Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
I first met Laura Golly when she was still in college several years ago; it was midweek at CarolinaFest (I think in 2010) and she arrived with a group of others from the Flying Gators Skydiving Club close to midnite. Despite her fatigue from being on the road all day, she was wide-eyed and filled with excitement. The interaction was brief as I showed them where to park and set up camp, but I never forgot it because of her natural zeal and positivity.
While Laura was a young jumper then, I consciously knew she would stay in the sport – you can usually tell who will stay and who will eventually bow out. Sure enough, she stayed and the industry has benefitted from her enthusiasm for the work she’s done representing two of the largest brands in the sport (PD and Sun Path) as well as being a positive person to be around.
You’re from Naples, Florida – a beautiful place! How would you describe your childhood?
My dad moved to Naples in the 60s, when Naples was a small beach town instead of the luxury resort destination it is today. It has changed a lot, even in my lifetime! Growing up we spent a lot of time outdoors doing Florida stuff like boating, fishing, and SCUBA diving. I learned to love the outdoors early!
What was your upbringing like?
My dad is an airline pilot and my mom is a therapist who works with children & teens. My parents always encouraged me to try new things. They have been so supportive in all my endeavors, even those they don’t fully understand or agree with. I am lucky beyond measure.
Is your family involved in adventure sports?
They aren’t involved in what you would call “adventure sports” but they are all adventurous in their own way! My dad is a phenomenal water skier and my one brother, Aaron, is a very adventurous world traveler (as well as a very talented writer and musician). My mom conquered some fears this year and organized a family hike on the Inca Trail in Peru.
What was your favorite subject in school and how were you as an overall student?
I loved reading and learning, but I didn’t like the structure of high school and I was known for cutting class with friends. Despite my attendance, I was able to keep good grades and I graduated high school with a full-ride scholarship to college. It was there that I found teachers and subjects that motivated & inspired me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Wait, am I grown up now? When did that happen? I still don’t know what I want to be.
Were there any early markers in your life that would indicate you’d live the life you’re living?
I got injured a lot as a kid, mostly from climbing and jumping off of things. I jumped off a table and cracked my skull open. I feel out of a tree and broke my arm. I went to the hospital so much that we had Social Services asking questions about our family life. They thought my dad might be beating me, but in reality I was just fearless and clumsy. These days I like to think that I am still fearless, but a bit less careless.
Who inspires you?
Can I say, two people? First, my mom. She manages her own private practice doing therapy with kids, is the clinical director of an intensive therapy program, and is currently writing a thesis for her PhD. She organizes every holiday get-together, is the cheerleader for the whole family, and never forgets a birthday. She had major back surgery in 2016 and then hiked the Inca Trail a year later to prove she could do it. She always has a good sense of humor. I don’t know when she sleeps. She is the superhero of our family.
Second, my partner Joe. He’s talented at everything he does, yet he is the embodiment of kindness, humility, and patience. I am in awe of not only his attitude and sense of adventure but also his ability to whip up a gourmet meal from random ingredients in the fridge. He inspires me to be my best every day.
Tell us something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
Despite being in Marketing, a profession defined by extroversion, I actually find it very draining to be connected to the world 24/7 via email, phone, and FaceBook. I need a lot of time in nature to recharge and find balance. Technology is great, but like everything, it is best in moderation.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I turned down a couple of job offers right after college to spend a year traveling by myself through Europe and parts of Africa. I worked in several countries along the way and met some life-changing people. I am proud of myself for taking that risk with limited funds, no plans, and nobody to hold my hand. It wasn’t all glamorous, but it was certainly an amazing life experience.
What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
The Women’s Vertical World Record jump in Arizona last year.
You’re an excellent free flyer, what’s the best advice you can give to those thinking about getting into the discipline?
Thanks for flattering me, but “excellent” is a stretch! Adequate maybe. What helped me was realizing that everyone learns at their own pace, and that’s OK. I was in college when I started jumping so I didn’t have a whole lot of money or time to invest into skydiving. I only did a few hundred jumps from 2009-2014, and it took me years to learn the basics of freeflying. But I didn’t give up, I jumped and tunneled as much as I could afford, and I took opportunities when they arose. Slowly I progressed to doing bigger and better jumps. I guess what I’m saying is not everybody has the means to do 1000 jumps and 30 hours of tunnel in their first year, and that’s just fine! Don’t be discouraged – jump for the love of it, and the rest will fall into place.
You work in Marketing at Sun Path – how did you get that job?
After school, I saw friends taking advertising jobs for clients like fast food chains and pharmaceutical companies. I didn’t want that… I wanted to sell a product I genuinely loved and believed in. A great friend helped me get my job at Performance Designs, where I worked with a talented team and learned a ton about the skydiving industry. I loved working at PD, but when a bigger opportunity with more responsibilities became available at Sun Path Products, I couldn’t turn it down. I have grown a lot personally and professionally since joining the team here, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of this family.
Pat Thomas has played a big role for the entire sport. Can you give us any insights?
I think a lot of people know how generous and genuine Pat is. She takes care of her employees and friends, and is extremely thoughtful. Many people might not know that she plays a big role in the Skydiving Museum, Skydiving Hall of Fame, and Parachute Industry Association (PIA). Her influence in skydiving reaches far beyond just Sun Path.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s an exciting time to be at Sun Path right now. We are pushing hard to come out with some new and innovative stuff. Our whole team here – marketing, engineering, production, everyone – we’re all working together on some big projects and getting creative with solutions. It makes coming to work really enjoyable.
What’s a trend in skydiving that concerns you today?
Experienced jumpers failing to help or mentor those with less experience. Skydivers have a wealth of collective knowledge that isn’t necessarily written down anywhere…it’s up to us to share what we know. Whether you have 10, 50, 500, or 5000 jumps, we all have both something to learn and something to teach. Pay it forward.
Adapted from original article, by James La Barrie, on DropZone.Marketing here.