Ben Jordan paraglided from the Canada-U.S. border at Montana through the Rockies to just south of Prince George in 2018. Photo submitted

Ben Jordan paraglided from the Canada-U.S. border at Montana through the Rockies to just south of Prince George in 2018. Photo submitted

‘What does it mean to be a man?’: West Kootenay paraglider ponders gender, confidence in documentary

‘The Endless Chain’ by Slocan City’s Benjamin Jordan is now available to be streamed online

Benjamin Jordan has spent his life learning how to be alone.

When he was 15, Jordan was at a camp when his group was unexpectedly taken into the forest by their counsellors. There he was handed food and water, and told to stay within a roped-off area on his own.

By the time the counsellors returned, Jordan was in hysterics. He hadn’t eaten, because he wasn’t sure how long he’d need the food to last, and was speaking in a made-up language. He’d only been alone for 12 hours.

“I thought to myself if I can’t be alone for a day without experiencing extreme terror, then there’s something that’s not in my tool belt as a person and I’m going to have a hard time in this world,” he says. “Because I’m sure that this is going to happen again and I’m going to need to handle this situation better.”

After that experience, Jordan made it an annual goal to go on a trip by himself. He started with one-night getaways on his bike and gradually worked to where he is now, which is to say alone on a mountain peak, sometimes for days on end with nothing but a ukulele to keep him company.

The kid who once couldn’t handle being on his own has made a career out of it.

“Being able to do that, it’s kind of like a magic trick that I’ve created that allowed me to go for the big records,” he says.

Jordan, now 39, is one of Canada’s top paragliders. In 2018, he became the first person to paraglide nearly the entire length of the Rockies in B.C. and Alberta, from just south of the Canada-United States border in Montana to south of Prince George.

The entire 48-day, 1,200-kilometre trip was captured in the documentary The Endless Chain, which was released last year and named Best Canadian Film by the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival in February. The festival is offering an online stream of the film from Sept. 9 to 16 at vimff.org.

The film features stunning images of Jordan floating over the Rockies, many of which he captured on his own with a small camera on a tether, and offers a unique perspective of the mountain chain.

But it also focuses on Jordan’s own internal struggles with self confidence and gender identity. As a child, Jordan was bullied and says he didn’t understand how to play with other boys. He prayed at night he would wake up as a girl.

“What does it mean to be a man?” he asks himself at the beginning of the film. As he soars over the mountains, searches for snow to make water, strums his ukulele or waits — sometimes for days — for the right weather to fly in, Jordan tries to find an answer to the question that has dogged him into adulthood.

“I feel very comfortable as a man now, but certainly growing up I never really felt comfortable as a man,” says Jordan.

“I always felt challenged athletically. I felt challenged in my confidence. There was just ways of being that confident guys could be that I just couldn’t be. This seemed like an important subject for me to try to inject into an adventure film.”

The Endless Chain, named for a visually striking stretch of mountains in Alberta’s Jasper National Park, may be existential in tone but is still centred on a journey that until recently wasn’t possible.

Landing and launching were previously forbidden in Banff National Park and Jasper’s park. Gliding over both parks wouldn’t be possible in a day without landing — the only nearby area to legally land was at Kinbasket Lake, which Jordan says is too remote to leave without assistance.

But in 2015 Jasper allowed paragliding on a trial basis. That allowed Jordan to fly over Banff north into Jasper’s park, where he could safely land and carry on with his flight north.

Jordan now lives in Slocan City, B.C., but when he spoke to the Star he was on a mountain peak in the middle of filming his latest paragliding expedition.

He still hasn’t found all the answers he hoped The Endless Chain would provide, but is at peace with that.

“I’d like to think that I’ll never really know the answer to what it means to be a man, because that way I can just always reinvent that for myself and allow other people to have the space to invent that for themselves.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

film

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Slocan City’s Benjamin Jordan filmed himself paragliding over the Rockies in 2018. His documentary about the experience, ‘The Endless Chain,’ has been selected for online streaming Sept. 9 to 16 by the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. Photo submitted

Slocan City’s Benjamin Jordan filmed himself paragliding over the Rockies in 2018. His documentary about the experience, ‘The Endless Chain,’ has been selected for online streaming Sept. 9 to 16 by the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. Photo submitted

Just Posted

A photo from an early construction stage taken in the fall of 2020. (Photo Contributed)
Elkford’s Meeting Place comes to life

Construction on the outdoor space is set to wrap up this coming summer

The RDEK is accepting applications for the CBT’s Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs. File Photo)
CBT’s Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs accept proposals

Sparwood reminds residents to apply for the grants prior to Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.
Closing the border not viable: Wilks

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks said shutting B.C. just wasn’t possible

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Shoreacres resident flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Basil Fuller. Photo: Watershed Productions
Missing Voices: Touchstones museum profiles underrepresented groups

Touchstones Nelson interviewed 15 people about their experiences living here

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Most Read