Jumpers, help mental health professionals treat our brand of crazy!


Erin Wenzel is a Seattle skydiver and a graduate student at Antioch University researching mental health counseling and adventure sports. She probably would never actually use the word “crazy” in a professional setting, but I will. The purpose of her current project is to help mental health counselors have a better understanding of the adventure sport community, ultimately leading to better services.

First step is for all of us adventure athletes to take her survey: www.surveymonkey.com/s/adventuresport. It’s quick, painless, and actually kind of a good tool to reflect on personal experiences.d

Look for the results and a write-up from Erin in Blue Skies Mag later this year!

Reader question: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen jumping?


Answers to our monthly reader questions are published in The FlyBy section of Blue Skies Mag. The September question is:

What is the single most beautiful scene, landscape, imagery or sight you’ve seen while skydiving or BASE jumping?

Could be on the ground but I’m going to guess most of your answers will be a sight from the air. Mine was a light-contact high pull at Titusville with Kolla, Justin Carmody, Ward Hessig, Isaiah McCauliffe and Grant (I’m sure Grant has a last name but I cannot remember it) way back in 2005. I was at a way lower wing loading than everyone else so I had floated back away from everyone. My inability to keep up was a blessing in disguise; the sight of them all together under colorful canopies, against this perfect Florida sky with the sun breaking through the clouds like a spotlight from heaven … I almost cried and told myself to mentally take a photo because this – this friendship and beauty and open sky – was what I wanted my life to be about. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and by far the most beautiful jumping.

So what’s your take-my-breath away sight that you’ll remember the rest of your days?

Answer here in the comments or email me, lara@blueskiesmag.com, with your name as you want it printed in the mag. Responses may be edited for clarity and/or length.

What happens when you talk openly about suicide prevention


12 August: By tragic coincidence, this post was published before it was announced that Robin Williams had killed himself yesterday. Hearing of the unexpected death of someone can often trigger painful memories or emotions. If you are going through a difficult time, you are NOT alone. There is HELP. There is HOPE. If you or someone you know is struggling please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ’1-800-273-TALK (8255)’.

Disclaimer: I read a lot of Buzzfeed.
Last week I posted about my suicide prevention fundraiser. Some things happened as a result; these things just might happen to you too if you talk openly about suicide and suicide prevention:

  • You feel like people might think you’re kind of a downer.
  • You know you’re not a downer, in the same way you know you don’t have a death wish because you like to skydive.
  • You discover people passionate about the same cause, like LaNaya Bonogofsky, who will join me raising money for suicide prevention in Wisconsin while I run in California.
  • Totally fun things happen, like Skydive Orange’s annual 50/50 horseshoe tournament, where the winner gets 1/2 of the prize money and the other 1/2 goes to a charity — this year to suicide prevention!
    • Total aside: Skydive Orange’s annual boogies are pretty epic. They routinely get voted “Best Nudity” in our annual DZ Awards voting, if you needed any convincing. This year they’re calling it the Big “O”range Boogie, with the theme “Latex, Leather, Fur or Feather” for their traditional costume party/contest, with a tailgate a/c, organizers Taya Weiss (wingsuit), Ryan Risberg (freefly & angle), Nathan Smith (freefly & angle), Lawrence De Laubadere (freefly, angle & wingsuit), Doug Barron (RW), Jim Smith (RW).
      The Big "O"range Boogie
      If you can be anywhere near central Virginia Aug. 15-17, you should definitely go. LINKS: Facebook event page & website details page.
  • People tell you about the demons they’ve fought – and defeated!
  • People tell you about the demons their loved ones fought — and lost to.
  • No one decides to go ahead with killing themselves just because you said the “S” word out loud.
  • You’re not put on the naughty list by St. Peter. Not for this, anyway — you might be on it for something else though, it’s a tough call.
  • You won’t feel like killing yourself — in fact, quite the opposite.
  • It won’t bring back anyone who’s already committed suicide.

OK, the last one is a bit of a downer, I’ll admit. It also serves as motivation to keep talking about it in the hopes that talking will help prevent future suicides.

You don’t have to go around screaming, “Don’t kill yourself!” or “I used to be suicidal but I’m not anymore ask me how!!!1″ but just be open and honest with your friends and family. There’s no shame in admitting you need help, or you got help in the past, or you are available to give help now.

If you do need immediate help and don’t have someone close by to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). And we’re all here too – let’s keep talking.

i56: The Getaway

i56: August 2014 | Justin Russell and Brandon Chouinard doing a sunset freefly “dance off” during The Revolution Boogie held at Skydive Dallas. Photo by Randy Swallows • randyswallows.com.

This is the 56th issue of Blue Skies Magazine. Wow. It will mail this week, so you probably do not have it yet. Sit tight and bake your mail carrier brownies (the good kind if you’re in Washington or Colorado, the double fudge kind anywhere else) — if you don’t have your August mag by September 1, please email Kolla@blueskiesmag.com so we can get you sorted.

i56: August 2014 | Justin Russell and Brandon Chouinard doing a sunset freefly “dance off” during The Revolution Boogie held at Skydive Dallas. Photo by Randy Swallows • randyswallows.com.

i56: August 2014 | Justin Russell and Brandon Chouinard doing a sunset freefly “dance off” during The Revolution Boogie held at Skydive Dallas. Photo by Randy Swallows • randyswallows.com.

On the cover: “The Getaway” by Douggs, basedreams.com. The story behind this video:

In The FlyBy:

  • Your monthly favs, “Take it DZ” comics by Nadene at Adventure Creative, Reader Question & tit4tat‘s monthly contribution.
  • Routine Exit Turns into Anything But” by Anthony Rocco, a tale of two skydivers who got away with a sketchy tailgate exit, plus Skydive Arizona‘s safety guru Bryan Burke’s insights on the incident.
  • LKXA Extreme Barcelona International Action Sports Cup” by Mike Carpenter, volare-freefly.com.
  • David Winland doesn’t just tattoo cool shit, he golfs and writes about it, too, in “Paragolf!”

Amy Chmelecki tells us how, in “RBAF over NYC,” the Red Bull Air Force got away with this stunt and a half:

Art Shaffer and Christina Arango take you to the beaches of Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in “D-Day + 70.”

This month’s SkyCouple is Frank and Aleth Matrone, interviewed by the awesome Eli Godwin.

Katie Peterson introduces you to Laura Dawson, an artist who creates skydiving-themed glass pieces, in “Perfectly Good Glass.” Laura also has the distinction of being married to Jeff Dawson, our favorite naked skydiver!

James LaBarrie, amazethecustomer.com, writes to the DZ management crowd, but we hope fun jumpers enjoy reading about the mechanics of a winning skydiving business too. This month, “Connect, Inspire … Win” is all about how DZ staff – and even individual fun jumpers – connecting with new customers makes good business sense. So if you like your DZ and want to keep jumping there, you can help them stay in business by connecting with and welcoming the new tandem student customers!

Sydney Owen Williams wants you to “Make a List and Check It Twice” to keep yourself alive amongst idiots in the sky. She says it a lot nicer and more eloquently, of course.

4-way and competition fans, Kurt Gaebel, NSL, has you covered in his Turning Points column. This month, “4-Way History in Jeopardy.” Airspeed going home empty-handed from the Czech Republic? Le gasp!

The Fuckin’ Pilot hands you some “Fuckin’ Tandem Humor” if you’ve run out of jokes to tell your students.

Wax the Booty!” Melanie Curtis Grillet, highcomms.com, started the DZ Dance Off Challenge, aka the greatest thing since sliced dancing.

SkyGod rants.

We hope you like this issue! If you have any feedback, letters to the editor, comments, concerns, news or jokes, email me, lara@blueskiesmag.com, or submit it all online.

Let’s talk about suicide


Happy Monday, Blue Skies Mag-ers! It is me, your editor Lara, here to ask you to help me help others*. I’m running the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and if you want to, you can donate to my campaign here: afsp.donordrive.com/participant/lara.

You can donate directly to AFSP too, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with me: www.afsp.org/get-involved/make-a-donation

I signed up back in February to help this charity for a lot of reasons. I’ve had suicidal thoughts myself. Some close friends have been touched by suicide. I volunteer with kid’s grief groups and a lot of them have lost parents and family to suicide. As my training for the race has ramped up, I’ve sort of lost sight of why I’m running it. Steve’s death last week at Skydive San Diego brought it back into sharp focus though.

My primary goal isn’t the money, although that will certainly help AFSP. I want to talk about suicide prevention and mental health. I want people to know that AFSP exists. I want to show people that you can be a happy person, running through Disneyland, and still talk about suicide prevention.

We got these cool jerseys to wear during the race. Here I am wearing it on the treadmill at Planet Purple where it is roughly 119 degrees:

Got my @AFSP_SoCal jersey for Disneyland 1/2! Check out my fundraising page at http://afsp.donordrive.com/participant/lara #TeamAFSP #SuicidePrevention

And there is space on the back for us to write who we’re running for, or a message:

New #TeamAFSP jerseys are going out in the mail to our #DisneyHalf #Disney10K + #DumboDouble runners! Can't wait to run!! #AFSP #suicideprevention @afspnational

If you have someone you’d like me to run in honor of, please let me know! Either here in the comments or at lara@blueskiesmag.com.

Other ways to help:

  • Get involved with AFSP: www.afsp.org/get-involved
  • Erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide by talking about it. Share your stories and struggles and listen to others without judgment.
  • Ask for help. From your friends, family, mental health professionals, coaches, teachers, anyone. Don’t be ashamed if you’re having a hard time. There are more people who care without judgment than there are people who will think less of you for it.
  • Give help. Really listen when you ask people how they’re doing. Avoid saying things like, “You have so much to live for,” or “Think about how this will hurt your family.” Instead, show concern and compassion by saying, “Things must really be awful for you to be feeling that way.” Let them know you are there to listen.

* I cannot stress how much I avoid asking people for help. Everyone is raising money for worthwhile charities, and I don’t want to bother people so I haven’t used this here platform to solicit for my particular one. But screw it, it’s our platform and at this point I’m just shortchanging my selected charity by not using it, right?