A BIT OF HISTORY
Whether it’s a scenic tandem flight, an extended instructional experience, or even touring foreign lands, we’ll be there helping you have the best experiences possible!
A Dream of Flight. An Aircraft ‘Discovered’
In June of 1992, Brad first ‘discovered paragliding’ and became immediately and completely obsessed with this crazy new sport. He began working for his then instructor in 1993, and by 1994 had started ‘Paradventures!’ with the intent of soon forming his own school.
It became almost immediately apparent, even to himself, that he lacked the flight and training experience to be serving his students well enough, and began to focus on filling in those rather glaring gaps.
After taking instruction from several different prominent instructors, both in the US and in Europe, those gaps started to fill in. Eventually, he joined up with Larry Pindar of Over the Hill Paragliding and they enjoyed working together, bringing the dream of flight to so many others, for the next 4-5 years.
Brad and Maren on the beach at Kiwanda
Sometime in 1997, after a few years of friendly ribbing from Larry about “Par Adventures, where to go for your average golfing tour”, (and a couple other factors), a new name was decided on and “Discover Paragliding” was born. (We won’t talk about the choice of ‘Over the Hill Paragliding’ as a name here!) Suffice it to say, Larry and Brad had a lot of fun working together!
A Chance Encounter. A Lifetime of Consequences!
In April of 1998, that fateful meeting at the Oceanside fly-in would occur. It’s fair to say that that one chance meeting changed both Maren and Brad’s previous life plans beyond anything they could have imagined!
Maren had arrived and would soon become an integral part of the new team. Already a pilot in her own right, she soon acquired both her instructor and tandem instructor certifications. Discover Paragliding, after four plus years in the making, was now poised to become a viable independent school.
Yoncalla: Where it all began.
Yoncalla. This was the training hill of choice for decades. Unending gratitude goes to Susan Applegate, the owner of the property, who has allowed people to learn to fly from her land since the early 70’s when Hang Gliding was just getting it’s start. Yoncalla is where Brad got his start too. It also is where he and Larry took innumerable students over the years that they worked together, and at this point Brad and Maren were there most every workable weekend.
While Yoncalla was a very good training venue, it had a couple of small problems. The first was its propensity to get too thermic to fly by lunchtime, and that it was at exit 154 on I-5. The latter was included in all the directions to get there, but something that was rarely mentioned is that exit 154 was exactly 1/2 way from the Washington to the California border on I-5!
Brad and Maren were still living in Vancouver, WA at the time, and between driving to Yoncalla, trips to the coast, and to the gorge, driving 400+ miles a weekend had become the norm. There had to be a better way, not just for us, but for our students too!
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!)
A change of Venue:
Eventually, after months of coercing by one of our student friends, Pat C., we were sufficiently tempted to visit Sunset Beach to see if it was suitable for what we do. The beach at Cape Kiwanda was good, but it has some significant terrain obstacles, and is subject to extreme erosion and rebuilding, sometimes on a weekly basis.
Arriving for the first time on Sunset Beach on July 6th 2002, we were instantly convinced in the wisdom of Pat’s insistence. Towing commenced immediately, and we were hooked.
We soon rented a house in the Gearhart/Seaside area, and eventually bought our house and shop in Warrenton as soon as we found ‘the right one’. Since then, the school has continued to expand and grow. Additions included a new classroom and store, an F-150 soon replaced the Nissan, and then an even larger trailer to haul even more gear. We eventually added a 21′ tow boat for Over the Water Training, and most recently a replacement F-150 as we nearly killed off the first one driving so many miles back and forth along the beach.
Present & Future
“Students and new friends: Ready to fly at Sollie Smith!
Sunset Beach has since become one of the premier training locations in the North America. We consider it a privilege to be the only school that gets to enjoy such an amazing place. Really, in all honesty, we consider it to be in the top five training venues in the entire US, and consider ourselves very lucky to have found it!
20 years on, and we’re still hooked on teaching, flying, and all things paragliding, from speed wings and mini-gliders, to aerobatics, XC flights and dune skimming, even on to powered paragliding. Any way and anywhere into the air is where we want to be!
What will the next decade bring? Stay tuned… Maybe it will be your turn to fly?!?