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DR. SWATI VARSHNEY

1) What made you decide to start skydiving?
I did a tandem skydive for fun. After I jumped out of the plane, I felt a sense of stillness wash over me as I hurtled toward the earth. My brain always runs in hyperdrive, and this was the first time I truly felt ‘in the moment’ while everything else melted away. I was immediately hooked on that feeling, and kept on skydiving to chase it.  

2) How long have you been a skydiver?
8 years.

3) How many jumps do you have?
550 skydives.

4) What container and parachute are you currently jumping? What was your progression?
I have a Mirage G4 container and Pilot 117 main canopy. My first canopy off of rental gear was a Triathlon 150 that I had for 100 jumps, then a Triathlon 135 for another 150 jumps. I've flown my Pilot 117 for the past four years and 250 jumps.

5) Do you have any cutaways? How many?
*knock on wood*

6) What type of skydiving do you enjoy (RW, big way, crew, FF, swooping, etc.)?
Freeflying.

7) What’s your home drop zone?
My current home dropzone is Skydive Orange in Virginia. I’ve moved around a lot during my skydiving career and like to travel, so you might find me at tunnel and skydiving events all over the country.

8) Do you come from an outdoor family? What does your family think of your decision to start skydiving?
My parents weren't thrilled when I started skydiving. After they were reassured that safety was my #1 priority, and that skydiving was indeed #2 to school and my career, they were more amenable to the idea. Now, they are supportive and appreciate that it makes me so happy.

9) Have you participated in any record jumps? If so what were they?
No.

10) What do you like best about skydiving?
I love that there's always something new to learn in skydiving, whether it's a more advanced skill, a different way to fly, or a loftier goal to achieve. Skydiving will never bore me. Even the best flyers feel like they're still learning as the sport constantly evolves. I also love that skydiving makes me use my brain and body together; it's a great physical outlet for my mental energy.

11) Why does Team Blackstar mean to you?
Representation Matters. Because of Team Blackstar, I see diversity in extreme sports in my news feeds. I didn’t realize how important that was until I had it. Team Blackstar shows me that I can do this sport – anyone can do this sport – and it doesn't just have to be about the demographic(s) that sponsored athletes belong to. I am not an outsider to skydiving, nor should I feel like one. As a result, I am learning to celebrate my individuality as an integral part of my pursuit of shredding the gnar.

12) What is the most challenging thing you’ve ever done as a skydiver? What was the scariest?
So far, my biggest challenge was competing in Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS). I always thought I couldn't compete because I wasn't a super ninja flyer. Then I realized I didn't need to be, because there are competitions in many disciplines at every skill level. It was a hard decision to put learning head-down on the backburner this past year while I focused back- and sit-flying for 2-way VFS Intermediate for US Indoor Nationals. Sometimes I felt like I was stunting my own progress to chase a side goal. I realized, though, that I'm a much stronger freeflyer now because of VFS training, which will make learning new skills so much easier in the future.

The scariest thing is all the ill-fitting student gear and rental equipment that my instructors put me in. I can hardly believe I jumped out of an airplane with it on! Part of me is glad I didn't know any better at the time, otherwise I probably wouldn't be a skydiver today. I'm beyond happy to have safe gear that fits me now


 


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