Exclusive Interview with Matt Senior - August 2014 - By Johnny Hopper for

Johnny: Matt, you just won a task at the US Nationals that was 200.5km long... Is that really the longest ever competition task?

Matt: I think 200km is the biggest. The closest long tasks we were able to dredge up were two PWC days in Granada, Spain in the year 2000, where people flew between 190 and 200k. Josh recalls one of those being 230k on the task board, but no one made it. The big task in Sun Valley in 2012 was 191k and the winner flew 175.

Johnny: OK, for all intents and purposes we’ll call it the longest. So what was your tactic on the day, and how did you win it? Did you stay with the gaggle, for example?

Matt: My goal for the day was to fly fast and to fly smart. For the first 50km I was with the lead gaggle. Meanwhile Matt Henzi kept attacking and connecting, eventually luring Josh Cohn and Jarred Anderson to push out and join him. Not wanting to be left out I followed slightly off to the north and avoided their brutal line eventually connecting with a great 6m/s climb as the speedy trio struggled low to my south.

Now high and by myself I followed the arrow and tried to fly smart. With about 80km to go the thermals became less consistent so I decided to wait for the gaggle on the top of the next climb. At about 35km from goal the climbs started to weaken causing the lead gaggle to grow to more than 20 pilots. As the gaggle started to connect with the second to last climb a red Boomerang pushed on slightly north of the course line. Meanwhile I struggled to connect with the best parts of the light broken lift working my way to the bottom of the gaggle.

Knowing I would lose following the gaggle I decided to take a different line, so I pushed slightly north towards where I had lost sight of the red Boomerang. As I started my glide it was obvious I was on a loftier line but since I was behind, few noticed until I was out of reach. After gliding about 7km in smooth air I was alone and noticed the Boomerang climbing low and in front. I immediately applied full bar eventually connecting with a solid 2.5m/s climb over Rock Lake and Keith's head. From there the 4:1 CESS was a short glide and I was able to relax and enjoy the unbelievable land scape on the glide in.
[ CESS = Conical End of Speed Section ]

Johnny: And you landed and you had won! That must've been great, did many others get into goal behind you? How was the rest of your comp?

Matt: I think around 35 pilots made goal that day most of whom were in the first group. Although I thought I'd finished well I did actually know I had won the task for sure until 2 days later. The CESS make it impossible to know who wins a task as many pilots approach the line at different angles and at different altitudes. When you combine that with the inaccuracy of the various instruments it impossible to know for sure.

The rest of the comp was epic most task were over 100km and we flew seven out of seven days. The only things we had to deal with all week were the smoke from two separate fires, lots of dust devils and long days in the saddle.

Johnny: What's your tactic for dealing with dust Devils?

Matt: My tactic for dust devils is to keep vigilant eye out for them as they are always a good sign of lift. However I always give them the respect they deserve down low and will totally avoid them if I'm less than 200m from the ground.

During one task we were waiting for the start on the flats we noticed a pilot low head straight for a dust devil at about 50m above the ground, before flying directly into the dusty he changed his heading slightly and ended up circumnavigating the base of the dusty landing safely less than 5m from it. It was possible the most dangerous thing I have ever seen anybody do.

Johnny: So can you tell me about your kit? What are you flying, wearing and what have you got in your pockets up there?

Matt: My Kit:  I fly an Enzo 2 Medium about 7-8kg below the top of the weight range, If you want to not be at an unfair advantage you need to be on an Enzo 2. My Harness is a Swing Connect Race with an additional front mount reserve. I usually fly in shorts with a light down jacket on under speed sleeves. During long flights I will some times eat a cliff bar (energy bar) and usually have a shot of caffeinated energy gel about 30-40km from goal and wash it down with a little water.

Johnny: So you are now ranked 198 in the world, which is by far the highest ranking for any kiwi. You will almost certainly be representing New Zealand in the World Championships in Colombia in January... do you have big plans for that?

Matt: My result in Chelan moves me back up into the top 200 :) The top 100 would be nicer, I've been unlucky with my results from two previous competitions, I was disqualified from 39th at the Super Final for flying the Enzo 2 the same one I flew in Chelan. I also podiumed in the Pre World Cup in Bir, India last October however the comp wasn't sanctioned by FAI because of internal issues.

I'm super excited to represent New Zealand again at the worlds in Colombia. Rolda is a fantastic place to race and with the consistent flying conditions it will be another endurance event which will see the most consistent pilots rise to the top.

My goal in Colombia is to have fun and try and score 900 points or more in each task if I can do that I think I should place well.

Johnny: Is there any chance that we will see you back here for the PG Open in Wanaka in January? The World Championships would have been a good warm up for that? ;)

Matt: I would love to come to Wanaka in January and fly with you guys and gals. With the world finishing on the 25th of Jan and my first 300 Peaks tour starting on the 7 of Feb in Thailand it might be a wee bit squeeze.

Johnny: Well we would certainly love to see you there. Thanks for the interview, Matt - and all the best, particularly for Colombia. Cheers, Johnny.

Full Scoring for the Chelan US Nationals, showing Matt’s awesome win are all here: Chelan 2014


  1. Great interview Johnny, good work!

  2. Haha, Yay!! Thanks, Mr Prez.
    I was wondering if anyone read it.