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It wasn’t exactly a different sport back then, but it was a different time. Circa ’96/’97 and I was still pretty damn new to the sport. With a few hundred jumps under my belt, I—and most of the Vegas gang I was jumping with—was trying to find where I fit in skydiving.
I’d started shooting video practically during AFF (‘cause nobody gave much of a fuck back then), and because I was jumping for an operation called Outlaw Skydiving (that really only cared if I showed up when I said I would and got at least one shot of the tandem) I was able to fly camera long, long before I should have. That meant I ended up on a lot of jumps that a guy with my experience should have been left off. (Of those, a particularly interesting one was a bandit tandem out of a King Air from 27,000 feet with no O2 and no transponder … I wasn’t the pilot, so fuck it! But that is for another article.)
The guy who gets credit for me giving the camera a shot is Kevin Love, who as it turned out, ended up being a partner in crime for a lot of the idiotic jumps I did back then. Truth be told, more than half of them were his idea!
We managed to try just about anything we thought up—most of which were completely shit ideas. Trying to get shots of Kevin sipping a full can of Mountain Dew he opened in freefall worked out just about as you’d expect. A 2-way over the old Las Vegas Boulevard with Kevin in Roller Blades he intended to blaze down the road on after cutting away from a massive swoop (massive for a Stiletto 135) wasn’t nearly as impressive as we had hoped. One idea (that luckily, we didn’t get around to trying) was to run a length of climbing rope off the tail of a 206 and see if we could manage to get “towed” by it …
Here’s the thing though—a lot of the time, the most ridiculous ideas turn out to be the most amazing. Take something like skysurfing. When it got started, it was literally just as crazy as trying to play kite behind a 206, but with proper research, engineering and what I’m sure had to be many shit designs before success, skysurfing turned out to be the first truly mainstream introduction of skydiving to most people as it took to the sky with X Games fame.
Wingsuits were an idea that had been around for years and years, but with only a few notable film exceptions, nothing really ever came of them until a French guy managed to actually start making it work. Patrick de Gayardon, who was at the forefront of skysurfing, was also at the very cutting edge of what can now only be considered the wingsuit revolution that’s in full effect today.
Just ask Bill “Lord of the Three Rings” Booth! The fact is, if it wasn’t for that particularly interesting idea, the modern sport of skydiving simply wouldn’t exist. Skydiving in its current form also wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for names like Ted Strong and Booth, who managed to bring freefall to a mass of people that would clearly never otherwise have taken the leap. Myself absolutely being one of those people.
Of course, with the successes are an absolute shitload of failures as well, but that’s to be expected really. Fortunately, most of the shit ideas are a lot like Kevin’s and mine. They never actually manage to make it out of the trailer, but the ones that do work … Well, damn!
When an idea pops into your head, let it rattle around a bit. Don’t be too quick to dismiss something because it seems a bit outlandish or borderline nuts. Think it through. Run it past friends. See what they think, and maybe peruse it a little further. You just may end up being the gal or guy who comes up with the next “CYPRES” level idea, and not only manage to toss some serious dockets in your pocket, but perhaps save a life or two along the way …