Interview with Bo
When did you decide you wanted to teach?
After my very first flight back in 1995. I fell in love with paragliding immediately and wanted to share it with the world. I actually only started teaching 2 years ago and I'm glad I waited. During my first 5 years of flying I was able to really concentrate on my own flying and develop good piloting skills and a seasoned approach to flying. I believe cross-country and aerobatic competitions have also given me valuable information that I can pass on to my students.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I strive to be patient, calm, thorough and above all safety conscious. I've noticed my students seem to progress well when we take things one step at a time by setting easily attainable goals. I try to be reassuring and calm on the radio. I think the trick to being effective as an instructor is to be highly observant of what the student did and what resulted from that action. I offer them feedback that is both encouraging and informative on what they can work towards on their next attempt. This approach gives each student highly personalized instruction and seems to be very effective.
What do you emphasize when teaching?
There are a few things. First, I think that it is important to identify all of the hazards at any site you fly. I think that it is easy to readily identify 3 or 4 hazards and call it good. My students and I try to identify at least 15 hazards at every site. This slower process allows us to gather much more information and helps us better understand of the site. Secondly, I really emphasize good weight shift turns. First lean back in your harness and look the direction you want to turn by turning your head. Next lean over in your harness so that one hip is higher than the other. Finally, add whatever small amount of brake you need to complete the turn efficiently. The third thing I emphasize is building strong kiting skills both forward and reverse. Being able to kite in all types of conditions will truly build good wing handling skills. Smooth transitions into flight, smart decisions in the air and soft landings directly into wind are also key.
What do you tell your students after they receive their P2 rating?
Practice, practice, practice. I really encourage continuing education as well. Circling Hawk offers a the Ultimate Pilot Program to help pilots make a good and safe transition from the training hill to flying big mountain sites. We handle key issues like micrometeorology, thermalling effectively, planning cross-country routes, understanding maneuvers, the right gear and even competition flying. I also encourage putting extra effort into maintaining a person flight log. Chris Santacroce once asked me what I thought I could improve on in my flying for the following year. Suffering from intermediate syndrome I was a bit put off thinking I was doing pretty well with good competition results. A few days later it sank in, and when I turned his question around and asked myself "what can't I improve on?" That's when I really started maturing as a pilot.
What do you think of aerobatics?
Really great fun. I think it's great to learn about the pitch and roll characteristics of the glider as well as how to recover from collapses through wing overs and other advanced maneuvers. In my first years of flying Mother Nature would dish out some pretty scarry turbulence that I "had" to deal with. When I started exploring aerobatics, I actually was inducing strong energy with my wing and enjoying it, and then figuring out how to disapate it smoothly. I think it is only appropriate that we learn maneuvers and aerobatics over water and under well trained and experienced supervision. As you develop your skills it may be appropriate to bring it over land, but I always do the big stuff way up high where I would have time to throw my parachute if I needed to.
Any thermal secrets?
When I encounter lift, I try to identify the source or trigger of the thermal. I notice where it is in my field of vision and as I complete a 360 degree circle, I look to see if I'm still in line with the trigger. It's just a simple reference point to help me stay in or near the lift until I core the thermal. Safety wise, I am extremely aware of terrain clearance as I thermal. I ask myself, "If I took a collapse here, would I hit the hill?" If so, I won't try to circle.
What do you like about paragliding?
Paragliding seems to propel me forward in life to people and places I would not have encountered otherwise. In 2001 I was able to travel to Spain on the US Team for the Paragliding World Championships. I have visited Mexico, Brazil and France as well. I've developed amazing friendships with pilots from around the world because we share a common passion. I think paragliding appeals to a large cross section of the population and brings out the best in people. I really enjoy having close friendships with pilots in my local community. All that aside - it's really cool just to fly.