Enda Murphy: Who’s afraid of the Irish wolf?

Thursday 27 June, 2002

On Thursday 31 January 2002, Enda Murphy and Rhett Rockman (Aussie Champion) broke the triple from Manilla’ Mt Borah, Australia. They flew together for 301 km. First published in 2002

Surprising? Not at all! Rhett and Enda are very competitive and neither likes the other to get ahead, but any competition between them is always in the true spirit of free flight and sportsmanship.

We’ve all heard about Rhett’s successes and exploits but what about Enda?

Not only has he been flying for longer and done more competitions than you can count but he’s even been ranked as high as seventh on the WPRS. Add the fact that he’s twice been Australian Champion way before Rhett came in the picture, how come few people have ever heard of him? Could it be shyness, too busy flying? Or maybe he just doesn’t give a damn about promoting himself?

Well, the latter might just be the answer!

Some pilots who meet him may tend to see him as an obnoxious, bigheaded, selfish, jerk but in reality I think it’s simply that he just lives in his own world without noticing the people around him.

Although identical to Rhett in that he is very focused when he flies, socially he likes to keep to himself unlike his highly gregarious mate Rhett. Unfortunately this trait can come across the wrong way to the other pilots.

When asked why he doesn’t “cheer up a bit more”, he says, “I don’t know if I’m shy, but I’m definitely focused. If someone comes to me needing help and they’re willing to listen, I’ll be more than happy to be there for them.

“On the other hand, if I see that they’re just being smart and don’t listen seriously, then I can’t be bothered. Unfortunately there are a lot of pilots like that around. That sometimes might come across as a bit cold or senseless I guess… Because I’m pretty direct and short…”

Short in temperament maybe, short in stature he most definitely is not. A tall 31-year-old Irishman is always going to make an imposing first impression.

Not though for his wife of two and a half years Kerry. They live in Stanwell Park (NSW) but she’s a rare sight on a hill preferring to stay away from the flying world.

I asked him how come the relationship doesn’t suffer when he’s always away flying?

“She’s got her family near so she’s ok with it. We’ve been together for eight years so she knows what I’m like and between my job and paragliding that means I’m away a lot.”

Any babies for the future? “No.”

Ok. Next question then.

What is your job?

“Sales rep for welding equipment”.

How come you’re around Manilla a lot, it must be at least seven hours away from home. Is it for work?

“Yeah, but it’’s an excuse to come flying too! I’ve been coming here for a long time now, I love it. Manilla is sort of my home really. I feel real comfortable flying here. It’s almost my office.

“I’ve also invested in some real estate around Tamworth so I have to come quite often to check on that. And it’s good for going to Rhett’s place and partying.”

Back to paragliding Enda! Thinking about your mate Rhett, did you know he looks up to you and almost looks on you as a bit of a legend?

Enda just nods his head and says, “That makes me happy. We’ve got common interests, we fly pretty much the same way now and we’re very competitive. We do help each other a lot during competitions, he’s come a long way and is getting much more mature in his flying, a bit less impulsive.

“We’ve got a mutual respect too and basically we’re a team. And we do party together.” (And do they ever!)

What about acrobatics?

“Not my cup of tea. I don’t have the time to do it properly. So I just focus on XC flying which is really what I feel more comfortable with anyway. Rhett and Carl (local pilot) have more time than me to practice in that department and they excel in it so I let the kids play while I do my distances.”

Now that the World Record Distance has been beaten (423 km in Texas), are you even more determined to beat it?

“I’d like to try again when the chance presents itself. You need to be in the right place at the right time, but it will be difficult to do it from Mt Borah. Then again, you never know. With the right equipment, the right clouds. It might be possible.”

What about from Breeza, towing (Rhett’s new business)?

“It could be more promising from there, just the fact that you are in the air earlier and can fly in stronger winds than from a hill. In summer you could launch maybe an hour earlier by winch.

“You need a lot of time to fly past 423 km. And as you well know, the days in Australia are a lot shorter than in other parts of the world. If you are towing from Breeza you could be in the air as early as 9.30 am. But as I said we can’t predict what is going to happen and where from.”

Do you think your new Omega 6 ( Advance prototype) might help to get you there?

“Definitely yes, it’s a beauty! Even if we can’t beat the world distance, which isn’t my main concern anyway, I’m hoping to beat everyone during competition time and get my Australian Champion title back. Rhett had a much better glider than me last season. But this year..!”

Mmmmmm… Am I sensing the competitive and dare I say it, obsessed Enda coming out?

“Competitive yes, obsessed, no. I don’t think so. I just like to win and be number one!”

Who has influenced your flying?

“Early on, Godfrey Wenness, as he was always up for a flying mission, then Fred Gungl at the Aussie comp scene. He’s been the benchmark for as long as I can remember. And of course Rhett nowadays as he pushes me along.”

So what does the future hold for you?

“I’d like to go to Korea, in September, to compete in the PWC, and then the Aussie comps next season. The Worlds in Portugal in 2003 will be interesting as the top Euro pilots lose a lot of their advantage when not flying in the Alps and as in Granada this year I feel I can compete with them.”

And then?

“If I’m ok financially, I’d like to retire by the age of 40.”

That’s early! What would you do then? More flying?

“I don’t know. If I’m still as hooked on paragliding then as I am now, then yes, sure, otherwise we’ll see what the future throws at me.”

Would you think differently if you were living in Europe where it’s a bit more happening?

“Yeah, for sure, you do have more chances to make it in Europe if you’re a good pilot. Things like sponsors, opportunities, Australia doesn’t have enough pilots to make it happen and the distance to travel to Europe is a real problem, therefore you can’t quite make it big because of the travelling! It is the downside about living here, a shame really!”

You do have sponsors though, don’t you?

“Yes, since I started competing (about five to six years ago), Godfrey Wenness from Manilla’s paragliding has been supplying me with all the equipment necessary to get where I am today. Advance gliders, Flytec varios, GPS …etc.…”

That would definitely help…

“Yes, and I’m very grateful!”

Especially when you think of the amount of equipment you went through last year due to your, well, bad temper!

“(Laughing!) Yeah, you do get frustrated sometimes!”

But you’ve mellowed down now (I hope!). Is there anyone you’re looking up to?

“A whole group of people but no one in particular. I look at their skills, their dedication, their techniques, everything.”

If someone gave you money to go anywhere in the world to fly, where would it be?

“Anywhere in the Alps. The thrill of flying with great pilots, learning from them in a beautiful environment, what more could you want. Then again, I absolutely love Manilla for its great safe XC‘s so maybe I only need a short trip at home in Australia.”

…And that’s Enda…. I could have ask him more personal questions, about his taste in music or his favourite colour, but who cares about that? All I really wanted to do is find out if Enda was a real jerk or not. And he’s not!

He is definitely different, a bit reserved, a bit quiet. I struggled to get the words out of him a few times but he’s a good guy in general with only one big passion that’s taking a lot of his time. PARAGLIDING!

Updated in January 2011

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