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Aerial Ink

Photo by Abu Belalang of Jill Kuzman | "Aerial Ink" by Dean Ricci | blueskiesmag.com
photo by Abu Belalang
Written by The Fuckin' Pilot

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Pint sized, spunky, energetic, outgoing adorable, giggly and if that weren’t enough, she was really fucking nice. Let’s just say she didn’t not get attention.

I’m gonna tell you that I took her on her first ever tandem, but I’m not sure that’s the truth. I may have taken her on her second or even third actual jump, but it was her first working tandem, and the best jump she’d ever been on. If she tells you any different , she’s fucking lying! I know it was because I made her tell me so under canopy. I also kind of bullied her into jumping with me by telling her she should request me for the jump since we’d been chatting… I know, I was a scummy douche, but come on, she really was adorable and I NEVER got to take the hot chicks! She did lose me with the whole vegan thing though, seeing as how I rarely eat anything that didn’t have parents…

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I don’t think I even knew her name until she’d come back to start her AFF course at Cross Keys where I was in the middle of my first season there. Jill Kuzman was a Philly local who decided, with some help from a CK regular named Rory Corrigan, that she had the bug to jump, and was going at it with gusto! She was working full time creating and editing with Photoshop as a graphic designer I believe, but all of us, her included, were a hell of a lot more interested in jumping than we were with anything going on in the real world, so details like jobs are a bit sketchy.

She got through her AFF course with little to no issue, other than the fact that she was so little (spinner…) it was difficult for most of the instructors to fall slow enough. She quite quickly found herself on coaching jumps, and then inevitably fighting off all the boys (and some girls) trying to get her on fun jumps both in and out of the sky. If the story were to continue on the course that so many jumpers take, she would have become an average jumper and weekend warrior who might or might not make the DZ a lifelong source of amusement and escape, or even walk away after a few years having had some good times. Yet young Jill decided, partly on her own and partly from the company she kept, that an average course of action just didn’t have enough action in it …

Photo by Alex Sullivan of Jill Kuzman | "Aerial Ink" by Dean Ricci | blueskiesmag.com

photo by Alex Sullivan

During my tenure as an instructor at Cross Keys, I enjoyed watching Jill become a regular facet around the DZ, having completely embraced the lifestyle, throwing herself fully into the scene. She jumped, she stayed and partied and was constantly chased by the local hooligans looking for dirt side entertainment. When I left at the end of the 2005 season, it was with the firm belief that she was in the life for good. Holy shit, what an understatement that was!

In 2006 that little shit went and made her first BASE jump, even though guys like me were terrified for her! I’d been to Bridge Day to film “Lemmings” with Will Forchet in 1996, and saw Darwin get his ass handed to him when jumpers did everything in their power to fuck themselves up, yet walk away time after time. So when “Little Jill,” as I now thought of her, emailed me to tell me she was gonna go jump New River Gorge, I wasn’t thrilled. I believe I spent a decent chunk of time writing back all the reasons I could think of why she shouldn’t. Of course she didn’t listen to a damn thing I had to say, and went and made the jump anyway, and just as I feared, she fucking loved it!

2008 is when Jill believes she became a real and true BASE jumper, mostly because that’s when she decided to start really pushing herself to jump in earnest. I believe Jill became a true BASE jumper when she suffered a huge loss of someone that she loved. In my eyes, the first BASE jump Jill made after her boyfriend’s passing was when she crossed over forever, never to look back at the life we mere mortals live. It’s also when she began what I can only imagine is another passion in her life, and that is her ink. The rather large and colorful image that crosses her chest from shoulder to shoulder is a tribute to the one she lost, and has been followed by a number of others, all of which I have yet to see because she’s an asshole and never comes to visit me.

Photo by Brent Cain of Jill Kuzman | "Aerial Ink" by Dean Ricci | blueskiesmag.com

photo by Brent Cain

She’s tried over the years to make me feel a bit more at ease with all her crazy shit by filling me in on some of her personal jumping philosophies like:

– Treat fear like an opponent. Feel it, acknowledge it, then let it go and kick its ass.
– Know your abilities, when you have to respect them, and when you can push them.
– Two red flags is the max. If a third red flag pops up it’s off the damn load. (Or cliff, or tower, or bridge, or whatever else they jump off these days…)

With 475 BASE jumps to her name (100 more than skydives), she’s turned herself into quite the woman in the sport. First off, she moved out to Moab, Utah to take regular advantage of the accessibility and variety of BASE spots. Second, she’s taken on coaches to work specifically on her aerials, using all of the training tips and equipment professional divers do in order to perfect all the flippy, spinny, twirly shit these crazy fuckers do now. Third, she’s gotten herself back into a proper rig in order to practice flying a wingsuit, which I can only imagine is training for more shit she plans on doing that is gonna make me cringe, and has on the whole embraced a world which I as an old tandem dog can only pretend to imagine. This year alone she became part of the women’s world record BASE jump in September, only to then head off with a bunch of other jumpers to jump the Tower in Kuala Lumpur, cliffs in Borneo, Malaysia and Thailand with a few friends of mine out of NorCal.

On top of all of that, she’s managed to secure sponsorship through more than a few hardcore companies because of all her antics, including Five Ten, Mountain Hardware, Joby, and Antigravity BASE just to name a few. Oh, did I forget to mention that she decided that since she lived in Moab, that she might as well become a tough little rock climber and slack liner?

The truth of the matter is, Jill has turned herself into an honest to goodness fucking badass. Funny thing is, she’s not the only one! As I see it from my particular vantage point, our sport is yet again taking a turn toward the extreme. No longer is being a great freeflier or even a great swooper that extreme anymore. Not when you put that 15-second swoop over the pond up against the sick terrain flying over miles and miles of lines that most wouldn’t dare to fly with a model airplane. Wingsuits around the clouds don’t really compare to watching a birdman’s shadow less than a foot below him (or her) as they carve down a ridge with almost no outs…

These days, when you tell an average Joe that you’re a skydiver, they’re apt to look at you and ask, “You just jump out of planes?

Photo by Abu Belalang of Jill Kuzman | "Aerial Ink" by Dean Ricci | blueskiesmag.com

photo by Abu Belalang

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