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We all know skydiving is a small sport. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean small in the sense that it’s not incredible, visible (thanks to social media), and instantly recognizable to jumper and non-jumper alike, I mean it’s a really fucking small community.
There’s pretty much no doubt that if you’ve been in the sport for more than a year and stayed pretty active, even if it’s only at your home DZ, you’ve met quite a few people. If you’re one of the 30 or so thousand people who have made skydiving their lives, then chances are there isn’t a DZ in the world you can go to where you won’t at least know someone who knows someone you know. If you’ve been in it as long as I have, chances are you’ll know a whole lot of somebodies who know pretty much EVERYONE. In skydiving it’s not six degrees of separation—more like two at the most.
Hanging out for the summer in one of the most remote places I’ve called home (two-plus months of vacation in the same spot makes it home to me!), especially one that has absolutely no skydiving whatsoever, you’d think the odds of running into people from our world would drop dramatically. Funny thing though …
Sitting down for a tasty lunch at a little shack of a place with my face buried in a book, and a pair of chopsticks shoveling amazing food into my mouth, I wasn’t really paying too much attention when I heard a voice that seemed to be aimed in my general direction. Now, as a bit of an asshole, I tend to not pay much mind to random strangers even if they are talking to me, but as I looked up from the words scrolled across my iPad, one of a group of three people was clearly talking to me—and asking a question about a very special possession of mine which I had acquired while working for Skydive Fiji way back in the day. It’s a classic hook design made out of whale bone that I was told by my new acquaintance was probably made by an artist out of New Zealand who had become more than a bit famous for his work. The piece itself was very precious to me, as I’d gotten it as a gift to myself for overcoming my crippling fear of sharks when I went open water diving with a whole lot of really fucking big ones, and it intrigued me that he’d known exactly who’d made it.
As the conversation continued, I was asked by another of their group what it was I did for a living, and fuck me, it turned out two of the three of them were not only pilots, but one of them, Tai, was a previous jump pilot, and a skydiver as well! He’d spent a whole lot of time in the sport, and had even been on a ride-along with my chief pilot—in Dubai, of all places! Of all the random places to meet not just a couple of pilots, but jump pilots who’ve actually been in the planes I fly every fucking day …
Now Tai and his buddy had taken aviation in a slightly different direction; he ended up doing the hardcore bush thing in Papua New Guinea, but the odds still seemed pretty crazy that our paths should cross in a beach town in Bali. Now normally, even such a cool random meeting as this wouldn’t necessarily prompt me to sit and write about it, if it weren’t for the fact that only a week or so before, an even more random meeting hadn’t occurred …
Same town, bellied up to happy hour at a bar less than a mile away from where I would eventually meet Tai, I sat with one of my great friends Junior, having a chat about whatever the fuck we’d gotten up to that day. As it usually does with us jumpers, the conversation eventually turned to something skydiving related, which just so happened to be overheard by an attractive lady sitting just across from us. Clearly she wasn’t the shy type, because as soon as she heard us talk about jumping, she chimed in …
“I made a bunch of jumps! Like 15 years ago I went all the way through my AFF program and even managed to get my license! I haven’t jumped in years though …”
She went on to tell us they were some of the best memories she had from that time in her life, and that the jumps, the environment and even the people were just so wonderful that she’d never forget it. She asked where we were here from, what type of work we were doing in Dubai, etc. … Then she asked where the jumping had started for each of us …
Before I could even get the word “Vegas” out of my mouth, she completely lost her shit!
“Oh my GOD! Holy … Your name isn’t Dean, is it??? Holy shit! You worked with a guy named Derick in Las Vegas didn’t you!! FUCK! You taught me how to skydive!”
“Seriously??” I replied. I mean I’ve bumped into previous students at other drop zones who I hadn’t remembered, but this was a whole new experience! It turned out that I had in fact been one of her tandem and then AFF instructors who helped bring her into our world. Such a cool, random and fun meeting I thought, even though I couldn’t actually remember her specifically. I’m sure most instructors will agree how gratifying it can be to run into a previous student, remembered or not, who tells you what a positive impression you made in their lives … But as it happens, the story turned out to be just a bit more in-depth than I knew.
She went through all of the twists and turns that had been her course in Las Vegas, and how much fun she’d had, mostly because of Derick and me. About how excited she’d been when she’d jumped the first time on her own, the landings, the freefall, the adrenaline, and the amazing celebration party we’d had after she graduated!
“Wait, we had a party for your AFF graduation? Really? It’s not ringing a bell to be honest. Did we hit a club or something like that?” (I was surprised simply because we never really did much outside the DZ with proper students—except the tandem ones of course, ‘cause c’mon, that’s what they’re there for!)
“Well yeah we sure did. The whole crew was out for a while, dancing and having a blast. It was a really great time! Although I’m a little surprised YOU don’t remember, considering you and I ended up fucking our brains out most of the night!”
Whoops. Small fucking world indeed!
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