10 Min With Matthias Giraud

STORY BY Emmanuelle Châtel 2nd January 2017

Matthias Giraud aka “Super Frenchie” is a professional skier and B.A.S.E. jumper. Matthias is known for combining BASE jumping with skiing and completed several first descents and ski BASE jumps across the globe. We caught up during the newest Superdry Snow film launch – Heaven’s Eleven – about what it takes to become a BASE jumper and his quest to flying off every peak he deems possible.

You’re not originally from the mountains, how did you end up becoming a figure in base jumping?

My parents had a vacation home in St Gervais, near Megeve in the Alps, so I spent every vacation there skiing, then in the summer I would work in the fields with the farmers. This is how I developed a taste for the mountains, from an early age. Later on my parents moved to South of France so we were closer to the mountains and I was able to go skiing every weekend and got picked up by the ski racing team. Eventually they sent me to a sport academy school near Chamonix. This is where I knew I will do something in skiing. And that was it, not a mountain guy by birth but a mountain guy by adoption.

Where does that taste for adventure come from?

I think you’re born with it. My dad was in to skydiving and we have a taste for flight in the family for sure! But about the risky aspect, I remember when I hit my first ski jump at the age of 4 behind my friend’s barn in the Alps, and that feeling is still the same that I get when I jump from a 1000 feet cliff. It’s a beautiful chaotic moment. It’s a calling I had from an early age and it’s not gone away!

You have quite a wide skiing background, is it complementary to your current practice?

It’s an evolution, when you start skiing you need the technical basis so I started racing, to know how to ski well. Growing up in the Alps just opens you to so many mountains sports. In Chamonix all the mountains practices are now booming, evolving and reinventing themselves. So you’re around people that are pushing mountaineering, climbing and so you just want to become an all around mountain guy.

At 14 I was already coordinated and was doing front flips and then started doing it on skis, and jumping cliffs, and then flipping off cliffs and then you realize you’re jumping 50, 60, 70, 80 feet and the landing starts to hurt a little bit and there is so much other stuffs that I want to ski and jump. But if I put the parachute and the skis together I could ski things I couldn’t ski before. So you turn a deadly setting into a playground! You can ski off a 1000 feet cliff, do a couple of flips, open the parachute and fly away. It’s a magical backpack that turn your skiing into a super hero kind of skiing. That’s where the nickname ‘super French’ comes from I guess!

Should base jumping be treated as a daredevil sport?

It’s the opposite. A good base jumper is an old base jumper. If you approach this sport as a daredevil you’re not gonna be an old base jumper. It’s like pilots, there are bold pilots and old pilots, and generally bold pilots do not become old pilots! So you take more risks at base jumping because it’s a lot more challenging I guess because you put yourself in a situation where you are going to take lots of risks but to last you almost need to have OCD, everything need to be perfect and precise, your check list is huge, you have to be very detail oriented. Usually it’s in the kind of situation when it’s not perfect but you decide to go anyway that things are more likely to go bad. You always have to adapt but this comes with your training, skills and knowledge of the sport. Before you put yourself in a situation where you gonna rely heavily on an instinct of survival you have to be able to back that up by having lots of skills and a methodical approach. That’s the only way to do it. You can’t do it with a sketchy mindset. You have to be very thorough.

How do you prepare a jump?

First of all it starts with the weather. Is there a good weather window, when is it, where is he wind coming from, is it gonna create depression, that could push me back to the cliff. You need to get that out of the way first. Second of all, if you gonna be ski base jumping, is the snow stable, is there an avalanche danger? So when you have snow stability and air stability then you have the right conditions. Based on that you pack your parachute based on the jump you gonna do. On the jump you establish a safe row to ski it, but also I need to check if there is an escape in case of avalanche of another factor. Once on the cliff is it safer to do a straight air or safer to do a flip? …’cause sometimes it is. You have elaborate a plan of attack. Once you have the plan it’s time for the execution. Obviously everything from double checking your harness is tight symmetrically, cause if it’s tighter on one side it’s gonna make your parachute turn, and send you back to the cliff, then make sure your body position is perfect into the air, cause if you dropping one shoulder in front of the other it gonna make your parachute turn as well. So you need to get everything symmetrical and dialled and when you’ve ticked off everything your list it’s time to go and not to overthink about it. It’s a balance of it.

What mountains are left on your bucket list?

I’m starting to look at things in Pakistan. There is also a mountain where I had a big accident 3 years ago I want to go back and do it well this time!

 Tell us more about your collab with Superdry

First of all I think it’s a perfect synergy. The mindset it takes to be a base jumper, to be very thorough but bold at the same time, is very much the feeling I get from the brand. Making a statement. Superdry is a fashion statement as ski base jumping is a statement within skiing. Plus it’s great to work directly with the designer; I’m able to give my feedback on small details. It’s great to work with a brand which pays so much attention to the details such as the position of a zipper. I think that’s what sets Superdry apart, the attention to details. And being involved in the process is wonderful.


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