The Story of PMBIA’s Founders: Part 2

April 2022

Dear PMBIA Members,

First of all, we hope you’re doing well! Last month, we gave you a bit of insight into one of our founders, Darren Butler. This month, we want to share PMBIA Founder Paul Howard’s story, as he transitions from the Board of Directors to the Founders Committee. We asked him to share a bit of his origin story of mountain biking and his involvement in the formation of PMBIA as we know it today. If you’re in need of an inspirational story about turning a passion for mountain biking into a career, read on!

Q: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what’s your biking origin story?

I’m from the UK originally, the land where people have tea and cake after a muddy bike ride… oh, how I miss it (the cake, not the mud!). My mates and I started mountain biking at weekends, after school, whenever we could, and everything I do today was born from those good times! The freedom and fun of riding bikes and the constant progression of always having something to learn or get better at, still exists for me just as much today as it always has. We raced for a laugh, both XC and DH, and generally were just mad about bikes. If we didn’t ride we were watching Dirt, Chainspotting or Earthed movies… and usually with some tea and cake.

At university, (late 90’s) I started working in the summers in North Carolina, running a mountain bike school. I developed multi-week skills coaching programs and instructor training camps for new staff each season. I was at university studying Genetics, and then suddenly found this job where I got paid to ride and teach… two things that I’ve always loved. After graduating from uni, I gave myself three years to see if I could make a living from teaching mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. That was 21 years ago and I’ve never looked back!

Q: What’s your story with PMBIA? Some of the newer members might not know your involvement with the formation/growth of PMBIA.

Well, in a nutshell, PMBI has pretty much been my life’s work. I remember one summer in North Carolina when I was training new mountain bike instructors and thinking, why doesn’t mountain biking have a decent instructor certification program? It hit me hard there and then, that there was a huge gap in the market and I knew what I had created in North Carolina could be the launchpad for something much better and bigger. I worked hard for a few more seasons writing and developing the first PMBI instructor courses, which we ran through ZEP in Whistler in 2007. From there we worked our butts off to continue shaping and building PMBI into a professional, industry-wide certification program. By 2010, PMBI had its own website, its own social media following and we were running over 50 courses per year, all over Canada, the USA and Australia, and were training some of the top bike parks and coaching programs in the world. It was time for the next phase.

We started reaching out to other players in the industry to begin conversations about bringing everyone together to work on one certification program. That was always the dream in PMBI: to have one instructor certification for one sport. More consistency and more experts working together to make the system stronger. Working with Darren and Kelli from Endless Biking, with their MBIT course, was great from the start. They got it. They could see the big picture and agreed to come into the fold. Through this valued partnership, we turned PMBI into the PMBI Association that we have today. The courses improved, the team got bigger and it was a huge step forward for PMBI and for the industry as a whole.

As the President and Technical Director of the PMBIA, my roles have been both complex and varied, to say the least. It’s a laundry list of things that are too long to include in detail, but it’s ranged from writing the website, branding and uniform design, developing course content, managing the Technical Committee, training Course Conductors, organizing Board of Director meetings, policy and contract writing, establishing industry partnerships and MOU’s, and of course, teaching courses!

But like all these things, they’re always the result of way more work behind the scenes by way more people than most realize. The amount of time, effort and passion that’s gone into building the PMBIA into what it is today is pretty awesome. In addition to Darren and Kelli’s fantastic work, my wife Shannon has been integral from the start with her work behind the scenes with the finances, course scheduling and office/admin management for the last 12 years! David Gagnon, who’s now our Executive Director, but started as a Course Conductor and then sat on the Board of Directors, has been integral in helping to shape the new BOD manual and progress PMBIA into the next level of professionalism and effective governance. Then there are people like Ross Dunlop, who’s been running PMBIA courses since the early days… always loyal and plugging away in the background teaching quality courses all over the world. And of course, Sharon Watson, our amazing Office Administrator who’s helped the association operate at another level, as course demand continues to grow. And then there’s Kevin Eaton, our wonderful new President… and the list goes on!

Q: What would you say you’re most proud of in regards to your contribution to PMBIA?

That’s a tricky one. It’s been such a huge privilege to even be in a position to be able to do something like this for a living. I think ultimately what I’m proud of is not giving up and working as hard as I needed to, to make sure PMBI became the Association it needed to be. A big part of making this happen has been through cultivating relationships with the right people along the way. In this sense, I’m most proud of the people in the organization, all the work they’ve put in, the commitment, passion and sacrifices they’ve made to push PMBIA forward. It’s the people that make a business and we have good people, and this is why PMBIA is so awesome.

Q: What excites you the most about where PMBIA is heading as an association?

The potential! Every year we grow, we develop, we get better… but we still have not reached our full potential. That’s what has made me excited to work hard from day one, and this feeling still drives me today. Seeing where we are and comparing this to where we could be, is so exciting. And now, with a new Board of Directors and new organizational structure within PMBIA as Darren and I move to the Founders Committee, we have just improved our potential again! The new BOD’s bring an even deeper pool of more diverse skills and experience which increases our capacity to operate and develop like never before, plus all the new Course Conductors we’re training this year are going to be excellent. The quality and number of applications this winter were greater than ever, so it’s because of all these amazing new people that I’m so excited to see where PMBIA will be in another ten years!

Q: What’s next for you as you step down off the Board of Directors?

Pina Coladas and beach time!! Haha, no seriously, not much is changing really! I’m excited to just have one job instead of two. Being President and Technical Director was amazing and an honour, but seriously, it was too much! Moving into 2022, I’m excited to leave the governance and strategic decision-making to the fab new Board of Directors and pour my energy into one focused role as Director of Programs and Development. This is basically just a new name that better fits my previous work as the Technical Director. This role has three main components: Technical Content Development, Staff Training, and Business Development.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Just a MASSIVE and sincere thank you to all riders, bike parks, bike clubs and coaching businesses who have taken our courses over the years. This is still the best way to support the PMBIA. We are here for you, we are here because of you and we can’t wait to see you again on the trails soon!

Stay safe and happy trails,

The PMBIA Team

#PMBIA | #bikeskills #skillbasedteaching #pmbiaassociation #globalmtbstandard #mountainbikeinstructor #mountainbiking #theonlyglobalstandard


Photo courtesy of the Crux Initiative Society, Golden, BC


Photo courtesy of Hailey Elise, Squamish, BC


Online Recertification Training !

Time to do your Level 1 recertification? We are asking all our members to re-certify via the Level 1 Online Recertification Program. 

Regardless of any courses or training you take, your level 1 re-certification has to be completed online every three years. This ensures instructors stay current with the latest teaching methodologies & information that specifically relate to teaching beginner to intermediate riders; which is still the most common student type within the mountain bike coaching industry. You can learn more and register below!

Register Now!