Brad Smith working on some new moves under the instruction of Chris Santacroce in Alaska.

In my pursuit of the ideal aerial photography platform I’m selling my ultralight and moving to a paramotor. As a first step in this transition I was grateful for an opportunity to observe a maneuvers training workshop led by the amazing paraglider/paramotorer/instructor Chris Santacroce. Phil Smith of Midnight sun paragliding has been hosting Chris in Alaska for several years to teach workshops to eager Alaskan paraglider pilots.

From an outsiders view the weekend basically went like this: The student lays out his paraglider on the beach of a lake and hooks himself in between the wing and a boat that takes off across the lake away from shore. The student starts running as he’s drug towards the water, the paraglider wing inflates and flys up over his head and viola! the paraglider starts climbing and lifts the smiling pilot up over the lake. As the boat circles the lake letting out more and more line the paraglider keeps going higher and higher until roughly 2,000ft when the pilot releases the tow line and the real fun begins.

Chris is layed back in a lawn chair squinting up at two little spots in the sky representing a paraglider wing and a person. The student has a walkie-talkie taped to his helmet so Chris can give directions. It was admittedly a little disconcerting to watch at first. Chris would say something like “OK, now pull on your left brake hard and lean into the turn, hold it, hold it, hold it . . . ” meanwhile the two little spots of a wing and body start spiraling towards the ground at a rapidly increasing speed. I could see that everyone was enjoying testing the limits of their paragliders with an expert eye and calm voice of experience ready to coach them out of any flailing, falling, twisting messes they might get into.

Before this weekend I had no idea that a paraglider could recover from such dire looking situations. It similtaneously made me more confident in this form of flight and made me hope I never find myself in an uncontrollable weather situation where the paragliders recovering abilities are required.

I’d like to put out a thank you to Phil Smith, Chris Santacroce and the rest of the paragliders for letting me hang out and learn about paragliding from some real experts. That wasn’t the last time you’ll see me.

Below are a few photos from the weekend. If you were involved in this weekend and have been waiting to see the photos a healthy selection is now online here.

Paragliding maneuvers training weekend with Chris Santacroce and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Alaska.

Paragliding maneuvers training weekend with Chris Santacroce and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Alaska.

Paragliding maneuvers training weekend with Chris Santacroce and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Alaska.

Paragliding maneuvers training weekend with Chris Santacroce and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Alaska.

Paragliding maneuvers training weekend with Chris Santacroce and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Alaska.

If this subject interests you there is a bunch more photos online here.