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A Skydiver in Notts

2 June 22 illustrations: Kasia Kozakiewicz

Most of us spend our lives avoiding things that scare us. Unless, that is, you jump out of planes multiple times a day...

When I was younger, my mum took part in a tandem skydive for charity and I thought it looked like really good fun. So later, when I was a student, I was given the opportunity to make a charity skydive of my own and jumped at it, if you’ll excuse the pun. My friends and I raised just over £3,000 and had an incredible time. From that point on I knew I wanted to learn how to skydive myself, and signed up to a course right away. Skydiving has been part of my life ever since. 

Nothing compares to the feeling of jumping out of a plane; there’s no worry, no stress, the mundane of the day-to-day is left behind and you enter this world where all that matters is what’s happening right here and now. It’s amazing. Plus, the fantastic community of people has become like an extended family; you don’t get ‘boring’ people in skydiving and our friendships span age ranges, different backgrounds, all connected by our shared love for the sport. Fourteen years on from that first jump, I have given up my career as a PR Director to become a full-time professional skydiver, teaching new jumpers, coaching skydivers and teams, filming tandem skydives and being part of the British formation skydiving team to compete at the World Championships this coming October. 

Every day starts with a look out of the window - and fingers crossed for good weather. Providing the sky is blue and the wind isn’t too windy, we’re good to go for a day of jumping out of planes. I usually arrive at the drop zone around 8am, when I get my own equipment ready. Throughout the day, I’ll expect to do somewhere between five and eight jumps, usually. If I’m instructing students, that includes briefing them for each jump, doing the jump with them and then debriefing the jumps with the help of the footage I capture during their skydive. If I’m filming tandems for the day, my time in between jumps is spent on my laptop, editing photos and videos. At the end of the day, we all pitch in to help put everything away and make sure the drop zone is ready to go again the next morning. 

The most challenging thing about an average day is that we personalise every single experience to the person we’re sharing it with. Whether I’m instructing, coaching or filming, I work hard to make sure that the person or people I’m working with are getting the best possible service - and that means doing everything bespoke to them. While this is the biggest challenge, it’s also the thing I love the most. My brain is working as hard as my body and no two days are the same because no two people are the same. It’s incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

We often stick around after jumping to chill and chat about the day, and our on-site cafe and bar provide meals and drinks for us most weekends, so there’s a really nice community feel. If I’m not staying on the drop zone to relax after work, I head home for dinner and often some form of exercise, usually running, sometimes swimming or yoga. I think it’s important to have other interests outside of skydiving, just so I don’t become stagnant in what I do, and keeping fit is essential when you work in a physical role. I’m also really interested in sports psychology and am currently working through an online course to learn more about that. 

Nothing compares to the feeling of jumping out of a plane; there’s no worry, no stress, the mundane of the day-to-day is left behind

I am so lucky to do a ‘job’ that I really don’t view as a job at all. In fact, it feels very strange to even say I’m going to ‘work’ when I’m headed to the drop zone to jump out of planes all day. I love being part of such an amazing team. I’ve always wanted to feel like an expert in my role and to be supported in that ambition, and I’ve never felt that more than I do at Skydive Langar. Everyone is exactly the same in their aspiration to be the best they can be, but never to the detriment of one another; everyone supports everyone else, we all celebrate one another’s successes and it’s a really awesome team atmosphere.

I think finding balance is the trickiest thing. I’ve never had a job that was my hobby and my passion before and I guess it’s how anyone feels in my position; when you really love what you do, it’s hard to motivate yourself to take a day off or step away. I’m certainly still working to find the right balance for myself. We’ve recently introduced ‘development days’ where the team is given a day a week to spend, if they like, doing something on the drop zone to develop their own skills and passion. For me, that’s team training with my formation skydiving team, and for others it’s going and getting coaching in their chosen discipline, or travelling to drop zones around the world to take part in fun events.

One of my proudest and equally most difficult points in my skydiving overall happened last August at the British Skydiving National Championships. My team, Chimera, was in the running to make the podium and we knew it would be a close fight for first place. Each round was so close with our nearest competition, after one we’d be ahead, the next we’d be behind. Unfortunately, after a final jump-off, we placed second, which was heart-breaking. But that’s the joy of the sport and when I take myself out of the situation, it was actually a hugely exciting thing to happen, and something that has hopefully inspired a lot of skydivers to get into competing. 

We’re seeing a lot more people coming to enjoy skydiving with us, especially since the pandemic, where the forced lockdowns took away people’s freedom to experience new things. Now, people are much keener to spend their money and time on things that enrich their lives like skydiving, as opposed to material goods. There’s a misconception that skydiving is dangerous; while nerves and, to an extent, fear are a part of what we do, they’re also what make it fun for many of us, with the reassurance that the sport is extremely well regulated, managed and taught. The developments in product design and technology have also benefited us hugely over the decades, keeping us safer than ever before.

The people mean our job is never repetitive. I’m working with different students, different tandem customers – from people just out of school to those in their eighties – and with new people come new challenges. Every day, my teaching and flying abilities are tested and strengthened and it feels so satisfying to know you’re ending every day with more skill than when you started. Plus, who could ever get bored jumping out of a plane multiple times a day for a living?!

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