Lesley Gale union Flag by Willy Boeykens
How did you become interested in skydiving? When did you start?
I remember seeing a demo when I was about nine, the Red Devils jumped into Finchale Abbey – impressive now when I think about it, they were on PCs (Para Commanders, round parachutes with vents in). It blew my mind that they came out of the sky! But I didn’t realize skydiving was a sport, I thought it was just for the military. Years later
I went to university and saw a poster ‘Parachute Jump – No strings attached’ at Freshers’ Fair, I signed up straight away. That was 1984. I paid £35 (about 50 bucks) for a C9 LL round parachute and front mount reserve – ooh, those were the days!
What was your inspiration to start skydivemag.com?
I was Editor of the BPA printed magazine for 15 years, which I loved, dramatically improving the publication and receiving great feedback. Eventually I wanted freedom to be independent, to publish my own content, without representing an organisation’s viewpoint, or having to get a committee ‘okay’ on publishing an article. I decided to run an online magazine (rather than paper) as it lets me reach all corners of the globe. It’s also very fast, so we can get news out quickly, and get instant feedback on what the readers like, by way of viewing figures.
lesley flanders by Ioannis Vlachiotis
Tell me, what is your favorite part in running skydive mag?
When I publish an excellent safety article that goes viral and I feel, ‘well I could have been part of saving a life, or even lives’.
You have brought so much attention to the sport, tell me a little about why you feel this is important?
So the general public recognize it’s a sport anyone can do, not just for superheroes or the military. To attract more young people to skydiving to keep it thriving and hopefully growing. To specifically attract females to the sport; we only have around 15% of women worldwide, yet they tend to excel. If we can attract more girls by taking away the macho image, then we can grow the sport for all. To educate both public and media on positive aspects of skydiving to counteract the ‘plunge, plummet, hurtle’ reporting of incidents, and hopefully provoke some more insightful journalism. Which, we are starting to see more of! ☺
What are your thoughts on the progression of Skydiving over the next ten years?
I can’t wait to see what happens! I have been astounded every decade by amazing developments in skydiving and I couldn’t begin to predict where it will go next.
Lesley Gale by Robin Lloyd Brit Chicks 2013
Where do you see indoor skydiving going and do you think it is bringing light to skydiving in general?
Totally, it’s lighting it up like the Floridian sun! Indoor skydiving is grabbing the attention of the public, making it possible to schedule public competitions without fear of weather stopping the event. The dynamic format has huge spectator appeal, whereas in skydiving, swooping is about the only area that’s interesting to watch. People can try flying without risk and therefore become attracted to skydiving. AFF courses, progression and elite level flyers can all progress more quickly in the tunnel. Meteoric advances in skydiving, especially freefly, would not have been possible without the skills people (especially tunnel rats) have been able to develop through massive air time. Most of all, pre-16s are learning to fly well before they can skydive. I watched the Wind Games junior freestyle competition in awe. Children from 8 to 15 years old were performing the most beautiful indoor skydancing, flying in a way 90 per cent of people in that room were not capable of. What will they be doing when they are my age?!
Krysia Wnuk Wind Games 2018
What is the craziest story you have ever published?
The Flying Frenchies – they are so utterly, adorably mad. I love my job!
What is your most memorable moment as a skydiver?
Oh so many to choose from! As a personal skydiver, the 400-way World Record – it was just so dam BIG!! As a coach, the 50-way Brit Chicks women’s record in 2002. I agreed to take it on as head organizer, but I had no idea if I had what it took. I remember driving to the DZ with such a knot of fear in my stomach that, if I could have thought of any viable excuse to not turn up, I’d have taken it! Such joy, pride and relief when we made it happen!
400 way complete by Bruno Brokken
Do you have any advice for a new skydiver?
Things that will help keep you alive… Go to the drop zone even if it looks like bad weather and immerse yourself in the sport. Learn about your gear, pack, watch videos. Educate yourself. Read Skydive Mag’s Safety articles (Thursdays and Sundays) ;-) Ask questions in the daytime, from instructors and people with a good reputation, especially if they work in skydiving. Do not ask about the sport in the bar, at night-time, to drunk people you do not know. Invest in canopy skills via specific course(s). Do not rush to downsize your canopy, take each step slowly. You have the rest of your life to try to kill yourself in the sport so there is no need to be in a hurry.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to progress in this sport?
Yes. Commit to the sport. Work hard. Time invested in skills will always overtake talent. Have an active safety culture, maintain your gear and learn about it, practice your EPs, always do a gear check. In order to truly progress in technical skills, your survival skills have to become ingrained. Invest in good coaching – tunnel, sky and canopy. It will save you money in the long run. Invest time in the free stuff – watch videos, watch people flying in the tunnel, visualize. Go to other dropzones, tunnels and coaches. Enjoy each step of the journey. Skydive just for fun every now and then – beach jumps, balloons, bikini dives, don’t let the desire to progress make you forget the sheer joy, magic and privilege of what we do.
8 way Nationals win 2016 (Progression !!!!)
What are your feelings on being a female in this sport?
It’s the best time in history to be a woman in skydiving, BASE or tunnel. All opportunities are open!
Speaking of which, I’m excited to be organizing a Women’s Euro Record this year, with Kate Cooper-Jensen, Lise Nansen, Marloes Swarthoff and Alia Veselova. It will be a 120-way, out of 2 giant Antonov-72s, that haul 64 skydivers to 15,000 feet in 8 minutes! This is the second ‘Women on Wings’ event, the first was fantastic. You get a very special vibe at an all-female event, of teamwork, support, enthusiasm, commitment and love!
If you were a drink what would you be and why?
Tequila Sunrise – It’s bright, colorful, has many layers, is drunk at parties, perfect for holidays, makes you feel good – but disappears before you know it!