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The first time I met Rob was at the freefly event, FlajFlaj, a brilliant Peter Nillson event held at Skydive Elsinore for the past 10 years. In just a few fleeting interactions, I got the impression Rob had lived a little, and was most certainly not doing a lot of that in a sleep state like a lot of us. Through the past few years I've dug into a bit more of him through conversations and bite-sized glimpses of his life at ToraTora events. Rob brings a lot of history into the way he coaches and in how he socialises. He has the ability to have a good laugh and in the next breath wake you up with some sobering philosophical dialogue that hits you out of nowhere. His skydiving, BASE and wingsuit bio is long and impressive. As are his signature dreadlocks. Let's learn a little about Freefly Rob, interviewed by Alethia Austin…
Tell us who you are, where you come from, where you're at right now.
Hey Rob Heron here AKA FreeflyRob, just an earthbound misfit, born and raised on the far East Coast of Canada, travelled for skydiving for a couple of decades and nesting now in the Alps.
FreeflyRob, just an earthbound misfit
How'd you get started in wingsuiting?
Only after a full career of Skydiving and experimenting in most disciplines, did I take my parachuting to the mountains.That's when wingsuits became interesting to me. Also the same time big suits were just arriving to that scene.
What's been your evolution as a skydiver / base jumper?
Thankfully, I started at a really cool club in New Scotland with an IAD course, Dave Williamson was my DZO. I was super eager and keen to learn anything and everything about parachutes and their use, experience the balance game with air resistance and pendulum play with nylon and strings. I progressed fast, became a Coach and Instructor to keep airborne and share the experience. I soon went south to find further progression with “The First School Of Modern Skyflying“. After working hard to skill develop during the infancy of Freefly, the School dispersed and I came to Europe in 2003. Now as a competent Freefly Coach and Video Flyer, quickly picking up more ratings to keep myself airborne and capable for any task while learning evermore. We are so lucky to have such an activity that is always in an evolving state. The day you think you know - quit. I then carried on following the jumping season like an endless summer for 15 years, crossing hemispheres and practicing a variety of roles at multiple DZs.
We are so lucky to have such an activity that is always in an evolving state
What made you cross into wingsuiting from skydiving? Did you always know that's where you wanted to focus?
I never 'crossed into', it was clearly the next step. I was current and capable at the time big suits where surfacing, which provided the possibility to jump Prototypes and apply modern flying techniques which hopefully helped influence the design in suits today.
Same for BASE - when did you make that crossover? Is there one that you're more passionate about? WS base? Freefly skydive, etc?
I had an intro early and quickly put on the brakes and set long term prerequisites for myself. Part of those were to push and progress until fully freefly competent and interests in flight started to wander towards the Mountains. In preparation of Mountain flights I familiarized my fixed-object-parachuting-activities by lobbing off bridges and antennas along with occasional buildings. Not to forget countless Speedwing-flights, helping to learn the effects of micro climates. My previous passion of Freefly fulfilled, prepared and paved my way into Wingsuit-Base, where my passions remain.
Talk to me about the lifestyle behind these sports – how it's influenced your life.
These activities have shaped my life completely. Everything for awhile was geared to gaining airtime. After a couple decades of quantity, I know the quality that I am capable of. Therefore many years at dingy airfields awaiting Take-Off and now with the quality and capability to hike for flights.
You live in the mountains surrounded by nature. Tell us about that. What's it like being remote and surrounded by the great earth.
Remote? In Europe? Even with long hikes, unless in Nature Reserves or far out there, mankind can be heard and most likely even contactable. Surrounded by the great Earth, I think any human can explain their view. As far as hiking away from the main drain of society, it really is a precious reward earned among those that walk against the current and place faith in unseen forces. However, the Dream of Human Flight is usually short lived as we arrive back to the regulated planet of private or populated places.
Hiking away from the main drain of society really is a precious reward earned among those that walk against the current and place faith in unseen forces
Sponsors and shoutouts?
Where are you at for the coming months?
The next months I will reset for the next season. Typically, I have a few yearly events that I Freefly/Wingsuit-Load-Organize. Such as Tora Tora Skills-Camps, Extreme Sports Veko, Mountain Gravity. I also participate in the annual WWL competition, to share and play with fellow flyers. Otherwise I may be contacted personally or seen conducting private Skills Camps affiliated with Squirrel Wingsuits and the Next-Level Team.
Who has influenced you in this sport?
Everyone and every DZ has had influence, regardless if good nor bad. Interaction and response to human behaviour has a conditioning effect. But to drop a name, Mike Swanson has always been an inspiration.
Do you feel it's important to give back? How do you?
Of course, giving keeps the flow going.This activity gave me a community in which I got to satisfy my soul's intention and give it back through guiding others through their unknown.
giving keeps the flow going
Share something with us unrelated to the sports and that we wouldn't know about you otherwise.
My wife and I are immersing ourselves into a Float community, building a nest, creating a new opportunity for guidance beyond boundary.
What advice would you give to Freefly Rob in his first year of the sport?
Admirable skill sets are the only skills worth adopting.
Can you leave us with some solid life advice?
Be Grateful. Have Fun. Spread Happiness.
Any final thoughts?
In order to rest in peace one must be able to let it all go.