How did you get into skydiving? I did my first tandem for a friend's bachelor party. He is very traditional Muslim—so no partying/drinking—but we still wanted to have an activity that would piss off his wife. :). I did it once, fell in love, and never looked back. I told one of the instructors that I'd be back in a year. I wasn't kidding: I saved up money for a year, and started Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) a year and one month after my first tandem. Since I started skydiving I've been incredibly blessed with opportunities and experiences; something I will forever be thankful for. I was fortunate enough to have awesome instructors and mentors in multiple disciplines that opened my eyes to all that was in skydiving, and gave me an appreciation for all the aspects of the sport. I'll never be able to pay back or forward all that has been given to me, but I'm going to give it my all!
What made you stick with it? The people and the challenge. Its a cool feeling being able to travel anywhere in the country, walk into a DZ, and have a "crew". And with how fast the sport is evolving, and all the different disciplines you'll always have something new to learn and try. Skydiving has also provided a way to get my competitive fix—so many avenues in which to push myself!
Which skydiving discipline do you like best and why? Canopy piloting, in all it's forms: swooping, CRW, flocking, XRW, just going for rips...it's always a good time. I would seriously consider giving up free fall for high pulls if it ever came to that decision. I have a huge respect for the thought and engineering that goes into the design and production of canopies, what has come before my time, and what is coming on the horizon. Growing up with a fanatical obsession with aviation definitely plays a part in the canopy piloting love. Swooping, XRW, and formation flocks are like the parachute version of the Blue Angels. I didn't know about skydiving until maybe high school - but it was ALWAYS a fan of aviation. If it flew, I was into it. So once I discovered skydiving I knew I would jump one day. It was just a matter of time and money.
How did you experience the Outdoors as a child? Through sports! Growing up, I was all about athletics, and reading. I had (and still have) a huge drive to learn new things, or figure activities out, so every sport I came across I wanted to sign up for. Reading played a huge part in that as well; my family was thankfully incredibly supportive of exercising both body and mind. The combination of both theory and hands on approach has been invaluable to problem solving and discovery. My family wasn't outdoorsy in the traditional sense—camping, hiking, wilderness aspect but they were all about being active and spending time outdoors. Even just going to the park and running around. Getting dirty, sweaty, physical, and being comfortable with it was a huge lesson I learned and value to this day. To clarify, my family was always open to camping and those things, but there's only so much time in a day, and my hyperactive self was busy playing every sport I could. Oh, I should add that my father's mid-life adventure was learning hang gliding—one of the most dangerous adventure sports there is! Other than that, I'm really the only crazy one.
How do you keep your sport relevant to your family and community? Do they come out to watch you jump? My family is super supportive of my jumping. Seven years into it,I still get a lot of "be safe" talks. My father has wanted to jump for a while now, but he works like a madman and schedules just haven't worked out so far. My mother was only able to come out to the drop-zone once due to her health, but I always shared videos and photos with her. She even got a couple of them framed for her wall. After my mom passed away I jumped her ashes, and a bunch of my family came out to see the event from the ground. It was a really special day.
What motivates you as a professional skydiver? The education and experience aspect. As a Tandem Instructor and skydiving videographer, I get the honor of reliving my first skydive through sharing something near and dear to me with complete strangers who are jumping for the very first time. I enjoy teaching them about the sport, creating a memorable experience and showing them that it isn't this death-defying magic backpack adrenaline fueled risk the way it's often portrayed in the media or on tv. It's an incredible feeling to have a tandem student put so much trust in you, be scared out of their minds, but land feeling on top of the world and ready to jump again! Can't beat it. As an Accelerated Freefall Instructor and coach, I take that feeling and multiply it! There's something about seeing the joy from a student that stood up their landing for the first time, or the first time they're able to hold head down the entire skydive. Those moments really make everything worth while.
How many jumps do you have? Just over 3000
What are your USPA ratings? AFF, Tandem, Coach
How many states have you traveled to as a skydiver? I've jumped in 11 states. I've never left the country, however it's a big goal for me and is in the works for 2018 :).
What are your goals for skydiving this year? Is this your first world record jump? What were the training camps like? Can you describe the process? 2018 is going to be insane. There's the World Record in August, the Sequential Record, Canopy and Freefall Nationals, Jumps for Jaclyn charity event, Florida Swoop league, my first time traveling to organize an event (SunPath Sequentials)...its' gonna be a crazy ride! I'll be participating in the Vertical World Record for the first time this year, which has always been a dream of mine. After a few life hurdles preventing me from attending the last time, I'm happy to have the opportunity to make it happen this time around. The training camps are amazing—so much knowledge and experience coming together to train and evaluate talent from all over the world. It blows my mind every time. It's always humbling to be in the presence of legends of the sport. Getting into the mindset to be smooth, calm, and direct can be hard when you are there to impress and have limited time to do so, but I found the best course of action is to just be yourself and confident in your flying. I'm always eager for feedback and learning points, so my biggest challenge was accepting that if you hear nothing back from the organizers and evaluators, you're probably doing alright. No news is good news, you'll get the talking points in your report cards.
How did your team do at Nationals last year? At freefall nationals in 2017 my team (Skydive California Super Serious) was 3rd place in MFS open—shout out to FliteShop and Revolutionary War for an awesome competition and holding down the podium! At Canopy Nationals (2017) I was 4th overall in advanced class, with a gold medal in the speed event.
What made you decide to try canopy piloting? Is it difficult to learn? Can you describe the progression? I've wanted to swoop since my videographer (the legendary Alex Cashman) included his landing in my first tandem video. Blew my mind. I knew that was what I wanted to do, and was lucky enough to have amazing canopy pilots as mentors to lay the path out for me from the beginning. It isn't difficult to learn at all, but you HAVE to take the proper steps to get there. The sport is unforgiving enough as it is, and swooping exponentially amplifies that. I feel like the sport is really starting to see that if you show people that canopy flight is fun and not just "what gets me to the ground after freefall" they will be safer and have more all-around confidence. We also now have incredible curriculum and instruction from teaching organizations like Superior Flight Solutions (Greg Windmiller), Alter Ego (Curt and Jeannie Bartholomew), Flight-1 (Performance Designs), and others that can lay out the steps for smart and safe progression. Swooping incidents are WAY down, thanks to learning being more readily available. We are thankfully past the days of yanking a front riser at 500 ft and seeing what happens. I've taken about 15 formal canopy courses in 7 years;12 of which were AFTER I started swooping. That doesn't include countless one-on-one sessions with local coaches, and invaluable feedback from people just watching my landings.
If I had one piece of advice for people who are interested in swooping, it would be to take your time. Rushing can get you seriously hurt, or worse. If people around you are saying "slow down", it's probably for a reason. I've had that talk with many new swoopers before. Don't take it as a "STOP, you aren't allowed" but as an invitation to re-evaluate your path to your goals. I've seen first hand the ultimate penalties for pushing swooping too far, and it's why I take safety and progression so seriously. We don't want to keep you from swooping, we just want you to be safe and have a long career sending sick downwinders, haha.
Why do you jump? I've always been a competitor, and the nature of this continuously evolving sport has allowed me to pushing the limits, push myself, and be the best flyer and canopy pilot that I can be. I'll be learning and challenging myself my whole career, and I know I'll always have a goal to chase. Skydiving has also provided HUGE mental benefits for me. I suffered from severe depression during and after college, and skydiving provided a lesson in mental fortitude for me that I will always be thankful for. To be honest and open, I even had thoughts of ending my own life at multiple points during the worst lows in college. To go from that mindset to actively choosing life each and every skydive has taught me that I can overcome anything, and the dichotomy of my experiences blessed me with a unique outlook to many things in life outside the sport.
What has your experience been like as a Person of Color in an adventure sport that is primarily White? It has really provided me an opportunity to be an ambassador. Being mixed race, I've never truly lived in one "box", though I've often been placed in one because of how I look. I won't lie and say I've never had a negative experience regarding race in skydiving, but I truly think that most of them are out of ignorance and not malicious. You (usually) can't fault someone for not knowing something if life hasn't taught them that lesson yet. My personal belief is that overall, skydivers are a unique and good group of people, so when someone says or does something negative I try to make that situation one of learning. I also really try to bring attention to race in the sport by using humor - I mean I jump with "Sexual Chocolate" stickers and embroidery on my equipment and people always get a laugh out it. I really think that those laughs help bring awareness. Just the physical presence of people of color in the sport is positive, even at the small percentage numbers we exist in now. We have all heard it - "Black people don't skydive". I even get told that by my Black tandem students. I hope that by seeing myself and others around the dropzone, we are helping break that wall down.
How often do you get to jump with other Black skydivers? In northern CA it's pretty rare - I was actually the only black male sport jumper in NorCal for some time. However we do have a decent community of other minorities in the sport. Shout outs to all the brown people, lady-shredders, and LGTBQ jumpers in NorCal! Out on the east coast there's a much much larger community. Big ups to Team Blackstar! I even got to go on a 6-way all black freefly jump last year at CarolinaFest. Blew my mind, and was a special experience for me.
What container, parachute, reserve and AAD do you jump?
Container : Javelin Odyssey RSK .5 - Shout out to team SunPath!! #poweredbySunPath
Main: Fluid Wings HK 71, PD Valkyrie 84
Reserve: PD Optimum 126, Smart LPV 120
AAD : Cypress Speed (x2)
How many cutaways have you had? Two sport, one tandem
What’s your typical skydiving outfit? Swoop shorts and a jersey, but for team training and bigway or sequential flying I wear jumpsuits. Dress for success!!
How fast are you falling head down or head up? Freeflying is normally around 170mph, give or take. I've messed around and flown high 200s before.
What has been your most memorable jump to date? My mother's ash dive. She was never healthy enough to skydive due to cancer complications, and when she heard about the skydiver tradition of ash dives, she requested for me to jump her ashes after she passed. It was a very emotional day, but such an incredible experience. Surrounded by many of my best friends in the sky, and family on the ground, we sent Mom off in a really special way. I'll always keep that skydive near and dear.
Have you ever supported or participated in Jump for the Rose? Can you talk a little about that? YES! Haven't been able to make the JFTR event yet, but I'm a proud owner of multiple pairs of the Velocity Sports jump for the rose risers. My mother passed away two years ago from breast cancer, so JFTR has always represented something special to me.
What’s the best beer to drink after a long day of slinging drogues? Guinness. Tall, dark, and have some.
What do you like to do outdoors when you’re not jumping? Ride my bike - always nice to get in the saddle and head out with no plan. I've also recently gotten into climbing, and will hopefully be able to take that outdoors once I get the skills up!
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