Tow Launched Training:
Brad’s first towing experience was in 1994, at the ‘Whiskeytown Paragliding Super Clinic’ in Northern California. It was a good first try, but it really took attendance at several Over the Water Safety clinics by both Brad and Maren to really begin to discover the advantages of towing at the student level. Before that time, towing was commonly considered more of an advanced skill, not really suitable for beginning pilots or first flights.
In 1999, Discover Paragliding acquired their first winch from Stuart at www.TowMeUp.com. It was a ‘pay-in’ only style of winch called a ‘Scooter Tow’, where you lay out the line, attach it to the pilot and then reel it onto the spool. Using a 250 cc Honda scooter, there was plenty of power to tow even tandem flights aloft.
This worked very well, but not great. A couple of significant disadvantages were that it took a large unobstructed field to do safely (1000’s of feet long), and variable direction winds could be a real pain. Dragging the line back to launch was a tedious task too. Lots and lots of waiting between tows. Even so, it was more productive for our students than all of the driving to and from the various flying sites that we had been doing up to that point.
But there still had to be an even better way!
By 2001 or so, our now good friend Stu at TowMeUp.com had developed his Supertow Pay-out Winch system. We were rapidly out growing the capacity of our trusty scooter two, and upgraded to this awesome new pay-out style winch as soon as we could! The amazing versatility of our new winch was immediately apparent, and we knew then that we could never rely solely on a pay-in (scooter tow) style winch ever again!
At that time, all of our weekend training gear, including the winch, fit (snugly) into the back of a Nissan pickup. Wow! That didn’t last though, and our trusty Nissan pickup was soon being followed around by a shiny new and ‘way too big’ 5′ x 8′ trailer. (Way too big? That thought lasted about a year!)