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. While skydiving will be a common theme, the greater goal is to acquaint you with the interviewee as they are on and off the DZ.
Today I present to you Annaliese Peterson. Annie has a world class skydiving pedigree, drive and ambition in her personal life—and let’s not forget about that million dollar smile.
Zach: Name, rank and serial number?
Annie: Name, Annaliese Karin Peterson. Rank, I am number one in my grandpa’s eyes! Serial number, I have an affinity for binary code, so I think I would have to use 0s and 1s. I’m thinking something along the lines of 0101. I have no clue what that means, but it sounds cool! [Before you Google, 0101 is…5.]
Tell me about your day job; what are you doing these days to bring home the bacon?
I work for an aerospace company. I am part of a purchasing group, but I am really involved in strategic sourcing, marketing and strategy development.
It is not easy to work through all the personalities and dynamics of a skydiving team, and you have been on several very successful teams; do any of the skills or experiences from your team days help you be successful in your career?
For sure! I have benefited from the good and maybe more importantly the difficult experiences from those days. Those difficult times forced me to grow up and learn a lot. I would say that I wouldn’t have had the great experiences or success in my career had it not been for my experiences on teams. I don’t think it is always having the perfect mix of people to have a successful team; it’s having people who can fight and work through the hard stuff and still make it despite all of those challenges.
If we went snooping through your iPod, would we find any guilty pleasure songs on your playlist?
Oh no! I have a lot of guilty pleasure songs in my playlist. I must admit that I like “Gangnam Style.”
If you could only listen to one band, who would it be?
The things that inspire us do our first jumps are typically very different from what keeps us jumping over the years. Can you explain what has kept you in the sky for so long?
On my 91st jump I broke my arm. That was a pivotal point for me and a time where I had to decide if I wanted to continue a fun sport that was really great, or not. The obvious choice was no; I had just gone through a massive surgery on my arm and gone through a lot of trauma. Then I realized that I could probably live without the jumping, but there were so many people that I met jumping that I felt like I would be letting them down if I walked away. I would be letting myself down if I gave up. I realized that I would be missing out not just on the experience of jumping, but on the experiences with those people in the community. It was by far the hardest choice that I have made, and that is why I started jumping again. That’s still why I jump.
If you could only keep one possession, what would it be?
Oh that’s not easy! I’m torn, but I’d probably have to say a good bra. Otherwise my cowboy boots. I know most people would say their rig, or maybe a car, but if I could only have one thing it would have to be a good bra.
Best DZ food?
A Bent Prop Burger! It has green chiles on it, and it is spicy and delicious.
What is your drink of choice?
Red wine or Champagne. I love Champagne.
Now that we have touched on burgers and booze, let’s talk fitness! To compete at the world level, how important is physical fitness?
I think fitness is an absolute necessity to be a top caliber athlete in skydiving. Both mental and physical fitness are critical. Of course, I think you have to have a focus of core, cardio, weights and overall strength and stamina. I also think that mental fitness, including the visualizing, awareness and anticipation are fundamental building blocks for success.
Teacher’s pet or class clown? Teacher’s pet
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Physical strength or mental fortitude? Tie
Run or cycle? Cycle
Mac or PC? Mac
Butter or margarine? Butter
Sing or dance? Dance
Love or passion? Passion
Movie or book? Book
Hot or cold? Hot
Beach or mountains? Mountains
Vodka or whiskey? Vodka
Early bird or night owl? Both
Beauty or elegance? Elegance
Loyalty or ambition? Loyalty
Did you ever consider becoming a full-time skydiver? What might have influenced that decision?
Yes. It was after Dubai in January 2011 when Alpha Armada took second place and we had a smoking meet with a 20-point average. That was the best that a U.S. women’s team had done at that point and we seriously considered keeping the team together and going full-time. Timing, place in life, all that stuff has an influence and in the end there were some things that held us back.
I am fortunate enough to have spent some time around you over the past year or two, and if I had to define one thing that makes you “Annie,” it would be a combination of a wink and a smile. You have a world-class skydiving resume, and are one of the most approachable people on the drop zone. Explain the wink and smile philosophy.
The smile I can explain because I am typically a happy person and happy to be at the drop zone seeing other people enjoying themselves and living life. The wink is on a subconscious level, and honestly I don’t even realize I do it.
Over the next few years, what goals are on the top of your list?
After eight years of competition, I decided it would be a good idea to give myself a big challenge and painful task of getting my MBA. I start in August and hope to graduate in May 2015 from Southern Methodist University. I am scared and intimidated, but it is good because I think when you are scared it means that you are pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. The benefits of getting outside of your comfort zone are that you grow, you figure out what you are capable of, and you gain new perspectives.
What makes your heart race?
Meaningful moments. What gets my heart going is when I see good things happen for people who need it.
Do you have many regrets in life?
Sure, I could have regrets. Instead I choose to look at them as growth opportunities, and hopefully something that can help me be better and stronger. It is only a regret if you can’t learn from it.
You have achieved significant accomplishments in skydiving; what is next on your list?
I like telling people that I am retired from 4-way, just because it is really fun to be in my early 30s and tell people I am retired. Truthfully I want to stay connected to 4-way, but I really want to become a badass freeflyer! That would be going back to my roots and the original reason that I started jumping.
When you first started jumping, were you a natural or did you struggle?
The thing I struggled with the most was canopy piloting. I kick myself because landing a canopy is the same concept as landing an airplane, and of course I am around aerospace and airplanes all day long for work. Speed is your friend when it comes to landing, and as a young skydiver it was really hard to grasp the concept of being comfortable with speed to help my flare and make my landing better. I would always try to slow down, thinking that it feels good to fly slower so this must be a good thing for landing. That was completely the opposite of what I needed to be doing. Finally, when I embraced speed, my landings just got better and better.
I do regret not getting coaching earlier. One of my good friends and I spent a 3-day weekend with Jonathan Tagle just getting canopy piloting instruction. I spent three days doing 90-degree turns [to final] after I had 3,000 jumps! Everyone kept asking me why I was just doing 90s, but if I couldn’t maximize my canopy with a 90, why should I be doing a bigger turn? It was brilliant. I learned so much about piloting, my canopy and how it flew. It was very empowering.
What do you suck at?
Not taking things personally. Sometimes I take everything personally, whether I should or not.
When you are not jumping, what do you do for entertainment?
I think it is usually more about entertaining others, and usually involves a bottle of wine!
What are the three most important things in your life?
Health, family and friends.
Tell me about your vacation if you could go anywhere with all expenses paid for two weeks.
I want to hike the foothills of the Himalayas beginning in Nepal.
What are the best and worst things about being a female skydiver?
The best thing is that it has a really great ratio of guys to girls! I don’t know that there is a worst thing. I’m pretty happy about being a girl and skydiving.
Do you have any tips for boys around lady skydivers?
Invite them to go jump, and then buy them a beer afterward. Preferably a Shock Top or Blue Moon.
Are you the only flying Peterson?
No, my dad also skydives and my brother has done a tandem. Dad was kind enough to sponsor me for my first 500 jumps and two rigs. He finally jumped and wanted to know why I didn’t tell him how much fun it was! I told him that I wanted to keep getting sponsored; so that was the end of my first sponsorship and the beginning of my father’s skydiving career!
Tell me something that most people don’t know about Annie.
I’m from North Dakota. And I cry a lot, including in freefall.
How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a bold, fighting spirit.
Favorite thing to eat?
I’m torn! I would have to say either a really lovely molé on top of chicken when I am in Mexico, or any French food.
In Mexico? Do you speak Spanish?
Yes, I speak Spanish fluently. I spend most of my time at work around French people speaking English with a French accent. Somehow when I am speaking Spanish in Mexico, it is with a French accent. So it is the American speaking Spanish with a French accent; it is really confusing for everyone!
What is the worst thing about skydiving?
Sometimes we get stuck in the small world that we live in and have trouble seeing the big picture.
Final question, and a challenge to your bravery! People often say that beauty is distorted and manipulated by everything from makeup to Photoshop. I contend that with real beauty, everything else is just an accessory. What would you say if I told you I wanted to submit a picture of you without any makeup, straight off the camera with no airbrush, healing tools, filters, actions, lighting corrections or other adjustments?
I’d say go for it!
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