Friday Night Interview with Brooke Whatnall

Hi Brooke,
How long have you been flying?

I have been flying since Easter in 2011. Fours years of lobbing myself off mountains and getting away with it.

Where do you currently live? Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I have no permanent home. I prefer instead to live on the road, travelling with the seasons and spending large amounts of time at new flying sites. This summer will be spent mainly in northern Spain and Chamonix. After that I am planning on spending the Australian season based in Bright, in the Victorian Alps.

Who do you think is the most talented acro / XC pilot at the moment?

The most talented? Thats a tricky one! I would have to say Francois Ragolski stands out at the moment - there are many flying at a top level, but only Francois can pull it off with out looking at the glider, and making us laugh with every film he makes.

Who do you think is the best newcomer acro / XC pilot?

David Thibodeau. Technically he isn’t a newcomer compared to acro, but his huge progression over the past three years has been incredible to see! I have yet to see someone else go from flying a Freestyle glider to mastering the X4 Thriller in such short time.

Are you as passionate about another sport?

Road Cycling, but lets keep that a secret ;-)

If for some reason you couldn't fly, what would you invest your time and energy into?

I would put all my time and energy back into photography. My background is in photojournalism and adventure photography - and it is one of the few things I could throw myself at 110% and keep the passion...apart from road cycling, but we agreed to keep that a secret!

How many days a year do you train on average? / How many days do you fly per year?

On average, 150 to 170 days a year, however a lot of this is commercial tandem flying and XC competition in the Australian season. In a good year I get around 100 flight hours of acro training.

What was the hardest trick to learn for you and why?

Helicopter, it is the hardest and most frustrating manoeuvre to properly learn and understand. Infinity is easy in comparison, it just takes balls.

What trick are you learning at the moment?

I am working on mastering all the manoeuvres on my unnatural side. In Australia you are always low (less than 300m), so you tend to get lazy and fly everything to your good side.

Have you invented any tricks or connections?

Haha, I think all the tricks and connections that are possible were discovered before my time - everyone is going twisted now as a result.

If you could only fly one location for the rest of your life which would it be?


Have you ever tried hang gliding? If yes, how was it?

No, I would love to! Olivier Fritz’s proximity flying on his topless is really inspiring to watch.

Does anybody else in your family fly?

My mother is an experienced helicopter pilot, and spent many years flying commercial in Panama, South Africa, California and the UK. She built and flew her own paraglider in the late 1970’s as well - in the good ol’ days before flying federations limited the sport.

What is your top 3 tips for acro / XC beginners?

Dont be in a rush to progress. Look around at the best pilots in the sport, and you will see they have all been flying for a very very long time to get to where they are. The ones who took the longest injured themselves the least - Horacio Llorens for example.

Master the basic manoeuvres. Becoming a master of Backfly, Parachutal, Spin, Wingover and Heli really gives you a better and safer progression in the long term. I had possibly the best coach in the sport for this, thanks Mike!

Do yourself a favour and get onto the best equipment. Acro wings are so easy these days, gliders like the Emilie and U-Turn Blackout make learning acro so fun and safe, you are only limiting yourself by learning on a glide that isnt easy, same for your harness. There are many choices of equipment out there - but it is amazing how the best glider and harness gives you a massive advantage in your progression.

Why do you think France has so many pilots and America so few?

They understand the spirit of Vol Libre.

Where are you intending to fly this year?

I am looking forward to training a lot in Chamonix this summer with my old coach, Michael Muldoon. From there we are planning on the first few World Cup acro comps. But the season in Europe is over before you know it, and Australia awaits for the XC season kicking off in October.

How many times have you thrown your reserve?

Twice on Rogallo and one BASE cutaway - no injuries.

Should paragliding become olympic?

This is a dream for all of us, but the reality of it is very complex. Look at every other olympic sport - very few of them are as weather dependent as Paragliding, this alone would create complications. And aside from the disciplines of Acro and Paramotor, paragliding itself is not very spectator friendly. I hope one day it does!

What is your profession/job/education?

Professional Photographer, and more recently, I acquired my tandem and CFI ratings.

What did people tease you about when you were a kid?

Being from New Zealand, whilst growing up in Australia, that was tough. Believe it or not, I was the least gifted, most uncoordinated kid when it was time for sports, times have changed!

Which was your most memorable flight and why?

The first time I flew an 8 hour day in Organya, back in 2013. Mike and I found ourselves 600 meters above the Antenna of the mountain, and managed to cross the valley in front and get to the Santa Fe monastery, on small acro gliders. Swooping the roof of the monastery while Mike did heli above was priceless. Managing to glide back to the mountain at almost 9:00pm, and climb up to the top again was icing on the cake. I remember doing my first ever tumbling that night before landing at 10:30pm, needing headlights in the landing to see the ground.

Who was your hero/role model when you started paragliding?

Raul Rodriguez. Sharing moments in Organya with him have been incredible. The most humble guy in the sport, and the one who is the most fun to watch in the air. No one else flies like Raul - his style is that of a kid, wether he is playing with the forest on top of the mountain or pulling manoeuvres that you cant even give a name to. And then there is the whole history of him founding the SAT team, but you know that already.

Describe Aloft - Boundary Layer Apparel in less than ten words!

Aloft - more fashionable than Francois red world cup undies!

Mini or Jeep? Thai curry or Fish'n Chips? British wine or French beer? Schwarzenegger or Stallone?

A Mini with a lift kit. Fish’n Chips all the way bru! French Beer, need you even ask? Samuel L. Jackson, why is he not there?!? Dogs all the way!

Thanks for that Brooke!

Brooke is an Aloft Pro Team member  


Leave a comment