This year I attended Safety Day at two different dropzones. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are two high-quality establishments, each with their own unique community, but both having incredible staff and instructors.
Last weekend I headed down to Skydive Chicago after work on Friday. I made it in time for the break out sessions, learned about safety and emergency aircraft procedures, sat in on a canopy and emergency refresher and finished the evening with a discussion on planning a dive. The break out sessions were really nice in that it gave you a chance to ask more specific questions on particular subjects that you might not feel as comfortable asking in the larger group. It was also a way to be more hands on, practicing emergency canopy procedures and the like.
After the sessions it was time to hang out, eat, drink, and socialize, which took place right on site in the SDC lounge. They sure to have some nice facilities.
This weekend was Safety Day at Chicagoland Skydiving Center (CSC) at it’s new location in Rochelle, IL. Moving a dropzone is no easy task (not that I’m speaking from first-hand knowledge here, but from what I heard, it was a challenge) but plans for the new facilities are well underway and we have a temporary hangar in the meantime.
The day started with a refresher course led by Barry Williams, the head of Freefall University. Arriving in style (or rather, a couple hours late) I only caught two of the breakouts, but it was nice to see an arial of the new DZ and talk about outs, canopy control, etc.
The “official” safety day presentation was held lecture style, with presentations from a number of the staff talking about the new location, plans, aircraft, wingsuiting, fatalities, and more.
What I found interesting was a look at fatalities and the trends over time. We’re lucky to be at a place now where there are more USPA members than ever and less fatalities. This speaks volumes about the education and focus on safety in this sport. More than that, in the 70s and 80s there were a significant number of deaths due to low or no pull situations. These days, most fatalities have to do with canopy flight.
Looking at percentages from last year, 70% of the fatalities happened when equipment was completely fine. Scary huh. Between swooping and low turn accidents, to canopy collisions and unawareness, these types of issues could have been completely avoidable.
One thing that struck me between the two Safety Days was that there was a large focus on canopy skills. Emergency procedures were reviewed as always, but there just seemed to be this extra emphasis on ensuring safety from tracking away and deployment all the way back to being in the hangar. One of the instructors said it best, “the skydive isn’t over till you’re back in the hangar and packing up for that next jump.” Awareness and landing patterns where discussed and it was stressed more times than not to understand the canopy you’re flying and how to approach scary situations close to the ground.
Personally, a canopy course (or two) are at the top of my to-do list this season. Though I’m a small person, I’m flying a 120 square foot canopy – that’s high performance no matter which way you slice it – and I want to know everything I possibly can about the fabric that’s over my head and how to use it safely.
Having been in the sport for 2 full seasons, spending plenty of time on the ground (I am a wind pussy, after all) at dropzones and boogies around the country, I can’t recommend a solid canopy course enough. You never know when you’re going to need some last minute tips that could save your life, and the lives of your fellow jumpers.
:: off soapbox now ::
Hopefully everyone was able to attend Safety Day this year – or at least a refresher course with an instructor. This time of the year, nerves can get the best of you if you’re not prepared.
Hope to see everyone in the sky again soon.
With the weather warming up a touch I can’t help but think about Safety Day that’s just around the corner and finally getting back in the air!
A few of my fellow jumpers in the Chicagoland area have asked me to talk about coming back to the sport after a long period off, like you know, the winter. Of course, I’m not the best person to ask since last winter I didn’t go more than 3 weeks without a skydive, so speaking from experience is going to be difficult.
Regardless, this is a great time to take a look at the challenges in coming back to the sport since so many of us will be doing so in the near future. So I’ve skimmed my resources to provide some thoughts for making your transition back to the skydiving world as smooth and painless (figuratively and literally) as possible.
- Attend Safety Day – the official USPA Safety Day is on March 12. Many dropzones choose to have theirs on different days to accommodate jumpers who might want to attend other, larger Safety Day events. Regardless, be sure to attend at least one. For those who may not realize it, Safety Day is more than just about getting back in the air / completing recurrency jumps (if the DZ you’re at is even flying that day). It’s about refreshing your memory on safety in the sky. You’ll have a chance to not only review the USPA BSRs and any changes to the SIM but also refresh on your home dropzone regulations. You’ll review landing patterns, pilot policies and have a chance to hear from the S&TA. I can’t stress the importance of this day enough. You might be surprised how much has fallen out of that brain of yours over the long winter months.
- Check your gear – if you weren’t due for a reserve repack or inspection, be sure to give your gear a good once over yourself. Make sure your 3 rings are in good shape, that your closing loop isn’t worn, that your pilot chute is cocked. If you doubt your last pack job on that final jump of the season, you may even want to shake out your canopy and give it a fresh pack.
- Review canopy skills – I’m a big believer in being a safe and competent canopy pilot; it could save your life. You never know when that rogue student might enter your landing pattern and necessitating a last minute adjustment. Parachutist Online has a great article on becoming a better canopy pilot. This is a start, but if you haven’t before, a canopy course is always a good idea. That’s high on my priority list this year for certain!
- SIM on the go – I mentioned this yesterday on Twitter but if you’re an iPhone user, be sure to download the USPA SIM app. What a better way to stay fresh on those BSRs than by having them in your pocket? You can download the app here or by searching USPA SIM in the app store.
- Watch and read to learn - as I mentioned a couple weeks ago in my currency post, I can’t recommend enough watching videos and reading indicent reports to help you learn what not to do. Get the butterflies out by watching a few cutaway videos, find out what went wrong in seemingly routine skydives that ended in injury or even death by scanning your Parachutists and Dropzone.com incidents. Learning from others mistakes can possibly save your life.
- Make that first jump a safe one - speaking of getting the butterflies out, you’re bound to have some on that first skydive back. I certainly did, even after I was only out for 3 weeks. I imagine it being a bit more intense this year. If you don’t need a recurrency jump with a coach/instructor, make sure that first jump back is with someone you trust and/or someone you’ve flown with a lot. A 16-way zoo dive likely isn’t the best way to get back in the air, just a thought.
I’m sure this isn’t all, so let’s hear it from those of you who’ve been around longer than little ole me….what are some of your suggestions on coming back after a long period off?
For the past couple years I’ve been the girl who has preached living in the moment. As a skydiver it’s something you can’t help but do – after all our sport, and adrenaline sports in general, tend to be live-in-the-moment activities that often translate to other aspects of life.
This is definitely a positive. However, I’m also a believer in looking toward the future a bit. Planning every now and again.
Here’s a scenario to help paint this picture for you a bit better.
A couple conversations with fellow female skydivers last summer got us to discussing relationships in the skydiving community; specifically romantic relationships. I’m a huge advocate for finding the person you’re supposed to be with simply by taking part in activities you love. Having a shared interest that you both have a passion for, especially one as unique as skydiving, helps the relationship flourish. (It worked very well for me!) Naturally, this has lead me to advise my single lady skydiver friends to take a look at the men around them at the dropzone for companionship. But, from what some of these ladies have told me, their male skydiver counterparts live too much for the moment and they want someone with an ability to also look toward the future, as they don’t want to just be the lady of the moment.
Sometimes, these activities that have us living in the moment and craving the here and now, can be a hindrance when it comes to thinking long-term.
One of the lessons that spending quality time at dropzones has taught me is that there’s a need for balance. It’s not infrequent to find adrenaline junkies who are unable to comprehend, let alone practice, a balanced life. But with my other passions like yoga, photography and writing, I find that balance helps me keep my sanity in the otherwise nutty world of skydiving (you know, the whole being surrounded by type A personalities where half of them are walking around on ego trips all day).
Thankfully, having a husband (oh did I forget to mention we got married…) who lives a life just as full of passion as I do helps to keep me motivated in all aspects of my life. Lately, I’ve been spending more time getting excited about the future. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I haven’t had freefall in my life for a couple months so I’m jonesing for a jump, but I think it goes beyond that.
By nature I’m a planner and a list maker, whether or not I end up sticking to these is a different story. Recently I’ve found that these plans are highly flexible, something that tended to be rather rigid in the first 20ish years of my life. You’d think that in your 20s it’d become priority to “settle in” a bit, into a career, a location, a family, and grow some roots so to speak. But I think anyone with an addictive personally – espeically those who channel that in a productive way – can attest to the fact that there are endless possibilities for the future, even things you likely don’t see yet.
So maybe I’m not as ready to grow us as I thought I’d be in my mid 20s – but why does there have to be anything wrong with that?
Sports like skydiving keep you young at heart. We’re all a bunch of big kids out there and the sky is our playground. Growing up seems a bit overrated when you look at it – but that’s certainly not going to stop me from taking a look at what the future has to bring. There’s oh so much out there to explore, both in the sky and on the ground.
Love and Blue Skies!
By nature, I’m a talker.
What I mean by that is, when I come up against an issue or a big decision, I like to talk it out. With my friends, my family, even co-workers, just to get their perspective. As I’ve grown older (and I like to think wiser) I realize that talking things out isn’t always about getting the perspective of others so much as it’s about working things out in my head – thinking out loud if you will.
I’ve also found that, in discussing life issues about others, that the same can be the case. Sometimes, my own advice is the best advice, it just finds me in odd ways.
Recently, I wrote the letter below to a friend that, upon re-reading, slapped me upside the head.
“Hello, take your own advice dummy!”
Honestly, as much as a ‘duh’ moment as it might be when I’ve been neglecting my own advice, it’s refreshing to know that I’m capable of coming up with solutions that can cross a wide variety of life-issues. Sometimes I even surprise myself at how this advice could benefit so many people in a number of situations…today, this is the case, so I’ve decided to share the wealth.
I’ve rambled enough. The note below has been edited, since some of the specifics don’t apply, but I’ve tried to keep it as close to original form as possible. Take a read, you might be surprised how this advice can translate to your life too.
For those who are considering taking up skydiving, turns out this is a good one for you:
You do need to do what is right for you. You’ve [made previous big decisions] that didn’t turn out as planned, so what a better time than now to reevaluate – you gotta take the path that’s right for you.
It’s not as if you’re going into this without any thought and planning. You have [the resources available], that’s more than most can say!
Yes, from the outside, this might not be the most practical decision, but seriously, practical is boring. I’m a big believer these days in taking chances. Some might see your [other life decisions] as taking chances in the first place, but it really wasn’t. I mean [these likely weren't that risky]. Though they may have been daunting at the time, in the end they were no biggie, really.
What you’re about to embark on is a bit scarier since the security isn’t what you have now, but it’s something you’re passionate about, so security is what you make it here. If you put your heart and soul into it then you’ll succeed. If you’re in a situation where it’s ho-hum and you’re doing enough just to get by, what fun is that? Stuck in an position where you’re not loving the what you’re doing 110% is awful.
And, moving on while your reputation is strong is smart…rather than getting lazy and having people watch that happen. Sure enough, the longer you continue to take part in something you’re not fully invested in, and passionate about, the more likely you are to burn out. Bowing out gracefully before the flame totally dies is a wise move.
If the people [around you] have any respect for you, they’ll understand your desire to pursue something that tugs at your heart, not just your wallet. That’s what life is all about, after all. Doing things you love, being with people you love, and having a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Therefore, I think [that this is a smart decision on your part]. You appreciated the feedback from those who care about you, but ultimately, it’s your life. My 2 cents.
It’s your life…definitely a big take away here.
Love and Blue Skies!
As skydivers, we tend to be dreamers.
Yes, this is a fairly bold statement to make, as it’s making assumptions about a category of people that is typically so diverse it can be difficult to find a single trait that cross the spectrum of skydivers, but think about it for a second.
Skydiving is one of those sports where, we all started from one. Every single one of us had a first skydive at one point or another. We all started out not having a clue – because really, with an activity like this that’s so unnatural for humans in the first place, how could you really have any idea what to expect? We all have to go through a process of learning. Some learn faster than others and are labelled “naturals,” but I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s nothing “natural” about this, so to me these people are just quick studies.
Regardless, the one thing I’ve found to be pretty standard across the broad spectrum of skydivers (as I’ve noted before, you get everything from surgeons and dentists to business men and women to college kids to full time packers/skydivers and everything in between at the dropzone…there’s not a “typical” jumper from what I’ve seen) is that we’re all dreamers, in one way or another.
With our first jump we all had a dream to continue on in this sport (true because, we’re here, aren’t we?), in one form or another. Whether it was knowing from day one that you wanted to fly a wingsuit so you followed protocol, jumped through all the hoops (no pun intended) and got your 200 jumps so you could fly that wingsuit and never look back, or whether you set out to learn as much as you could to be able to get your ratings so you can turn around and teach others to enjoy the sport just as much as you, or if you knew you wanted to compete, so you work hard, spend time in the tunnel to get on a 4-way team. Whatever the path you ended up taking was the one initially envisioned, we all had a dream within this sport – even the simplest “I want to get my license so I can do this whenever I want,” was your only goal.
This was initially my intention. Of course, once I entered the skydiving community and realized how many great people and how many cool things there were to do and see, my vision changed.
For me, as I looked at the future, the possibilities were endless. The landscape is ever changing, there are always new challenges. Skydiving is one of those sports that has so many facets, so many disciplines to learn, that once you’ve mastered one thing, there’s a new challenge awaiting you.
This is something I’ve always relished about skydiving, the never-ending personal challenge involved. You don’t have to go to Nationals to get your competitive juices flowing. You can compete every single time you jump – even if it’s only with yourself.
If you work hard to progress in the sport and open yourself up to new challenges, you just might be surprised at the doors that seemingly open themselves and attempt to pull you through to the next opportunity. I continue to be amazed by how much my life has changed since skydiving. Not all of it has happened through the skydiving world, but I do have the sport to thank for opening my eyes to what it is I want and the paths I decide to take in this life.
Life is short, sometimes too short, and taking advantage of those chances to make your life better, and allow you to make it better for the people around you, that’s what it’s all about.
Skydiver or not, there’s a lot to learn just by lifting your head skyward and looking up at the possibilities – you might be surprised what you see. Opportunities will cross in front of your face every single day, if you let them. Start putting the pieces of the life you want to lead together, and open your eyes to all the possibilities that the universe is offering up.
Love and Blue Skies!
I don’t want to be ordinary. Clearly, being a blogging, traveling, yoga practicing, skydiver I’m not your average 20-something woman.
But, on the other side of the coin – strange as this may sound coming out of the mouth of a skydiver – I don’t want to be too extraordinary either.
I love the diversity in my life, and to give everything I have to one thing, to “become the sport,” just isn’t something that’s on my radar. Now, maybe with the right incentives we could talk, but I’m not willing to give up my relationships and activities completely – these things make me who I am, after all.
On top of all that, I don’t see the benefit of being Ms. Skydiving herself. A lot of people have referred to me as “The Skydive Chick” in the past and it gives me the shivers. I mean, I certainly don’t refer to myself as that, Skydive Chick is just the name of my blog. Hi, I’m Ashley. Nice to meet you!
Though the recognition for my blogging is nice, because it does take an element of sacrifice and work, even though it’s totally badass fun at the same time, but I’m not here to become something that I’m not. I do like that y’all seem to appreciate what I have to share, that’s the whole point.
I’m off track here a little….
My point is this: I thoroughly enjoy leading a life that’s out of the ordinary. I’m not bored, like a lot of my friends, I get opportunities that many may never even dream of (huge perk of living outside the ordinary, in my book), I get to meet some of the most fabulous people in the world, and it always gives me something to do, plan for and talk about. But I don’t think becoming extraordinary (like the fictitious Ms. Skydiving I mentioned above) would do me any favors either.
I like being somewhat grounded (not in the literal, skydiving sense though, that’s kinda killing me slowly right now), being able to listen to other people, hear their stories, rather than just being asked to regurgitate mine all the time. I never want anything to take away from my ability to enjoy the company and stories of others. That’s a big part of the skydiving world, after all.
From spending time with those self-proclaimed sky gods out there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that they are frequently bored with other people and often wait (impatiently) to tell their story instead, because their lives are better.
Never, do I want to start behaving that way, or EVER actually believing that I’m better. Yikes!
So call me, Ms. Just Left of Ordinary and call it a day. Or, my preference, call me Ashley, and put me in my place as needed.
Love and Blue Skies!
UPDATE: Hey guys, so I wanted to give a little mini-update to the post, mostly to provide some clarification here. My word choice may not have been the best with the whole ordinary vs. extraordinary thing. My point here can best be summed up by this line from above:
“From spending time with those self-proclaimed sky gods out there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that they are frequently bored with other people and often wait (impatiently) to tell their story instead, because their lives are better. Never, do I want to start behaving that way, or EVER actually believing that I’m better. Yikes!”
I do, however, want to put everything I have into everything I do…go balls to the wall as the lovely Sydney put it below. This has always been my mentality in life. It’s just not my style to put all my eggs in one basket, if you will. I’m a diverse creature, and I like it that way. Yes, speaking in metaphor can be confusing, turns out.
So it’s not so much about not wanting to be great, but it’s about not wanting to become “that girl” in the process. I like being close to the ground (so to speak) while spending as much time at 14,000 as i can…In the end, I just want to be me, and be good at it. After all, aren’t we all here to become as great as we can at everything we do?
SDC: Alright Ms. Melanie, let’s start with the basics – when did you start skydiving and what’s your “story” on getting into this sport?
MC: My Dad actually owned a small drop zone in upstate New York for many years called The Verona Skydiving Center. I was lucky enough to be exposed to skydiving at a young age, could have done it when I was 16, but was scared, wasn’t ready.. when I was 18, something in my flipped and I was ready. Told my Dad I was going to do it the next day, I did, and so it happened that the entirety of my adult life was spent fully immersed in my love of this sport and community.
SDC: For those of us who have jumped with you, we all know that you do a little bit of everything, even swooping. So tell us, what is your favorite discipline?
MC: Currently, my favorite discipline is 4-way VFS, because it’s still quite a bit of a challenge for me, I don’t feel that good at it yet, and with the bigger gap open for improvement, so is the opening for feeling awesome when you rock it. Outside of that though, pretty much my only personal goal in skydiving now is to only surround myself with awesome, hilarious people I love. Seriously. I’m not kidding. That’s for team stuff– awesome, hilarious, teammates I love, only. Professionally, I love going to/working at/organizing major events– I love that I get to meet and jump with a million new people, ever expanding the connection with awesome hilarious people I love. Hahaa, but seriously! I’m so so so all about that. On top of the obvious fun of travel, experiencing the country/world, and enjoying the skies and views from so many beautiful places. Man, I’m grateful.
SDC: Is there anything you haven’t tried yet that you really want to (like, have you wingsuited or BASE jumped)?
MC: I have tried wingsuiting, did about 20 jumps, had a hard pull and a reserve ride, and then hung it up for good. I tried it because of the awesome organizers (Taya Weiss, Jeff Nebelkopf, Phil Peggs, etc) of the Wingsuit Records held at Elsinore.. but yeah, I don’t like having my limbs restricted like that, and honestly, overall, am a very risk-averse skydiver. As for BASE, I have no desire. Zip, zilch, nada. The videos totally turn my stomach. I get no enjoyment out of increased risk– I like to calculate my risk to a point of feeling as safe as one can feel inside the skydiving environment. I love my life, so I make choices to protect it, and for me, that boxes out certain things. Totally appreciate that others love it, that it’s incredible in it’s own right, and that maybe down that line I’ll change my mind.. yeah, all good.. as of now though, I’m happy pushing myself in the competitive arena, and in coaching, very simply, helping people have more fun.
SDC: Aside from Elsinore and the Chick’s Rock boogie (cuz we all know that’s the best one around), what are some of your favorite dropzones and Boogies?
MC: CarolinaFest is amazing!! James LaBarrie and DZO’s Danny and Annette Smith put on a fantastic show, awesome people, great night life, fun extras, awesome organizers (hehee), extra aircraft, all the vendors, Rodriguez Brothers initiations, any discipline of skydiving covered.. everything. Even though it’s a co-ed event, we’ve started calling it the Chicks Rock of the East.. cause the vibe is just so awesome, welcoming, loving, and fun. Hell yes. Other than that, in 2010, the Pimp My Fly Boogie in Hanko, Finland was INCREDIBLE!! What an amazing nearly week-long event these girls put on to inspire the lady freefliers of Finland. SO grateful to be a part of that one, and can’t wait for 2011!!
SDC: We just missed that event last year, having spent a long weekend in South Carolina only a couple weeks prior. But you’re so right about everyone there – definitely a place we plan to visit again soon…maybe for the boogie!
Any place/event you really want to attend but haven’t yet?
MC: I’ve never been to Empuriabrava.. not sure what’s there really, I guess the draw of the exotic foreign location is appealing to me…. taps into that bug of wanting to see the world. I guess Dubai is on the list now too!
SDC: Who were some of your mentors as you grew into the sport? Who do you look up to now?
MC: Lou Ascione was one of my earliest teammates, and has basically taught me everything I know about belly flying, 4-way, and teaching/coaching. He is a phenomenal teacher and teammate, totally fucking hilarious and awesome person all around. I definitely credit him for turning me into a great coach, teaching me how to teach mostly by just leading by that example. In freeflying, Amy Chmelecki has always been just the pinnacle of freefly badassness to me.. because she is!!! She is amazing, and now that we’re actually friends, I swear, still, and this is no joke, I sometimes have that thought of, “Seriously, I’m friends with Amy Chmelecki??” She’s even better than what you’re thinking, everyone. Trust me on this one.
SDC: You know, Mel, there are probably more people out there that think that way about you than you know…just sayin’. There are a lot of little skydiving chicklets (like, ehem, me) who look up to you, cuz you know, you’re badass and all. Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are now. The road to Melsinore if you will.
MC: Hahaha, the road to Melsinore.. that’s funny.. well, I actually believe that my story is a perfect example of what happens when you choose to follow your gut, and take the leaps of faith to do what your heart really pulls you to do. I was completely and totally in love with skydiving and my involvement in it. Any opportunity I had come my way, I directed it to align with my skydiving goals… went to Australia in college cause it had weather for skydiving… moved to LA from New York to be in a more skydiving-friendly environment now that I was making adult money… drive to the DZ every single weekend for 3 years working full-time at an investment bank, spending too much of that office time working on skydiving skills camps and team building and voracious reading, etc…….. That kind of dedication, persistence, stamina, seems to me like it can only be fueled by love. I stuck with it, I stuck with it, I stuck with it. Literally nothing could stop me. I saw no obstacles to my doing this. It was just a fact. I was doing this. I spent all my money on skydiving, it wasn’t even a question. Truthfully, only after the fact was I able to see it as the “investment in my future” it actually was. Because at age 27, I was able to quit my job in corporate America, start full-time at Skydive Elsinore, and the rest is history.
SDC: Personally, I love how involved you are in this community – it’s more than a job to you, it’s a lifestyle. What is it that draws you into the skydiving community?
MC: It’s absolutely a lifestyle. I am happy to say that I am finally getting some balance in my life now from that feeling of over-saturation, having just left Elsinore full-time, going free-agent in my professional skydiving, pursuing life coaching more, and actually taking steps and making time for a for-real personal life! hahaa Skydiving is a huge family that cradles each of us in like-minded community.. where everyone is welcome, regardless of their age, skin color, or skill level. I LOVE that. Skydivers are a unique breed of people, so even in my seeking balance now, I still, and always will be, involved in our community and family… going to events, coaching people with heart, cheering on my man on Airspeed, etc. Skydiving will always be a part of who I am, and I will always be grateful for and take comfort in that.
SDC: You seem to be very pro-chick, it’s heartwarming, especially in a sport that’s pretty male dominated. Tell us a little about how the Chick’s Rock boogie evolved?
MC: Funny you say that, cause truthfully, I wouldn’t call myself pro-chick.. I’m pro-people. Chicks Rock Boogie was actually started two years before I got to Elsinore, and when I took the job working there full-time, that event was on the list of things I was in charge of. Because I’m so pro-positive vibes, I was so all about Chicks Rock because it always seemed like that event was just the awesomest vibes in skydiving! Totally grew on that, and went with the hook of it being a chick-themed thing, and I was a chick.. it worked out. I actually have always been one of those skydivers that does not support the women’s division in competition since this is a sport where we CAN compete at the highest level with men, and do. Eliana Rodriguez, Natasha Montgomery, Amy Chmelecki, just to name a few. So yeah, the whole chick thing actually annoyed me for a number of years. Then, in 2007, my teammate Meili Modini pestered and convinced me to attend the Women’s Vertical World Record. Because I was anti-segregation, I honestly wouldn’t have gone had it not been for Meili’s enthusiasm. Anyway, this experience ended up being one of the best skydiving experiences I had had to date in my entire career. There was no vibe of we’re-not-as-good-as-the-guys at all, in fact, it felt like a big version of my favorite thing in skydiving– a team. We all worked together, got the record, and for the first time I really GOT how inspiring it all is for all the women in the sport to have that type of experience to look forward to, that type of experience to motivate them, to include them, to lift them up in our male-dominated sport. Ever since then, I’ve been totally all about it. I get it. Finally! hahaa, and so glad that I can be a part of inspiring our latest surge in female participation… the latest record we just did was 41-women!!!! And there were nearly 60 of us in total between the record and the support team. That is truly incredible. So many lovely ladies found inspiration in this totally amazing possibility for us all, and you know what, we came together, and we fuckin did it. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. LOVE YOU, LADIES!!!!!! (insert lots of smiles here)
SDC: So you recently made a pretty cool life decision when it comes to your work, want to fill everyone in on that, let people know how they can get some stellar life coaching?
MC: www.melaniecurtis.com!! Thanks for the plug, Ashley! hahaa.. yes, I actually just got 3 new clients this week, no joke!! Basically check out my website, and any questions or to set up a Sample Session, just email me at email@example.com.
SDC: Any advice you’d like to give to the up and comers out there? Something you wish you’d known as a newbie skydiver?
MC: Jump, a lot.. be current… get coaching from someone good.. it’s soooooooooooooooooo worth it to get good coaching, guidance, and good habits from someone awesome straight out the gates. Undoing bad habits costs more in the end, and doing it up front saves us the frustration of sucking, makes us better sooner, and when we’re better, we have more fun. Just how it works. Same with life coaching! Wheee!
p.s. Mel practically vomited smiles all over this post, but my darn template is all wacky with emotocons these days, so be sure to reread the interview picturing her with this massive smile plastered on her face – as always!
Even though it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in the air, skydiving continues to teach me a thing or two.
I’m one of those people who will watch videos and read articles on skydiving (and any other adrenaline sport for that matter) any chance I get. I’m also the girl who waits not-so-patiently by the mailbox for the latest issue of Blue Skies Magazine and Parachutist every month. What can I say, I’m an adrenaline and words junkie.
I also do my best to keep in contact (though not as close or as often as I’d prefer) with those members of the community who made an impact on my life. These are the people who continue to show me the skills – both in the sky and on the ground – that it takes to be the skydiver I want to be.
What I have noticed is that, even though I’m not getting into the air as regularly as I’d like, skydiving continues to teach me about the person that I want to be – and honestly, about the person I don’t want to be.
This sport filled a huge hole in my life that I didn’t know existed until that first jump. It showed me what it means to be passionate about something. More than that, it showed me what it means to be passionate about life – all aspects of life. In the last year and a half I’ve gone from excited student to obsessed newbie to balls to the wall traveler to happy, content me. There was a point where I looked at what I was doing in skydiving and said, “you know, I love this sport, but I’m not willing to sacrifice who I am to be this badass freeflyer” or whatever it was I was going for. Surprisingly, skydiving has shown me how to appreciate all the non-skydiving things in my life a little more than I ever did.
Believe it or not, skydiving has also had this way of humbling me a bit.
I know it sounds bizarre, given that most skydivers you meet are more than happy to talk only about how great they are and they’ll show you their videos for hours even when you clearly don’t care. I’ll be the first to admit I had this same mentality at one point as well, but when you step back and notice these people you call your friends and dz family, and all you hear is them rambling on and on about themselves and criticizing others, it doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of our community – the one we’ve grown to cherish so much.
This is something I didn’t fully realize until I visited dropzones and attended events where the atmosphere was different, where the people I was interacting with were some of the badassest around, but you’d never know it from talking with them.
These are the people that truly make an impact on our sport. It’s not the skygods, or the people who are obsessed with the videos of themselves and their friends in the sky. It’s the people who make each moment and jump special for the people around them. The only way to describe it is a generous spirit. These are people that don’t have to try to be the people they are, they’re not going out of their way to help others or to be extra nice and welcoming, they just are – it’s their nature. You can’t help soaking in some of that positive energy just by being around people like this.
And of course, this goes beyond skydiving, but it’s at the dropzone where ideas like this have solidified themselves in my brain. One more lesson learned from skydiving. How has skydiving taught you about the type of person you want to be?
Love and blue skies!
This weekend was the first official non-skydiving weekend of the year. At first I was looking forward to it, then come Saturday morning I have to admit I was a bit bummed. Sure, I got to lounge around and catch up on some much needed relaxation, and laundry, but I was really wishing I could be in the air.
It’s been a few weeks – which until this point, is the longest period of time I’ve gone without a skydive. Though I’ve felt plenty of adrenaline lately, none of it is nearly as freeing as exiting the otter.
There are no plans for a winter trip in my immediate future…I’ve adopted this whole live one day at a time philosophy, and honestly I’m loving every second of that. Even talking with the family about Christmas plans makes me uncomfortable – it seems just too far away to worry about right now.
I do love that skydiving has taught me how to do this. For those that may not know it, this sport goes beyond just jumping out of airplanes, packing up and doing it all over again. There’s so much to learn about yourself and the life you want to live, if you’re open to it. In the recent weeks off I’ve had a chance to really sit back and absorb all that I’ve learned from skydiving and the surrounding community. I’ve been blessed to have met so many incredible people who, whether they know it or not, have taught me about myself too.
Though I still haven’t learned how to comfortably sit and do nothing. It’s during those times that I really, truly miss being in the air. Hmm…maybe I will start thinking about a winter trip after all…any suggestions?
Love and blue skies!
Whoa, it’s been a while. I’m sorry for that! Life has been busy, to say the least.
Things have picked up at work, and it’s unfortunate, but by the time I get home and do those things that need to get done, I can’t seem to find the time to write before I pass out on the couch.
Life has definitely gotten in the way of all things skydiving. But of course, I’ve spent the last 1 and 1/2 years letting skydiving get in the way of life, so I suppose it’s about time that it reversed itself a bit.
One thing I’ve decided to do, come next season, is to make the rest of my life more of a priority than it has been. Sure, 200 skydives in a season sounds great, but not only is my wallet screaming about that, so is my family. So it’s time to make relative work, of a different kind, more of a focus.
Sometimes I think that my parents assume I only have time for them on rainy days…how is that fair? It’s not. To them, or to me.
If this sport has taught me anything, it’s that living in the moment is critical. I spend so much of my time looking to the future, but in skydiving, if you do that, you’re bound to stress yourself out about possible malfunctions or worse, take away from the skydive by letting your mind wander. That’s not only as waste of a skydive, it’s dangerous.
Waste is a good way to describe how I feel about the time I spend obsessing over my next trip, my next skydive, the next big thing. It’s a waste of that moment that I could be spending with friends, family, or even just improving my writing and my work.
As I’ve said before, there’s more to life than skydiving. Sure, it’s a way of life for some, it’s everything. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But something that my friend Norman Kent once told me has stuck – you need to embrace the type of skydiver that you are. Some people have more opportunities than others to skydive. Some of us have pretty strict careers that only allow us to be weekend warriors of sorts (refer back to my post on what type of skydiver are you to get a glimpse of what I tend to think are the standard “types” out there). Some of us are bound by the money in our bank accounts, while others have responsibilities that may keep them on the ground more than they’d like.
But for me, I’ve decided that it’s not so much about responsibility as it is about having a fulfilling life. No one thing is enough for me. There’s a lot to Ashley. I guess that means in order to be satisfied, I need to have a multi-faceted life. Variety is the spice of life, as it goes. And I’m living proof of that.
This past weekend I did something I never thought I would – I missed the last day of the skydiving season at my new home dropzone and spent it with my family. The weather didn’t play very nice, in the end, but fact is, last year at this time, I never, ever would have made that sacrifice.
Though truthfully, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It felt like a need. And coming back to Chicago after a weekend with the people who put me on this planet and made me who I am today – those people who likely passed down the adrenaline junkie traits that drive me to skydive in the first place – I felt fulfilled.
So when you hear me refer to “relative work” don’t think I mean in it a bad way, or in a “I’d rather be skydiving but I have this family obligation” way, it’s my way of saying I’ve got other important things going on…and that my friends, is a good thing!
Love and blue ones!