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International, independent, e-magazine on skydiving, BASE & tunnel

Catching up with Melissa Lowe

This woman loves her sport! — by Javier Ortiz
This woman loves her sport! — by Javier Ortiz

Melissa Lowe is an AFF Instructor, Pro Rating, the co-creator of 4-way VFS, author of Sugar Alpha, and has 11 world records and a bunch of medals from USPA Nationals.

World Records

  • 2003 –16-Way Women’s Vertical World Record
  • 2004 – 42-Way Vertical World Record
  • 2005 – 18-Way Women’s Vertical World Record
  • 2005 – 151-Way JFTC Women’s RW World Record
  • 2007 – 20-Way Women’s Vertical World Record
  • 2007 – 69-Way Vertical World Record
  • 2009 – 108-Way Vertical World Record
  • 2010 – 41-Way Women’s Vertical World Record
  • 2011 – 9-Way Women’s Wingsuit National Record (Unofficial World Record)
  • 2012 – 138-Way Vertical World Record
  • 2013 – 63-Way Women’s Vertical World Record

    National Championships

  • 1999 – US Nationals Freestyle Champion: Gold
  • 2001 – US Nationals Freestyle: Gold
  • 2002 – US Nationals Freestyle: Bronze
  • 2003-2005 – US Nationals Freefly: First All Female, Open Freefly Team, Sugar Gliderz
  • 2010 – US Nationals 10-Way: Bronze
Melissa Lowe  — by Ben Lowe
Melissa Lowe  — by Ben Lowe

Number of jumps, what type

10,500+ Total
2000 AFF Instructor
850 Freestyle Training
1100 RW
6300 Freefly
100 Wingsuit
150 Misc (demos, swoop comps, etc.)

Time in sport

1982 first tandem
1994 first AFF

What equipment do you jump?

Sun Path Javelin Odyssey, Cypres 2, Tonfly suits & helmets, Larsen & Brusgaard visual/audible altimeters, PD Velocity 75 & 79 and Spectre 120 and PD Optimum reserves

Favorite DZ, favorite tunnel and why?

DZ: For vibe, professionalism and awesomeness, Skydive Carolina
DZ: For facilities, planes and family (literally), Skydive Chicago
DZ: For upcoming greatness (‘cause my husband and I just took over management!), Skydive Utah
Tunnel: for overall experience and professionalism, iFly Seattle
Tunnel: for overall coaching and availability, iFly Utah

You took some time off recently; what did you do with it?

I took off full-time skydiving from 2007-2009 but still participated in world records, taught AFF part-time and participated in a couple of fun events I’m not normally able to attend because of working in the sport full time.

That first break was an awesome retreat I didn’t know I needed. I was so burnt out. The break gave me fresh perspective and I came back in full force, fully refreshed and stoked about skydiving again!

Last year was kind of an unexpected break from full-time, but again I still organized at several boogies and tunnel events throughout the year, got current BASE jumping, earned my Paragliding P2 license, taught AFF classes and did AFF jumps, as well as the Women’s Vertical World Record 63-way. So this time I was able to focus on my husband’s and my new business, Over the Edge Moab, a BASE jumping pro shop in downtown Moab, as well as plan our wedding.

Women's world record camp, Skydive Chicago — by Valentina Solis
Women's world record camp, Skydive Chicago — by Valentina Solis

How was it writing a book that had been started by your father, Roger Nelson?

My dad originally had a manuscript. However, by the time I got the manuscript it was a few years after my dad had passed away, and there were layers of virtual dust and a story long forgotten: most of which I did not know.

My dad wasn’t the greatest writer and he wrote the story as if people knew who he was. I had to work through a lot of emotions to start the research and dig through his piles of manuscripts, notes and memoirs to compile the story. I had to take apart his original manuscript, build the characters, the plot and put it all back together.

All-in-all it took several people’s support, the biggest being my husband, and 5 years to finish Sugar Alpha.

Has that given you a bug to write a book of your own?

I’ve definitely thought about it. First, I’m working on the sequel to Sugar Alpha and working on Sugar Alpha being made into a movie.

Where the sequel ends, I thought I might be fun to pick up and write the story of my brother and I – how we picked up the pieces after our dad’s death and made our own successes, taking drastically different paths.

Where are you living now and why?

My husband [Ben Lowe] and I are living in Utah, near Salt Lake City. We’ve been living in Utah for over a year now, and were offered a great opportunity, to manage Skydive Utah and decided to give it a try.

What are your aims with the dropzone?

To put Skydive Utah on the map!

Melissa base jumping Perrine Bridge, 2013 — by Luanne Horting
Melissa base jumping Perrine Bridge, 2013 — by Luanne Horting

Will you teach BASE as well as skydiving?

Both. My husband teaches BASE courses currently and he’s developed an intensive program to help new skydivers all the way to Base.

Tell us about the educational website you and Ben are creating

We wanted to create an easy-to-use hub of skydiving information (not necessarily current event posting), to be a resource for people from newbies, novices, to instructors, to learning Base that might not otherwise get or find this information. We launched on 29 April 2014, see The Lowes

YouTube is not a training tool

Why do you write these articles?

First, I love to write, I’m very passionate about skydiving and I love teaching.

Since I’ve traveled the world organizing at events as well as currently teaching AFF and my husband Ben being an examiner for Coach, Tandem and AFF, we realized that there are many uninformed jumpers with a lack of resources. This was frustrating because it showed a lack of instruction from instructors and a lot of people were learning by ‘getting away’ with doing dangerous things.

So instead of bitching, I started blogging! …Hoping to be a good resource of experience and information.

Melissa and Ben over Mexico — by Javier Ortiz
Melissa and Ben over Mexico — by Javier Ortiz
Young Melissa flying in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, c 1984
Young Melissa flying in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, c 1984

What resource are skydivers most in need of?

Caring mentors.

What did you learn from growing up on a DZ?

I feel the truest gift from my parents and being able to grow up on a DZ, was to embrace change, continue to learn, have fun and – even though skydiving can take so much away from you – it can give you back so much!

Now equipment and practices are so much safer, do you think complacency has become a problem?

I’ve definitely seen a shift over the years, but I don’t see complacency as the problem, I think it’s the lack of continuing education and quality mentorship.

What’s the biggest single thing we could do to improve safety in the sport?

To identify the root cause of what is causing fatalities and target the instructors’ instructors to focus on safe skydiving.

What sort of jumping do you most enjoy doing these days?

I love anything to do with skydiving! Seriously! I love teaching AFF, freeflying, angled jumps, boogies, world records, wingsuiting, swooping, CRW (which I want to do more of) and yes, RW!! I just received my official invite for the Women’s RW record) this October!

Do you have a favorite skydiving moment?

I’ve been lucky to have many! Every world record after the next is my favorite – not only to have a common goal and succeed, but the camaraderie and doing something no one in the world has ever done.

Every world record after the next is my favorite

My other favorite is a simple tracking jump I’d done many years ago with just my dad and my brother.

What’s been your greatest achievement?

Appreciating what my family has given to the sport and now, what my family and I can give back.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Adventurous, inventive, detail-oriented, loving

Who are your mentors and why?

In the beginning: Stefania Martinengo, Emanuelle Celicout and my dad [Roger Nelson]. Why? Because of Stefania and Emanuelle’s hard work, grace in the sky and effortless freestyle.

In the middle: my brother [Rook Nelson] and his then teammates, Jon DeVore and Mike Swanson… because they were being pioneers in freeflying, creating new moves and striving to become the best in the world.

Now: my husband and all my students the past few years… Because they help me see I still have so much to learn!

Do you have a motto, or favorite quote?

Be strong with your body and relaxed with your mind.

What advice do you have for newcomers to the sport?

First, Youtube is not a training tool. Second, it’s easy to want to rush to be able to jump a camera, wingsuit, swoop or do the next cool thing, but the time you take on the ground and the quality of jumps will help you achieve your goals. Lastly, always keep learning.

Anything you would like to add?

My husband and I are available (online or in person) for mentorship from what do I do after AFF, to how do I become an instructor, to how do I get on the next world.

by Ryan Risberg
by Ryan Risberg