Hang Gliding Barefoot or in Vibram Five Fingers: Interview with Davis Straub
Davis Straub hanggliding over Bald Hill in Australia (From Ozreport.com)
|Birthday:||August 12, 1947|
|Regular shoe size:||10.5 EE|
|VFF shoe size:||44|
What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?
I normally hang glide (4000+ flights, 2009 US National team member) barefoot, but I can't in Australia and west Texas where the terrain is too harsh. I went to Scheels in Sparks, Nevada to check out wrestling shoes (I needed small thin soles to fit in the hang gliding harness), but they didn't have EE widths. The shoe sales guy brought me wrestling shoes, then said try these (KSO Five Fingers) when it was clear that the wrestling shoes were too tight. Five Fingers fit great right away and felt great.
At over 4,000 flights, you clearly love flying, how did you originally get into hang gliding?
I guess the desire to fly was always there. At 38 when I talked to a guy at a weddding reception and he was talking about hang gliding I talked to him for a couple of hours. The next weekend I was on the training hill.
Also, you mention you typically hang glide barefoot, which seems somewhat unconventional. Was it awkward to ditch footwear while flying?
I hang glide barefoot in Florida where most of the fields that you land in are pastures. I didn't hang glide barefoot in Washington state where I started. I will be wearing my Five Fingers in France at the World Championships later in June.
In Florida I go around barefoot all the time, so it was no issue to just go hang gliding that way also.
Have you had any issues while flying barefoot or while sporting your KSOs?
Once I landed in a field with prickly pear. Still I came out fine. I was barefoot.
A few weeks back flying in Georgia with my KSO's on I landed in a rough (plowed, stubbled, not planted) field and got a deep cut in my right big toe from the top down. It was sliced open.
That toe injury sounds bad - something pierced the fivefinger sole or the outside fabric?
Outside fabric. From the top of the toe. Hard to believe when landing, but there was plenty of "litter" in the rough field. I've decided to stay away from those kinds of fields. :)
Do you use your fivefingers (or go barefoot, for that matter) for any other activities?
Nope (on wearing the fivefingers). I'm usually just barefoot (and put on shoes when I have to). I would wear them at the beach though. I really want them to work for flying as that is where I really need these small foot print shoes to fit inside my harness. I don't want to wear them out and they seem flimsy on the top surface. I want to save them for flying.
I have had my wife sew them up, both from the cut and from other tears.
Have you had any surprising or unusual experiences while wearing them?
My wife says that my gate while wearing them is the same as when I go barefoot. She can see the difference between wearing them and wearing shoes.
Every hang gliding flight is an unusual experience. A struggle to tap into the invisible power that surrounds you.
Finally, how does going barefoot (or opting for mimialist footwear like VFFs) fit with who you are as a person?
Going barefoot is pretty much a part of me. People are surprised whenever they see me with shoes on as they associate me with barefeet.
I love my bicycle shoes (which are size EE) and I went to a lot of trouble to find bicycle shoes that fit.
What kind of biking do you do?
Road. I average 23 miles/day. I have a mountain bike also and ride it when I am in appropriate places (say the Tetons).
Thank you, Davis!
I didn't realize it at the time, but I first read about Davis Straub a long time ago via Richard Nikoley, another hang gliding enthusiast (and VFFer — interview) in a post about Straub flying 365 miles over Texas in 2005 (Straub's account of the flight), which as incredible as that sounds to me, was shorter than a 407 mile flight in 2001. Davis currently holds a number of world records in flying.
It was fun corresponding with Davis for this interview. His site, The OZ Report is a major resource for the hang gliding community. Anyone else want to fly now?