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My photo interview series intends to introduce you to some of the amazing characters in life through a quick photo shoot, a cocktail or three, and a short interview. As you may have guessed, skydiving will be a common theme, but the hope is to let you get to know the interviewee as they are off the DZ as well as on. I would like to introduce you to someone you may have seen in skydiving photos, on the big screen, organizing at an event, on the medal stand, or doing other generally badass things in the sky. Ladies and gents (and assholes!), I present to you Miss Amy Chmelecki.
Zach: Can you walk us through your geographic history? Where were you born, and where have you called home between there and Arizona?
Amy: I grew up in New York, right outside the city in Mamaroneck until I started college at 17. I got a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire where I studied communications and art. While there, I spent my summer breaks learning how to skydive and traveling as a skydiver. After I graduated, I moved to Arizona to pursue a fun couple of years in skydiving. At the time I thought it would just be for a year, but that was 16 years ago and I am still there. Since then, I have traveled quite a bit; I spent some time at Skydive Chicago and have traveled extensively through the U.S. and Canada. More recently I have been traveling all over the world.
Would you still have gone to school if you knew that you would become a successful professional skydiver?
Absolutely. I may have taken more classes in business, but I don’t think I would be as successful as I am in skydiving without my education.
Were you surprised by anything when you moved to Arizona?
I had some anxiety when I moved there, and I was surprised by that. I didn’t realize that I was going to love it so much that I was actually afraid that someone would try to take it away from me somehow. It surprised me how much I really loved it.
Have you ever done anything nice for someone that they may not have known about?
I like to give money to people who get hurt. Yesterday I donated money to a girl who was at the [Red Bull] Flugtag demo I did this weekend. She was a pilot on one of the crafts, and it didn’t go as planned. She ended up falling about 40 feet onto some wooden beams. I later found out that she smashed both of her legs, so I donated some money to her online. Even when I don’t have a lot of money, and right now I don’t, I always try to give a little bit. I know what it is like to be down and out.
Friday night, do you prefer a quiet night at home, or a night out on the town?
Both! I really appreciate both. Generally I would say I like a little bit of adventure. That might be going out dancing all night in New York City and doing all of these things you would never dream you could do. At the same time I also love to have a barbecue, or the chance to sleep in the woods. Generally I would say I like a little bit of adventure.
When did you realize that skydiving could be your career, and not just a bucket-list check mark?
I guess I first realized it could be a career when I got my sponsorship at Skydive Chicago. When I took that sponsorship everything else started to fall into place and I decided to just go for it. I was going to go big and give up the thought of getting a “real” job.
Do you have any musical talents?
No, no musical talents. My teammate is trying to teach me how to sing. She gives me a note and I repeat it. She gives it to me again and I repeat it. Then she tells me I suck, and we dance or laugh! I really suck at it, but really wish I didn’t. It is so painful when I do it! One day I am going to get singing lessons so that I don’t suck at it anymore.
If you had to leave town forever, and you could only take your possessions you could fit in a backpack, what would you take?
I would take my rig, of course! My passport, and probably my helmet. Maybe some clothes for warm weather and cool weather … and my Vans. Maybe my Toms for when it is hot. How big is this backpack?
In your current role, you get to travel around the world to different drop zones and boogies. Does it ever get old, or is it as awesome as it sounds?
It is as awesome as it sounds. I don’t think it would be something for everyone. I have been sleeping on an air mattress for the last four days. Before that I was at a pretty pimp hotel in Miami, and before that I was sleeping on a floor. I don’t mind that at all. For me it is awesome, but I think some people wouldn’t enjoy that. I thought by this age I would be sick of it, but I only want to do it more and more.
Any lesser known boogies you think people should know about?
This summer I went to a boogie at Skydive Bex in Switzerland. It was amazing! It was in the middle of the Alps with 10,000-foot peaks all around. The pilot flies his Porter up the mountainside at like 10 feet off the deck the whole way pointing out animals, chalets, and all of these amazing things. It was one of the coolest events I have been to.
Choice of cocktail?
What is your dream vacation?
My day-to-day life is pretty adventurous and I can’t believe that people pay me for it. For my dream vacation, I would like to tour all over Italy with my mom. If I had the money and time, I’d like to go with my mom and sisters to Italy. We could bring my brother along to drive us around. I can’t leave him out.
If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?
I would make some Italian food with my roommate Lisa! We are both Italian and both grew up in Italian families that cooked a lot. We roll our own pasta, and we would make a variety of different sauces, and big salad, lots of appetizers and a huge spread! I like to make cheesecake, and that would probably be what I made for desert.
If someone was cooking to impress you, what should they make?
If someone throws down a steak and lobster, I am in heaven.
What are your hobbies off the DZ?
I ride a dirt bike, and I really love that. I genuinely enjoy going into the gym and pushing weight around as well. I do it a lot for skydiving because my main drive is to keep fit for jumping. Even if I didn’t have skydiving in my life I would still do it. Because my hobby is my career, everything else takes a back seat to anything skydiving related. What I get to do for work is above and beyond what I ever thought I would do. So here I am getting to do things like jump into downtown Miami, and hang out with these amazing people on a yacht and get served cocktails and get paid for it. It would be hard to say, “I wish I was snowboarding instead!” My hobby is my job, and I’m very lucky in that sense.
Is there anything expensive you have purchased that was worth every penny?
The first thing that comes to mind is a dress that I bought for my father’s 60th birthday. It cost $500. For some people that isn’t a lot of money for a dress, but for me it was ridiculous. I could have just gotten a cheap dress, but I bought this one instead because it was so beautiful. I’ve worn it often, and everyone seems to think it is awesome. I am so happy I did it. Sometimes you just gotta do that.
What store could you spend your entire pay check at?
What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a really really bad speller. Probably the worst you will ever meet. It surprises some people when they interact with me, and some of them make fun of me for a long time about it. I tell them that eventually they will stop being shocked by this! Today I was typing something and I couldn’t figure out how to spell “language.” I couldn’t figure it out! Spell check wasn’t helping ! I would close my eyes and try to see the letters, tried to sound it out. What the hell? Why can’t I figure this out? I finally got it, but it took way too long for such a simple word.
Do you wear your heart on your sleeve, or keep things close to the vest?
I used to wear it on my sleeve, but not anymore.
You are part of a new wind-tunnel sport. Tell us a little bit about it.
Dynamic 4-way is what I am training for right now. It is so new that the rules are changing from competition to competition, and it isn’t sanctioned at all. It is run and judged by the competitors, which is cool! In the compulsory portion, you have to go as fast as you can and turn points; you are judged by how fast you can navigate through a certain series of moves, but it is quite a bit different than FS. There are also rounds that are a free routine, which is nice for me because I like that creative side of thinking through your routine. I really like it because it is a different type of flying. You fly in a very dynamic way and there is a lot of freedom in those moves. I really love it! It is my favorite thing that I have done in skydiving so far.
Hug or Handshake? Hug
Yoga or treadmill? Yoga
Creme brulee or ice cream? Creme brulee
Cigar or cigarette? Shit … no comment!
Strength or smarts? Strength
Pac or Caravan? Pac
U.S. road trip or Eurorail? Eurorail
Whiskey or rum? Whiskey
First date—hug or kiss? Hug
Business or pleasure? Pleasure
Rock or country? Rock
Lust or focus? Focus
Friends or family? Friends are family
Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly? Monopoly
Masculine or feminine? Both
Jalapeno or habanero? Jalapeno
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am super happy, proud and excited to be on the Red Bull Air Force.
Chem, Chmeleck, Chmeleckmydingdong. ChmemeSexy is the one a lot of people are using right now, and that is probably my favorite. Recently someone said ChmeLucky, but I’m not sure if I like that one. [Author’s note: for those wondering the first syllable in her last name is pronounced with a SH sound, not a CH.]
Could you ever date a whuffo?
I don’t like to say never, so maybe I could. I could date a whuffo if they had a similar love and passion for something and didn’t ask me to stop skydiving. They would have to have a level of passion and acceptance for what I do. I haven’t met one that I want to date yet.
How are wind tunnels changing our sport?
Wind tunnels are going up all over the world, and opening all sorts of doors; it is hard to predict where it is going to go. I’m getting coached by 18-year-old kids right now! I remember when they were 4 years old on the drop zone and I was already a professional skydiver. Now I’m getting coached by them; how amazing is that?
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