Catching up with… Julian Barthel

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Julian Barthel, photo by Vania Da Rui

Julian is a world-renowned canopy and freefly coach, tunnel coach, UPSA Coach Examiner, CP competitor and record holder, being on the current German National Head Down 29-way Record and Current European Head Down Sequential Record (3-point 24-way). He is also a self-leadership coach and has recently launched Flyinmind, an online educational platform to improve safety and awareness in our community. Julian has a broad skydiving background, having held positions as an AFF instructor, cameraflyer, tandem instructor, USPA/UPT Tandem Instructor Examiner and Safety Officer.

Julian, how many jumps and tunnel hours do you have and of what type?

I’m just above 8500 jumps after almost 12 years in the sport – roughly 1500 AFF jumps, 1000 Camera, 3000 Tandems. The rest are coaching, free fly, load organizing, fun jumps, hop and pops, high pulls, canopy flocking and XRW. I have about 250 hours of tunnel; half coaching, half training/fun flying.

What’s your nationality, and where do you live?

I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. I just recently moved to the Algarve, Portugal from Empuriabrava, Spain. Before that I lived in Sevilla, Spain, and before that in Athens, Greece.

Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?

If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice

Jay Shetti


The chains of our habits are too light to be felt until they become too heavy to be broken

Bertrand Russell

What’s your pet hate? Inside and outside the sport

Firstly, lack of respect in all forms. When people are late – you can’t give someone their time back and it’s our most precious commodity. People that interrupt others.

Secondly, lack of responsibility. Not owning one’s mistakes. Not putting the work in that’s required/cutting corners.

“I am fascinated by the concept of competing against myself”
Photo by Vania Da Rui

Why were you drawn to freefly and canopy flight?

Freefly has always fascinated me, the complexity of it and the ability to fly your body in all orientations. Canopy Piloting came naturally to me. In my first AFF jump as a student my radio failed and I flew a pattern and landed on my feet. It just always made sense and came effortlessly. I just love flying canopies and both disciplines go perfectly hand in hand.

What’s the piece of canopy skills advice you give out most often? 

Conserve your altitude and use your brakes as fall rate control. You wouldn’t fly on your belly arched to the max as default, leaving you only range to decelerate, right?

If we fly on full drive the entire time we burn through altitude at an insane rate, and we rob ourselves of precious time to make potentially life-saving decisions for traffic, set up and observing conditions. Also, most people, for some reason, are in a race to the bottom. By simply flying 1/4 or 1/2 brakes as default you automatically have way less traffic to deal with.

What’s the biggest problem we have in canopy safety? 

It’s more a systemic issue of being in a hurry to progress past what we’re capable of. People don’t put the time in to learn the basics well. It just so happens that in canopy flight the problem is much more apparent because the consequences are more dire, but we see the same trend in freeflying.

Julian fully concentrated at the Pink Open Accuracy
Photo by Emma Reynolds

What do you gain by competing in CP? 

I am fascinated by the concept of competing against myself and the tinkering with conditions, set-ups and tactics to get the best result. One of my passions is high performance psychology, such as state control and mental rehearsal techniques, which has a lot of application in competition. Also, the amount of progress you make when you have to fly so precisely is amazing. On top of that, the camaraderie in CP is something I have never seen anywhere else.

You were one of the first to jump the Mutant, how is it working out for you? 

I started using the Mutant in October 2019, and soon after started using it as my main rig for everything, coaching, load organizing, flocking, you name it. 

“The Mutant harness gives a whole new level of control over the wing”
Photo by Julian Barthel

How important do you think mental aspects are in skydiving?

Absolutely crucial. It’s been proven time and time again in studies that our mental state has a direct impact on cognitive processes (decision-making, attention span and rational thinking). Our brain is an amazing machine that is capable of nothing short of miracles if we take control but if we don’t it can be our worst enemy.

You’ve written some excellent articles for Skydive Mag, many involve schematic diagrams to solve problems, is that how your brain works?

I love learning and mental models as well as psychology and problem-solving. I also understand things by explaining them. When I notice a problem, I get obsessed with finding a solution, it just doesn’t leave me alone. Add the challenge of making the complex simple so others can understand it better, and you have my process of writing articles. My secret to truly understanding information is to make it so simple that I can explain it to others in a fraction of the time it took me to learn it.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Passionate. Dedicated. Curious. Driven. Focused.

Taking flocking to the next level
Photo by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom

I heard a rumor about the first Flight-1 Air-to-Air Skills camp, how did that go?

Pete Allum and I wrote the curriculum and held the first camp last year in July in Empuriabrava. We ran a second camp in Teuge in the Netherlands. They were very well received and we have more events planned this year.

My secret to truly understanding information is to make it so simple that I can explain it to others in a fraction of the time it took me to learn it

What do you think about when you go to sleep?

I meditate before I go to sleep so that the day’s projects and tomorrow’s schedule don’t whirl around in my head, sometimes it’s hard to shake it. What helps me is stopping to work about two hours before, writing down what I need to do the next day and then do something for myself like reading and studying new languages.

Whom do you admire, who are your mentors?

My friend and Flight-1 mentor Pete Allum is a constant source of inspiration. Also, I am lucky to be surrounded by a group of friends that are all inspiring in their own right. Oscar Asfura for his ability to relate to people, Marius Sotberg for his collected, focused manner, patience and ability to go to the bottom of things, Hannah Parker for her determination and hard work, Roy Wimmer-Jaglom for his inquisitive and innovative nature… and the list goes on. I am incredibly privileged to call these people my friends and colleagues and get inspired by them every day.

What’s on your bucket list? 

I don’t believe in bucket lists. If I want to do something I make a plan and put it in action. If you have dreams and wishes you don’t get anywhere and just get left with “what ifs” and disappointments.

Tell me about Flyinmynd, your new project – I love the newsletters!

Flyinmynd is an online education platform where we aim to create lasting change by empowering individuals to perform at their highest level, providing high quality education, self-leadership coaching and thought-provoking ideas, concepts and dialogue. 

I do this through multiple channels. As you already mentioned, there is a free newsletter where I provide content, mental models and ideas that are meant to inspire others to critically observe the status quo. I regularly organize public zoom calls to raise awareness about specific topics. The last one was a panel discussion with pilots and safety experts from skydiving, to see what we as a community can learn from commercial aviation.

I’ve established a chat forum where people can submit incident reports and videos completely anonymously, which then are made available for objective discussion of the circumstances for people in the forum. Something I believe that sets apart this forum from other incident report sites is that in the report form we put a big emphasis on the human factor, for example, day form, distractions, mindset among others.

For those that want to get more involved there is also a paid option to participate in continued education for skydivers and coaches. I’m especially proud of our working group, the Mastermynd, a roundtable format small group for continued education and leadership training for leaders and coaches in skydiving. 

What do you want to achieve with Flyinmynd? 

I strive to create a safer community. 

Why did you start Flyinmynd? 

I saw the flaws in the training of instructors, the lack of communication tools and resources necessary to effectively teach and train the next generation. Also, there is a tendency to overwhelm students in training by trying to cram as much information as possible in a short period of time, with no effective system in place to actually guarantee continued education in safety topics for skydivers. This carries through to how we train instructors where essential soft skills such as effective communication and leadership for coaches can be lacking. With Flyinmynd I aim to fix those problems. It helps acquire the tools to be the change you want to see.

Who are your sponsors?

Performance Designs, UPT, CYPRES, Tonfly and Alti-2 Europe. I am grateful to all of them for their trust and support.

What’s next? 

I have a full summer of coaching and some cool events all over Europe with training on the pond, free fly night jumps with pyro, tunnel coaching and training, mountain flying with friends in Norway and some other exciting projects. I hope they all work out with the pandemic restrictions.

Other than that, I am moving forward with Flyinmynd and my self-leadership coaching business. On the fun side I started surfing last year and love it, and I will get my paragliding license towards the end of the year so I can go coastal soaring here in Portugal during the winter.

Anything you would like to add?

You choose the reality you want to live in. If you look for confirmation that everything is terrible and against you, you will find it. The same is true of the opposite.

“When you have friends you can go through anything, and even challenging times can be a fun adventure”
Julian and friends enjoying the sunset load at Skydive Algarve
Photo by Mike Brewer

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Other Articles by Julian Barthel

The Canopy Collision Cone

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A canopy collision is not something that just happens, but like all other incidents the result of a chain of events that has not been interrupted before it’s too late.

Canopy Collision Cone

Malfunction Flowchart

The purpose of this malfunction flowchart is to give a compact overview of the most common malfunctions and their classifications, as well as the appropriate actions that should be taken in each case.

Malfunction Flowchart

What is your Decide and Act Altitude?

  • What is the Canopy Hard Deck?
  • What is the Decide and Act Altitude?
  • Why a clearly defined Decide and Act Altitude is a good idea
  • Factors you need to consider when choosing your Altitudes

Decide and Act Altitude

Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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