With an array of medals under her belt, not to mention a handful of world records to her name, the sky is the limit for professional skydiver, Amy Chmelecki. A member of the Red Bull Air Force, and a former member of the world-class Arizona Arsenal skydiving team, she’s performed literally thousands of jumps during her career, with professional and competitive dives taking her all over the world. We caught up with Amy during one of her rare moments on the ground to find out what drives her, inspires her, and makes her happiest.
How did you get into professional body diving?
“Dreams of flying filled my childhood thoughts both night and day. When I turned 18 (the legal age you need to be to skydive in the USA), I went to make my first jump and I instantly fell in love with the feeling of freedom it gave me. After my studies, I moved to Arizona to goof off for a year before I got a “real job”; that year turned into 16 years and goofing off turned into my real job. I’m very lucky.”
How do you prepare and train for a big skydive? Do you have a pre-skydive ritual?
“Exactly how I prepare for each skydive depends on the mission of the jump. Some jumps can require years of preparation, while others can go ahead with minimal prep. To be honest, most of the things I’ve done have taken several years of hard work to be able to master or even attempt – skydiving is harder then it looks. But, if you take it one step at a time and allow yourself enough time to progress efficiently then you can safely reach a high level of skill.
Generally, in order to hone my skills and get ready for a stunt, competition, demonstration jump or Hollywood job, I jump and fly a lot in the tunnel.
Although I don’t have any particular pre-jump rituals, I often set a positive intention for each day and/or each jump. Actually, one thing I always do is focus on my breathing. Controlling my breath helps me stay focused and balanced.”
The adrenaline must be intense – how do you relax after a dive?
“Generally my post-flying mental state naturally neutralises in about an hour. But if it has been a particularly epic day, I may have some whiskey to bring me down”¦”
What’s your proudest achievement to date?
“Making a living from doing what I love is my proudest accomplishment. Because I love what I do, I feel like I never work, even though – strictly speaking – I’m actually always working. On my “˜work days’ I wake up and say to myself: “˜Sweet! I get to fly all day.’ And on my “˜days off’, I wake up and say the exact same thing.”
As the first, and currently, the only woman in the Red Bull Air Force, what’s your advice to other women looking to get involved in the sport?
“Go for it! Live the life you want! Skydiving is a unique sport because men and women compete with and against each other: the natural physical differences between men and women don’t make a difference in skydiving.
Generally, society puts a lot of pressure on women to live a certain way. But I believe that this is your life so you should live it exactly the way you want.”
Tell us about some of the other teams you’re involved with.
“Currently I’m on a team called the “˜Joy Riders’. We are an international team of skydiving, BASE-jumping, and tunnel-flying women. Five different nations are represented on our team: Israel, France, Britain, Norway and America. Four of us train and compete in the “˜Dynamic 4 Way’, which is a tunnel-based discipline. We travel around the world coaching, competing, and doing stunts. I really love this team.”
Where are your favourite dive spots in America?
“I spent a summer in Skagway, Alaska. There was a small group of skydivers in that town and a couple of times a month a Cessna plane from nearby Juno used to fly up to Skagway and we would jump from it into a valley called Dyea. It was epically beautiful! There were glaciers on both sides of us as we were freefalling. A mint green river filled with seals split the valley and ran towards the inside passage. And the field we landed in was full of wild flowers. I need to make it back up there sometime soon.”
Your skydiving takes you all over the world – what’s been your favourite place to dive? Where would you like to dive next?
“I did a wingsuit skydive over Manhattan Island. Myself and four of my teammates from the Red Bull Air Force tacked down the Hudson River and opened perpendicular to The Freedom Tower before landing on a barge in the Hudson River. I grew up in New York, just 10 miles north of the city, so that was a special jump for me.
Actually, I would really like to jump in more cities. Chicago, Seattle, Boston and San Diego are currently at the top of my list.”
You must have spent a lot of your time in Arizona when you were part of the Arizona Arsenal team – where was your favourite place to go on your days off?
“I was on the Arizona Arsenal team for seven years before I left to join Red Bull. On my days off I liked to travel in Northern Arizona in particular. There are so many cool little towns and so much beautiful nature to be found in Arizona. I loved it and still do. The desert makes my body feel good.”
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Written by Giverny Tattersfield