The Inspiring Backstory of One of Our Favorite Perris Wingsuit Coach/Organizers
Imagine this for a Sunday:
You wake up, stretch, and wander over to meet your friends at 8 a.m. Everyone pops on their skydiving rigs, zips into their wingsuits and marches up to the nearest plane. You spend the day doing complicated, six-way sequential wingsuit jumps, focusing on nailing the details of a few different dive flows, rinsing and repeating on a forty-minute cycle all day long. When the shadows start to get long, you and your friends celebrate with a sunset jump, zipping through the golden glow under the power of your own wings.
That may seem like superhero stuff, but it’s a pretty normal Sunday for Regina Elwell.
“When I was a kid,” she remembers, “I would constantly ask my dad to take me skydiving. His way of playing it off was to reply that he would–as soon as I had my own health insurance. So the first thing I did when I had my first big kid job lined up after undergrad–and had my own health insurance, naturally–was to do a tandem with one of my cousins.”
After that experience hooked her, she completed her AFF at Virginia’s legendary Skydive Orange. She did her first 50 jumps very quickly, then took 4 years to do the next 20.
“I didn’t even really know what wingsuiting was until spring of 2012, when I came back to skydiving,” she says, “but I was instantly intrigued as soon as I did.”
USPA regulations required that she have 200 jumps before she’d be allowed to try the discipline, so she set about the following 130 very quickly to get up to the jump numbers she needed.
“Jump 200 was my first wingsuit jump, and I pretty much haven’t taken it off since then,” Regina grins. “I have made maybe fifty total jumps that aren’t wingsuit jumps since I started wingsuiting.”
For a long time, Regina’s dedication to wingsuiting revolved around the pursuit of the world’s statistically-most-lethal pastime: wingsuit BASE.
“I knew that every [wingsuit skydive] I was doing was training for that goal; for something with the potential of grave consequences, but also the potential for immense personal reward,” she explains. “I fell in love with wingsuiting during my first flight and it was only with that passion that I was able to dedicate my entire being to accomplishing the personal goal of wingsuit BASE jumping.”
“Wingsuiting never gets boring to me. There is always something to learn. I especially love where wingsuiting is going more recently,” she adds, “I’m very intrigued by incorporating more dynamic movements and performing sequential dive flows with wingsuits. It is crazy how rapidly wingsuit technology has evolved over the past several years and how drastically the talent of wingsuiters has improved. I have recently started training in the wind tunnel to refine precise dynamic movements. It has been fun to then apply those skills to wingsuiting in the sky.”
If that sounds like a rather scientifically inspired approach to the discipline of human flight, that’s not surprising. Regina herself is a scientist–a scientist of several flavors, as a matter of fact. After earning a BS in Biology and a minor in Chemistry, she worked in a cancer research lab. Eventually, she went back to grad school to get her Master’s of Science in High Technology Crime Investigation.
“I have been all over the place with my interests over the years,” she laughs.
It’s work facilitated by the latter degree that takes up Regina’s current weekdays. She specializes in digital forensics and network intrusion investigation.
“I’ve been in this career field for eight years now,” she explains. “When a company gets hacked, they hire the company that I work for and people like me figure out what happened. It’s a complicated puzzle that is constantly changing.”
As you might imagine, that takes a lot of time. Regina is, therefore, a weekend warrior skydiver–albeit an incredibly dedicated one. She drives 90 miles each way to spend her time off load organizing, coaching and progressing within the Perris skydiving community.
“Coaching and load organizing to me is all about teaching others how to do what they love to do, only better,” she says. “I love to share with other people the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.
It becomes quickly evident that the other thing she loves is her home dropzone: Our beloved Perris.
“We are pretty spoiled here,” she laughs. “The weather is pretty much fantastic. I got sunburnt this weekend, because it was in the mid 80s at the beginning of February. And the talent that comes through there is phenomenal. We’re always challenged.”
“The atmosphere is my favorite thing about Perris,” she continues. “It’s a very well-run business, but it is still fun. They strike that balance really well. When you’re here, you know that there will always be multiple planes running; that there will always be people you can learn from; that the weather will be good; that the facilities will be nice. You know you can get a shower right after sunset if you want, or grab a meal at the restaurant. Everything right there. It’s pretty much perfect.”
If you want to grab a slice of that perfection for yourself, Regina has some excellent advice for you.
“Never stop learning,” she insists. “I’m happiest when I’m either in a state of learning or a state of laughing, so if I had to say anything to anyone else, it would be to constantly learn and laugh, whether that’s laughing at yourself for making a mistake or simply enjoying the moment. Always strive for both.”