easiest thing compared with other sports is that for quite a small physical energy cost you get an incredible mental and physiological reward.
What is the hardest thing?
Besides being responsible for your mistakes, the hardest thing is probably to plan and to achieve the best progression road to reach your goals. It is generally quite long. Too slow feels like you are wasting your time and money and will never reach your goals. Too fast might put you in big trouble later on if you skip important learning steps.
What does flying teach you?
Discipline, patience, decision making and responsibility.
“TODAY, ANYONE CAN FIND THEIR WAY TO FLIGHT.”
Leo Ray, Apsu Team Rider
Talk us through how you prepare for a typical day of flying
A typical day of flying would be a Wingsuit flight off a cliff. It would start early in the morning from the landing area or at the beginning of the hike where we meet with other jumpers and leave our cars.
For a new jump I would have tried to collect as much information about the jump as far in advance as possible. There can be no improvisation the day of the jump.
Today there is a lot information available from other jumpers, from our GPS data, from Google Earth and other apps that allow us to see precisely the shape of the mountain face we are planning to fly. The goal being of course to make sure that we are capable of making it with some margin. We need to make sure the forecast is accurate and take into consideration any local weather effects such as thermals that could help us or interfere with our plans.
Choosing the people you go with is important. It’s best to choose people you know well, who you can trust. Choose people with experience in the place you are going to and who are able to understand your level and personal experience in order not to influence you to do something you shouldn’t do.
Try to prepare as much as possible for the hike. Carefully consider what to take with you; how much food, water and clothes are necessary if things go well, or how much you need if you get stuck at the top or if you need to hike down. Make sure you can reach and get reached by others anywhere, anytime. Charged radios can be useful in some spots where cellphone coverage is not good.
Can you describe the mental process you go through prior to the jump?
Before a jump I basically go through a check list of important things like gear, weather and environment, mental and physical condition. I try to take as many points as possible into consideration. I use a system I like to call the “Red/Orange/Green Light Check List” which basically helps me feel what is safe and what’s not in what I am planning on doing.
The more green lights the better, some orange lights require special focus and attention, and if there are over two red lights then the jump will not be attempted. Then I go through some visualisation of what I will need to do from the exit to the landing including different options possible if things don’t go as initially planned. Having a Plan A is great but having a Plan B and a Plan C are critical. Sometimes that Plan C can be the key to getting yourself out of tricky spots. Finally, I go through a mental process together with some breathing exercises, which help me to empty my mind of all unnecessary thoughts as well as some stress in order to be as clear-minded as possible when performing the jump.
It seems to be a dangerous sport – is it?
BASE jumping is a sport where the margin for error is quite small and the consequences of a mistake can be huge. The sport has grown and evolved quite a lot over the past few years. I believe there are a lot of tools today to help you practice in a relatively safe way when doing everything responsibly. Knowing yourself, your capacities and vulnerabilities is important as well as respecting each and every learning step instead of skipping some, as people are all tempted to do at some point. Skydiving on the other hand can be considered a safe sport. For example, If you are interested in doing a tandem skydive keep in mind that in France, after hundreds of thousands of jumps over the last few decades, nobody has died from it.
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