#51: Paragliding into Christo Johnson’s World

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When Brian and I first discussed what this podcast would be, Christo Johnson was on my mind. The vision was to interview different adventure nomads we knew and share tricks of the trade. I hadn’t seen Christo for more than 20 years but had caught wind of his paragliding life through Facebook. So here we are a year later and I finally got the interview done. My instincts to get him on the podcast were right.

Christo’s nomad resume is off-the-hook. He’s spent the last 21 years as a river guide, launching from Honduras, Alaska, Grand Canyon, Salmon, Idaho. California, Colorado, and West Virginia. His love affair for the past eight years is paragliding, an activity which rises far above sport for him, but he does compete internationally. Some of the highlights include: In the Rat Race, in Applegate Valley, OR, he was the Sprint class winner in 2016, the Sport class winner in 2017, and the overall Sport 2017 US National Champion. In 2017 in Pemberton, British Columbia, he placed 6th in the Canadian Nationals. He’s paraglided in Nepal two different years, Thailand, Columbia, Canada, and Mexico. His 2019 Fall plans take him to India, where he intends to Vol Biv Fly his way over the mountain range where the Dalai Lama lives. Vol Biv is the current frontier of paragliding, where pilots work their way cross-country, flying from peak to peak, camping along the way. 

I hooked up with Christo in Glenwood Springs, CO, where he’s working as a raft guide and commercial paragliding tandem pilot. We kicked it for a few days, VanLife Style, in the Roaring Fork Valley - he in his built out Ram Promaster 3500, me in my Tacoma. He took me flying one morning and rafting that afternoon - he had me at hello. In return, I cooked him my famous Italian beef in a pressure cooker.

We sat down for the interview in Christo’s van at Sopris Park in Carbondale, CO. I’m not gonna lie, I’m jealous of his home. We talked about his nomad journey over the past 20+ years, touching on his time at Avon Old Farms Prep School, Western Colorado State University, and recounting his memories of Russell Kelly - a Darien, CT native, and Telluride adventure legend. The latter half of the conversation focuses on his religion - paragliding.

Despite not being close buds growing up, the camaraderie between us was instant. There was no facade to our conversation, no mock-up to describing how life’s been going. But I think that’s what nomads are - if nothing else, authentic.

Follow and connect with Christo Johnson: Facebook | Instagram (@whitewaterchristo) | YouTube

Christo welcomes sponsorship and partnership inquiries. Paragliding wings have quite the real estate for brand recognition.

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Brian Galyon