Award Winning Instruction
Dixon White's DVD Training Series
The Art of Paragliding
Pilot flies 52 Miles on his first XC Flight
Read Tom Brands Paragliding Magazine Article detailing how he flew 50 miles on his very first Cross Country flight while participating in an Eagle Paragliding Clinic. Visit the Eagle Press Room for more articles and stories about Eagle Paragliding..
Instructor of the year honor
Eagle Paragliding's chief Instructor Rob Sporrer received USHPA's Instructor of the Year Award in 2002. Every year USHPA issues the award to the person making the biggest contributions to our sport in the United States.
Eagle and Airplay Paragliding History
Rob Sporrer: I first discovered paragliding in 1995. I was in Santa Barbara walking the dog on the beach below the Wilcox Property located across the street from Elings Flight Park when I first saw a paraglider flying. I watched in amazement for thirty minutes as the three paraglider pilots managed to stay aloft in the steady breeze which was blowing on shore. A passerby informed me I could go to what was then Las Positas Park (now Elings Park) and watch students who were training to become pilots. I headed to the training hill the next weekend where I watched Tom Truax and Ken DeRussy teaching students. I talked to both instructors, and watched them work with their students. I told Tom I would call him to schedule lessons with his school Skysports the following week.
My first day of paragliding was April 2nd, 1995. I worked on ground handling, and had five flights. I was living in Venice Beach at the time, and came up every weekend to work towards my Novice Rating. I was lucky to train with Tom Truax. Tom has been involved with flying most of his life, and he is definitely the guru of free flying on the South Coast. He recaptured his state distance record and went 143 miles from the Owens valley in June of 2001. Tom has more flights and knowledge about flying on the south coast than any other pilot. I was lucky to have him as my instructor, and to apprentice and teach with him at Skysports. I spent my first two years as a pilot flying and learning from the Sundowner, and he taught me more about flying than anyone ever will. Tom's Traux's Web Site has loads of great information. You will find a collection of articles Tom has written about different aspects of paragliding. Some of the information is site specific to the South Coast, but there is some great information to glean from his writings no matter where you fly. His flight log is also on the website, and this has some great details about his cross country flights.
Tom began to cut back on teaching when he became a father, and was offered a nice job at a start up company. I began teaching for Eagle Paragliding the spring of 1997. I had an opportunity to become a partner in the school and decided I wanted to teach full time so I went for it. My partner decided he was moving to Washington State so I became a one man show in 1999.
A few months before my partner decided to leave I had contacted Dixon White of Airplay Paragliding in Flagstaff Arizona. I had read Dixons articles in the USHPA paragliding magazine, and I appreciated him taking the time to write about different subjects on paragliding. He was the godfather of paragliding in the United States. He pioneered the dynamic reverse inflation we all use today. Dixon White passed away from natural causes in his sleep in May of 2004. He left behind a loving wife, two wonderful children, and many people from all walks of life who appreciated all he gave. Dixon's legacy lives on with the Eagle Paragliding program and all the students, schools, and instructors he helped along the way. I feel lucky to have known such a great guy. I really looked up to Dixon in many ways that went beyond paragliding.
Dixon imparted his wisdom and knowledge about paragliding in the six years I worked with him. I remember being a relatively new instructor, and appreciating his willingness to help me discover all the extra bits of information I could get in working with him. I felt like his philosophies about flying jived with mine when we began working together. We had a nice phone conversation and I told him about my school in Santa Barbara. He invited me to come out to Arizona to apprentice with his instructors at Airplay. I jumped at the chance to observe the instruction techniques at the number one school in the country. I returned to Flagstaff two weeks later taking notes and video of Dixon and Marty instructing at Airplay's Flight Park. I realized our programs were very similar, but there were definitely things Airplay was doing that would help me with my program back in Santa Barbara. I was amazed at how open Dixon was with all the information. He wasn't treating me like a competitor, but someone who he wanted to help in teaching people to fly the right way. Dixon's whole goal was to raise the bar for instruction everywhere, and make paragliding instruction top notch wherever you go to learn.
I returned to Santa Barbara excited about implementing what I had learned at Airplay into my own program at Eagle. I spent some time reworking the syllabus, and going over my notes and the video I had taken. I called Dixon and thanked him for his hospitality, and for being so open. He invited me to come back and apprentice anytime, all I needed to do was call ahead of time. I ended up going back out to Arizona two more times, and visited the Airplay Flight Park in Washington once to continue broadening my teaching knowledge. Airplay decided to make me their first sister school, and we taught students using the same ideas, and techniques from that day forward. Airplay and Eagle Paragliding have taught the same program, and have held the same philosophies about teaching paragliding since 1998.
Marty lost his best friend and mentor when Dixon passed away, and I lost my great friend and paragliding guru. We were both protégés of Dixon, and carry on his legacy with every student we teach. Marty wanted to carry on with Airplay after Dixon passed, and asked me to partner up with him to carry on Dixon's Legacy.
Marty and I realized relocating Airplay to Santa Barbara was our best option. Santa Barbara has a mild climate and we can train students year round at one of the premiere training facilities in the world. Flagstaff is a great place to learn but is usually ideal for only a few months a year. We also realized there was going to be more overhead costs to operate in two different locations. The only difference between Airplay and Eagle was our markets. Airplay didn't really teach many people in the Flagstaff area. They focused on bringing in people from all over the world to train at the number one school in the country. Eagle Paragliding was focused on California, and more specifically Southern California. So Airplay continued to bring in students from out of the area as it did when they were located in Arizona, and Eagle gets its primary flow of new students from Santa Barbara County, and Southern California. So Eagle and Airplay have taught the exact same program at the same location at Elings Park in Santa Barbara since Marty and I teamed up with Airplay. Eagle operates the same way it did before Rob partnered up with Marty at Airplay. The only difference now is both schools have merged into Eagle Paragliding.
In November of 2005 Marty had a tandem flight scheduled with Carmen who would eventually become his wife. They were married in February of 2006, and welcomed their child Mia DeVietti in the world in August of 2006, and Darla joined the party in the fall of 2007. Marty found the girl of his dreams in Carmen, and decided he wanted to be with his family instead of always being out of town and working on the weekends teaching paragliding. Marty will still be around, but he is going to catch every moment of life with his family in Ventura. It's bittersweet; we have lost one of the best paragliding instructors our sport has ever seen in the United States. However, we know Marty has always wanted a partner, and a family. We know he finally has what he has always wanted, and that's a real good thing.
So Airplay and Eagle Paragliding have merged. We will continue to follow the Airplay and Eagle syllabus and evolve with new developments and discoveries we make as instructors. Dixon White and his legacy live on with Eagle Paragliding.