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Catching up with Laura Wagner

Laura Wagner
Image by Zach Lewis
Laura Wagner
Image by Zach Lewis

Laura grew up on the dropzones of the 90s, making her first tandem at age 12, graduated AFF at 16, and has since amassed 1400 skydives, 2 women's vertical world records, a bunch of state records, and all kinds of incredible memories and friendships. Her vibrant, bubbly ever-smiling personality enlivens every event she attends. When not sky or tunnel shredding, you can find Laura teaching & practicing yoga in vibrant Austin, Texas. Namaste!

How many jumps and tunnel hours do you have?

Freefly - 1400

Everything else - 100

Laura Wagner
"I like yoga because I get to spend more time upside-down" – Laura — Image by Zach Lewis

Tunnel - Wish I knew! 150 hr?

Time in the sport?

26 years! And actively licensed for the past 10 :)

Laura Wagner
Image by Zach Lewis

Nationality, and where you live:

USA! Currently residing in Austin, TX, may even buy a house here…

Favorite place in the world to jump & why

Doesn’t matter as long as the jumps are fun, creative, and safeish. I mean really, we’re jumping out of airplanes, there is no room for snobbery in that, what we do is incredible in the most basic way.

Favorite wind tunnel & why

Similar to my feelings about favorite place to jump. The location doesn’t matter, it’s the vibe & the people. Wind is wind is wind. Could be the old Vegas tunnel but if my people are there, it’s an amazing time and that is all that matters.

Skydiving achievements, claims to fame

Is there fame in skydiving?? Haha! I felt important when I was featured in my University daily newsletter for being on the 2010 Womens Vertical World Record (WVWR). I have a few other world, national, and state records but future goals include a medal at US Nationals, maybe even Worlds! Whenever that time/money thing balances itself out.

Laura, still smiling
Image by Guru Khalsa

Favourite skydiving moments

Mostly firsts. Just can’t beat it! My first tandem, flying with my mom & dad. My first solo, laughing so hard on landing that I couldn’t focus enough to stand it up. My first WVWR when we held the completed 41-way for what felt like forever, with an Arizona sunset for our backdrop. Tracking over the ocean for the first time at Sebastian. Flying the mountain in Voss. Laughing so hard in freefall, it takes me a few seconds longer to get to my slot.

Who are your sponsors and why do you jump their gear?

LB Altimeters because being altitude aware is cool

Icarus Canopies because they open and fly beautifully

UPT Vector because I never have to worry about anything flapping out when I’m going fast

Laura Wagner
Image by David Wybenga

Tonfly suits because the fit is perfection

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Sunshine, Laughter, Food, Champagne, Namaste

What was it like growing up on a dropzone?

It was cool! But I didn’t know anything else. I made money charging the adults for cursing around me. I got to drive golf carts around. My parents never made me pack, so that’s a win!

Did you always want to skydive?

Definitely. The sky seemed way more fun than the ground. I was right!

What was it like to make a tandem at 12? Who went with you?

I refused to go to the dropzone that day until my older brother agreed I could jump first. The tantrum worked, and I got to go before him. My dad loves to tell that embarrassing story. I remember being nervous, walking to the Casa tailgate, spitting out my gum, feeling the cold air. My dad was TI and mom docked on my right hand. I loved every second. I treasure the freefall photos, my stoke is palpable.

Tell me about your famous skydiving family – Chris, Mary, Ted and Tim Wagner

I am super proud! Lots of gold medals & skydiving milestones. Big shoes to fill.

What are the benefits – and drawbacks! – of such a family?

Certainly helped get my foot in the door, already knowing the ways of the sport, and its people. Getting hand-me-down gear made it much more affordable to start jumping. I rarely hear “Chris’s daughter” any more, because we are in such different circles, but when I do it’s always in a positive light. So thanks, Dad, for being likeable! Definitely no drawbacks.

Laura's Dad, Chris Wagner on his 10,000th jump taking his dad on his first jump
Laura's Dad, Chris Wagner on his 10,000th jump taking his dad on his first jump
Wagner Family, 1997 – Chris Wagner on his 10,000th, taking his dad on his first jump

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What do you want to achieve, a) for yourself in the sport and b) for the sport?

To keep doing what I have been. I love to organize and jump with beginners. They’re still so excited and to share my own passion and experience feels great. And I love to create fun events - I’ve organized a few SiS [Sisters in Skydiving] events and competitions. We just did a 10way VFS meet, joining a traditionally FS event (TeXXas ways) and borrowing their formations. I am looking forward to many more of those in the future - the jumps are big enough to be challenging but not so big that only 1 point is done. I want to maintain the fun-loving vibe I felt on dropzones in the ‘90s versus the serious, get-better-faster atmosphere I feel is taking over now. Keith Creedy has been doing a lot of that & it’s incredible. Don’t Broke the Goat? That’s hilarious.

Why did you choose freeflying when most of your family are belly?

As a kid on the dropzone, the freeflyers were much nicer and would put up with my childish antics. And they wore cool tie-dye suits. So of course I wanted to be just like them. And it’s a generational thing, I suppose. Freeflying wasn’t around when my parents started!

What’s your occupation now?

I am one of three full-time employees of the International Bodyflight Association (IBA), my title is Competitions and Communications Coordinator. I prefer the title Passionary. Indoor Skydiving has a ton of potential, we all agree with that. My job is to help it reach that potential. To share what’s going on in the community, to create great competitions and events for the flyers, to work with tunnel managers that may not understand the sport and help them to recognize the value and give them the tools to do so. Flying is awesome and now that it is so accessible, the possibilities are endless. The IBA doesn’t have a great reputation and everyone has their own opinions of how things should be done. And that’s to be expected. We are working to give people a platform to see their dreams play out, and ultimately to cultivate growth and evolution, and if you want to be involved, please join us

Where do you see indoor skydiving going over the next 5 and 10 years?

I think about this question all the time. It could blow up in popularity or it could fail or land somewhere in the middle, but we will just have to wait and see. Hopefully it gets cheaper!

What else have you done, did you always work in the sport?

I earned a B.S. in Geography and for 2 years after graduating I worked as a contractor for the US military, creating maps. I spent a fair amount of that time in Afghanistan. It paid well, it had an important purpose, and it was challenging. I miss that work actually. But here I am, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

The ever-smiling Laura Wagner
Image by Guru Khalsa

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Why does yoga float your boat?

It means I get to spend more time upside down!

Does yoga benefit skydivers and tunnel flyers? If so, how?

Absolutely. Skydiving and tunnel flying are all about awareness of your body and your surroundings and presence in the moment. Exactly what yoga teaches. It’s universal, really, what you practice in the studio goes with you everywhere and if I can be a more mindful person all around, why wouldn't I?

What do you spend too much money on but not regret?

Lululemon and Whole Foods

What was the biggest breakthrough /decision of your life?

Going to school in Arizona so I could spend my weekends in the skies of Eloy. For sure that has led me down a totally unique path and introduced me to so many incredible people.

Tell us a quirky fact about you

I am a fantastic speller. It’s a completely useless talent in this millennium.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your life?

Mom & dad of course. As for my chosen family - Lisa Mazzetta, Dave Rhea & Scotty Bob, Veronica & Jennifer & April - those names quickly come to mind. Lisa has been my big sister since 2008 and has opened a million doors for me. She has taught me so much about fearlessness and hard work. Dave, Scotty, and I go way back to a time of craziness that I will always cherish, they are my rotten crew forever. And now here in Austin I have this badass girl squad, we have a ton of fun. And now too, I have my yoga world. Many teachers over the years have led me to the amazing studio I am at now. I’m taking my teacher, Desirae, on her first tandem next month. Stoked! What a great journey!

 Family 4way over Skydive Arizona in 2006
Family 4way over Skydive Arizona in 2006 — Image by Mike McGowan

Do you have any pet hates 

Egos and ignorance - they are the destroyers of growth.

Whom do you admire in the sport?

Amy Chmelecki & Melissa Nelson-Lowe… hello, the Sugar Gliders! I had their Parachutist cover photo on my wall in high school, before ever having met them. They are special. Melanie Curtis & her never-ending energy, I consistently ask myself “What Would Mel Do?” Jeffro and Luke Aikins, they are pretty special & I just love their passion for pushing the envelope. Every freefall photo/videographer out there, for their artistry in bringing the sky to all of us.

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