Today while answering calls at the DZ, I took a reservation for a couple in their mid-sixties who decided that for their 30th wedding anniversary, they would make a tandem skydive together. The gentleman proudly declared that he and his wife were going to cross this off their "Bucket List."
How perfect...a 'Bucket List'....defined as desires we wish to accomplish before we kick the proverbial bucket. Thank you to Hollywood for defining that thing we awkwardly called...."I have to do this before I die list."
The bucket list makes that easy to say and everyone knows what it means. It just shows the far-reaching effects of movies in our society and most specifically in our industry. Has there ever been more excitement about skydiving before or since the X-Games? I remember being in my teens and watching the most amazing footage of sky-surfers upside down and executing seemingly inhuman amounts of 360 turns. How did they not black out? Even though I wrote this madness off for 'crazy people', I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. The sport of skydiving had free advertising on one of the most watched TV channels in the world: ESPN, and DZ's all over the world felt the surge of new blood rushing into our sport.
Recently, a producer for an outdoor television program contacted me about doing a show on our dropzone. After hearing his sales pitch and learning the show would only cost me $2,500 for a 30 minute program to be aired in all of my major markets, I politely shook his hand and expressed we wouldn't be interested. Call me crazy, but shouldn't he be paying me $2,500 for the exclusive footage that I would be providing him? Of all his viewers, how many would watch his program displaying amazing skydiving footage versus a couple of guys hunkered down in a tree stand waiting for bambi to come walking by? If its ratings that these programs are looking for then skydiving footage will win out (or am I just completely biased?).
All that being said, USPA has cried that the skies are falling with membership numbers....maybe we just need another movie. Since Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman did a tandem skydive together (while yelling at each other in freefall and drogue-less) our phones have consistently rung with people telling us about their life lists. We need another movie to get AFF numbers up.....we need another Point Break....(again more talking in freefall, what's with that?). Okay, we need another movie but with the disclaimer that you can't have conversation with your buddies in freefall. (Check out this great clip)
Over the years, there have been some key points that have effected our great sport. So I have created my own list. They are as follows and ranked in order of importance.
1. The Gutter Gear Years - Whether it be Lew Sanborn and the guys of that most brave generation, they put this sport on the map with trial and error type experimentation using gear that makes us spoiled kids of today shudder...."They used to jump that?!" Talk about true craziness. These guys of yesteryear were doing things like a painter looking at a blank canvas....no clue what the end result will be, but willing to give it a go. Next time you meet a JOE (Jumper Over Eighty) or SOS (Skydiver Over Sixty) shake their hand and congratulate them for being alive and for paving the way!
2. Army Golden Knights. I have met countless people who got into skydiving because they saw these guys at one festival or other. Undoubtedly, these guys have effected this sport by exposing the world by what can be done in the air with their amazing demos. The sport wouldn't be where it is today without them.
3. The X-Games - What an amazing and exciting time! The X-Games captured our imagination and made us want to be like those dudes on the tube. Besides anything that annoyed our parents was a plus. "Hey mom, I want to do that!" (picture high blood pressure from parents). (Sick skysurf footage).
4. The Olympic Demo - I have no idea how many people remember this demo from the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea...but this was one of the first major events that put skydiving on the world stage. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I would like to see a list of exactly who was on that demo. I know BJ Worth organized it....and a kudos to him....good prep for World Team stuff!
5. Arizona Airspeed - I don't know if these guys created more skydivers, but they make skydivers want to be better. They are dominating....no, DOMINATING our sport and have shown that pushing the envelope to greatness is a way of life....not to mention it's made their competitors better. Who turns 50 points in 35 seconds, seriously? (This video is not in fast forward mode).
Alright, that about sums it up. What started as a concept of talking about the bucket list has turned into the ramblings of a person who has procrastinated from everything else he should be doing.......now back to originally scheduled programming.