He is the champion of Poland, Europe and the World whilst being a student of the Warsaw University of Technology . He is studying Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Mechanics and Petrochemistry at WUT’s Branch in Plock. We spoke to Wojtek Bógdał who became a paraglider about his interesting but dangerous hobby, if studying engineering helps him to be a better sportsman and about his plans for the future.
It took you less than a year to become European, World and double Polish Champion in paramotoring. Perhaps you are thinking of leaving now whilst you are on the top?
I think it is still too early to retire from the sport. At the moment, I am considering all advantages and disadvantages of staying and fighting for next trophies in moto-paragliding or maybe changing to another category or different discipline. I guess I will make my mind up till the end of the year (Laugh).
Do you have any other aims after gaining almost anything a sportsman can dream of?
Moto-paragliding slaloms are purely extreme sport. Each year, faster wings and stronger engines are made and therefore, the safety margin is shrinking. It is a very young discipline among the aviation sports. More or less we are the pioneers in these kind of competitions. Life, the stories about accidents that have happened or will happen, the ideas of wings constructors and wisdom of people who set up the rules of the competition will determine the future of this sport. I’ll be watching the trends. What I was doing up to know was on the border of safety…Luckily, neither my brain nor my equipment failed me and so I avoided accidents and won.
Could you explain what are the paramotoring competitions like?
Competitions are divided into two categories – slalom and classic. The former ones are about flying as fast as you can along the route designated by 12 m high blew up pylons set up on a so-called stadium. If you look at them from the top you will see number five on a dice. In classic competition there are also navigation and economic categories. We fly carrying flight recorders which we hand in to the judges for analysis after landing.
You are a student of the Warsaw University of Technology. Does the knowledge you gained during your engineering course help you to achieve such fantastic results in sport?
Yes, totally! The buggies which I’m using for flying are entirely designed and made by myself (with a little help of others). It is important to use the right materials because the pipes must not break. They do have to bend though in case you fall down. I construct each buggy for each particular competition thinking of the conditions and category and so the one I use for slalom is different from the ones I fly with during the classic competition. Even few hundred grams can make a difference and therefore, I try to minimise the mass of each element as much as possible. There is no room for unnecessary objects.
Is this sport an expensive hobby or can you earn a lot achieving successes such as you did?
To achieve the level on which I am now, we had to invest a lot of money. Currently, I am meeting sponsors and hoping that things will go smoothly from now on. It is such a shame that media are not interested in this kind of sport. It would certainly improve the situation if more people were able to watch it and get into it. The slalom competitions are visually very attractive and interesting. There is dynamic and a lot of adrenaline in it. In contrast to other aviation sports, it all happens in one place so viewers do not miss out anything in the competition.
My adventure with paragliding began when I was three years old. That was when my dad started flying a paraglider. So I’ve been connected with this sport since early childhood. First, we were flying in tandem and when I turned 16 and did my paragliding course I started flying on my own at last. My parents were against that and it was really hard to talk them into it.
Your father as you mentioned is a moto-paraglider but mainly with a photo-camera in his hand. Do you do any projects together still?
Yes we do in my spare time. It sometimes happens that one is flying and filming whilst the other is taking photos from the motoglider or a drone. There are situations when you have to capture a special moment now and then because it would not be possible on any other day at any other time. For example, there are photos to be taken on the same evening in Gdynia and Kraków. On such occasions we split up and each of us does one set of photos in a particular place.
Doing sport on a champion’s level is very time-consuming. How do you manage to combine studies at WUT and trainings together?
Luckily the competitions usually happen during Summer holidays or at the weekends and training sessions are organised early ie. 5-6 a.m, or late in the evenings. I am therefore able to take part in studies just like other people on my course.