Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Lovable Australian 'Macca', as he is fondly known, has been jumping for 50 years – yes 50!! – and still gets a buzz every single jump. Dave's dropzone, Ramblers, at Toogoolowah, is unquestionably one of the best (if not the best) in Oz, and has a unique vibe where you feel like you're at a boogie, a music festival and a family gathering all in one. He has been a major force in advancing Australian skydiving, starting a club newsletter, 'Rambling On', that grew into their National magazine, ASM – eventually run by his daughter, Susie. He has represented Australia at World Championships in three different disciplines, winning medals in some. This smart, fun and gentle character always brings a new thought to every debate, enhances any gathering and fills the room with his passion for the sport. Macca took the time to share his thoughts…
Hey Dave, how long have you been jumping, and how many jumps, of what type?
About 10,000+, a bit of everything. I celebrated 50 years skydiving on the 18th June last year, 2017. I did my first jump on 18th June 1967 while I was at QAC at Gatton. I instigated the 1st RW Sequential World championships at the College 10 years later in September 1977. It was acclaimed as the best World Championships ever held up to then.
Skydiving achievements, claims to fame
Describe yourself in 5 words or less
Hopefully an Ego-Free Skydiver.
When did you buy Skydive Ramblers and why?
I brought the land for the drop zone in 1978 after I got booted off several farmers’ properties and airports. I knew I had to have my own land if I wanted to be successful and develop my business of Skydiving.
What was your vision for the DZ?
To be the Best DZ in the World.
Has it been achieved?
I think I saw it listed in the Top Ten somewhere a few years ago.
Do you still take an active part in the DZ?
Yeah, I’m still Chief Instructor. I am training up a new skydiver to take over, hopefully soon! I still love my jumping, it still thrills me. I feel my heart rate go up on jump run on every jump.
I still love my jumping, it still thrills me
How is Toogolowah managed now?
I have a really good Team: from Instructors, Pilots, Manifest, Ground Keepers and Domestics. They are all on side and really love the drop zone. It is a beautiful place. It’s all a bit “Family”. (My brother John started Ramblers with me initially. He is Chief Pilot here now. My sister Karen, an ex-AFF and TM works in Manifest now).
“Yes is the Answer”
Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?
Sure do: “Yes is the Answer”
What’s your pet hate (in the sport)?
Bad weather on Saturdays. And ego trippers.
Pet hate outside the sport?
Two things; The favourite Whuffo saying” Why do you jump out of perfectly good aeroplanes?” and lately “Do you still jump?” (I’m 69!).
What do you spend too much money on but not regret?
My Drop Zone.
What’s one thing you own that you should throw out but probably never will?
I hardly throw out anything. Maybe my old PC.
You were Editor of Australian Skydiving Magazine (ASM) for 19 years, what were your goals and how did you achieve them?
It was called Rambling On when I ran it. Prior to that the ASM went into limbo. I was on the APF Board at the time. I put it to the Board that Australia needed a national magazine. The Board was a bit “gun shy” after the ASM had failed on them. They said, “If you feel that strongly about it do it yourself”. So I did. It started out modestly enough as our Club’s newsletter and grew into our National colour magazine.
Your daughter Susie followed in your footsteps with the magazine and the dropzone. How has she developed and progressed with your ideas?
Yes Susan was a real help with the drop zone and Rambling On after she finished University. She developed great ideas for the DZ and then took over Rambling On. She changed the name back to Australian Skydiving Magazine and convinced the APF Board to send the magazine to all APF members. It’s still going strong. I must say I am very proud of what she has achieved and thankful for the help she contributed.
Has it changed you having three grandchildren?
Not really, just given me more love and pride.
What do you want for them in life?
Be happy, be healthy and take up skydiving. Skydiving is good for the body and soul. It helps with Life. It keeps you thin.
Skydiving is good for the body and soul. It helps with Life. It keeps you thin.
How long has the famous Equinox boogie been going?
Number 13 coming up in October this year. It happens only every two years, starting 1994.
What does it bring to the skydiving community?
Back in 1994 there were not that many boogies happening in Australia. The Equinox is a Skydiving AND Music Festival. The jumpers who attend always love it. It’s a great Jumping Holiday. We have great skydiving coaches so the jumping is fairly high quality at the “top end” and the newer jumpers learn a lot. Then the Party starts!
How do you think skydiving in Australia compares with the rest of the world?
We are right up there. Before the Wind Tunnel evolution Australia was winning World Meet medals in S&A, CRW, RW, Free style and Sky Surfing (in its day).
What are its benefits and challenges?
Benefits – Great weather all year round.
Challenges – Lots! Money, time, sponsorship, training. But now Australia has wind Tunnels. Watch this space!
Are you excited the next World Championships is in Australia?
I sure am. There will be great activity before and after the World Champs. Teams will train here at Ramblers beforehand and then a lot of team members will come here for the Equinox Boogie straight after.
What can we look forward to?
Competitors and visitors can look forward to another Best World Championships ever held. It’s on the Gold Coast here in Queensland (about 2 hours drive from the DZ). I had a drop zone on the Gold Coast just after I started jumping. It was the best place to go jumping during the day and then hit the Gold Coast night life after jumping. It was Heaven. It hasn’t changed.
It was Heaven. It hasn’t changed.
What’s the biggest problem we have in the sport right now?
Landing accidents. Same as always but the results are worse now.
And what can we do about it?
Education and strong oversight. But even that won’t stop it happening. Hook turning a Cheapo (roundie) had the same result back in 1967 as hook turning ram-airs today. The results are exponentially worse and much less forgiving.
What advice do you have for newcomers to the sport?
Don’t downsize too early. Make all your mistakes on a bigger canopy. Learn from them and listen to good advice about canopy handling. I cringe when new jumpers start swooping too early.
Who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
My mother and grandmother. (My dad died when I was two years old). My mum brought me my first parachute, a 28foot TU. She also brought me an AAD, a KAP-3 which I promptly sold and brought jump tickets. (I didn’t tell her that!). In my skydiving life it was my Chief Instructor Bob Morrison. He was a great influence on my attitude and approach to the Sport.
Whom do you admire, who are your mentors?
I admire Col King, Andy Keech and Claude Gillard. Legend Aussie jumpers who did so much for the sport in the early, formative years.
I can’t really say I have any “mentors”. Skydiving keeps me humble. The sport is shifting so rapidly but still retaining the old values. Now I see the new breed of skydivers doing fantastic stuff, way above my skill level. I watch them doing their first jump and then they’re teaching me new stuff! I suppose I need a few “mentors” to keep up. Mason Corby is one ego-free, humble skydiver with incredible talent who I really like having here and being around.
Skydiving keeps me humble.
Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for asking me for this interview, I am sincerely flattered. Stay safe. See you at the Equinox.