People | 20 QUESTIONS

Paraglider Richard Brezina: 'I am not a stranger to high adventure'

Staff Writer

Name: Richard Brezina
Age: 48
Nationality: Canadian
Occupation: English teacher
Likes: Freedom, adventure, a challenge
Dislikes: People telling others what is not possible

1. What first brought you to Japan? My girlfriend and I received a lucky opportunity to work and live in Japan, so we took it. We ended up getting married and staying.

2. What’s keeping you here? Kyushu —and Amakusa, in particular — is an amazing place with beautiful nature. Here, any serious outdoor enthusiast must define their own adventure.

3. Whom in Japan do you most admire? A scattered handful of Japanese who break the ranks and have a fresh, independent and creative approach to life in spite of the hardships they have to endure as a result.

4. Where do you go to escape Kumamoto? Kumamoto is my escape. I can go kayaking in Okinawa, or paragliding in Europe or New Zealand, but I am always happy to return here.

5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? I like Japanese tongue-twisters; my favorite is the most difficult one I have found so far: Kono take-gaki ni take tatekaketa no wa take tatekaketakatta kara take tatekaketa. I like tongue-twisters because they show off the sound of a particular language and are also a good mind coordination exercise.

6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? I like the way Latinos face existentialism with courage and tongue-in-cheek humor. In describing a recalcitrant person, for example, a Latino might say: “Pues, asi tiene la cola” (“Well, that’s the way his tail has grown”).

7. If you could have dinner/share a bottle of wine with anyone from history, who would it be? Pioneering scientists such as Galileo or Kepler. I’d like to know what it was like at the dawn of the Age of Discovery, when the search for truth was not yet polluted by ego and greed.

8. What song best describes your work ethic? “Pumpin’ 4 the Man” by Ween.

9. What first inspired you to get into paragliding? I first saw a paraglider while rock climbing: Someone launched from the top of the cliff above me while I was clinging to the wall. I instantly knew that, someday, I would do that, too.

10. You have been selected to represent Canada in the Red Bull X-Alps in July. Can you tell us what this involves? You either fly or hike (carrying your gear) the entire length of the European Alps, from Salzburg, Austria, to Monaco on the Mediterranean Sea, a distance of over 1,000 km.

11. Have you ever done anything like this before? I am not a stranger to high adventure. It’s sometimes nerve-wracking but at the same time it is beautiful to be in immediate control of one’s circumstances, where no one else can help or interfere.

12. What does your typical training schedule each week look like? I fly whenever I can, especially in difficult conditions, because no matter how strong you are physically, X-Alps races are always won by brilliant flying.

13. What is your best adventure moment in Japan? I was flying along the spine of Kyushu and, as the sun was setting, humid air from the Pacific Ocean side began to blow against the prevailing west wind, raising up a giant vertical curtain of billowing vapors over the snowy ridge where the winds met. The setting sun lit it all up in a brilliant orange. I was just a speck being lifted up just outside the wall of cloud, mesmerized by the beauty around me.

14. What is your worst adventure moment in Japan? I have tipped the kayak in high waves 80 km from the nearest land or “landed” a paraglider in the trees more than once. But these experiences are also important lessons and, as such, I can’t help but look at them in a positive way.

15. Where is the best place to go paragliding in Japan? If you like peaceful dream-like floating on steady coastal winds, Ishigaki Island in Okinawa is amazing because you can fly above the coral reefs.

16. You also do a lot of sea kayaking? What’s the attraction there? Sea kayaking is amazing, because it can take you incredibly far with a minimum of effort, and you are able to take weeks of provisions at virtually no cost to your mobility.

17. What’s your ultimate dream adventure goal? Just to continue living the way I am lucky enough to be doing right now, with some enjoyment allotted to me on every new day.

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? Tigers and lions never fight in nature, since they don’t share the same habitat. So a fight between them would have to be orchestrated by humans. In this scenario, the tiger and the lion have both already lost.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? If I get too old to do physical things, I can fall back on my love of playing music or doing physics research (my original training and occupation in Canada).

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Stay determined and listen to the few who selflessly give you advice that fills you with inspiration and gives you freedom. Ultimately, you will be on your own; you need to choose your own brave path if you are to avoid wasting your life.

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