Half of the fun of these interviews for me is the logistical challenge of making them happen. You see, the key to this series is finding badasses, and badasses are somewhat nomadic and spread all over the country and all over the world. Getting paths to cross with enough time for a photo shoot can be a bit tricky and can take some time. This time around, it took about a year and a half from the first discussions to the first press of the shutter release.
I’d like to introduce you to an amazing lady with a long history of success in many different disciplines and sports. She’s proud to say she lands like a girl—and she can probably help you land like one too. As always, this series will focus on who she is and not so much on her skydiving resume. I am confident you will like who you meet. Ladies and gents, Maxine Tate!
Zach: You have a bit of a twang when you speak, is that an Oklahoma accent I detect?
Maxine: Ha! That’s a first. I am a little transatlantic; it is true. I’m British with a hint of Australian and an altered vocabulary so I can be understood when I speak here in the good old US of A. My British friends like a dig when they hear me use words like “gas” and “D-Zee” [as opposed to the British pronunciation, “D-Zed”].
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Once I give up trying to snooze, I hate to say it, but I pick up my phone. Is that bad? I pick up my phone, check out the time and the weather forecast for the day, then scroll through the facecrack and Instagram. I like seeing the inspiring images on Instagram to start the day.
What do you suck at?
I can’t throw a ball. It is really the most depressing thing for me. I’m pretty good at most sports, but I suck at throwing balls. Some would say I throw like a girl, but that phrase “like a girl” has a positive connotation for me. Unfortunately I throw like girls are perceived to throw balls, if you know what I mean (very badly). I can’t break that stereotype I’m afraid.
I hear you used to be pretty posh. Tell us a little about your days working and living in the U.K.
I do speak The Queen’s English; that is true. But I was just a working girl in the U.K., albeit in the corporate environment, working in the city. I am a Londoner and lived there for over 20 years. It is my playground where I grew up, and I love it there. I was a management consultant and the finance director for a group of companies in the media industry. I’m also a qualified CPA (or British equivalent). I’m certainly not “posh” in terms of heritage.
These days what do you do to pay the bills?
I make my money doing what I love, and for that I am grateful. I make money through skydiving as the chief operating officer and a canopy coach for Flight-1. That brings in enough bacon to keep me doing the things I want to do.
Explain “Brit Chick” to me.
Brit Chick is an identity. I feel like it is a badge of honor and I wear it on my sleeve literally. It is a collective name for British female skydivers and we use it with pride. It’s an identity that provides support and a sense of community, and it too has a very positive connotation for me.
As long as I have been in the sport, there has been a relatively common thought that female skydivers pick up freefall skills faster than the guys, but struggle more with the canopy flight. What are your thoughts on that? Is it total bullshit, or is there some truth in there?
I would break it down as follows: Freefall skills relate to body awareness, balance, coordination and symmetry. I think females are pretty strong in all of these areas. However it’s my experience that some women struggle with canopy flight, not because they lack the skill but because they lack the confidence to push beyond their comfort zone and develop that skill. I don’t think it’s a lack of skill as much as it is a lack of self-belief. The I-can-do-it attitude and overcoming those fears under canopy are a few of the areas I really concentrate on with the girls—it’s a journey of empowerment.
What is something that you like about the U.K. over the U.S., and vice versa?
I do miss the diversity of people we have in the U.K. Remember, I am a Londoner; we have people from all different walks of life in London and I love that. It makes for a very rich and rewarding life. In the U.S., people really seem to distinguish each other by their race, religion and by color. Racism exists in the U.K. as well, but there is a lot more tolerance there.
In terms of life in the U.S., I love the space. The U.K. is a small country with a lot of people. It is densely populated and the weather is not that great. What I feel when I get to the U.S. is a sense of freedom and the ability to truly breathe. That gives me a sense of well-being. I also admire the positivity that Americans have, and their zest for life. [Ed.: Sounds a lot like another Brit Chick Zach interviewed …]
Are you a picky eater?
No. I’m not picky but there are certain things I don’t eat because they don’t agree with me, such as pasta. Not picky by choice.
What type of music do you listen to?
I like all types of music, but I really like something with a good beat because I love to dance!
What is your cocktail of choice?
Grey Goose martini, dirty on the side with blue-cheese stuffed olives. I like the olive juice on the side because I want a little bit of dirty, but not too much.
What non-skydiving event has had the biggest impact on who you are?
The day I resigned from my corporate life.
Outside of skydiving, what do you do for fun?
I like to walk to the top of a mountain. Maybe it’s time to start jumping off them.
Tell us a little about the Peregrine. It is a little of a mystery canopy that not a whole lot of people know much about. The average person can’t buy it, and some folks have never even seen one. Tell us about it. What might people be interested to know about that wing?
It is definitely an ultra high-performance wing that should be treated with respect. It is powerful, fast, exciting and exhilarating to fly. It reminds me of a caged animal that wants to be let out to run havoc across the plains. You don’t want to leave it cramped up in a bag for long (packed); it likes to be free. Don’t look at it when you deploy, it’s at the top of the food chain so when you let it out the cage bow down and wait for it to tell you it’s ready for your attention. Then when you finally take the leash off (release the brakes) it surges forward out of stealth mode with incredible speed and energy, like it’s been shown the door for the first time and the hunt is on—I guess you could say like a Peregrine honing in on its target. It’s badass, and it can double as a dress in a pinch!
How does your family feel about you skydiving?
They are very proud and supportive of what I am doing. They are used to me doing crazy shit and then telling them after. I didn’t let them know I was skydiving until six months after I started.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a swooper.
I started to be really interested in canopy flight about six years ago. I had been competing for many years in 4-way and 8-way FS at a pretty decent level and I started to work on my canopy skills because I wanted to bring them to the same standard. I started to realize how much fun and how rewarding it was. The more I learned the more I enjoyed the challenge and embraced canopy flight in its own right.
If you could give one tip to every skydiver for canopy flight, what would it be?
Never stop learning—one canopy course in your entire skydiving career doesn’t cut it. Continue to develop your skills under canopy so you stay safe and current.
Were you a natural skydiver, or did you struggle?
I was pretty natural in freefall; I got the bug and was on a 4-way team within 100 jumps.
Were you a natural canopy pilot as well?
No not really, I think I was very average for a number of years until I did something about it. I think a lot of people don’t focus on learning skills under canopy. They think it will just come with time, and it doesn’t. We don’t have a tunnel for canopy flight. You only improve by having dedicated time under canopy. The more you work at something, the better you will get.
What is the favorite place you have traveled, other than my house?
Your garden! Especially when there is meat on the grill …
What do you think the next big leap in canopy piloting or canopy design will be?
I could tell you but I would have to kill you.
You already know!?!?!?
For canopy flight, yes. I know what it is, and it will be coming out soon. It is already happening, you just haven’t seen it yet (not barrel rolls). The lines between the different disciplines within skydiving are starting to blur in a good way. CP is mixing with other disciplines, and the concept of XRW is about to take a massive leap.
What is the best way to piss you off?
Be dishonest or disrespectful.
When you go back home after being in the U.S. for a while, is there anything that you say that would make your British friends cringe?
Oh! Everything! Yes—“Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!” That makes them laugh. The way I say “water” if I forget myself. To be honest, it is really the prolific use of the words “awesome” and “buddy.” It’s not really the cringe factor though, it just gives them an excuse to take the piss.
When you get back to London, what are the things you can’t wait to do?
Eat cheese! You have no idea how good the cheese is in Europe. The U.K. has some outstanding quality cheeses locally made and I miss it. I literally will go into the super market, go straight to the deli and buy a bunch of different cheeses to taste. And I try to squeeze in a cheeky Sunday roast at a nice country pub—lovely!
If you could spend a month, all expenses paid anywhere in the world, where would you go?
New Zealand. Best hiking in the world.
What makes your heart race?
You know what? Jumping out of a plane. Even after all these jumps. Every time I jump out of a plane I get that same feeling. Weeeeeeeee!
What is something that people would be surprised to know you do well?
I’ve won national championships in four different disciplines, three of which are skydiving and one which isn’t; I was a national champion in show jumping. I’ve been riding since I was 5, and I can hold my own on a horse.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to someone who is tall.
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla.
Speed or comfort? Speed.
Grace or brute force? Grace.
Barbecue or seafood? Seafood.
Spring or summer? Spring! Seriously, do you know what the Florida summers are like?
Car or motorcycle? Car. Car with the top down.
Salty or sweet? I love salt and sweet together. Salted caramel, one of the best things the U.S. has given to me!
Train or boat? Boat.
Run or cycle? Neither! Can we fly?
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