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Luis is co-founder of Fly4Life, a team dedicated to the progress, training, education, promotion and ENJOYMENT of human flight. Luis also runs freefly, angle and canopy courses worldwide. He's been on countless records, and enjoyed many achievements, but his modesty is an obstacle to getting the whole story. Which is a charming aspect of Luis.
Anyone who has met Luis is comforted right away by his laid back vibe and his warmth of character. It's easy to see this guy has a beautiful soul and deep thoughts, which he spreads throughout his skydiving career. We had a great time having a chat with Luis…
Hey Luis, what do you do for a living?
Body and canopy flying
How many jumps, what type? Where and when did you start?
Close to 19,000 of everything mixed up. Started in Venezuela in January 1998. At about 75 jumps moved to Florida and started jumping at Skydive America in Pahokee.
What equipment do you jump, and why?
Why? Because when I’m in the air, the only thought I want to have is flying
Nationality, and where you live?
From Venezuela, living in Deland, Florida
Why did you settle in Deland?
Because of the DZ style, airplanes & pilots, and it's home to many of the leading skydiving brands I love. Deland is also a beautiful town with lots of nature, and great people. In addition, Florida is centrally located between North//Central/South America, and Europe, which is where I travel to the most.
Would you ever return to your homeland?
This is a very hard question to answer. If you are asking me if I would return to the country I grew up in, my answer would be yes. If you are asking if I would go back now, not at all.
How does skydiving differ in Venezuela, compared to the US, and the rest of the world?
As of right now skydiving in Venezuela it’s practically non-existent, and the little there is I rather not talk about. When I started, there was only 2 DZs both with little Cessnas. Then, around 2003 (give or take) Skydive Venezuela opened up and the Skydiving scene got super nice, comparable to any busy DZ anywhere in the World.
Where have been special places in the world for you to jump ?
Skydiving achievements, claims to fame
I don’t think this would be up to me to talk about
Describe yourself in 5 words
Determined, passionate, relaxed, positive, persistent
Avatar time! Video by Richard Scheurich (Fly4Life)
What is Fly4Life? How did it start?
Fly4Life started in 2012. The name Fly4Life came out of the logo of a Freefly group that I helped start years ago called East Side Freefly. The group got slowly dissolved mainly due to the passing of the main pusher, my bro Peter “PetairG” Gerencser. Later on, my current Fly4Life team mate Manuel “Manny” Guevara brought up the idea of continuing East Side FF. The name East Side sounded dividing to me, and wanted something that anyone could be identified with, therefore the idea of using Fly4Life came up.
What’s the philosophy behind it?
Fun, creative, spontaneous, smooth, non-repetitive, passionate flying. And I could also add sharing knowledge, variety, and endless learning/progression.
What's the secret to your success as a team/entity?
I believe I could answer this one with the same as above.
Where do you run Fly4Life camps?
Our main camps would be the WarmUp (End of February/October) and FlightCamp (mid March/November) in Deland. Here we also run other camps like vertical formations/sequential, head up flying, as well as small 3 on 1 group camp format which is in the works. In addition, we also form part of events organized by other DZs, or camp organizers around the world.
You run courses for freefly coaches, especially on angle jumps, what do they cover?
Yes, Sharon Har-Noy Pilcher and I designed a 2 day leading course which we have been running mostly in Deland so far. The course covers aspects such as leader’s responsibilities before/during /after the flight, safety videos, planing a flight paths, in ground practices under various common scenarios, and practice jumps.
We are now planning to take this further with a new venture called “Modern Skydiving Concepts” @skydivingconcepts, under which we are working on courses geared towards recent AFF graduates, Freefly coaches, as well as DZ and event consulting.
Everyone wants to do tracking jumps these days, what are the good and bad things about this?
The only bad thing I can see would be people flying in the wrong directions, which I believe generally happens for 3 main reasons: One, getting distracted by others in the flight, including camera flyer. Two, attempting flight plans to complicated for your experience. Three, being ignorant of things such as jump-run direction, type, speed, winds at different altitudes, other groups in the plane, where/when will the people in your group end up after break-off, among others.
If organizing a tracking dive, what’s the most important considerations?
Designing flights for the lowest skilled level person in the group. Being smooth, predictable, and not leading unfamiliar lines in more than a 2 way. The fact that you can follow a line, does not mean you can lead it. Many times trying to help someone can make a situation worst for the group overall.
Fly4Life team flying over Seville, Spain. Video by Rafael Schwaiger
How do you keep everyone so tight in the Fly4Life videos?
By doing what is mentioned in the previous answer, he heh. Anticipation, being able to realize in time when the speed/angle/turns are too much for a flyer in the group.
a mistake may not give you a second chance
What advice do you have for newcomers to skydiving?
Take your time learning the basics for 2 reasons: first, no-one likes to go back to them later. And second, because a mistake may not give you a second chance. Seek experienced coaches, train accordingly to achieve your goals, and remember that this last thing won’t happen if you don’t enjoy the ride. Remember also that your skill level does not have to dictate the experience of your coach, always go for the best.
And young freeflyers? What’s the most common piece of advice you repeat ?
Same as above, and adding that learning is endless. If you are constantly thinking that you will be happy when you are finally able to do a certain thing, once you manage to do that thing, there will be something else and you will never be happy. Enjoy it, and always remember what made you keep going after your first jump.
Enjoy it, and always remember what made you keep going after your first jump.
What’s the biggest problem we have in the freefly scene right now? And what can we do about it?
I love the way is growing, and the fact that people now in a very short time can learn to fly so fast thanks to wind tunnels. At the same time, we notice many people learning in the tunnels not taking safety seriously while skydiving. Participating in jumps they should not be. Doing very short/fast skydiving courses just because they know freefall, and often going through unnecessary fast canopy progression again, because they are amazing in freefall.
Whom do you admire, who are your mentors and why?
In so many years of skydiving to mention mentors, or people who inspired me without forgetting some, it's a challenge. But I could mention a few for sure: Bill Booth, Olav Zipser, Filippo Fabbi, Mike Swanson, Stefania Martinengo and all the Freefly Clowns, The FlyBoys (Eli, Fritz, and Charles), Omar Alhegelan, Tim Porter, Eric Fradet, Patrick de Gayardon, Philipe Vallaud just to have a few names. And I would like to add to this list all the people who experimented with skydiving equipment along history, and those that keep doing it in order for everyone to have a safer, and more fun sport
Do you have a motto?
Be humble, stay open minded for endless learning, and enjoy. I believe that when someone is exceptionally good at a certain thing, most likely is because he enjoys doing it more than the others.
Who’s been the biggest influence on your life?
Main one would have to be my dad. And I have to mention nature
What was the biggest breakthrough /decision of your life?
It's hard to pick, maybe deciding to drop everything to do one of the things I love for living, and continuing to be able to do it, is for sure one of them
What’s next for you, and what are you most excited about?
To keep Fly4Life growing, progressing, and doing what we do for many more years to come.