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Mentor to Memory: Honoring a Friend with Flight

Oct 07, 2015 10:50AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Paragliders packing up gear after landing and taking off at Point of the Mountain Flight Park.

By Rachel Hall

Draper - Honoring the name of someone who has passed on is one way to keep the memories of a loved one alive. That is why Patrick Johnson decided to operate Point of the Mountain Paragliding in Draper – a company originally founded by his friend, Scotty Marion.

“I called and got permission from his mom and sister, and asked if I could carry on the Point of the Mountain Paragliding name with his [Scotty’s] ideal on what he taught me and how he taught me,” Johnson said.

The two friends first met after Johnson decided to start paragliding as a hobby in the summer of 1999, almost immediately after his first tandem flight. 

“I had a 45-minute flight and started lessons, I believe, the next day. I sold everything I had to be able to afford a paraglider and a harness,” Johnson said.

Marion recognized something about Johnson’s ability and enthusiasm for the sport, and offered to show Johnson how to do things that would eventually help Johnson become a professional instructor.

“Scotty took me under his arm. He mentored me for three years – radio coaching, tandem coaching – and took me aside and said I’d be a good instructor; showed me the ropes and the route of what I needed to do to become an instructor,” Johnson said.

Part of the process of becoming a certified instructor included flights in Brazil during the winter. The training Johnson received internationally, as well as the regular mentoring from Marion, advanced his ability to fly and instruct paragliders with a variety of skill levels.

“It’s a different form of teaching; guiding people by radio. I really benefited from that,” Johnson said.

Marion mentored Johnson for years, before feeling Johnson was ready to instruct. It was about having enough experience and not just reaching a minimum number of hours to start teaching, according to Johnson.

“That’s what he [Marion] really instilled in me. The model of safe, fun performance,” Johnson said. “Scotty was one of the first Americans to really gain world respect and notoriety [in the sport] because he was ranking not in the top 10, but in the top three.”

It was March of 2004 when one of Marion and Johnson’s Brazil tours was coming to an end. Johnson, who said he and Marion had become “really, really, really good friends,” watched as Marion hopped on a bus to catch a plane to Europe.

The European destination was Switzerland, where participants were being offered 7,000 Francs to break the site record of 100 kilometers in the Professional World Championship.

“That’s the flight he disappeared on and hasn’t been heard from since,” Johnson said. “That took the wind out of my sails.”

Johnson then took time off from the sport that he had grown to love, and started working as a professional banker. In 2007, he decided to commit to family and paragliding and honoring the name of his friend and mentor. 

“That’s one of the things that I really try to stay true to is Scotty’s ability to be firm and safe and produce top caliber pilots – top caliber when it comes to  their ability to be safe and have fun,” Johnson said.

Now, Johnson continues to instruct paragliding full-time at Point of the Mountain Paraglidng in Draper.

 “It’s a fun sport mixed with a huge amount of aviation. We can teach anyone willing to learn,” Johnson said. “It’s more putting a smile on people’s faces that want to get that smile back.” 

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