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Catching up with… Kassy Theobald

Kassy Theobold

Not only is she a female tandem instructor. It has been her first and only real job and she has been doing it since the age of 20. This might make her the youngest female tandem instructor in the world. Meet Kassy…

Catching up with: Kassandra Theobald (Lisenbee), 22

Occupation: Tandem master / Camera flyer at Skydive Wanaka , New Zealand

Number of jumps, breakdown of type

Total: 2600 1200 tandem, 800 camera, 570 fun of which 30 WS, 150 FS, 420 FF

Time in sport: since 2010, 7 years

Equipment jumping now: Crossfire 109

Nationality, and where you live: American, live in Wanaka, New Zealand

Favourite place in the world to jump & why: Skydive Kapowsin, Washington state. I love it, because the views are like in New Zealand, but the fun jumping scene is huge, as you’d expect in the US. From altitude you can see five volcanoes and the ocean, it’s breathtaking. You can fun jump with friends in between work jumps which keeps your day interesting.

Favourite wind tunnel & why: None, I don’t believe in wind tunnel.

Skydiving achievements, claims to fame

I achieved Tandem Master rating at the age of 20 after I’d been jumping for 4 years. Not sure if this made me the youngest female tandem instructor in the world. According to the USPA, I am the only current female tandem master who has been rated since the age of 20, so definitely the youngest in the US.

When did you do your very first jump and why?

I did my very first jump when I was on a motorcycle trip with my dad. We stopped in Idaho where my dad had been jumping. He had just started skydiving and was super excited about it. He bought the tandem for my 16th birthday present. But I got hurt on landing, it was pretty bad actually, I was out of sports for a couple of months. I said I would never skydive again!

I said I would never skydive again!

What got you back in the sky?

I was hanging out with my dad, who was now jumping in Lodi and I was there for a week watching super soft tandem landings. That’s when Bill Dause (owner of Lodi) offered to take me for a jump and you just don’t say no to Bill, he is a legend. I did two more tandems with my friends. Then my dad loaned me the money for AFF, but I basically pack for him for the rest of my life to pay it back.

Kassy – a bundle of joy!
Kassy – a bundle of joy!
you just don’t say no to Bill, he is a legend

At the age of 16, how did you manage to jump and go to school?

It was tricky to start with. I jumped for 2 months then went back to school and didn’t jump for 10 months. It was hard to start again, but my dad kind of pushed me to get back into it. I was packing the whole summer to pay for jumps and then went back to school again. I was in and out of jumping all that time. After the graduation I could take a semester off before University and I did a boogie circuit. This was my big moment when I decided I want to stay in skydiving. I fell in love with the lifestyle and the people as much as the sport itself. I did go back to university, but after two semesters I decided it wasn’t for me and started skydiving full time.

Have you ever worked anywhere else apart from skydiving?

Kind of, when I was in school I worked at a hotel for a few months and then at a clothing store. But skydiving has been my only real job after I finished school.

What was your first job in skydiving?

I learned to pack before I even learned to skydive to be able to afford it. Once I got to 200 jumps I started camera flying to pay for fun jumps. l waited till I got nearly 800 jumps before I got my tandem rating.

Kassy Theobald, world's youngest female tandem instructor
Kassy Theobald, world's youngest female tandem instructor

Why did you decide to become a tandem master?

Because I’ve always wanted to travel and experience other cultures which I realized I can do by skydiving. Every 6 months you can go to a new place. You get to know local people more, because you are there for a length of time. And you can earn enough money to go to the next place. So far I have already worked at 5 places: Lodi (US California), Baja (Mexico), Kapowsin (US Washington), Ballistic Blondes (New Zealand North Island) and now at Wanaka (New Zealand South Island).

Did you know any other female tandem masters around you?

Yes! There were heaps of tandem masters in Lodi. Females are rare in the sport but we had a good girl crew of 6 to 8 females: camera flyers, AFF instructors and tandem masters. We had tandem master called Katya: tall, skinny, so good looking, she was a really good instructor. I had a few girlfriends who were learning at the same time as me and one of them Heidi was my height. We were all early to mid-twenties, we had a big support group.

Did you ever think that being only 5.2ft (158 cm) could be an issue?

I knew that height wasn’t the issue, I saw that small boys could do it. I thought that it was arm strength you need to flare, but I was in other sports and I have always been quite muscular. But when I first went to do my tandem rating, there were boys that tried to talk me out of it for being short and not strong enough. It wasn’t until I took this really tall dude who crawled up in a fetal position, and I flew him out of it, they finally believed in me.

tandem smiles
tandem smiles

Have you ever had any funny reactions when you walk up to tandem customers?

Oh yes! And it doesn’t even matter what gender they are. Sometimes the reaction is: “OMG this is so cool!” because they realize they probably got one of the few females that do it. But sometimes they are just terrified and they don’t want to put their life in your hands. I have actually had a female customer who wanted to be taken by man and I ended up giving her to one of my male colleagues. I took her son instead and we had a great time! I always thought it would be women who would be supportive, but it’s not always or not even close to the case.

What is the hardest thing at your job?

You do sometimes make mistakes, everybody does. But as a woman, I probably think way too much into it. I think that they think that I made a mistake because I’m a woman, not because the winds were bad or because it just happens to everyone. Sometimes you can be really hard on yourself. I’ll do a bad landing in the morning and still at night I will be kicking myself… where most guys probably have forgotten about it in three minutes after it happened. They just learn from it and move on.

I think that they think that I made a mistake because I’m a woman, not because the winds were bad or because it just happens to everyone

Has there been a special jump that stands out for you?

I like any jump with a good view, I’m a huge scenery person. But what really stands out was my 22nd jump and my dad’s 500th jump, we did a rodeo! Also, working in Mexico was pretty crazy, it was a very challenging landing area. Me and my dad were working there together. That was the biggest challenge of my skills and being able to show myself that I can do it. There was no one to help us, we had to jump out of a Cessna, spot ourselves, do the winds. I have also done tandems out of helicopters which has been super cool.

Kassy doing a rodeo jump with her dad!
Kassy doing a rodeo jump with her dad!

What does your dad think about the fact you are now an instructor?

It’s quite ironic actually. My dad didn’t get a university degree either and he is now a tandem instructor as well. We even worked together at a drop zone in Mexico when I was still new to tandem jumping. But now dad wants me to go back to school even more than my mom, who is a university graduate. I definitely thank my dad though, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing this and I love my job!

How long do you see yourself doing this?

I would like to be fun jumping forever, but as far as working in it… I’d like to eventually have other trades in about 10 years. I think it’s because I was so young when I started by the time I’m 40 I would have done this for 20 years. I want to do it while it pays for my travels and toys. I’d like to buy some land and become a massage therapist and get more into yoga.

Kirk and Kassy Theobald's wedding
Kirk and Kassy Theobald's wedding

You are only 22, you've been a tandem master for 3 years, you're married… would you say you're quite mature for your age?

Yeah, all my friends call me an old soul, most of them are on average 10 years older than me. I got married what even I thought was a young age. But when I met Kirk it was just like being by myself, but with a friend. It never felt that there was any compromising or fights. I am doing exactly what I want to do, but he is always with me. He proposed to me and I said yes. I originally thought that getting married at a young age is stupid, but for us it just felt right and I’m really happy.

What is your advice to other girls that would like to become a TI?

Believe that you can do it because you can! At least try it! I know a lot of females that were great instructors but they just didn’t like it and that’s fine too. There are tricks you can learn. If you are short, ask short instructors for advice, if you are skinny, ask skinny instructors how they do it. There is always a way.