Rob Wallace is a skydiving instructor and competitive canopy pilot based at Skydive Perris and talks to us about his skydiving experiences thus far.
When, where, why and how did you make your first skydive?
I made my first jump, a tandem, at Skydive Cross Keys in Williamstown, NJ. I remember seeing it on TV and always wanted to experience what the sensation would feel like. Ironically I hated heights for a very long time, I didn’t get on a rollercoaster until I was 16.
What prompted you to make your first jump?
Actually it was spur the moment, I was with some friends talking about it, a few were hesitant, but my one friend said she do it whenever. We literally got in the car drove to the drop zone.
How did this first jump change your life?
It completely changed my life, gave me the utmost sense of freedom I have ever experienced, almost as if I was meant to be in the sky.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering making that first jump?
Embrace the moment, it will be an experience of a lifetime and who knows, it might completely change your life…
How long did it take you from your first jump, to becoming an instructor?
I made my first jump in 2006, got my tandem instructor rating in 2010 and got my AFF instructor rating in 2011.
You’ve been an instructor here at Skydive Perris for how long now?
4 years, which is the longest I’ve been at any drop zone.
When you’re not introducing students to the sport, what type of jumping do you do?
I mostly do hop and pops from 5,000ft, just concentrating on canopy flight. You might catch me doing a freefly jump here and there.
What is it about Skydive Perris that makes you want to work and play here?
Well first of all, we are lucky to have some of the best skydiving weather in the world. As far as facilities, hardly any other place comes close and also their plane maintenance is amazing! Having confidence in the plane to get us to altitude safely is very important to me.
How many first time students do you estimate you have jumped with so far?
Hard to say, I’d estimate a little over 3,000.
What do you like best about introducing new students to our sport?
It’s awesome to be able to share that first experience with students, it’s like reliving my first jump over and over again. Also the unique view when we are under canopy and just how relaxing it can be going from one extreme to the other.
What has been your favorite jump to date?
It was during an XRW jump, which I was flying my small canopy with a wingsuiter, for those who don’t know what that is. We were able to make a specific dock which no one said was possible. The wingsuiter, Josh Sheppard, was able to fly on his back and I was able to dock on his chest. We were both ecstatic about it and was the only time we ever did it. We named that specific dock as “The Sheppard.”
You’re a founding member of SoCal Evolution, how did this team come about and who are your team-mates?
Justin Judd and myself decided to put together a new team specific to the Southern California area. Our goal is to try and promote better canopy flight and have a visible entity that can be identified as canopy experts. Our other teammates are Dave Hebert and Nate Emmett.
You’ve just made the US canopy piloting team, congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to this point?
This is my second time making the US team, every year has been getting more challenging to make the team. So many pilots are flying extremely well and this particular year I felt I didn’t fly all that well, but still very happy with my performance.
What canopies do you jump and why?
For competition I’m flying a NZ Aerosports Petra 64, for work and fun jumps I fly a NZ Aerosports Leia 72. Both of these canopies open extremely well, have amazing range at both high speeds and low speeds.
What advice do you have for newer jumpers who are eager to start down-sizing and swooping?
Make sure you can efficiently fly and land your canopy in ANY situation because it’s those extraordinary situations that will exploit any weakness in your canopy skills. It only takes 1 jump to seriously hurt yourself. If you cannot land your canopy standing up, you should probably reconsider the size you’re on and upsize, there’s no shame in not wanting to get hurt. Swooping is a whole other beast in itself, not everyone should be doing it because it is extremely fast and dangerous, the ground is not forgiving. For those who do think they want to pursue it, please seek out coaching or someone who is willing to mentor you. It is a part of the sport that takes a lot of skill, precision, confidence, and most of all experience and currency.
Tell us something that is little known about your yourself?
I used to work the corporate world before I started skydiving. I had a lot of job layoffs because of the recession, got fed up with it, packed up all my stuff and moved to Texas with 30 dollars in my pocket and a tent as a roof.
What are your future goals in skydiving?
Well I have a couple things in the works I can’t really talk about, but other than that, I’m looking to continue to get better at swooping and also help develop XRW into a more common discipline.
Rob will be competing at the FAI World Cup of Canopy Piloting in Montreal, Canada, August 23rd-30th 2015. We wish him the very best of luck, from everyone here at Skydive Perris!