I just returned from the Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame event. What a fabulous experience. With my 25,000+ skydives and 32 years in the sport I am often looked upon by younger jumpers as a true skydiving pioneer. After hearing that enough times I had actually started to believe it myself, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you want to know where you are and where you’re going be sure and find out where you’ve been.
I started skydiving in 1980. By that time our sport had really started to come of age. There were established schools, commercial drop zones and world championships in a variety of events. A few years later first time students were doing Tandem Jumps, where they are actually attached to their Instructors who would protect them from harm. Automatic Activation Devices which deploy our reserve parachutes for us if we lose track of altitude or pass out were installed in nearly every parachute system. With all the advances in equipment and training anyone who had the desire to experience freefall could do it.
Not the case when the men and women who are the real pioneers of sport parachuting were literally discovering and inventing skydiving. In the late 50s and early 60s they had to buy used parachutes from Army, Navy surplus stores and figure out how to pack them. They had to find people with airplanes who would let them jump out of them and a place to land. There were no books to read or Instructors to teach them because no one had done it before. They plummeted at the earth at 120mph until they finally figured out they could “fly”. It was crazy, nuts, dangerous, unregulated and sometimes illegal. There was every reason not to do it. But they couldn’t help themselves. They were drawn to the sky. They loved the idea of flying only for the sake of flying. They thought they could do it so they had to try.
What an incredible group of people, to be compared with the likes of the early aviators and astronauts. A special breed with a love of living matched by very few. Some of them are still jumping and set a World Record for the largest freefall formation of people over 80, six people to be exact. Others can no longer jump. But when they look up at the sky I could still see that same gleam in their eyes they must have had 50+ years ago. I wished there was a time machine that could take me back to that time to share that with them. I spent the weekend talking with them, learning from them and being inspired by every story they cared to tell. It was such an honor, such a privilege.
Whether it’s your family or your chosen field of work or recreation, if you want to know where you are and where you’re going be sure and find out where you’ve been. Find those that went before you and hear everything they have to say.