Scotty Marion – Interview By Chris Santacroce
Born: Huntsville, AL
Occupation: Ski/ Snowboard , Paragliding Instructor
Glider: Gin Glider Boomerang, Gin Gliders Bongo Tandem
Harness: Sup Air Cocoon Race and High Adventure Split Leg Tandem
-1990 Major in Christian Ministries, Minor in Business, Belhaven College. Jackson, MS
-1991 Moved to Girdwood, AK to teach Snowboarding and Skiing. Worked as a Moose/Caribou/Elk/ Bear Hunting Guide. Halibut charter service.
Q: when did you first see paragliding?
A: I saw paragliding at Alyeska Ski Resort in Alaska and thought - looks awesome, it must be dangerous. I always loved aviation, I almost got my Private Pilots License. I have 33hrs. in a single.
Q: So, you decided to take up paragliding anyway?
A: Well, I watched for like four years and didn’t see any accidents. See, Clark Sanders kept things safe up there, it was a great flying community… I thought, “this is something that can be done safely if you are smart about it.” I started saving, knowing that I would take it up when I had the cash.
Q: Who taught you?
A: I asked Clark Sanders where I should learn and he said Point of the Mountain, that it is the best learning place in the United States…
Q: How much money did you save?
A: About three thousand. I got my first glider when I went home to visit my family in Huntsville AL and we went to the “unclaimed baggage” place for all the big airlines, I saw two funny looking colored backpacks that looked familiar, I knew what they were. One was an ITV Meteor Gold and the other was an ITV Nunki. I walked out with a Nunki that had about ten hours, it cost me $450.00. … Christine Warren, Terry and Renee Zakotinik at Above and Beyond taught me. I was certified in May of 95’.
Q: Did the glider end up being a good value?
A: No, not really, it turned out to be one of the worst gliders of the time, but it got me started. I lived at the Point of the Mountain in my Ford Escort for a while. I had planned to go back to AK, but after learning that I could fly in the morning and the evening, and ski during the day, I couldn’t leave.
Q: Things have changed, now you have a busy school, you are National Champion and have placed high in World Cups during the last few years . How did you do that?
A: When I bought a brand new glider(Boomerang II)with some help from Super Fly and Gin Gliders, my flying changed a lot. I started going to every competition that I could. Also, I flew all of the Utah Mountain Sites that I could. It wasn’t long before I realized that I needed help. I am an instructor by nature; so, I quickly realized that I needed more instruction. I found that the transition to mountain/ thermal flying was a big one.
Q: Whom did you learn from or fly with during that time?
A: Todd Bibler, Bill Bellcourt, Ken Hudonjorgenesen, Jeff Farrell, Dale Covington and you…
Q: What are some of the big things that you learned from those/us guys?
A: Well, I learned about the more advanced subjects like, how to climb effectively, fly the mountains and keep my glider open. The most important stuff that I learned was about conditions and which conditions were appropriate for me and for pilots of my experience level. I learned how to walk down the mountain with my paraglider on my back.
Q: When other people are flying, that can be hard to do. What’s the trick?
A: I look at flying as a life long pursuit. I want to be able to enjoy it over the years and I am willing to give up an afternoon of flying to make sure that I get to continue in the sport. You see, you have to protect your flying, knowing that if you have one bad experience; it can make it so that your flying isn’t as much fun as it once was.
Q: Have you ever had an accident or thrown you reserve?
A: I threw my reserve once over the water at the Seattle Aero-Battle last year so that everyone could see how well they work. Really, something changed when I threw it. It’s going to be easy to throw it if I need it…
Q: Does your good safety record give you confidence?
A: Yes, it does, but I am always aware that trouble could be right around the corner. When I am flying, I am in the moment. I don’t think about how things have been in the past. I try to let all my senses work at maximum capacity. I try not to decide too many things; I try not to be judgmental. I don’t decide where the wind is coming from during a cross country flight, I just keep checking to see what’s happening.
Q: That’s a good trick, do you have any more?
A: Well, I can tell you one thing that doesn’t work. It’s when I try to force things. When I decide to find the center of a thermal or try really hard to find a thermal; it doesn’t work. It’s better to just relax, enjoy the fact that I am in the air and let it happen. Its like OB1 said in Star Wars; “Luke, let go of your conscious self.”
Q: You kind of look like Luke Skywalker. Did anyone ever tell you that?
A: All the time, I once signed an autograph “Mark Hammel” I don’t even know if I spelled it right.
Q: Now that you are a professional instructor, what is your approach to teaching? What are the main things that you try to instill in your students?
A: Well, I try to qualify my students as being cog nascent and physically able. I encourage them to develop those traits in their flying. Still, almost anyone can learn to paraglide it’s just that these are the areas where I feel that we need to focus. For example, a person needs to be aware of all of the variables associated with a given launch and then be able to do the work that will get them into the air. I make sure that my students have a good theoretical understanding and that they get a lot of practice. I believe that paragliding can either be very dangerous or very safe. I teach my students how to make it safe. It’s important to me, that’s why I like to work one on one with people and never teach more than three at one time.
Q: You see a lot of pilots at the Point and in your travels. What do you find yourself telling them when you get a chance and what would you like to say to pilots nationwide?
A: Well, most of the people that I run across, understand the basic dynamics of paragliding but they need more detailed theoretical instruction. The other is that they don’t get enough practice to be able to really “feel” their gliders. They only way that they can progress given these handicaps is to get good, personalized instruction. Personally, I surround myself with the top pilots in the world. I take what I learn from them and pass it on to my students in a way that’s easy for them to understand.
Q: Whom have you been getting to fly with?
A: Well, I got to meet Gin Seok Song, he’s an incredible designer, a great pilot and a nice guy. During the Brazil World Cup, he reminded to relax and enjoy the great flying. I need to hear that. Afterward, I flew really well. We all need those kind of reminders, we need to help each other.
Q: How would you characterize the US paragliding population?
A: Under trained! It seems like paragliding might be more popular if people got more additional instruction to combat the adverse conditions that we sometimes encounter in this country. I have met a lot of nice people in this sport.
Q: What do you do for fun, besides paragliding?
A: I just fly…and, I like to spend time with my family.
Q: Got any goals?
A: I’d like to be the first American World Champion and first Paragliding World Cup Champion. The key will be to just enjoy flying and not get caught up. I can sometimes get too competitive.
Q: What’s your ideal flying day?
A: Any day that I can fly!
Q: Favorite flight?
A: Racing with some Hang Gliders in Valle de Bravo, Mex this Winter and staying in front of Manfred Rumer for a while.
Q: Favorite place to fly?
A: Someplace I’ve never been
Q: What about your school and your students? What will they do while you are gone?
A: Well, I have some talented pilots who are also great people who can run Point of the Mountain Paragliding while I am gone. I am also a partner in the Paraglding Academy, we team teach a lot of the time. It works great. Besides, I always come back from competition with a whole bunch of good information to share with my students.
Q: What does your mother think of all this paragliding?
A: She trusts my judgment.
Q: Has she ever seen it?
A: No, but I showed her a magazine once.
Q: Do you have one of those cheesy license plate frames that says something?
Q: If you did, what would it say?
A: “Sink Happens”
Q:How did you manage to miss the World Championships?
A: I was flying standby and couldn’t get a seat. It really was a bummer, I sat in JFK for DAYS. Still, everything happens for a reason. Ryan Swan flew in my place and did great and I saved time and energy for World Cup competitions. It’s not easy being an international comp pilot. I will get a good sponsor to help with the “logistics.”
Q: Are you going to buy me lunch for doing all this typing and making you famous.
A: Sure, if you like Costco pizza.
Q: Anything special that you do before a cross-country or competition flight, any rituals?
A: Ya, I have to put on my Depends Undergarments.
Q: Do you change your diaper when you get to goal?
A: Ya, only if I get to goal. If I don’t make goal, I wear a dirty diaper the rest of the day. It creates incentive for me to reach goal…
14 August 2003, Elisabeth Rauchenberger
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