Two Kiwis to take on world’s toughest adventure race

Two Kiwis to take on world’s toughest adventure race
Demanding the highest level of physical strength, mental fortitude, technical mountain skills and sheer determination, two kiwi paragliders have been selected to compete in the world’s toughest adventure race next month.
Nick Neynens and Kinga Masztalerz will be representing New Zealand when they take on the world’s best in the Red Bull X-Alps in Europe this June.
Starting in Salzburg, the X-Alps traverses the European Alps, crossing six countries before finishing on the beach in Monaco. Neynens and Masztalerz will race 32 hand-selected international athletes as they attempt to cross 1138 kilometres of mountainous terrain in less than 13 days with nothing more than their feet and a paraglider.
Masztalerz, 33, is a newcomer to the race, and is one of only two women who will be competing in this ultimate challenge of body and mind.
Residing in Auckland, she is an accomplished rock climber, physicist and ultra-distance runner. She is also the female record holder for long-distance paragliding in New Zealand. Her record-breaking 400-kilometre multi-day hike and fly through New Zealand’s Southern Alps prove she has the skill and resilience needed to compete in a gruelling race like the X-Alps which has had only three female competitors since it began in 2003.
“No woman has previously crossed the finish line. I will do my best to be the first,” says Masztalerz.
Neynens, 36, will be returning to the race, having competed in both 2015 and 2017 and placing in the top ten both times. Born in New Zealand, Neynens currently works as a meteorologist in Sydney, though he likes to spend as much time as he can flying in New Zealand where he works his way around the South Island by paraglider, visiting family on the way.
Neynens has traversed alpine terrain all over the world and his background in tramping and weather forecasting offers him a competitive advantage in the race. He has spent the last decade flying and camping (known as “vol biv”) in the difficult mountain conditions of New Zealand. Neynens holds the record for the longest distance paragliding flight undertaken in New Zealand, having flown 230 kilometres through the mountains from south of Mount Cook to near Arthurs Pass in one day.
Neynens became interested in competing in the X-Alps after he met Lloyd Pennicuik, a former contestant, in early 2008, soon after Neynens learnt to fly in southeast Queensland.
“I always thought New Zealand would be the perfect training ground, and couldn’t understand why Aussies would fly those flat, tree-covered hills when the Southern Alps are so close! The wet, wild and windswept backcountry of New Zealand makes Europe look like a garden in comparison,” says Neynens.
This year, the large amount of snow still remaining in the European Alps will make the race, which follows an alpine route, even more demanding.
The President of the New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Duncan Macnab, is one person who is backing both Masztalerz and Neynens to succeed in this year’s race.
“Paragliding can seem an effortless sport to those viewing it from the ground. In the air, it’s a different story, especially in a race like the X-Alps. Kinga and Nick will have to use significant skill and caution to negotiate the turbulent and dangerous air currents you can find in such big mountain ranges. They’re both at the top of their game and the paragliding community in New Zealand is excited to see how they will fare,” says Macnab.
The race starts on 16 June 2019 and a Facebook page has been set up so New Zealanders can keep track of progress as our athletes prepare their bid for the finish line (
Both athletes have established Give a Little pages to help their ground support crew meet the significant costs they incur ( and  

For media inquiries please contact Lorraine Johns at

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