American Infinity - interview with Nova Dasalla

Unfortunately we don't hear too much about the american acro scene and happenings. Somehow the big distance also makes it difficult to follow up with the europe-based scene, however there are a bunch of really skilled and talented pilots over there. Nova Dasalla is one of them and as a competition newcomer a few years ago we could get to know this symphatic guy who now managed to perform his nation's first Infinity Tumbling!

Pál: Nova, please tell me a bit about your flying career, when did you start flying and how did you get into the acro scene?

Nova: I have been flying since 2005 and knew right from the beginning that I'd get into acro. I blame the acro part of the movie "Never Ending Thermal" for changing my life! But it wasn't until 2007 that I really got into acro, spending a lot of time and money on training

over the water. I tried to qualify for Vertigo in 2007, but didn't pass the safety selection flight. I was disappointed but I obviously wasn't ready, which motivated me to come back in 2008. That year, I spent 4 months in Europe and did my first competition at the Nordic CC acro challenge in Gjovik, Norway. Then I competed in 2 APWC events: Paranoia Acrobatixx & Acroaria. That year I was #30 in the world and #1 in the US. In 2009, I got to represent the US at the World Air Games in Torino, Italy but that was it. Because I missed Paranoia and some other comps, my APWC ranking went down and I dropped to #3 in the US behind Anthony and Tim Green who actually did synchro in a few comps that summer.

Nova together with Félix Rodriguez and Mathieu Rouanet at the World Air Games in 2009

Where do you live and fly?

The site where I do most of my flying and training is called Mussel Rock or "The Dumps" which is in Pacifica, CA just south of San Francisco, where I live. It's not the best place to train acro since I can only get - on good days! - about 600ft (200m) above the ground, but I’ve been able to progress nicely despite its limitations. I guess it’s slightly better than what you guys had in Hungary, right? I only practice my helicos and helico combos there which has really made them very precise . . . . any mistakes would not be good!

Unfortunately that mistake happened and you had a really bad accident...Could you tell what happened with you in the past 10 months?

My accident happened last September, not at Mussel Rock, but at Point of the Mountain, Utah. I was doing a misty-to-helico, a trick I've done many times. But, I made the one mistake you shouldn't do and caused me to get many riser twists and auto-rotate. I threw my rescue but I was too close to the mountain and hit right when it started to inflate. I ended up in the hospital for a month and a half with 2 broken legs, back, and left shoulder. Luckily, I hit my legs first or else I wouldn't be here right now. Alex and I had almost the same exact accident, but sadly, I don't think his legs hit first. I've dedicated my video to him. RIP mi hermano . . . .

My recovery has been long and difficult. At first, I wasn't even thinking about how soon I could fly again. I was more focused on just being "normal" so I started working in mid-January, focused on my physical therapy, and rested a lot. But, always in the back of my mind, there was no doubt I'd fly again because I felt there was more I had to do in acro. Luckily, the hardest parts of my recovery happened in the off-season!

When could you get back into the air?

Against my back surgeon's advice who said he didn't want me doing any "hanggliding" until September, I flew for the first time in mid-March, as I was sick-and-tired of treating my body like a fragile eggshell. I did a few big wingovers that day and man . . . . my heart was pounding! I remember saying, "The last time I saw my wing below me like that . . . . I hit a mountain right after!" But, it wasn't until I did some towing a month later that everything came back. On my very first tow, I did a few, perfect 2-3 turn tumbles - it was a great feeling because I knew I was back in the game. While I'm obviously more careful since the accident, those days towing brought me right back to where I was before the accident . . . . and I think even better!

Didn't you have problems with getting into acro again, I mean not being used to it or having pain or anything?

On my 2nd flight at Mussel Rock, I tried to make some helicos to the right that we were so-so – any oscillation or deflation made my heart pound and I had to stop the maneuver very quickly. After a few of these, I was concerned that I had lost all confidence in myself and would never do acro at the level I was used to. But, going towing and getting over the water in April changed all that – I broke through my fear and trusted myself again. Physically, the injury that gives me some trouble is my left shoulder as I can’t pull super hard on the brakes to do left side Mistys or SAT-helico, although I think I can do the Rhythmic. Also, I can’t run very fast so getting towed up can be an adventure! But seriously, the hardest part of flying at the moment is everything before and after – walking to launch, packing the glider, then picking up the equipment and putting it on my back – I have to really use my core! Maybe I’ll have 6-pack abs soon? ; )

Nice, so recently you could get back into flying with full swing!

Yeah, I feel I’m right back where I was a year ago. I’m doing my usual training at Mussel Rock which typically consists of all the helico combos, my favorite tricks to do. More importantly, that’s all I have height for! The only time I can train the dynamic stuff is when I go towing which isn’t very often. There’s no mountain site nearby where I can get enough height to train Infinite or Rhythmic safely. I think this is why it’s taken me some time to make the Infinite! But given what I have to work with, I’m happy with my progress in acro as I feel I’m pretty competitive with the Euro guys now.

Since my confidence was back, I really wanted to train hard for the APWCs and, of course, make the Infinite Tumble, but the FLX2 I had since last year was losing energy and I hadn’t even changed the original lines! It was going to take some time for them to get me a new glider and I really needed to train hard. In addition, Ozone wasn’t innovating in acro, instead putting all their focus on their XC wings which makes a lot of sense as they are doing very well in that area. I’m very thankful to have flown with them the last 2 years and was very proud to fly their wings.

So, the manufacturer I’m flying with now is U-Turn, who has, from the very beginning, been the innovators in acro. Before making the Infinite with the Thriller 18, I had only flown it a few times before, only making some helicos at Mussel Rock. I told people before I went to the WOBL comp (“Wings Over Bear Lake” in Utah) that if I couldn’t make the Infinite with this wing, then I wasn’t ready and really didn’t have the skills to do it. Luckily on my 3rd tow, after having made some trimmer adjustments and adding more energy to the entry, it worked! But, I'm sure it wasn't my technique - the Thriller is such a great wing that it makes some maneuvers easier to realize.

You say that you got the first 'true' american infinity, why that?

I say this because, in speaking with and hanging out with all the top guys the last few years who have done it, the magic “number” to proclaim having done the Infinite is at least 15-20 turns, so that has been my goal since 2009. That year, I was the first American to perform and capture on video a “competition” one of 6 turns (entry + 5 turns) and then 7 turns (lost that footage) but didn’t say I had done the Infinite Tumble. A week later, Anthony Green posted a video entitled “1st Infinite Tumble by an American!!!” but it was cut from different videos to make it look like he had done 7 – 8 turns. (I know this for a fact because he and I traded emails about it.) I gave him a lot of crap because the video was complete BS and when I asked him why he said he did it when he really didn’t, his response was, “It’s good enough for the public.” Naturally, I asked him to post the video on justACRO so the real acro community could judge it but, to this day, I don’t think he ever has. He said he had done 12 turns, but doesn’t have it on video. Strange how that’s usually the case, isn’t it?

I need to say that I had no problem if Anthony or any other American did the Infinite before me (there are some in the US who say they have), but let’s get it on video, put it on justACRO and have our acro peers judge - I’d be the first to say, “Chapeau!” if you did! I know our community is small so making false claims shouldn’t be a big deal, but the level is very high right now, so saying that you’ve done this-or-that when you really haven’t is just weak. Make it easy for everyone and REALLY do it, then show us the video so we can see it . . . . it’s really that simple!

So how many turns did you perform?

I did the entry + 15 turns. When I watch the video, I get frustrated because I could’ve done many more, but I mis-read the tip collapse and thought the wing had lost energy. The Thriller is such a great wing that it would’ve easily kept going and I can't wait to get over the water again to practice, practice, practice!

What are your plans for this season and for the future?

Even though I've done the Infinite, I know that my technique needs a lot of work so I'm always going over the video I took with the GoPro HD. There's always room for improvement and a camera is the best teaching tool. I want to work especially on the Rhythmic SAT and get proficient with all the helico combos on my left side. I love to train acro and always want to continually improve.

I think I can be a threat to finish high in the comps so my goal is to finish at least in the top-10 in the APWCs this year. I’m not the youngest guy on the AcroTour so I don’t know how long I’ll keep pushing the limits for competition, but one of my dreams is to represent the US in the 2nd Worlds, but it got cancelled (again) this year. So, I guess I’ll need to keep pushing it and training hard until 2012!

It is really nice to have you "back in the game" with full swing Nova, congratulations and I wish you great and safe training, see you in Austria soon!!!

Watch Nova's videos:

The "proof" - uncut video of the first Infinity

Nova Dasalla - acro paragliding - 1st American Infinite (uncut)

A small video from the brakethrough

Nova Dasalla - acro paragliding - 1st American to make the Infinity Tumble

Training run: Rythmic to Infinity

Nova Dasalla - acro paragliding - Training Run

Latest Comments

PalTakats's picture

Oh man, forget about the RULES! :-)
These are the rules that are killing acro paragliding and the competitions because they create only borders and don't let pilots to express their creativity and real flying style! This is completely ridicoulous! Above all it makes competitions unattractive and after a while even boring for the spectators, who are watching the same maneuvers with the exact same style and connections all day long... It is written that you have to make a minimum number of 3 rotations to make a helicopter. So everybody who ever managed to do 3 flat spins is able to do a helicopter?? :-)
You can enter a strong spiral, wait long, pull hard, release, close your eyes, believe strong, count till 5, wait until it collapses and congratulations you just did your first infinity tumbling yuhhuuu !! :-D

Back to the topic, finally I don't have an idea who did the first 'real' infinit but Anthony claimed to be the first one. The video he published - I am sorry, but it is true - was truly unreal, showing him making infinity from like 3 different angles (of 3 different tumblings), for never more than 3-4 turns each time. At that time when I saw him flying unfortunately every time I saw him making more 3-4 turns it always ended up with terrific collapses (during the outdoor games where the first infinity videos from him were also taken). Unfortunately I missed to see the uncut video till You sent the link so I am sorry but i missed something at that time. Of course Anthony did the infinity regarding the FAI rules (as well as Nova did on the WAG competition) and I just have another idea the definition of an infinity tumbling should look like...Btw just to say something positive too the Green Brothers are in my opinion the best flying couple and one of the best show pilots and could really easily kick some as big time if they would train and compete more, still their synchron spirals and rodeos are the best and most constant I've ever seen! And thats from the bottom of my hearth :-)

Anyway, piece and lets go flying instead :-)

theo's picture

I agree with RubinHernandaz if the FAI rules exist we must respect them, and for me the bit in the interview where Nova is badmouthing Anthony shouldn't exist because it is not the aim of acro paragliding...

And what is the most important ?
To do the first american infinity or to do infinity ?

Congrats to Nova for his infinity because he cherched it for a long time...


RubinHernandaz's picture

@panzar Well said… the bit in the interview where Nova is badmouthing Anthony was pretty weak in my opinion. I also agree about the FAI rules they may not be perfect but they are currently the official rules and by their standard Anthony clearly executed the maneuver a year ago making him the first American to do the infinity tumble. First one to get it on video and post it on the internet anyway ;)

@jo150 Nice video I you’re an American so I would say that makes you the second American to infinite tumble.

And congratulations to Nova on getting back in the saddle so quickly doing some killer twisters and being the third American to record himself doing an infinite tumble.

@PalTakats If you define an infinite tumble as a tumble that is “infinite” or one which goes on until the pilot runs out of height to continue, than Nova’s video does not fulfill the requirement. He does 15 turns and at the end his glider pretty clearly running out of energy. On his last rotation he takes a massive collapse and nearly falls into the canopy. Maybe an infinite tumble shouldn’t count if the pilot only executes 6, 10 or even 20 turns. Perhaps the definition should be changed so that a true infinite tumble is defined as one which a pilot has the ability to continue indefinitely. But for now the only official definition we have states that an infinite tumble is 5 revolutions. If Nova ignores that definition and goes out and arbitrarily picks 15 as the number of revolutions what is to stop someone else next month from claiming they are the first American to do an infinite tumble because they were able to do 20 revolutions? This is why we have official rules and definitions.

Anyway … congrats to Nova on being a great pilot and congrats to Anthony on being the first American to meet the “official” definition of an infinite tumble.

panzar's picture

First of all i think the whole infinity fever is overdone big time ... it's like this is the only trick ever worth news ... there is so much nicer stuff to see as spectator in my opinion f.e. : nice transitions , original flying style ...

now about nova : I seen footage of him taking his first steps in the hospital after the crash and now i see this amaing footage of the training flights ... I really hope i will be able to overcome my bad times like him whenever they may come ...

nice to see him do infinity BUT ... in the video there's something worth much more then the infinity ... THE TWISTERS !!! amazing man ...

concerning the statement that nova would be the first to do infinity as american is a bit dorky in my opinion ... especially when it's know that other pilots where very close a year ago (anthony's video) and start talking negative over the pilot ... let's put it this way ... it's not the most charming thing when you are on the frontpage of a known site dissing someone right away ... it's unneeded. (besides that i have seen anthony doing more than in the video in april in annecy ...

concerning how many rotations a infinity must be : there is only one official rule ... that's fai competition rule ... stating that this is not really true is making up a second measure ... and quite frankly it's just another opinion then of which we have too much in the world allready.

greets fabrice

JaroXS's picture

Who cares who is first in Austria, US, Canada, NZ, Poland etc. For me only the good vibe from making acro is important, and nice people around...

It is nice to read about Nova and his life, but for me it does not matter if he was first in US. I thinks also the interview is a little bit commercial, to help nova get some sponsors. That's it.

Acro is not a football like young Theo said. Acro should gather people not split them. Pls. keep that in mind.
This is a way of life, does not matter if you were first or last :-).


ps. but for sure i will remember that Raul made the infinity as a first one :-)

jo150's picture

What about that??
i am an US-American acro pilot born in Baltimore.
ok, i´m living in Austria, but i´m an american citizen ;)

PalTakats's picture

The FAI rules are made to have a guideline to follow how to judge the maneuvers on a COMPETITION! It is far from perfect and it is not the bible of acro paragliding.

What do you think, why Raul Rodriguez gave the name "Infinity" ?
Pls ask him or any other pro pilot, what is a real infinity tumbling and you will get the same answer:
An Infinity Tumbling should not end up with a fucking big collapse around the 5-10th turn. It is a "neverending" maneuver which normally only must be limited by your height (and turbulences). I personally consider this a well done Tumbling. Why? Nowadays everybody with a little experience and a good glider can pull a spiral, enter a tumble late, hands up, close the eyes and do several rotations till it messes up completely by itself. And this person can even get points on a competition for doing an infinity. Anyway, this was discussed at the World Air Games in Torino, where all the top pilots gathered together with the judges. Everybody agreed that the numbers of minimum turns must be raised to even 8-10 turns, but of course those who are gaining great points for performing infinity on comps still prefer to keep the minimum number as low as possible because the maneuver costs lots of altitude already (if it would be 10, not many would do it anymore because it takes so much height that you might easily loose the last trick of your program)
Also, a Tumbling is not a Tumbling anymore, as it used to be. Today a perfect Tumbling has a vertical - like Infinity height) angle of rotation and cannot be on the side like it used to be. This is just the way acro developes.
In my opinion a real infinity begins around 10-12 turns. When a pilot can execute that he already must have (more or less) the right technique and with a little more training he will be able to do 20-50-100 and so on turns...Anthony is a great pilot no doubt, and on the video it is clear that he is very close but I am wondering then why we did not see any other video of him with a longer Infinity?

RubinHernandaz's picture

According to FAI official rules published for 2010 an “Infinity Tumble” is a “Series of perfect Tumbles Min entry plus 5 revolutions”. This video was posted on June 13 of 2009 and pretty clearly shows Anthony doing a tumble with 6 perfect revolutions, which according to current official FAI regulations constitutes an infinity tumble. Getting together with you buddies and arbitrarily making up a new definition doesn’t make you the first American to execute an infinity tumble.… If you disagree with current standards than I would say get involved with the FAI and see if you can get the acro community to agree with you and change them. Cheers mate;)