Pete's Perspective

A Reflection on My Experience with Circling Hawk
After five years of hiking and ridge soaring  the beautiful coastal mountains of Maine, I manifested my dream of traveling to Southern California in January of 2004 to immerse myself in extended instruction with Bo Criss, founder and primary instructor of Circling Hawk Paragliding.

In May I returned to Maine a transformed pilot after approximately forty flights under Bo’s auspices. Learning how to thermal was the principal curriculum, with discovering bliss as the complementary task. Both were gratefully achieved. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun or such an affirming and exhilarating time than my time spent traveling and learning to fly with Bo. Southern California, particularly Santa Barbara, is a wonderful place to visit and the surrounding San Ynez  mountains provide both the novice and expert rated pilot the most awesome flights as well as the opportunities to learn and evolve their respective skills.

Bo’s thoroughness and attention to detail were evident from the very start. (Actually I had met Bo the year before and like his demeanor and style). The first morning we got together, Bo sat me down with my harness and examined every inch of the fabric, stitching, carabineers, velcro wear, straps, buckles etc. He showed me storage areas I never knew existed. Being a nationally ranked cross country pilot he’d know. Check out his list of necessary survival gear for cross country flying on his website at and imagine where you would stow all this stuff in your harness!

Later, he removed my reserve, repacked it and then replaced  it correctly back in my harness. Next Bo demonstrated how to fully examine my wing (Windtech Serak) to insure its safety and airworthiness. Once completed Bo motivated me to download my paragliding experience to date and discuss my desires and goals while training with CirclingHawk Paragliding. I explained that all my paragliding experience involved hiking and flying in Maine where a pilot’s launch and spot landing skills had to be practiced and accurate, and that ridge soaring was the hallmark of my flying experience. I wanted to learn to thermal.

And learn to thermal I did. After observing my ground handling and kiting capabilities, including launching and landing at the training hill, Bo initiated me into the usual practice of the wonderful local pilots who met daily and truck pooled to launch. On my very first launch Bo very skillfully guided me into a  thermal where the fun began. I was absolutely awestruck by finally doing what I had read so much about over the very long and freezing winters of Maine.

Over time, and with Bo’s encouraging, professional, calming and very friendly voice guiding me, I began to understand the thermal sky more and more. The days of last winter training with Bo and meeting all the outstanding local pilots in Santa Barbara will forever be the crowning jewel of my certified training to date. Bo also took me to Crestline, Marshall Peak and Lake Elsinore for extended training. I also visited Torrey Pines with my lovely and supportive girlfriend.

Bo Criss is both a wonderful human being and a  professional instructor. I would recommend his services to any serious pilot desiring to better his skills. But more than this Bo is a caring and supportive flying brother who’s passion for safe and blissful flying is contagious and extremely supportive.

And the best part of my thermal training with Bo was when I returned to Maine for the spring and summer flying season. Everything I had learned in California applied here to my local Maine sites. For the first time in five years I thermaled at each local site getting higher and staying up longer than I ever had previously. From spring, to summer and through the fall I continued to set personal bests by thermaling. Of course I don’t fool myself to believe I am an expert. I’ve, as the song says, “only just begun”. But what a fantastic beginning to the next foot launched chapter. Thanks Bo!

Circling Hawk Paragliding

© Circling Hawk Paragliding • Santa Barbara, California • Bo Criss • 805-403-5848 •


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